Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 2024

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 31 Update:

Summer is less than a month away which has just about all anglers excited. Anyone fishing around the beach towns this past weekend had a lot of boat traffic to deal with, which never makes the fishing easy. The good news is that once the crowds died down, there was good fishing this week with late spring offering up a variety of fish. The south jetty at the OC inlet has been producing bluefish, striped bass, flounder, and even some sheepshead. One boat fishing around the tip of the jetty caught stripers up to 27 inches and bluefish up to 33 inches using Fish In OC Thing-A-Ma Jig lure. Other anglers fishing nearby caught a 34 and 32-inch rockfish along with some big bluefish and three keeper flounder. At the wrecks and reefs, sea bass fishing is still hit or miss. There are some nice fish around but each day is a tossup to whether they will cooperate. The good news is that more flounder are showing up. The Angler was out this week and reported a picky bite with the biggest sea bass at four and a half pounds along with flounder up to five pounds. Captain Monty Hawkins of the Morning Star also had to work hard for his fish this week. A recent trip showed a tough morning bite that slowly got better as the day went on. Two clients on the boat caught double digit keepers, but everyone was able to take some fillets home for dinner. Monty has only had two boat limits this season, but hopefully that changes soon.

angler in the ocean caught a blueline tilefish
Krissy tied into this beautiful blueline near the Poormans.

We’ve had a few scattered reports of yellowfin showing up for offshore anglers, including some very nice 70-pound-class fish, but mostly onsies-twosies thus far. Deep dropping for blue tilefish, however, is a fairly solid bet and one reader reported some excellent fishing in the Poormans zone.

Sea Hawk Sports Center says that the seaside flounder bite is still going strong this spring and the more consistent warm weather has led to more productive trips for anglers in the coastal bays of Virginia. Flounder rigs in pink, chartreuse, and white paired with Gulp! baits or minnows has done the trick for the flatties. Both tide swings have been producing fish, so as long as you can find clean water, it should lead to decent results. Remember that while the minimum size for keeper flounder is 16 inches right now, that will change on June 1st when the minimum size will increase to 17.5 inches.

On the beaches, the surf is still offering a good bite for anglers casting out into the suds. Fish finder rigs tipped with sand fleas or peeler crabs are still enticing black drum, red drum, and striped bass. One angler pulled in an impressive 46-inch black drum during an evening trip this week. Another welcomed sight has been the arrival of nice sized kingfish which are being caught in the troughs near the breakers. Smaller tackle such as bottom rigs are doing the trick for these tasty fish. A beach angler fishing over the holiday weekend caught six big kingfish, six clear nose skate, five spot, one bluefish, and one dogfish. Now that’s a good day on the beach!

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 24 Update:

It was a beautiful week on the Delmarva with fish biting up and down the coast. The big news from the offshore grounds this week is that the first confirmed yellowfin tuna of the season was caught. This should be a good sign of things to come and the action will pick up in the coming weeks. Inshore, black sea bass season has reopened as of May 15th. The initial reports from boats heading to the wrecks and reefs is that the fishing has been on the slower side, but some nice sized fish have been in the mix. Scott Lenox from Fish In OC reported getting out with The Angler for a day of sea bassing. The bite wasn’t hot but the boat did land four fish over 19 inches and Scott was even able to catch his personal best at 19.75 inches and three pounds, 13 ounces.

indian river striper
There are some very hefty stripers still running up the coast. Photo courtesy of Captain Cook.

