After a week that has seen coastal flooding, high waves, below average air temperatures for this time of year, and even a brief encounter with snowfall in some areas, firsthand fishing information has been mighty hard to come by, if not impossible. One tackle shop owner told me, with only a slight exaggeration, “the opening of deer season probably saved several local sportsmen from thoughts of suicide!” Let’s hope he was just kidding, but there are a lot of frustrated fishermen chomping at the bit to get their shot at the schools of rockfish that are starting to improve in size.
The run of great speckled trout fishing off the lower shore has come to a halt as a result of the recent weather conditions. I am hoping this is just a temporary lull and the fish have sought more stable water temperatures by seeking deeper holes. If and when the weather stabilizes, I am hoping there will be a limited fishery as the remaining fish return to the sun-warmed shallows. Good speckled trout fishing was still occurring inside Rudee Inlet early in the week.
The Virginia Beach and Ocean City offshore fleets are still experiencing excellent daytime sword fishing, with boats often getting double digit hookups per tip. Wahoo, some weighing around the century mark, are still being caught out of Virginia Beach. One giant wahoo tipped the scales at 116 pounds but was not eligible for recognition by the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament because it was caught using an electric reel.
Upper Shore – Captain Matt Abell, of the Sea Hawk Sports Center, said that his last charter party, which occurred late in the week, fished over deep water structure, west of Smith Island, Md. Matt said that catching limits of fish was no problem as there were rockfish stacked over every rockpile that he fished in depths of 10 to 35 feet. Captain Abell reported that all of the bird activity that he has observed has been occurring from Hooper’s Island, Md., and north, but he expected to see the flocks of birds marking feeding fish shifting south as the falling water temperatures cause more and more of the stripers and the migrating baitfish to school up. In the Pocomoke River, crappie are cooperating for anglers casting small live minnows and 2-inch curly tails. Some of the best action is occurring near Nassawango Creek.
Chincoteague – Rockfish continue to be caught around the bridge pilings along the causeway as well as the Assateague Bridge, with best action occurring during periods of high tidal flow. Most of the fish have been under the 28-inch coastal striped bass minimum size limit. Expect to see more and larger fish arriving as the water temperature continues to fall. Small stripers and bluefish have been caught from the surf as well as at least one slot-sized red drum this week. Offshore, black sea bass and bluefish are available over the deep-water wrecks, but ocean conditions have been unfavorable for most boats to venture out of port.
Lower Shore – Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle in Cape Charles, reports that the speckled trout fishing is starting to fade as the weather cools. He said that small stripers are abundant along the bayside but most fish have been under the minimum size limit. He said that anglers are hoping to see bigger fish as a result of the recent cold snap.
Mark Snook, at Chris’ Bait & Tackle, reported that anglers have been finding rockfish in the 24- to 25-inch class along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Mark said there have also been some stripers caught off the rocks/jetties out of Cape Charles. The pier at the Kiptopeke State Park has started to produce a few striped bass catches. Chris’ Bait & Tackle will be having its annual Black Friday Sale on November 29, which will feature discounts throughout the store as well as 60 pairs of Costa Del Mar sunglasses on sale for under $100/pair!
The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament Committee, better known as the “Citation Program,” met on Monday, November 18, at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s new location at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va. The committee inserted language into the program’s 2020 tournament that will prohibit the controversial practice of towing live striped bass and cobia behind a moving boat. The program also approved the addition of a state record category for tripletail, a southern fish that is showing up in increasing numbers in Virginia each year. It will take a fish weighing at least 8 pounds to qualify for the initial state record for the species. Tripletail are not currently eligible for citations in Virginia.
Bill Hall was the first Eastern Shore resident to achieve Virginia Salt Water Master Angler Status. He has been named Virginia Saltwater Angler of the Year and Virginia Saltwater Release Angler of the Year and is a Virginia Press Association award-winning sports columnist.