By Bill Hall –
The recent stretch of nice weather, combined with two large flounder tournaments, produced a surge of activity on the water. Last weekend brought about a noticeable increase in boat traffic, with many local anglers putting their boats in the water for the first fishing trip of the season. Inshore seaside action was dominated by anglers trying their luck in one of the tournaments out of Wachapreague and Chincoteague.
The barrier island inlets and surf have been producing catches of black and red drum, along with large striped bass, often measuring in excess of 40 inches. One black drum catch tipped the scales at a hefty 85 pounds! A couple of summertime species have made their 2022 debut in the surf as the first catches of whiting (sea mullet) and blow toads have been reported. As predicted last week, the flounder fishing off the lower Shore has begun to materialize and now it is time for speckled trout to make their springtime presence known in the shallow waters of Pocomoke Sound.
Chincoteague – Jimmy Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait and Tackle, said the fishing had been “really good” over the weekend, just in time for the start of the shop’s flounder tournament. Flounder catches have been spread out around the island, as well as to the south. Live minnows produced limit catches for some anglers on Sunday. Vasiliou described the action in the Assateague surf as being “as good as we’ve seen.” Some large striped bass have added to the species available to the surf fishermen, but Vasiliou reminds anglers that stripers remain off limits to keep until the season opens on May 16. He added that the run of black drum remains productive, with the shop weighing in fish up to 40 pounds. High-low rigs baited with clam, peeler, or sandflea baits tipped with Fishbites have all produced drum in the surf.
Wachapreague – Paul Elias took first place in the 31st Annual Captain Zed’s Flounder Tournament with a 25.25-inch fish weighing 5 pounds, 9 ounces. Bob Ford finished in second place (5 pounds, 6 ounces), followed by James Joseph (5 pounds, 2 ounces), Mike Savage (5 pounds, 1 ounce), and John Barr (4 pounds, 15 ounces). Bonnie Crouse won the top lady angler award (4 pounds even) and Asher Hines took the top youth catch award with a 4-pound, 8-ounce fish.
Captain Lindsay Paul has been flounder fishing with Captain Nat Atkinson aboard the Foxy Lady and the dynamic duo has been finding up to 12 keepers for their clients. Berkley Gulp and live minnow combinations have been the most productive baits, with catches continuing to come from Bullshead and Green and Drawing channels. Paul said that there have been a few drum caught in the surf off Wachapreague.
Amanda Manzella, at the Wachapreague Inn, said that her clients had nice catches of flounder measuring in excess of 18 inches over the weekend. She added that, overall, it was a great weekend for the fishermen and the tournament.
Lower Shore – Dez Louie, at Oceans East—Eastern Shore, described the drum fishing over the last week as “great!” Anglers have been enjoying success with both red and black drum in the waters around Fisherman Island. He said that the top black drum bait has been a clam and crab combination, while most of the red drum catches have been on hard crab and peeler baits. Louie added that there have been some striped bass measuring over 40 inches mixed in with the drum. Flounder catches have started coming from inside the Ditch off Wise Point, as well as inside the Chesapeake Bay off Kiptopeke. Tog catches have been coming on crab and sandflea baits fished against the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Tackle Shop in Cape Charles, confirmed that the recent run of nice weather enabled more anglers to take advantage of the lower Shore drum bite. Black drum catches were reported out of Oyster and behind Fisherman Island. Anglers said that sharks were a major nuisance in-between drum bites. Red drum catches are still coming from the surfline for anglers soaking crab baits. Tautog fishing on the offshore wrecks was described as “solid” with fish up to 10 pounds, 8 ounces weighed in at the shop. Brady added that the flounder fishing was still on the slow side but expected to improve with the weather. Puppy drum and striper catches have come from inside the creeks and along the local shorelines.
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.