Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 2023

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, June 30 Update:

The southern Chesapeake Bay becomes a world class fishery in the summertime and there are plenty of big gamefish being caught right now. Anglers fishing the shallows have been focusing their attention on speckled trout and puppy drum with great success. A report came in from the Elizabeth River where a flyrod angler caught 10 slot puppy drum with two over slots at 29 and 31 inches. Many of the puppy drum were close to submerged structure and dock pilings which caused them to lose a few fish. They also caught plenty of specks and some rockfish too. Flounder fishing has been good at the inlets and rivers, but the bigger fish have been hanging out close to the CBBT. One boat fishing near the islands landed four keepers at 18, 23, 23 and 24 inches while fishing the outgoing tide. Bucktails with strips of bluefish enticed the bites. Ocean’s East let us know that nice sized bluefish up to five pounds are being caught around the islands as well. Casting gotcha plugs and other lures works great when you find these fish, just make sure your leader can handle their sharp teeth. Spanish mackerel are also around so make sure to keep an eye for them skying out of the water.

cobia live eel
If you're after cobia, this section of the Bay has been best by far.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing let us know the best cobia fishing reports are coming out of the Virginia Beach area near the CBBT. Bay temperatures have been slow to rise this summer thanks to a cool spring, which has slowed the cobia migration north. Based on reports, there are a lot staging between the tunnel and Cape Charles. Virginia Beach Sportfishing let us know that the hotspots have been Latimer Shoals, Bluefish Rock, and the Windmill Bar. Many boats are chumming while tossing out live eels or cut bait, but sight fishing has also produced good results when the weather allows. Boats with towers are finding the fish cruising along the surface and casting live eels or buck tails dressed with large soft plastics in front of the fish. A steady retrieve in front of the fish will usually get them to show interest and bite. It may take cruising around some days but if you cover enough ground, you should come across a few fish.

We did also get some great reports from anglers targeting bull reds this week. The islands near the CBBT have been the hotspot and some fish over 50 inches were landed this week. One boat found a school of reds busting on top between 10 and 20 feet of water on a hard outgoing tide. They landed five all in the upper 40s using small flounder-sized bucktails along with either cut or live croaker dropped down in the current. Another boat fishing close to the tunnel landed four fish while drifting live croaker but reported the bite was a bit slower due to a slack tide. Get out there and catch them up while it’s good, just make sure to handle them with care so that we can enjoy this amazing fishery for years to come.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, June 23 Update:

Down south is the place to be right now with fish being caught all over from down deep to up shallow. We are a week into cobia season and we got good reports from around the CBBT when the weather cooperated. Unfortunately, we have been dealing with gusty conditions and rain over the past few days. The extended forecast calls for more rain and wind so make sure to keep a close eye on the weather and take advantage of the weather windows when planning your next trip. Ocean’s East let us know that before the weather rolled in, many boats had success boating cobia around the bridge. Multiple fish over 50 inches were reported and sight fishing produced the best results on calm days. Drifting eels or cut bait has also proved effective for both cobia and big drum.

lots of flounder
Paul sent in this pic of a rockin' nice catch of flounder caught while fishing near Virginia Beach.

Flounder action has been picking up inside the Bay and inlets over the past few weeks. The larger fish are hanging close to the Islands at the CBBT while smaller, but still keeper sized fish, are being caught inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets. Drifting minnows or squid strips on flounder rigs is a popular way to target them. We also hear reports of nice sized bluefish running around the CBBT Islands this week with some anglers catching blues up to five pounds. Casting jigs and Gotcha plugs has been working well, just make sure your leader can handle their teeth because they can bite you off quickly if you don’t have the right gear. Spanish mackerel have also moved into the area and larger schools should be here soon. Anglers at the Virginia Beach Are steadily catching the macks by casting metal jigs and Gotcha plugs. There was even a 30-inch fish caught off the pier this week. That had to be a fun fight!

The inlets, Elizabeth River, and York River are all producing great shallow water action. A mix of speckled trout, puppy drum, and rockfish are all available in the shallows. Casting out any variety of soft plastics or jerkbaits will give you a good chance at hooking up. A kayak angler fishing inside Lynnhaven reported an on and off bite while targeting red drum. They hit the water at sunrise and finished the day around three in the afternoon catching six drum. An 18.5 -and 20-inch fish went into the cooler. Three 17-inch fish and one 26.5-inch fish were landed and safely released.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, June 16 Update:

No matter where you are fishing in the lower Bay this time of year, you have a good chance at catching a variety of species. The CBBT has one of the most diverse fisheries in our region which makes it a popular spot for anglers to visit. We heard good reports from all over this area over the past week. One angler fishing the second island of the CBBT reported finding a good flounder bite where their biggest fish of the day were 23.5, 22, and 20 inches. They did mention that they lost about $30 worth of six-inch grubs to the rock piles.

speckled sea trout caught kayak fishing in virginia
Specks are around in solid numbers.

The shallow waters of the tributaries are full of life with reds, specks, and (now out of season) rockfish feeding on baitfish near grass beds and other structure. An angler fishing the Warwick River had an epic day of fly fishing using long leaders and a non-contact retrieve method. Puppy drum, perch, croaker, blue cats, stingrays, speckled trout, and rockfish made up their mixed bag for the day. The largest drum were 29.5 and 20 inches while the largest rockfish was 26.5 inches. You can’t ask for a better day than that!

