Our summer of Chesapeake Bay fishing has been like most – some good news, some bad. I fish from a small boat which limits my range, adding to the challenge. I have not had a good summer with flounder, but as many of you know it has been a great year for Spanish mackerel. I have caught exactly one red drum this year – but she was 48 inches – and no black drum. The spadefish I have caught have averaged bigger than most years, but no triggerfish. Some bluefish big enough for the table are around, but the tautog are running small. My favorite fish in the lower bay is the speckled trout and a few of them have already started to bite. I could keep going, but you get the point: no two years are alike these days! This article will be more about the “where to” than the “how to”, using simple “how to” techniques: fishing fairly light spinning gear, and Berkley Gulp! Swimming Mullet in white or chartreuse on 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig heads. Work it along the bottom until the fish hits. That’s it.
The Virginia Fishing Hot Spots
- Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Area – I guess you could say this is an “inlet,” as lot of water from the Hampton River, James River, and Elizabeth River along with many other tributaries empties into the Bay here. I say “area” because it’s not just one spot. If you are a regular reader you may remember I wrote an article about fishing this area (How to Hit the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel) not too long ago. Typically, I will start on the tube end of the island on the Hampton side. (By the way, in fishing language “tube” means “tunnel”). I’ve done well here on all the aforementioned species. Depending on the current, I’ll anchor between the tubes or on the outside of the southbound tube. If nothing happens around there, I work the Hampton Roads side of the island down to the bridge end of the island. I have caught stripers around the first few sets bridge pilings. In the past few years I have spent more time between the two bridges leading onto Fort Monroe. This is an area popular with wade anglers, and increasingly with kayakers as well. A lot of specks congregate here before the weather turns too cold. There’s a channel running between the two bridges which is about 12 feet deep. I work the channel edges all the way from one bridge to the other. Last year the specks were running small, but there were plenty of them.
- Little Creek Jetties – This used to be a go-to place for my fall fishing, and I fished out of Little Creek for years. I still stop by there from time to time. I always fished around the jetty on the south side of the inlet and have done well inside and outside of the jetty, anchoring or drifting. This is where I honed my skills with speckled trout. I have had some of my best puppy drum fishing right there as well. And school stripers love this area. There have been times when I got skunked at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel only to catch my dinner at the jetties on the way back in.
- Lynnhaven Inlet – There is a whole tribe of speckled trout anglers who never leave Lynnhaven Inlet. With miles of shoreline, marshes, and shell beds, this is a breeding ground for lots of fish. At times, this can be a great area for puppy drum as well. Back in the day anglers would be shoulder-to-shoulder lined up behind the Duck-In restaurant (just outside of Lesner Bridge), casting to specks. Shore bound anglers still have a good shot at catching fish wading on either side of the bridge. From a boat I like to fish area where ditches pour out of the marsh into the river on the falling tide. Places where channels cut through shallow water are also good bets. Just be careful – there is a lot of really shallow water in there. It pays to watch the locals and keep an eye on the bottom machine.
- Rudee Inlet – Yes, it’s officially outside the Bay but Rudee is within shooting distance for many Lower Bay anglers and this is the last stop for southbound fish heading for the Carolinas in the fall. Fishing can be good from the jetties all the way up to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. This allows for both shore-bound anglers and boaters to have a shot. Both specks and pups will over-winter here in mild years. Unfortunately, the odd cold snap can cause a fish kill in the inlet.
- Cape Charles/Cherrystone – The whole lower end of the DelMarVa Peninsula is very fishy! I’m no expert on the area, but there are a lot of options. From Fisherman’s Island you can travel up “inside” to miles of marshes and creeks. The area around Kiptopeke (including the Concrete Ships which form a breakwater for the boat ramp) has always been fishy. We once placed in the money in a striper tournament trolling the area outside of the Concrete Ships.
Heading up the bay, you will confront several inlets including Cape Charles and Cherrystone. Even further you will find Hungars Creek, which has always produced some of the biggest speckled trout in Virginia. If you’re new to fishing the Eastern Shore, I suggest watching what the locals do. Give them their space but observe and learn.
There’s good fishing this time of year, and some of it is available to shore-bound anglers. So as the chill creeps into the air, keep checking the Way South fishing reports and don’t pack away that fishing gear just yet!
Boat and Kayak Launch Points
Most of the places mentioned here have boat ramps nearby. There’s a ramp at Old Point Comfort Marina in Hampton a few hundred yards from the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. (This is where I launch). There is also one in Willoughby on the Norfolk side. There’s a ramp on the military base in Little Creek, but only people with a Department of Defense ID may use it. Lynnhaven has a nice ramp adjacent to the Lesner Bridge. This is a good jumping-off spot for both the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the whole Lynnhaven River area.
Rudee Inlet has a popular ramp at Owl’s Creek on General Booth Boulevard. Kiptopeke State Park and Cape Charles both have ramps as well. I’ve never launched on that side of the bay but the ramps are good. (Note: the Kiptopeke ramp can be sporty in a strong west wind, as the concrete ships only afford so much protection).
- By Chuck Harrison