Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 2021

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 31 Update:

Welcome to the final fishing report of 2021! Here’s hoping that 2022 is a better year, both fishing-wise and otherwise. The 50-inch barrier has been broken, folks! Matt caught the fish of a lifetime – a 52-incher – while trolling a chartreuse Stretch 25 in the Rappahannock on Christmas eve. The pic he and his dad got before releasing the fish was an epic Christmas present that will never be forgotten!

trophy rockfish in lower bay
Now, that is truly a fish of a lifetime!!

We also had a fair number of reader reports come in this week from the Potomac, where some fish in the mid- to upper-40s were caught in the mouth of the river. While the biggies we heard about this week were caught trolling, jiggers caught fish as well, with several reader reports indicating that the jigged fish were mostly in the 20s with a few 30-inch-plus showing up, too. Anglers is reporting that the best rockfish bite is from Point Lookout, down, and the Tackle Box also received a number of pics of fish over the 45-inch mark.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 23 Update:

Happy holidays, anglers! Best wishes for an awesome celebration and we hope you and your family are looking forward to a fish-filled 2022. But we have one week of fishing in 2021 left, so: As we move into the final weeks of the year the Lower Bay holds most of the cards when it comes to chasing the end-of-season rockfish, and the Point Lookout/Smith Point zone was the epicenter of the action over the last week. Readers reported that it was on the crowded side over the weekend, with one noting that their lures were competing with around 30 other trollers, and another mentioning that when birds gathered it didn’t take long for boats to shoot over and pack together on the spot. Still, he said it was possible to get away from the crowds and locate fish in the 30-inch class down at around 45 feet, then jig them up with six-inch BKDs. White was a hot color. The Virginia side was noted as noticeably less crowded than the Maryland side and midway between the two. Sea Hawk mentioned hearing that the Maryland side has generally had a bit of a better bite this week. Additional reader reports (photo verified) also came in of a couple real hammers in the past week, running in the upper-40-inch range. We haven’t seen evidence of a 50-plus incher as of yet, but the 47 to 49 inchers that have been caught will certainly get any striper angler’s blood pumping. Tuesday in particular the fish were in rare form, with some anglers reporting 50-plus fish caught and released with zero dinks among them.

ginormous catfish
Mike McGuire, Lou Gearhart, and Jeff Avery went fishing n the Potomac and W-O-W — 79.9 pounds, confirmed on the scale! Check out their YouTube at Po Cats.

Meanwhile, up the rivers there are even larger fish to be caught - in the form of catfish. Some monster fish have been caught recently including the gargantuan creature pictured above. Holy cow people, holy cow - you think any rockfish that heavy were caught recently? Not likely - don't sell those monster cats short!!

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 17 Update:

Stripers are still the name of the game in the Lower Bay, and some very large fish have entered the Chesapeake. While Virginia anglers are operating in the slot, the Potomac River doesn’t have a cap and this week a rather rockin’ rockfish catch was made: a 49-inch, 40-pounder, which smacked a Crippled Herring spoon jigged on 20-pound test near the mouth of the river. Wow – that’s a serious fish!!

lower bay monster rockfish
Holy cow, that's a biggie! And jigged up on light tackle, no less - congrats, Steve!!

Otherwise, most of the reports coming in are of 20-somethings with an occasional 30-plus-inch fish, with a handful of anglers finding patches of larger 30- to 40-inch sea-run fish (sea lice and all) a couple days this week; Point Lookout to Smith Point is fingered as the zone to be in. The folks at Anglers are reporting that plastics are working but metal jigs have been working better as most of the fish are now being found in 60 to 70 feet of water around ledges and drop-offs.

We didn’t get any word this week of any other fish likely to cause the same sort of excitement as a 49-inch rockfish, nor did we get any reports of catfish breaking that mark. However, if you want a fish of that size the best shot at one is undoubtedly hitting the James from the Claremont area up and particularly towards Hopewell. Last week pics that came in from that zone showed four fish over 30 pounds (plus a couple in that class from up the Rap), and you can bet that plenty more of those fat cats are looking for dinner.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 10 Update:

While Maryland’s Bay waters are closed for keeping rockfish as of the end of the day today, in Virginia and in the Potomac River the catch-and-keep season continues for the rest of the month. And at this point, the bite’s better in these areas either way. We heard from a couple of readers who found rockfish (including a few big fish pushing the 40-inch class) in the lower Potomac, off Point Lookout and Smith Points, and in the lower Rap; Angler’s is also reporting Point Lookout as a hot zone. As has been the case much of this fall, sporadic bird action has been exposing the general location of the fish but is short lived and anglers need to use the fishfinder to pinpoint the schools. Two readers reported that trolling weighted umbrellas did the trick another caught fish to 36-inches dropping six-inch BKDs on 1.5-ounce G-Eyes.

nice striper from the potomac river
Leah continues racking up the rockfish in the Potomac - talk about a string of success!

With the options beyond rockfish petering out in the chill, one other stand-out fishery remains: those big fat blue cats. We heard from multiple readers soaking baits up the James (locations undisclosed) and in the Potomac (near the Woodrow Wilson bridge and off Swan Creek) that the cats were biting around bridges and along channel edges of 20-plus feet and plenty of real monsters are around. This week we heard of two over 40 pounds and four over 30 pounds. That’s a lot of tugging!

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 3 Update:

Readers checking in from the Lower Bay rivers now seem to be enjoying a better rockfish bite than most of their neighbors to the north, with jigging soft plastics on G-Eye heads in the Potomac called out as a winner for fish up to 27 inches in the vicinity of Cobb Island, and weighted umbrellas proving productive trolled south of St. George’s. Rockfish are consistently gathered up in the mouth of the Potomac and out into the Bay throughout the Triangle area. Anglers have been going after them trolling and jigging, and generally doing equally well. Trollers are opting to pull umbrellas dressed with sassy shads and bucktails, along with an inline weight. With the fish close to bottom, rigs need to stay down deep in order to get in on the catch. The majority of larger fish are coming straight off the bottom, so keeping an eye on the depth finder and adding weight or lengthening lines when necessary is a good move. Jiggers have been sizing up their lures to ward off the smaller fish, generally using soft plastics around nine-inches or metal jigging spoons. Currently, most of the rockfish going into coolers are in the 22- to 30-inch range. The Tackle Box also mentioned that the Smith Point area has been productive, with trollers catching on umbrellas, tandems, and Mojos, and jiggers looking for birds and casting plastics on one-ounce and heavier jigheads. We also had reader reports of the fish down deep but jiggable off the mouth of the Potomac near the 72 and 65 buoys. Again, getting to bottom after seeing a few birds congregate in an area was the key to catching.

potomac river rockfish
Leah caught 'em up Thanksgiving morning, in the area of Colonial Beach.

The area around the Route 3 bridge remains a productive zone in the Rap. A couple of readers reported both jigging and trolling is producing good numbers of fish in the slot, with a bit of sporadic bird activity occasionally popping up. The birds weren’t “working” in the traditional sense so much as briefly gathering up when bait was chased to the surface, exposing the general location of the fish. One noted that jigging Stingsilvers on bottom was effective.