By Bill Hall –
While the recent air temperatures may have felt more like August than May, the recent fishing action has been equally as hot. Black drum fishing has been very good, with anglers starting to recognize the importance of releasing some of these slow-growing giants after snapping a few pictures. Pinhead croakers have made their summer time appearance on the seaside, much to the chagrin of drum fishermen trying to keep bait on their hooks. Look for an early appearance of cobia, though the state’s cobia season does not open until June 15. The first tuna of the season have been caught out of Ocean City, Md.
Upper Shore – Captain Matt Abell, at the Sea Hawk Sports Center, said the recent seaside flounder action has been “real good.” Abell commented that silversides have recently been the best bait by far. Pink has been the most productive teaser color, followed by chartreuse, then white. Best action has still been occurring on a falling tide in shallow water. On a recent charter, John and Star Krieger landed a limit of flounder to 24 inches in less than three hours. Abell said the Assateague surf has produced large rockfish, with most exceeding the 36-inch maximum size limit.
Local anglers Jenna and Garett Daisey landed large black drum in Machipongo Inlet. Abell said the recent Smith Island Fishing Tourney benefiting the town’s Cultural Center was a huge success with anglers landing lots of red drum, speckled trout, and rockfish. Anglers reported several slam catches. Finally, Abell commented the bullfish (cow-nosed ray) population appears to be at an all-time high.
Jimmy Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait and Tackle, confirmed the striper action in the surf, showing me pictures of fish measuring up to 44 inches that had been released. Most of the fish had been caught on peeler crab baits fished on a Captain Steve’s Hi-Low rig. A few sheepshead have also been landed in the surf.
Wachapreague – Captain Lindsay Paul, at Trident Tackle, said the flounder fishing was improving with the clean water, although it still could not be considered “hot.” Berkley Gulp with live minnows continue to be the most popular flounder bait. Paul added there were still black drum available in the inlet area. Black sea bass catches were coming from the offshore wrecks, but Paul had not heard of any blue water action.
Amanda Manzella, at the Wachapreague Inn, reported guest Henry Forrester caught nine keeper-sized flounder and a trout while fishing aboard the Foxy Lady. Captain Tom Hart led a group of guests who caught 18 flounder over a two-day period, keeping 10 fish. Manzella said black sea bass were caught by some of the Inn’s guest near buoy R-10.
Lower Shore – Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle, said black drum fishing on both sides of the lower Shore “has been on fire!” Top black drum locations have been out of Oyster on the seaside and in the area around buoy 13 on the bayside. Sheepshead fishing has rebounded along sections of the bridge-tunnel. The surf behind Smith Island and Fisherman Island is still producing big red drum. Flounder catches have been coming from inside the Ditch and along the Fisherman Inlet Bridge. Whiting catches are coming from the concrete ships and along the bridge-tunnel.
Dez Louie, at Oceans East – Eastern Shore, confirmed the recent run of excellent black drum fishing, specifically mentioning Nautilus Shoal, buoy 13, and the inlets accessible from Oyster. Louie said that numerous large sheepshead have been taken by anglers targeting black drum. Schools of red drum are patrolling the waters off Fisherman Island with fish in excess of 50 inches caught by anglers casting crabs and bucktails to the edges of the schools.
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.