Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 2024

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 28 Update:

The Chesapeake Bay is in prime summertime form with all the major bites kicking off. Cobia are the big attraction right now and we heard from several readers who had success while chumming and fishing a mix of bunker chunks and live eels. Most of the fish were in the low 40s but one hit 53”, and reports of success came from both the east and west side. The west side usually has more boats, but a lot of the action is happening there. The current is also stronger on the east side, so maneuvering a boat getting close to the pilings is usually easier on the west side. South winds continue to make sight fishing difficult and are predicted to blow yet again this weekend.

cbbt cobia
Tyler hooked up with his first cobia, a 43” keeper. WTG, Tyler!

Spanish mackerel and bluefish are available on the oceanfront and inside the Bay for those looking for fun trolling or casting action. Blitzes have popped up sporadically, but any major channel edge has had schools of fish cruising around them chasing bait. Small Drone and Clark spoons trolled behind number one or two planers has done the trick. Trolling between three and five knots works well for the blues. Trolling at a faster speed of around six to eight knots will weed out the blues and lead to more mackerel takedowns.

FishTalk contributor David Rudow ventured out on his kayak to the CBBT last weekend and caught some very nice sheepshead. He reports that the fish were hitting Old Skool Tackle Company bottom sweeper jigs paired with green crabs during the end of the outgoing tide and into the beginning of the incoming. The sheeps were suspended at 10 to 20 feet on pilings ranging from 30 to 50 feet deep. Southern Reels Fishing also had a great week of trips to the CBBT. One of the more productive days started with a great bull red drum bite near the first island. The crew then had steady pickings of sheepshead along the pilings and added black drum and a few flounder to round out an incredible day on the Chesapeake. That is the beauty of summertime fishing in this region of the Bay, there is an abundance of opportunities for a variety of different species, many of which can be caught in the same areas. Just about all the bridges in the Virginia Beach area are good options to fish right now as they are holding bluefish, sheepshead, tautog, drum, flounder, and many more species. A few kayak anglers fishing the Lesner Bridge fought a strong wind and ripping current this week but were rewarded for their efforts with several keeper sheepshead, a few nice blues, and a doormat of a flounder. Fishing baits tight to bridge structure is important as the fish typically feed on crabs and other bait on the pilings.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 21 Update:

All the pieces are in place for a fantastic summer of fishing in the southern Chesapeake Bay. Just about everything is available right now from inshore waters of the tributaries to the wide-open waters and everything in between. Cobia season is off to a strong start in the Virginia Beach area with many boats catching their limit of fish during their trips. We have seen multiple fish over 50” checked in this week and plenty more over the 40-inch mark. The fish are being sight fished along the oceanfront and around the CBBT pilings and islands. Bull red drum have also made a strong showing this week in the same areas and one angler described one day as “sight fishing insanity” for the bulls. They described it as clouds of orange in many areas around the bridge and fish were willing to hit just about everything that was thrown at them. Those are the days we dream of, but the bite is rarely that good.

angler holds a spanish mackerel
These toothy critters have established themselves in the Bay and will hopefully be around all summer.

Way South Correspondent Chuck Harrison wrote in to let us know about his latest trip. Chuck went out on a mid-week trip to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel to try chumming for bluefish. He had one cut his line but got no other bites. On his way back in, he made a stop at a secret location and caught a couple of Spanish mackerel (he lost a nice one at the boat), one bluefish, and an assortment of small stuff including weakfish, croaker, whiting, northern kingfish, and pigfish.

Kayak anglers have been doing well fishing for sheepshead at the various bridge pilings in the area. Fishing the tail end of either tide into the next tide swing has been best as strong currents can make it hard to keep baits close to the pilings. Green crabs and fiddler crabs baited on sweeper jigs has led to multiple catches of sheepshead over the 10-pound mark. This is truly a trophy fishery. An angler fishing at night found a red hot puppy drum bite catching close to 20 fish around lighted docks at night. Most the fish were caught in waters less than four feet deep. Night fishing can also be very productive this time of year as the cooler nights can trigger a bite that the midday heat will shut off.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 14 Update:

