By Bill Hall —
The calendar may still say summer, but the movements of the fish populations are more consistent with the beginning of the autumn season.
Cobia and spadefish numbers continue to decline inside the Chesapeake Bay, with the fish beginning to stage at the mouth of the bay and inshore ocean waters.
The late summer red drum run has begun in earnest in the lower bay from Occohannock Creek down to the waters off Cape Charles.
Speckled trout and puppy drum numbers are increasing on both sides of the lower Shore.
Joanne Schoeberl, at Captain Steve’s Bait and Tackle, put in a big plug for the shop’s Youth Croaker Tournament, which runs through Aug. 27.
The tournament is open to anyone up to age 17. The entry fee is $15 and participants will receive a hat and package of Berkley Gulp.
Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Chincoteague Elementary School third grade. Prizes will be awarded to the top five heaviest croakers.
In addition, there will be a flounder division, with the largest flounder earning a $100 Captain Steve’s gift certificate. The second largest flounder will receive a $50 gift certificate.
Schoeberl added that anglers were catching sharks off the beach, while flounder fishermen in Chincoteague Bay were doing “pretty decent!”
Captain Lindsay Paul, at Trident Tackle, describes the flounder bite out of Wachapreague as “very good.”
Berkley Gulp combined with live minnows have been a very effective bait combination, he added.
Small croakers and kingfish (whiting) are prowling the same areas as the flounder.
Flounder and black sea bass have been the primary catch over the ocean wrecks.
Captain Paul described the blue water trolling action for tuna and marlin as “slow.”
Dez Louie, at Oceans East-Eastern Shore, told me that bottom fishing for cobia has started to improve a little.
He credits a combination of fish feeding after spawning activity as well as fish fattening up in preparation for their migration.
Sight casting to fish on the surface still remains the most effective technique as increasing numbers of cobia are stacking up around the buoys and bridge pilings.
A mixture of big red drum and cobia are being caught from Cape Charles to the fourth island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel by anglers using croaker, spot, and peeler crab baits.
The best action has occurred during the late afternoon and early evenings. Large numbers of sheepshead have been both boated and released over the last week with many coming from the Cabbage Patch and along the concrete ships.
Spadefish numbers and sizes seem to be on the decline as the fish are leaving the bay for the ocean waters. This week has produced some of the best flounder fishing of the year, with several fish exceeding the 6-pound citation minimum. Jigging large grubs under the high rise has been an effective flounder-catching method. Bluefish, Spanish mackerel, ribbonfish, and even lizardfish have been feasting on schooling silversides.
Got-Cha plugs, Stingsilvers, and trolled spoons have produced easy limits of blues and macks. Puppy drum and speckled trout numbers are improving along the lower bayside creeks.
On the seaside, slot-limit puppy drum have started hitting shrimp and crab fishing under popping corks. Anglers fishing from the Kiptopeke Pier have landed Spanish mackerel, ribbonfish, lizardfish, sea robins, and some larger-sized croaker over the last week.
Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle, bragged on the recent sheepshead action, saying that the bridge-tunnel pilings, the Cabbage Patch, and the Cell have all produced trophy-sized fish on crab baits.
Many fish have exceeded 10 pounds. Brady described the recent cobia action as “OK,” with sight casting live eels being the most effective method.
He said that bottom fishermen were dealing with unwanted ray and shark action on their cobia baits. The area between the Plantation Light and the Cabbage Patch has been productive on Spanish mackerel and bluefish for anglers trolling spoons. Spadefishing at the fourth island and around the Plantation Light remains good for anglers fishing small clam baits.
The late afternoon and evening run of big red drum off Cape Charles is off to a productive start for anglers soaking cut bait. Ribbonfish and small croakers have been the primary catch off the Cape Charles Pier.
The writer was the first Eastern Shore resident to achieve Virginia Saltwater Master Angler status. He has been named Virginia Saltwater Angler of the Year and the Virginia Saltwater Release Angler of the Year. He also has won Virginia Press Association awards for his columns.