Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 2024

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 31 Update:

The Chesapeake is starting to reach its full potential as many of our seasonal migratory species have made their way back to our waters. Way South correspondent Chuck Harrison checked in after getting out on the water which was delayed by a long spring of being too busy. Something we can all relate to. Chuck fished the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and started by jigging the pilings without any luck. He then saw some bird action and went to investigate which led to some bluefish up to three pounds caught while trolling small spoons. He also caught a 26-inch red drum while jigging off the end of the island on the Hampton side of the river before being chased off the water by storms. Flounder have moved into the inlets in good numbers and are being caught in Rudee, Little Creek, and Lynnhaven. An angler fishing in Rudee caught a quick limit of flatties using a white three eighths ounce Gotcha plug. All his fish were caught around piers and rock structure. The spadefish are also starting to show up and can be found at the mouths of inlets and on the CBBT pilings. A 6.5-pound spade was caught at Rudee this week and boats are starting to catch them around the pilings along with sheepshead. All the pieces are coming together for a great summer of fishing.

bluefish have arrived
The big species mix of sumer is here, with bluefish, Spanish mackerel, spadefish, and others now in town.

Finao Sportfishing has had a great start to their year chasing cobia out of Virginia Beach. A trip earlier in the week started out foggy which made sight fishing tough, but once it lifted and the sun came out it was game on. Their boat caught double digit cobia included a behemoth 64-inch fish which is one of the biggest we may see this year. All fish were safely released. Cobia season will begin on June 15th this year where anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per person with a minimum size of 40 inches. Boats will be limited to two fish per vessel and only one fish may exceed 50 inches in length. FishTalk contributor David Rudow ventured out to the CBBT with some friends last weekend and found big schools of red drum near the CBBT islands. Side scan was key for locating fish and casting large paddletails on heavy jigheads enticed multiple fish to bite. David also mentioned seeing a few cobia hanging around the bridge pilings. Another boat fishing on the Virginia Beach oceanfront found a pile of red drum and cobia while fishing this week. They also noted that trolling small spoons produced a steady catch of Spanish mackerel. There is an abundance of fishing opportunities this time of year in the southern Bay and the fishing will only get better as we reach the start of summer!

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 24 Update:

The Chesapeake Bay is becoming a magical place for anglers as we start to see summer patterns shaping up. Fishing for bull red drum seems to have picked up this week with a lot of boats finding success around the CBBT. Schools of bull reds are still migrating north into the Bay and will continue to do so well into June. One reader checked in after a trip fishing around Fisherman’s Island. Their boat was able to land three bull reds and lost a few after hooking up. Cruising around and looking for fish on their side scan was what led them to finding their fish. Another boat fishing around an unspecified CBBT island reported catching double digit red drum including six fish over 46 inches. Cobia are now showing up in the same places as the drum both along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and inside the CBBT. The bull red drum fishery is strictly catch and release as the slot for red drum in the Bay is 18 to 26 inches. Cobia season is still a few weeks away and the season will open for them on June 15th, but it is a good sign that the fish are already showing up.

bull red drum at the mouth of the chesapeake
Pat and David tied into some very nice redfish where the Chesapeake meets the Atlantic late this week.

Anglers fishing at the Virginia Beach fishing pier have been enjoying good action for bluefish and an early run of Spanish mackerel. Mackerel numbers are increasing each week and larger schools are running along the oceanfront and into the Bay. The big class of bluefish that anglers have been enjoying for most of the spring are still hanging around. The blues are being caught from the surf but are also being caught in many of the inlets by anglers throwing lures. Boats looking to get in on the action in open water can target the blues and macks by trolling Drone and Clark spoons behind number one or two planers.

The rivers and inlets continue to offer good fishing for many of our favorite saltwater gamefish. Flounder are being caught inside Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets. Red drum and speckled trout are also popular targets and anywhere from the York River to Rudee Inlet has been a good place to target them. There are plenty of different fishing opportunities available right now, so celebrate the holiday weekend properly and get out to catch a fish if you can.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 17 Update:

After a stretch of warm weather in late April, May has brought the wind and rain with it. Conditions have not been ideal, but the good news is that there is always something to catch in the Bay even if the weather is bad. The inlets and tributaries have been providing good action for speckled trout and puppy drum. Low light conditions can produce a hot bite in shallow water for a variety of species. There was a report from an angler who was wade fishing in a shallow marsh this week that wasn’t having much luck. Once the sun started to go down, it was like a switch flipped and he started catching puppy drum on nearly every cast. The fish were caught using a three-inch paddletail in three feet of water.

speckled sea trout fish
Specks are among the wide range of species biting right now in the southernmost portions of the Bay.