At Indian River Inlet, Captain Cook of First Light Charters reported catching some big bluefish and stripers in the evenings. South of there seaside flounder fishing has been good this year, but last weekend’s weather led to mixed success for anglers. A reader checked in after flounder fishing in Chincoteague last week. They said that stiff northeast winds and rain made for tough fishing conditions in the coastal bays. Two days of fishing only produced a handful of keepers along with a few throwbacks. Boats fishing in the same area reported similar results with undersized fish far outnumbering keepers. They did mention that they talked to boats that ran south to Gargatha and found a much better bite despite less-than-ideal weather conditions. Boats in that area seemed to catch fish throughout the day and had a higher ratio of keepers to throwbacks. One boat managed to catch 34 keeper fish in just three days of fishing. Getting into less-pressured areas at this point in the flounder season is a good idea. More flounder are being caught in the back bays of Ocean City and the Thoroughfare has been a productive spot. Bluefish are also still present behind OC and we had a reader let us know he encountered a big school of snappers to 20 inches that was chewing hard near the Rt 50 brdge. Unfortunately, boat traffic is about to pick up a lot in OC as Memorial Day weekend has arrived. If you are getting out in this area to fish, be prepared to deal with a lot of boat waves.

In the surf there’s now a lot of variety and the action has ranged quite a bit depending on conditions, but we heard reports from Assateague of big rockfish reeled in this week by John Unkart (38”) and Dave Moore and friends (40”, 35”, and 31”). Moore also reported losing a big red and encountering a nice mix of panfish including croaker, kingfish, and spot. He also had six sand tigers take his bait through the week, and Unkart reported a very unusual surf catch, too: a hickory shad that ate a sand flea. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that a few members of their crew capitalized on a good weather window and beached a combination of over 30 rockfish and black drum on Assateague. Chunks of peeler crab on modified hi-lo rigs did all of the catching.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 17 Update:

The spring bite is firing off on all fronts this week along the coastal zones. Flounder are still drawing in a lot of anglers to the shallow bays and deep cuts and Sea Hawk Sports Center reports that they have had fish checked in over the six-pound mark this week in the Chincoteague area. White Gulp! shrimp worked well. As always, clean water has been most important for getting bit. Ocean City anglers have enjoyed more flounder success this week during the fishable windows. One boat caught six keeper flounder and released another eight while fishing the Thorofare. Another crew caught three flounder at 15, 17, and 18 inches in the south bay which were all released. The forecast for the weekend looks windy and wet, not great conditions for targeting flounder. The erratic weather has definitely slowed the bite a bit, but once we get back to a more consistent pattern, things should get back on track.

striper on the beach
Some nice stripers have been popping up for surf anglers. Photo courtesy of Dave Moore.

Surf anglers have had to battle with stiff winds and strong currents this week. Some of those who braved the rough conditions were rewarded for their efforts. The main targets this week were striped bass, black drum, red drum, and bluefish. A few successful reports rolled in including one from a surf caster who caught a handful of striped bass ranging from 35 to 45 inches. Another angler caught five bluefish on cut bait and was broke off by a few big fish too. Dave Moore reported catching big rock to 45” while battling a big surf on Assateague and said 12-ounces of weight was needed to hold. 10 ounces of wait was the minimum required to hold bottom on most days this week and some days even required 14 or more ounces. This weekend’s forecast is looking on the rougher side, so if you are planning to hit the beaches, make sure you have plenty of weight to hold bottom in the rough surf. Other surf catches have included clearnose skate, the occasional flounder, and the first few kingfish of the year are starting to trickle in. The fish are here, we just need the weather to cooperate.

At the Ocean City Inlet and back bays, the big bluefish have been keeping anglers busy. Jigs, metal lures, and Roy rigs are all working to get these feisty blues to bite. This has been one of the better spring runs of bluefish that we have seen in recent years and if you haven’t experienced it yet, we encourage you to make an effort to do so. The thump from a 30-inch bluefish followed by a screaming drag is something that will put a smile on any angler’s face.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 10 Update:

The seaside flounder fishing is still providing steady action as we move into one of the best times of year to target them. Good fishing has been reported up and down the Delmarva coastline up to Ocean City, which has started producing some flounder in the back bays. A boat fishing out of Wachapregaue last Sunday caught their limit of flounder including a big fish measuring 26 inches and weighing just over 6 pounds. Fish In OC let us know that anglers fishing in the back bay are picking up flounder up to three and a half pounds. The OC Fishing Center also let us know that fishing at the Oceanic Pier is heating up. Anglers are catching a mix of fish including sea trout, striped bass, flounder, and big bluefish. Blues up to 32 inches have been caught from the pier this week.

big bluefish on kayak
David tied into a bluefish frenzy, with 19 fish smashing his pencil popper and only one of those missing the 30 inch mark.

