Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 2019

Lower Bay Fishing Reports presented by The Tackle Box

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 29, 2019 Update:

With stripers heading south in numbers, the Lower Bay now holds the most promise for those in search of these fish. Although they have been finicky, plenty of anglers are finding themselves with fishboxes full at the end of a long day on the water. The Tackle Box reported that stripers are schooled up and feeding with most fish between 20 and 28 inches in the Bay and the mouth of the Potomac, with plenty of schoolies mixed in. While the channel edges have been universally good, the best locations are from Point No Point to 72A, the Middle Grounds, and the "triangle" about two miles off of Point Lookout. The mouth of the Potomac has had on and off breaking rockfish from Ragged Point all the way to Smith Point, with great action off Virmar Beach. Searching off Stingray Point has also been productive.

striped bass angler int he cold
It's getting chilly out there, but you can still find some stripers willing to bite.

Although the action has been good, fish aren’t eating lures 24 hours a day and searching is often necessary. On the occasions when fish are being coy, trollers have the upper hand. While jiggers are spending much of their time running from spot to spot in search of fish, trollers have been able to cover a lot of water waiting for strikes and looking at the fish finder. Hard Head Custom Bait umbrella rigs have been a popular choice among trollers, while jiggers are opting for six-inch chartreuse, white, and pearl BKD and Gulp! soft plastics.

The speckled trout bite which kept so many anglers busy these past couple months seems to have petered out. The fish have mostly abandoned the Lower Bay tribs, and while there are surely still a few stragglers around we didn’t hear any good reports north of the Elizabeth this week.

Anglers who aren’t targeting stripers have been enjoying a great white perch bite in the deep holes and around the bridges. They’ve been taking bits of bloodworm on spinner hooks. Catfish are also up the tribs and will take cut baits.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 22, 2019 Update:

Although poor weather kept many anglers off the water this week, those who did get out enjoyed steady action. The Tackle Box reported the striped bass were caught in the lower Potomac and also at the Point Lookout Pier, where anglers using alewife in the rough surf enjoyed healthy action. The Potomac channel edges are providing a great bite for anglers jigging and trolling. Jiggers have been doing well with chartreuse, white, and pearl BKD or Gulp! soft plastic lures on half-ounce jig heads. With fish spread out on the edges, most boats are opting to cruise with depth finders on. Trollers are enjoying a great bite on bucktails with sassy shads and umbrella rigs with inline weights. Overall, most of the bite is coming from anglers fishing under working birds. The folks at Machodoc Creek Marina let us know that mid-Potomac areas have slowed with the falling temps and the down-river bite’s better, but Carters Lumps has produced some fish into the mid-20s

rockfish angler with her catch
Emily Teagle caught this 26-incher trolling umbrellas in the Rappahannock. Nice fish, Emily!!

The Tackle Box also let us know that there are plenty of rockfish in the triangle area out the mouth of the Potomac, and breaking fish have been in the Point No Point area to marker 72, the Target Ship, and on the Mud Leads. Reports from portions of the Bay farther south have improved as many of the fish that had been enjoying fall in the Middle Chesapeake shift southward. The lower Rap from Urbanna down, as well as the Windmill Point area, has been improving. The lower York has also picked up in recent days, with rockfish in the mid-20s jigged up from Gloucester Point zone down to the open Bay and York Spit.

Specks are still being caught in the Western Shore tribs too, but the action has slowed in northern rivers. See the Way South report for more, but bottom line, the Hampton area and down is now the move if you want numbers and action – many of the fish seem to have moved down towards inlets and structure nearer the mouth of the Bay.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 14, 2019 Update:

The Tackle Box let us know that it’s a great time to be on the hunt for rockfish. Stripers are in the lower Potomac, and throughout the Chesapeake’s channel edges in good numbers every day. Jiggers are doing well with six-inch white, chartreuse, and pearl Gulp! and BKD soft plastics, bounced off the bottom. However, most of the action in the Lower Bay is coming from trollers who are hitting the channel edges. The Tackle Box reported trollers using small umbrellas and 10 to 12 ounce inline weights have been catching keepers – sometimes two at the time. Some hefty rock have been hanging around the mouth of the St. Mary's River for trollers in both the shallows and on the 20-foot edges, and the lower Potomac from Ragged Point to Vero Beach has been a bird-heavy area throughout the past week. As per usual, all boats on the water are advised to keep a lookout for breaking birds; some stripers under birds have been ranging up to 30 inches, with most of the keepers in the 22- to 24-inch range. The larger fish have been found on bottom or away from the gulls, with schoolies up top. Some striper reports also came in from The Cell this week and the Wolf Trap area, though areas to the north definitely seem to have better numbers of rockfish at the moment.

two fish at a time
The Tackle Box sent in this photographic evidence - two at a time!