It is an exciting time of year to fish the southern Chesapeake Bay as fishing opportunities are seemingly endless. The cobia fishing has been kicking off with a bang this year and the catch-and-release fishing over the past few weeks has been excellent in the Virginia Beach area. The western side of the CBBT along the islands and pilings has been a hotspot for sight fishing. At the CBBT, there has also been good numbers of sheepshead with more spadefish moving in too. If cobia don’t cooperate, keep these in mind as a backup plan. The Virginia Beach oceanfront has been another great place to search for these brutes in the big brown suit. One boat fishing along the beaches landed multiple cobia during a midweek trip with three fish over 50 inches. Sight fishing from towers has been very effective as these fish cruise just below the water’s surface. When spotted, casting out a live eel of a large soft plastic on a jighead usually gets their attention enough to bite. Cobia season will start this Saturday, June 15th, and will remain open until September 15th. Anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per person per day with a minimum length of 40 inches. Boats will be allowed to keep two fish per vessel with a minimum length of 40 inches. Out of the two fish allowed per vessel, only one may be over 50 inches in length.

black drum at the cbbt
Ryan and Eric doubled up on black drum while fishing peeler crab at the CBBT.

Way South contributor Charles Harrison Checked in to give us his latest report. He let us know that good size bluefish are still hanging around the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. The fish weren’t schooled up tight, but he managed to find a few while jigging. His boat also caught small puppy drum, small grey trout, and small flounder, with an emphasis on “small”. FishTalk contributor David Rudow also checked in this week after a kayaking excursion to the CBBT. David’s main target was cobia, and he did see four while out on the water. Only one was willing to eat and the bite didn’t come tight. Despite a slow day for cobia, he said that big schools of bluefish were hanging around Fisherman’s Island. He fished what he described as “one of the best topwater bites” he has ever experienced with bluefish over 30 inches hitting his topwater poppers aggressively. The schools were hanging close to the surface and he was able to sight fish them from his kayak.

The inlets and rivers have been offering steady speckled trout and puppy drum bites as we move into early summer. Rudee inlet, Lynnhaven Inlet, Elizabeth River, and James River have all been noted as productive. A fly angler fishing in the Elizabeth River caught five puppy drum between 18 and 20 inches along with small bluefish and croaker.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, June 7 Update:

Summer is knocking on our door as spring is all but over for the year. The fish have already transitioned to their summer patterns and most of our migratory fish have returned to our waters for our angling pleasure. The various tidal tributaries have been offering up a mix of species including striped bass, stocked trout, red drum, and flounder. Successful red drum reports were noted in the Elizabeth River and Lynnhaven Inlet. One boat fishing the western branch of the Elizabeth caught multiple pups up to 23 inches with quite a few fish just under the slot. Paddletails, jerkbaits, and popping corks work great for the drum along with the other species mentioned. Out on the Bay, the world class sheepshead fishery is picking up as water temperatures have warmed. Southern Reels Fishing has run several successful sheepshead trips this week at the CBBT. Crab baits are their preferred forage, so if you can find fiddlers you have a good chance at catching fish. They hang close to the pilings, and you must drop your bait down right along them, so targeting them is very technical. Catching them can be a blast once you get the hang of it.

Anglers are anxiously waiting for the return of cobia season which will begin on June 15th in Virginia. The man in the big brown suit has already made a big push into the Bay and the numbers are looking good for the upcoming season. Multiple reports of boats catching and releasing fish near the CBBT and around Cape Charles came in this week. The big fish are also around with confirmed reports of a 50-inch fish and a big 58-inch fish giving us hope for a great season of cobia fishing. There are a few methods to target cobia which include soaking chunks of peeler crab around the islands of the CBBT and various shoals in this zone of the Bay. Chunking baits will also get bites from red drum, black drum, skates, and sharks, too. While anchoring up and fishing that way can be productive, sight fishing is arguably a more popular tactic in the Virginia Beach area. It usually requires calm conditions, but if you have a tower, cruising around on it and keeping your eyes peeled for fish on the surface is an exciting way to fish. You may have to cover a lot of water, but the results can be well worth it. Live eels are like candy for cobia, but bucktails dressed with large soft plastics is a great artificial option to throw. Once the season comes in, anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per day with a minimum size of 40 inches. Boats with two or more anglers on board will be allowed to keep two fish, but only one may be greater than 50 inches in length. These delicious fish will soon be available for our dinner plates.