Lower Bay Fishing Reports

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 17 Update:

The big news this week for anglers is the opening of striped bass season in the Potomac River and in the Chesapeake Bay for both Mayland and Virginia. Anglers will be allowed to keep one fish per day within a slot of 19 to 24 inches. The shallows seem to have a lot of stripers in them right now as we have heard from those looking for early season speckled trout that they are finding many more rockfish willing to bite their lures. The Tackle Box is reporting good numbers of rockfish are in the Potomac, along with redfish at the creek mouths of tributaries. Contributor Eric Packard confirms the report, adding that he encountered some specks as well as reds, plus a few rockfish, fishing on the river midweek while casting silver-gray paddletails. Another angler fishing on the Virginia side of the lower Potomac reported that they have been catching some red drum up to 18 inches from their pier using shrimp on bottom rigs. The Tackle Box also noted that plenty of catfish are biting hard throughout the river, and that although the white perch bite was off after the last chill-down, they should pick the pace back up thanks to the warming weather.

redfish are in the lower bay
Drum have pushed up the Bay in good numbers already! Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

As we progress through the spring, flounder are moving up the Bay into various tributaries. The days of going out and consistently catching big keeper flounder are long gone, but there are certainly plenty in the Lower Bay to target. Be ready for a lot of them to be undersized, but the grind will be worth it to catch a keeper. One angler reported in after searching for flounder around Gwynn Island, Virginia. They managed to catch four fish, the largest being 16.5 inches. The fish were caught on a ledge in 15 feet of water. As the water temperatures rise, flounder will begin to move into shallower water. Drifting bucktails tipped with Gulp! baits, squid, or minnows can be very effective. The minimum size for flounder in the Chesapeake Bay is 16 inches until May 31st. From June 1st until December 31st, the minimum size bumps up to 17.5 inches. A popular way to catch bigger flounder is to use live spot as bait. The spot are now being caught all over the Lower Bay and can be found in areas with shoals or oyster bottom. Bottom rigs baited with Fishbites, bloodworms, or lug worms will be the best setup to use when bottom fishing. A three or four inch spot is hard to resist for a big flounder, give it a try this season.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 10 Update:

The bite in the Lower Bay seems to be cutting lose as warmer weather has many fish moving up the shores of the Chesapeake. Contributor Eric Packard reports that the redfish are officially on in the Lower Bay, catching a half dozen or so slot fish plus under-slots along with some specks on multiple days this week, in a tributary off the Potomac.  Packard also found a nice striper bite at PLO, catching nine rockfish up to 30 inches while casting from his kayak. Unfortunately, there’s some bad news, too: cownose rays have arrived, and in a big way. We had multiple reports this week of the big beasts snagging jigs and eating baits, so they’re likely to be problematic for the foreseeable future.

lower chesapeake redfish and specks
Contributor Eric Packard found a mix of reds and specks off a Potomac River creek this week.

Reports Editor Dillon Waters made the trek down to the Piankatank in the middle of the week to search for reds and specks. Despite low winds, water temps around 70 degrees, and clean water, he only managed to catch four striped bass. The biggest was 23 inches, all caught on a three-inch Z-Man Diezel Minnow. Fishing docks and grass beds produced very little action, but those cow nose rays were everywhere which could have messed up the bite. This trip seems to be an anomaly as many other anglers are finding a variety of fish in the shallows of the lower Bay tribs.

The shad run seems to be more or less a done deal on the Bay’s southern tribs from the Potomac down, and FishTalk Intern Adam Greenberg visited Fletcher’s this week and found blue cats. We did hear from a worker at Fletchers Cove that water flows on the river bumped up early in the week which sparked a decent bite on American shad. Getting out away from the banks and fishing the deeper holes is the best way to catch the ones that remain. We also heard that there was a good schoolie striped bass bite in the Fletchers area early in the week and one angler caught over two dozen rock up to 22 inches while jigging. As more rain is in the forecast, it might improve conditions again to spark another bite for a few days.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, May 3 Update:

The Tackle Box checked in to let us know that plenty of catfish are being caught in the Potomac River. They are biting on a variety of baits like alewife, gizzard shad, perch, and just about anything else edible. Michael Whiffen of District Catfish says that the blue cats are pushing into shallower water and staying there throughout the day. He was out last week and caught over 200 pounds of blue catfish in the shallows near Three Sisters Island in one trip. We also heard from a reader who scored a nice catch of seven- to 10-pound cats fishing near Coles Point. On the upper Potomac near Fletchers Cove, flathead catfish are also attracting anglers to the area. This species is invasive too, and they are growing in size and number every year. Flatheads are a predatory fish and most anglers take the approach of jigging for them with soft plastics along the rocky ledges in the river. Five- and 10-pound fish are common, but flatheads as big as 40 pounds have been caught on the upper Potomac.

Lower bay blue catfish
The Coles Point area proved hot for Jeff and his fishing buddy.

Shad fishing is slowing down with low flows and warming waters. There are still some hickory shad around along with some big Americans. The schools are thinning, and most will move out in the coming weeks. Contributor Eric Packard said a day at Fletcher’s produced just a handful of shad plus some blueback herring so if you want to catch shad before they are gone, don’t wait.

Migratory saltwater species are pushing further north into the Lower Bay this week. Speckled trout and puppy drum have been in the Rappahannock and Piankatank and they are pushing into the Potomac with the warmer weather. A pound netter in Cornfield Harbor reported that he found a 35-pound red drum and some big specks in his net last weekend. Spot are also starting to show up and the puppy drum should be right behind them as long as the warmer weather holds. An angler fishing in the Pianktatank last weekend found steady pickings of puppy drum and small speckled trout while fishing docks and rip-rap shoreline in various creeks. Four-inch paddletails were the ticket. Aquatic grasses are emerging more in the shallows and now that water temps are in the low 60s, bait and gamefish will be moving into these areas. Popping corks can be very effective when fishing shallow grass beds. The cork mimics baitfish being chased when popped correctly and will draw nearby fish in to check out the commotion. Give them a try the next time you are out.

January 5, 2024
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 26 Update: Big news was announced this week for striped bass regulations. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has voted for option B2, setting Chesapeake Bay 2024 striped bass regulations… Read more...
December 1, 2023
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 29 Update: We hope that everyone had a great Christmas and got some new fishing gear to try out in 2024. We have some great bites going into the New Year with some of the best striped bass action you… Read more...
November 3, 2023
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 24 Update: The great fishing in the lower Bay is just one of the many things we have to be thankful for. Good news for anglers is that the rockfish bite seems to have had a slight uptick in action with… Read more...