Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 2024

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 29 Update:

Most of us have been happy about spring’s arrival, but I don’t think anyone is pleased with how the weather has been lately. This week’s theme was lots of wind with some heavy shots of rain. Not great fishing conditions. The persistent wind kept most anglers off the water as we wait for better weather patterns to set in. Fishing reports reflected the weather this week and there was not much to talk about. After a promising start to the flounder season with early catches from the easter shore of Virginia, we are still waiting to hear about the first confirmed flattie from points north. The water was churned up this week thanks to breezy conditions and that is never good for flounder fishing. Hopefully the next warming trend will move some fish into the bays. Scattered flounder reports still rolled in from Chincoteague down to Folly Creek and April should be a much better month for targeting them.

rockfish in the water
Fishing for striped bass will remain an option at the coast, even as areas of Maryland are closed to targeting them at the end of this month.

Schoolie striped bass are still hanging around the Route 90 and Route 50 bridges this week in Ocean City. The better action is at night under the lights as the fish look to ambush baitfish swimming in the current. Jigs and soft plastics pitched towards the pilings are getting the most bites, though they have been few and far between. As we enter April, targeting striped bass in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake Bay will be prohibited, but the coastal fishery will remain open. The legal slot for striped bass on the coast is 28 to 31 inches. Fish In OC reports that a few slot-sized fish have been caught in the back bays this month.

Tautog are starting to make their way into the Ocean City inlet and should begin biting well at the CBBT. As crabs become more readily available, they will be the best bait to catch these fish. The offshore wrecks have provided good tog fishing this month, but the wind has made it tough to consistently get out to them recently. Let’s hope the weather breaks soon.  

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 22 Update:

Spring is finally here, and it is bringing the fish with it! We heard that the first black drum of the year was caught by an angler fishing on the Virginia side of Assateague Island. This is just the beginning of the drum run and now through April will be primetime to hit the surf. More fish will be showing up in the coming weeks. Heavy surf gear is recommended for anglers who are targeting the drum as they can get upwards of 50 pounds. Fresh cut bait, crab, or sand fleas are the more popular baits. Dogfish and clear nose skate have also been making an appearance for surf anglers.

surf fishing black drum on the cover of fishtalk
Talk about good timing - the first of the drum have arrived! Check out the new April edition hitting the streets right now and see our feature article on spring surf fishing opportunities along the coast.

Flounder continue to make their way into the coastal bays, and more are showing up by the day. Successful trips were reported from anglers fishing in Wachapreague, Folly Creek, and Chincoteague. Minnows and silversides on flounder rigs are working best. As always, finding the cleanest and warmest water usually leads to the best success. Seek out these areas and make it a point to fish the outgoing tide when the water will be the warmest.

The offshore wrecks and reefs are still offering some great tautog fishing. Captain Monty of the Morning Star was out this week, dropping more structure as always, and caught some fish too. His clients caught fish up to 22 inches and Monty said that the bite was best when the current ran north to south. The tog bite this time of year can be very condition dependent. Some days are great, and some days can be very tough, but that’s fishing. Chasin’ Tides Charters was also out this week and pulled in some double-digit tog with the largest weighing 18 pounds.

Fish In OC let us know that there are schoolie sized rockfish around the Route 50 and Route 90 bridges. The better bite has been at night under the lights as the fish look to ambush baitfish moving through the pilings. They did let us know that a handful of fish in the 28–31-inch coastal slot have been caught, so there is a chance at a keeper sized fish right now.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 15 Update:

The weather has final made the turn this week and we have been enjoying summerlike temperatures in the afternoons. Water temperatures have responded well and are steadily rising which can only mean one thing: Flounder are starting to return to the coastal bays, and we had the first successful reports roll in this week. Fish In OC reported that Captain Tim Walch out of Chincoteague caught the first flattie earlier in the week. We also heard of a few successful reports in Wachapreague. These fish might start showing up in the Ocean City bays this weekend, so break out that flounder gear and get ready for an action-packed spring.

tautog on the morning star
Now that spring is making itself known you won't have to suffer through winter togging conditions to target these fish. Photo courtesy of Capt. Monty Hawkins.

Action is also picking up around inlet rocks and the CBBT rockpiles, where anglers are catching a few tautog on sand fleas and green crab. Most of the fish have been undersize and this bite is just beginning to crank up, but they are still a blast to catch and the action should be steadily improving in the coming weeks. More schoolie striped bass are showing up around the OC Inlet and bridges for anglers to target. They will be hanging around hard structure like jetties, docks, and pilings waiting to ambush baitfish, so soft plastics on jigs are a good option to throw. The oceanic scene has been focused on tautog out at the wreck and reef sites. Captain Monty of the Morning Star was out this week and reported slow, but steady fishing on quality size tog.

The recent warming trend will help the return of black drum along the beaches. As forecasted by Punxsutawney Phil himself, spring seems to be kicking off early and it would be no surprise for the drum to follow that pattern. The end of March and beginning of April is a great time to target them, especially on both Virginia and Maryland portions of Assateague and beaches to the south. A simple fish finder rig with chunks of cut bait or sand fleas work well. Make sure you have some heavier gear to use because these fish can get well over 50 pounds.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 8 Update:

This time of year can be slow for anglers fishing along the coast, but big changes are on the way with the arrival of Spring in the near future. Most of the fishing activity out of Ocean City and Virginia Beach is revolving around tautog right now. The Ocean City Fishing Center told us that a few striped bass are being caught by anglers fishing around the Route 90 and Route 50 bridges. Soft plastics casted near the bridge structure are enticing the bites. That is about all the intel we have for the coast this week and we are looking forward to better reports showing up towards the end of the month. The arrival of black drum in the surf is only a few weeks away!

assateague island black drum
Coming soon, to a beach near you!

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, March 1 Update:

The weather has been all over the place this week as we close out February. The start of March looks to bring us some rain this weekend with milder temperatures on the horizon. I know all of us are ready for warmer weather which will bring more fishing opportunities. The special February black sea bass season has ended in Virginia, but the fishing was fantastic throughout the month for those who went after them. Wreck Dawg Sport Fishing was still putting their anglers on limits of sea bass this week with fish up to six and a half pounds. The sea bass closure means that offshore wreck trips will be mainly focused on tautog. The tog reports have been slim this week, but the fish should still be out there biting.

flounder fishing regulations
Flounder fishing regulations have been set for MD for 2024.

The 2024 recreational summer flounder regulations for Maryland have been finalized by the DNR. The regulations allow anglers to keep four fish per day. The minimum size is 16 inches from January first to May 31st. The minimum size increases to 17.5 inches from June first through December 31st.