Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 2023

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, July 28 Update:

More solid reports of bull reds have been flowing in from the islands of the CBBT, and this week a reader sent in news of a 54-pounder that blasted a paddletail. The big schools of red drum have been cruising around the islands and most anglers who go searching for them are having luck finding them. Dropping down live croaker or spot has been working great but if you can mark them on your side scan, jigging has been very effective. Cobia are in the same areas around the CBBT and sight casting has been very effective. They like to hang around the bridge pilings but are also found cruising up top in open water. Anchoring up to fish bait is another popular way to target them, you’ll just have to compete with rays and sharks taking your bait. Bigger fish should start being caught as we approach the end of summer. Way South Correspondent Chuck Harrison checked in after a successful trip out to the CBBT islands last weekend. He caught a 26-inch black drum, several small bluefish, and a few triggerfish at the second island. He then trolled up two Spanish mackerel on the way to the first island where he caught a 21-inch flounder. That’s a solid day on the water!

cbbt redfish
Chris battled in a 54-pound mega-red, which hit a paddletail near the fourth island at the CBBT.

There has also been some great fishing for multiple species inside the inlets and rivers this week. Flounder, red drum, speckled trout, and weakfish are all being caught consistently. An angler fishing in the Elizabeth River this week caught three puppy drum measuring 11, 20, and 29 inches. They also caught plenty of croaker, spot, and speckled trout. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing told us that the puppy drum have been plentiful in Broad Bay. Soft plastics paired with jigs have them biting good, but tossing out cut bait on fish finder rigs should also entice them.

The Virginia Beach charter boats are catching a lot of bluefish and Spanish mackerel trolling along the oceanfront. Small drone or clark spoons are the top lure to troll. Any variety of green, pink, gold, or silver works well for the mackerel. Some days they key in on a specific color, so it is good to have a few different options available to try. VBSF says that the first few reports of king mackerel are coming in, so it is time to start looking for them sky out of the water. One boat returned to dock with a 52-pound king this week. Spanish mackerel are also becoming a common catch on the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier. Anglers throwing Gotcha plugs or metal jigs are finding the most success.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, July 20 Update:

The southern Chesapeake Bay has the best fishing for cobia and red drum right now with the CBBT housing a lot of the action. Schools of reds have been consistently found around the islands of the CBBT for most of this month and they should remain there for a while. Some boats are spotting them on top and casting jigs to them but anchoring up and dropping chunks of cut bait or peeler crab will likely get your drags screaming too. Cobia will also hit cut bait, but one of the more popular ways to fish for them is sight casting with live eels. The Sheepshead bite around the CBBT and the HRBT is still going strong. Many of these fish meet citation standards, so make sure your gear can handle them. Live fiddler crabs are the best bait, but other crustacean variations will also get them biting.

red drum fishing on a kayak
John had fun plucking pups from the Piankatank. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

The puppy drum bite in the rivers and inlets has remained excellent. There are plenty of slot fish around that will put up a hard fight. One angler fishing an unspecified area caught two over-slot (29 and 31 inches) and two slot fish (18 and 19 inches). The larger fish were enticed by bunker chunks and fresh mullet while the slot fish ate live fiddler crabs. Another angler who also didn’t want to give up his location reported catching two slot drum and five over-slots with the biggest measuring in at nearly 34 inches. Speckled trout and flounder are also readily available in these same areas. Lynnhaven Inlet has seen some great flounder fishing as well, and we got a report from an angler who caught seven keepers during a recent trip.

