EASTERN SHORE FISHING: Striped bass and black sea bass seasons open

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Ethan Willet and his 59-pound, 4-ounce black drum. Photo courtesy BGailey's Bait & Tackle.

BY BILL HALL, Eastern Shore Post —

Striped bass (rockfish) season opened up on Tuesday, May 16, on both the Chesapeake Bay and seaside. The recreational black sea bass season opened on Monday, May 15. More details are below.

The Virginia Chesapeake (Bay) Area Season (Spring) for striped bass (rockfish) opened up on Tuesday, May 16, and will run through June 15, 2023. During this period, anglers are allowed one (1) fish per person and that fish must measure between 20 and 28 inches in length.

The Virginia Coastal (seaside) striped bass season also opened up on Tuesday, May 16, and is scheduled to run through December 31, 2023. During this period, anglers fishing seaside waters out to the 3-mile limit are allowed to possess one (1) fish and that fish must measure between 28 and 36 inches in length.

The recreational black sea bass season reopened on Monday, May 15, and remains open until July 6, 2023. Anglers are allowed up to 15 fish per person and the fish must measure at least 13 inches in total length.

Upper Shore 

The Sea Hawk Sports Center described the recent action in the Chesapeake Bay shallows as “world class.” Anglers soaking peeler and soft crab baits in the grass flats of Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds are encountering red drum, speckled trout, and rockfish. Rockfish and striped bass catches have also come on artificial baits such as Mirrolures and paddletail soft plastics fished on ¼-ounce jigheads. Salt & Pepper and Albino have both been productive color patterns.

On the seaside, anglers reported an influx of smaller flounder last week, though some keeper-sized fish were still landed. Best fishing has been occurring along the edge of the flats, in 2 to 6-foot depths during the last portion of a flood tide through the ebb. 

Clear water is a must for successful flounder action. Top and bottom rigs with Gulp Baits tipped with silversides or live minnows have been the most often used bait offering. Red drum, black drum, and rockfish have all been caught and released in the barrier island surf.

Chincoteague

Jimmy Vasiliou, at Captain Steve’s Bait and Tackle, told me that the recent windy weather has made flounder fishing tough, but some of the best flounder action has shifted into water depths of 8 to 15 feet during the last week. 

Some larger “toothy” sharks have started to appear north of the Queen Sound Bridge. Kingfish (whiting) are beginning to show up in good numbers. The surf fishing on Assateague Island has produced a variety of species over the last week, including some large striped bass and red drum. Some black drum remain, but the best of that spring fishery is probably over; however, whiting catches are steadily improving. Joining the mix in the surf over the last week have been some of the more unwelcome summer species, such as sharks, skates, and some large rays.

Wachapreague

 Captain Lindsay Paul described the current flounder bite out of Wachapreague as “pretty decent.” Most of the successful flounder fishermen have been using the Berkley Gulp/live minnow bait combination on two-hook rigs. He added that a few black drum are still being caught in the inlet, with scattered red drum and rockfish catches coming from the barrier island surf.

Lower Shore

Jeb Brady, at Bailey’s Bait & Tackle said that the black drum fishing last weekend was the “best of the season.” Anglers fishing both the seaside waters out of Oyster and the lower bayside were often rewarded with multiple catches while using clam and crab baits. Some boats reported double digit catches of black drum, according to Brady. The Cape Charles Fire Company’s Black Drum Tournament concludes Sunday, May 21. A 59-pound, 4-ounce fish was leading the tournament early in the week. 

The sheepshead bite around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay was described as slower than the previous week. Red drum catch and releases were reported from the surf along Fisherman Island by anglers soaking peeler crab baits. Flounder catches slowed a little this week inside the Ditch as well as along the Fisherman Inlet Bridge. Sand mullet (whiting) catches are coming from the Cabbage Patch and along the concrete ships off Kiptopeke.

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 Virginia Saltwater Release Angler of the Year. He has won numerous Virginia Press Association awards for his columns.

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