There have been a lot of successful reports from surf anglers this week as a variety of species are running close to the beaches. Dave Moore of Shark Whisperers reports some big stripers in the surf and that a few drum are around on Assateague, a mix of blacks and reds. He also mentioned catching “more skate than I could count” one evening late last week so come prepared with plenty of fresh bait if you hit the surf in the near future. Some of the noteworthy reports include an angler who caught nine black drum and six striped bass during a day trip this week. Another landed a few stripers over 40 inches and there have even been a few keeper flounder caught in the troughs. Sand fleas and Fishbites on hi-lo or fish finder rigs have been getting most of the bites. Depending on the day you may need to use weights up to 12 ounces, but the surf conditions will dictate what weights to use. Fishing around the tide swings also seems to be producing more bites. There are some big fish running, so don’t miss out on this good bite in the surf.

Inshore wreck and reef anglers are feeling an itchy trigger finger right now, as sea bass opens back up along the coast next week on the 15th. Since it’s been closed we don’t have any news on the quality of the bite but there’s no reason to believe our hopes won’t be fulfilled.

Coastal Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report, May 3 Update:

Fishing was great all over the coastal zone this week as it felt more like summer than spring, as an uptick in flounder activity moving north to Assateague and Ocean City this week is a sure sign that water temperatures are warming up. Many anglers went out to target the flatties this week and good fishing was reported from Wachapreague up to Ocean City. A boat fishing behind Assateague landed three keeper flounder up to 21 inches during a mid-week trip. The Thoroughfare has also been noted as productive for anglers fishing behind Ocean City. This time of year is great to target flounder in OC before the summertime crowds start to show up and boat traffic becomes a headache to deal with. Still, anglers looking for a better chance at catching their limit should consider heading to Chincoteague and areas south as that zone has held steadier action. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that there have been a good number of fish in the four-pound range caught in depths of less than 10 feet and some fish have even hit the six-pound mark. Fishing the outgoing tide is still best as water temperatures are on the cooler side. Flounder rigs with Gulp! baits and silversides have been the ticket.

ocean city bluefish
Patrick found the blues while kayak fishing behind OC.

Surf fishing along the beaches is becoming interesting with a lot of different species running close to shore from Virginia clear up through Delaware. Coastal correspondent John Unkart reported that there were some some slow days early in the week on Assateague with very little current, and some fat blowfish attacking his baits. The big news, however, is that the big chopper bluefish still in our area as they make their way north. Most of the bluefish have been in the 25- to 35-inch range which makes for an exciting battle and they've been caught in good numbers along the coast up to Cape Henlopen. Black drum, striped bass, flounder, skate, dogfish, are also all being reported; see Bluefish and Black Drum in the Surf for some pointers. A report from an angler fishing last weekend showed great results from the surf as they caught two black drum, a big bluefish, and a striped bass. A Chincoteague surf angler tossing out fresh cut bait caught a 46-inch striped bass during an evening outing to the beach. The stripers are migrating out of the Chesapeake Bay and making the turn up the coast. They should be running close to the beaches for a few weeks before they push out of our zone.

The Ocean City Fishing Center let us know that fishing at the Ocean City inlet has provided anglers with a mixed bag of species to catch near the rock jetties and other structures. The bluefish have also made their way into the back bay along with schoolie striped bass. Casting Gotcha plugs, metal spoons, and soft plastics on jigs has been getting bites. A kayak angler made his way out to the south jetty and caught striped bass up to 28 inches and bluefish up to 35 inches. All their fish were caught on a three-eighths ounce jighead paired with a four-inch swim shad. They also caught a 20-inch flounder. Tautog have also been hanging around the rock structure inshore as well as the offshore wrecks and reefs. Chasin’ Tides Charters was out on the ocean structure this week and put his clients on several nice fish including some double digits that were released. Black sea bass season will open on May 15th up and down the coast and the fishing should pick up where it left off.