Way South correspondent Chuck Harrison got out last weekend and reported tough conditions during a strong southwesterly blow. He tried drifting for flounder but quickly switched gears to look for Spanish mackerel. He trolled around the Buckroe area and only picked up one mackerel and one bluefish in the first couple hours. Chuck said there were some fish working bait near Old Point Comfort and after anchoring up in that area, small blues provided steady action. Along with the macs and blues, ribbonfish are providing steady inshore action. You can troll for them with similar gear. They may look wicked, but they are actually a delicious fish to eat if you can clean them properly.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, July 14 Update:

The CBBT is still the hotspot for cobia and bull reds in the southern Chesapeake Bay. Most anglers heading out to search for these fish are finding them near the islands of bridge pilings. A boat fishing near the islands said they went out looking for sheepshead but found a school of bull reds hitting topwater baits. They were able to sight cast four bulls and ended up landing three of them. Boats with towers are having good luck sight fishing cobia anywhere from the CBBT up to Cape Charles. Boats chunking bunker on fish finder rigs are also doing well. Just be prepared to deal with rays and sharks in between cobia bites.

big bull redfish
Ezra and Brian tempted this MONSTER red into eating a live croaker at the CBBT. Wow guys, WTG, what a fish!

Way South correspondent Chuck Harrison checked in to let us know that he made it out a few times this week with not much to report. Each trip produced small puppy drum, flounder, bluefish, and mackerel. “Nothing too big and nothing to get too excited about” as he put it. He has heard of better Spanish mackerel fishing in the area and plans to target them this weekend. What he has been hearing is likely true because we got a report from an angler fishing out of Rudy Inlet who had a good day of fishing for the mackerel. Their boat boxed 12 keeper macks, all caught on the troll.

Speckled trout and red drum are two of the top catches in the shallows lately. All of the southern Bay rivers and inlets hold good fishing for these species. An angler fishing the York River had a great day this week targeting puppy drum. In four hours of fishing, He was able to land 14 drum all between 20 and 26 inches. Water temperatures in the area he fished were 84 degrees and visibility was over three feet. A three-inch paddletail on a quarter ounce jighead paired with Pro-Cure bait scent did most of the catching. A kayak angler fishing in Lynnhaven found a good night bite this week. They put a slot drum and four keeper speckled trout on their stringer before the night was over. They also caught and released two slot drum and five throwback specks. A Fly fisherman in the Elizabeth reported in after a quick two-hour trip on the water. They managed to land two puppy drum (two others broke him off on docks), six croaker, and a flounder. There seems to be good fishing all over, so all you have to do is get out there.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, July 7 Update:

Fishing opportunities are endless in this region of the Bay during the summer months and many anglers are taking advantage of those opportunities. Speckled trout and puppy drum are popular targets for those searching the shallows. We heard from an angler who hit the Elizabeth River who caught two slot drum and had a few other big fish break him off. Another angler fishing the Elizabeth managed to catch 10 speckled trout, 6 small flounder, and 10 sea bass. Many different species of fish are available to catch in the rivers and inlets. You just have to get out and wet a line for them.

cobia anglers with a fish
Hunter and Hudson tagged and released this beautiful cobia.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing says that there are a lot of cobia around right now. The majority of the cobia still seem to be staging around the CBBT waiting for water temperatures to rise enough for them to make a push north. Anglers in this region of the bay are doing very well while both sight fishing and bait fishing. A reader wrote in to give us the lowdown after heading out on a charter in search of cobia out of Cape Charles. They fished from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon focusing solely on sight fishing for cobia and during the trip they boated six cobia, but only one keeper that came in just over 40 inches. The other fish were all 30 to 38 inches. He also mentioned that they casted at close to 25 cobia but that most of the fish seemed uninterested in their baits. The bull reds will also be in the same areas as the cobia but the islands near the CBBT have been a hotspot as of late. Most boats are dropping down cut bait or live lining small croaker. Reports indicate there is a good night bite happening and fishing with a moving tide has produced more bites.

Another popular option around the CBBT this time of year are sheepshead. The sheeps are mainly targeted at the pilings of the bridge tunnel but can be caught at any submerged structure or reef. They tend to hold tight to structure and are more active around the tide swings. Sweeper style jigs paired with fiddler crabs is what typically gets them biting. One angler fishing in an unspecified area of the southern Bay checked in after an epic sheepshead trip. Their boat landed 23 with many of them meeting citation status. We are lucky to have some world class fishing for this fishery so make sure to take advantage of the local opportunities.