The bluefish that have made a strong showing this spring are still hanging around. They are being caught along the beaches and at many of the inlets. Jigs dressed with soft plastics and metal lures are both working to entice the blues to eat. Anglers casting on the beaches are finding success using bunker chunks on hi-lo rigs. Black drum, red drum, and striped bass have also been in the mix.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that sheepshead are starting to arrive in numbers at the CBBT. These reports were confirmed when we heard from a boat that went out to fish the CBBT last weekend had a great afternoon catching sheepshead and red drum around the pilings. A few of the sheepshead were upwards of five pounds and their drum were over-slot fish. The CBBT is arguably one of the best places to fish for sheepshead on the East Coast. The fish here are very big and once summer rolls around, there are a lot of them. Sweeper jigs baited with pieces of crab are the go-to rigs for many anglers. When targeting them, you’ll need to drop your baits straight down along the pilings as the fish hold tight to them. If you drop down and don’t get a bite, try moving your bait to different points in the water column. Having a trolling motor can help a lot with positioning when the tide is running hard. If the sheepshead don’t cooperate, there is a chance for a lot of other species around the pilings, including cobia. The first few reports of the season are coming in with some fish being caught around the bridge pilings and off the Virginia Beach oceanfront. More fish will be moving up from the Carolinas in the coming weeks, but anglers will have to wait until June 15th to keep any. Sight fishing for them as they cruise just below the waters surface is how a lot of boats target them. When they are spotted, pitching a live eel or a bucktail dressed with a big twisty tail soft plastic usually gets their attention enough to bite.

Important announcement for offshore anglers! NOAA Fisheries announced that if you own or operate a recreational vessel and target blueline or golden tilefish from Virginia northward, you must have a private recreational tilefish permit and submit a trip report within 24 hours of completing a trip. These requirements extend to for-hire or commercial vessels when fishing in a private recreational capacity.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 10 Update:

The southern Chesapeake Bay is once again turning into the world-class fishery it is so very well known for. Many of our warmer weather species are returning and fishing opportunities are increasing by the day. The inshore speckled trout and red drum bite has been great as of late. The Elizabeth River, Lynnhaven Inlet, Rudee Inlet, and James River have all been productive areas. Keeper trout and slot reds have been enticed by soft plastic paddletails fished on light jigheads. Fishing near docks and oyster bottom has been a good bet when targeting the drum. One angler reported that he caught over a dozen pups while night fishing. Only two of which were slot, but a few were over. The fish were caught fishing under the lights near a bridge on the Elizabeth River. Night fishing can be a good bet in this area as it is very developed with a lot of lights shining down into the water. This will attract bait and fish, so keep that in mind when fishing once the sun goes down.

redfish in the landing net
Southern Bay anglers have a LOT of options right now, and the list is only expanding.

The big bluefish along the bayfront and in some of the tributaries have been a treat to enjoy this spring. Anglers are still catching big bluefish in the surf and at Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets this week. Smaller bluefish are also moving into the area but fish up to 35 inches were landed this week. One surf angler reported catching a 33, 31, 28, and 21-inch fish from the surf while throwing big metal spoons. The schools of Spanish mackerel aren’t far behind and a few are already starting to show up at the Virginia Beach fishing pier. They will soon make their way inside the CBBT and make for fun action on both trolling and light tackle gear.

Red and black drum are still hanging around the ledges and shoals in this region. More schools of red drum are showing up each week and their numbers will continue to increase until June. Boats have been finding success for these fish by anchoring up and dropping down chunks of crab on fish finder rigs. Fishing near the islands of the CBBT can yield good results and there have already been good reports of red drum coming from around them this week. Oceans East Bait and Tackle also confirmed that the first few cobia of the year have showed up. This will add another exciting option to the already diverse fishery of the southern Bay. As more show up, they can be targeted around the CBBT or by searching for them in towers as they cruise just below the surface of the water.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 3 Update:

It was a nice change of pace to have summerlike temperatures visit the region this week. Fishing activity responded well to the nicer weather and it may have been the best week of spring fishing so far this year. Drum are a main target right now with red drum and black drum running up the Bay. The black drum have been more concentrated around the Eastern Shore of Virginia from the CBBT up to the shallow grassy areas of the Pocomoke. They have also been a common catch in the surf and sand fleas on fish finder rigs are consistently getting bites for anglers.

redfish caught in the nanesmond river
Mark scored this nice red in the Nansemond on cut shrimp.

Reader reports of redfish continue to grow, and this week we heard of some action on slot fish in the Nansemond, the inlets, and the Elizabeth. The schools of bull red drum are finally making a bigger push into the Bay, too, after a slow start to the spring. Fisherman’s Island has been a hotspot along with channel edges running up to Cape Charles on the east side and Mobjack Bay on the west side. Anchoring up near reefs and shoals to drop down chunks of crab is a popular way to lure in these big fish to your line. Make sure you have a medium heavy to heavy setup because both species of drum can get over 50 pounds.

Big news for southern Bay anglers has been the arrival of chopper bluefish running along the beaches and making their way into the inlets. It has been quite some time since we have seen a good run of big bluefish, and this is a bite you won’t want to miss out on. One angler reported in after landing four bluefish ranging from 32 to 34 inches which were all caught on Z-Man jerk shads. Most of the bluefish have been in the 25- to 35-inch range which will definitely start screaming your drag once you hook into one.

Lynnhaven continues to be a hotspot for both speckle trout and redfish, and some keeper sized flounder are now also being pulled out of the inlet. The Elizabeth River has also been a great location as water temperatures are pushing into the low 60s. Anglers have reported that there is a lot of bait in the smaller creeks, but that the main stem of the river is seeing better action now. One kayak angler caught a few slot puppy drum while fishing around lighted docks at night. Speckled trout are moving into areas with grass and are also moving into shallower water in the industrial zones of the tributaries. Soft plastic paddletails are the go-to bait for catching just about everything in the Bay, but soaking pieces of fresh cut bait or chunks of crab on fish finder rigs will also produce fish if you prefer a more relaxed style of fishing.