Cobia season opened on the 15th this week which has many anglers sitting atop their towers on the lookout for the man in the brown suit. A lot of boats hit the water but from the reports we got, it was a grind for most. Some fish were caught but we didn’t receive any spectacular reports. Live eels are always best when bait fishing or sight fishing, but they can also be caught on cut menhaden or bucktails rigged with soft plastics. We expect to have more reports from this fishery by next week.

Inshore fishing off Virginia Beach has been picking up, but so have the crowds. A reader reported in from this area to say they enjoyed a great bite from multiple species, including some nice spadefish at the Light Tower (on clam bits) but another angler said that when they fished there it was “like a Walmart parking lot on Christmas Eve” with over 35 boats fishing within short distance of one another. The bite was slow, and they managed to catch a few sea bass and a skate. They noted that a few boats reeled up spadefish, but most were small. After leaving the crowds, they found some more sea bass at the Santore. Your best bet for steady fishing will be to get out during the week and avoid the weekend crowds.

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, June 8 Update:

Most of the fish that frequent the Bay have migrated into their summertime locations. Oceans East let us know that more cobia are showing up at the mouth of the Bay and near the CBBT. Cobia season will open on June 15th and many anglers are prepping gear in hopes of landing a big one. These fish are most commonly sight fished by casting live eels or bucktails paired with big soft plastics when they are spotted on top. Cobia often follows schools of cow nose rays so make sure to keep a close lookout when you spot them swimming on top. Large schools of bull red drum are now in the Bay and can be caught near shoals and around the CBBT. Drifting cut bait or peeler crab works well but many anglers also use jigs and soft plastics. Occasionally these fish will school up and push bait to the surface. When they start breaking, it is mayhem where they will hit just about anything you throw in front of them. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a good idea to keep binoculars on the boat to scan the horizon in search of bird action.

spanish mackerel fishing
The Spanish mackerel are in town, with numbers growing by the day.

We got some of the first reports that Spanish mackerel and spadefish are showing up in the Bay. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing let us know that the spades are being caught at the Chesapeake Light Tower and around the CBBT. They will be hanging close to pilings, wrecks, reefs, and buoys. They recommend using clam strips or jelly balls paired with small hooks. Mackerel are hitting spoons on the troll, as usual.

Speckled trout are and puppy drum are being caught at the inlets and in the tidal rivers. Live bait is always a great option to use if you can find it and mullet, shrimp, or mud minnows seem to work best. Soft plastic paddletails work great too and popular colors include white and electric chicken. Z-Man variations tend to hold up great even after multiple catches. We got a report from an angler who fished the waters around Portsmouth and the Elizabeth River with his fly rods. They got some nice pulls with a 22-inch trout, a 23-inch rockfish, and a 29-inch puppy drum being the top catches of the day. Overall, he was able to land nine slot drum, 4 slot trout, 2 slot stripers, with perch, bluefish, spot, and croaker all in the mix too. You really can’t beat the variety that the southern tributaries have to offer!

Way South Chesapeake Fishing Report, June 2 Update:

Water temperatures around the CBBT are around 65 degrees which means the spring fishery is starting to switch into summer mode. Fishing has been improving in almost every area when conditions are right but persistent wind has made it tough on many anglers. The inlets and rivers in the Virginia Beach area are providing good fishing for several species, along with a bit more protection from the breeze. Speckled trout and puppy drum are abundant in Rudee Inlet, Little Creek, and Lynnhaven Inlets where anglers are catching them on both artificial lures and cut bait. We got a report from an angler who hit the Elizabeth River with his flyrod. He was able to catch lots of fish, but most were on the smaller side. His catches for the day included eight rockfish, two flounder, one puppy drum, one speck, 15 croaker, and around 20 small sea bass. Another angler fishing Rudee inlet earlier in the week found what he described as “the only calm spot in the inlet.” Despite the wind, his protected spot treated him to a bunch of small tautog.

puppy drum in the net
Puppy drum are in spring feeding mode - now's the time to get 'em!

One fish that has anglers excited about their arrival is cobia. We are starting to see larger schools move into the Bay around the CBBT. The season for cobia opens on June 15, so until then it is catch and release fishing only. Sight casting is one of the best ways to catch cobia using either bucktails with soft plastic trailers or by casting out a live eel in front of them. Schools of bull reds have also entered the Bay and are making their way north. These fish can be found near the islands of the CBBT and at the shoals along the lower eastern shore of Virginia. Drifting crab baits is the preferred method but the most exciting is when a school starts breaking on baitfish at the surface. That is a sight which can only be described as pure chaos.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing checked in to let us know that spadefish should be arriving at the Chesapeake Light Tower. These fish can be caught using small pieces of clam on small hooks. Despite their smaller size, they fight amazingly hard. Sheepshead are also available at the CBBT where they will be holding close to the pilings. They prefer fiddler crab, shrimp, and clam baits. VBSF also reported that Spanish mackerel have entered Virginia waters in the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers are steadily catching them at the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier and more fish will move into the area as water temperatures approach 70 degrees. These fish are fast and aggressive, so it is best to troll for them with drone spoons or cast to them with metal jigs and gotcha plugs.