The action transitions to a speckled trout bite farther south and on the eastern side of the Bay, which was still going strong the past week. Hitting structure with current with four-inch sparkly green twisty tail grubs has been a great way to get them on the end of your line. The best catches on the Western side have been from Mobjack Bay south. We’d expect these fish to thin out sooner rather than later (hopefully the weekend’s incoming weather won’t send them scurrying) so get in on the peaking fall action asap.

Crabbing Report: Nope. Nope. Nope.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 8, 2019 Update:

Some of the best fishing throughout the Chesapeake is going on in the Lower Bay right now – anglers jigging soft plastics are enjoying a hefty catch of both speckled trout and stripers. Specks have been concentrated in the Western Shore tributaries from the St Mary’s south, and will eagerly take swim shads, topwater lures, and an assortment of green, chartreuse, and white soft plastics. The Tackle Box noted that most are small (in the 10- to 12-inch range) but some larger ones are mixed in. They’ve been especially fond of the sparkly and shiny lures recently, and using sparkly green twister-tail grubs has been very popular. Jigging around creeks, cuts, grassy shallows, and shoreline points has been a great way to find them. The St. Mary’s, Mobjack Bay, and the lower Elizabeth were mentioned more than once this week, in reader reports.

big keeper rockfish
Marty proves that yes, there definitely are some larger fish mixed in with the throwbacks.

The Tackle Box also mentioned that the spot had moved on for the season so live-lining is pretty much done (though those stripers will munch on white perch, if you want to give live bait a shot) so anglers more focused on rockfish have been jigging with six to eight-inch white, chartreuse, and pearl BKD and Gulp! soft plastics. Sticking to the channel edges and cruising around with a depth finder on while scanning the horizon with binoculars for birds, or trolling Sassy Shad and umbrellas with six-inch baits, has been the way to locate fish both suspended and on the bottom. Larger fish have primarily been hanging on bottom, so anglers who get into fish under working birds should consider jigging deep underneath of them for keepers. Still, even when working deep most boats from the Rap south are reporting mostly undersized stripers for all their efforts and often, the need to reel in 10 or more fish before finding one for the box. Reports from the lower Potomac are better, with a much better keeper-to-throwback ratio.

Shoreline anglers are enjoying a good topwater bite in the early morning and late afternoon, in the tribs. Many of these fish are throwbacks but some keepers can be found as well. Perch, meanwhile, have departed from the shallows and are shifting to deepwater haunts.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, November 1, 2019 Update:

The Lower Bay has been awesome this season, offering its inhabitants crazy-good fishing and it’s showing no sign of letting up even though the mainstay of the season, Spanish mackerel, have departed. With new opportunities popping up regularly, this week has been defined by the invasion of speckled trout in the Potomac River, the mouth of the St Mary’s River, and just north of the Targets. Specks are also still hitting in the lower Western shore tribs (especially the York and Mobjack), though most are on the smaller side. They do seem to have moved a bit deeper in many areas and The Tackle Box reports that the specks are sometimes schooled up in holes where they’re gladly taking small metal spoons; shiny green and chartreuse have been productive and popular colors. White bucktails with sparkly green curly tail grubs are proving excellent, as well.

striper at the tackle box
Some nicer stripers up into the 28-inch class have showed up in the Lower Bay. Photo courtesy of The Tackle Box.

Both lures are attracting plenty of schoolie stripers too, and the Tackle Box mentioned that keepers are in the mix and they’ve recently had confirmed reports of some nicer rockfish up to 28-inches. Lure casters hitting structure near shorelines are also getting in on some stellar fishing, and good reports have come in from those trolling small white bucktails and Sassy Shad in shallow water in the mouths of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, though the bulk of the fish are throwbacks. Machodoc Creek Marina checked in to let us know that most of the stripers are fat football throwbacks but keepers are coming to the boat as well, with a better class of fish below Cobb Island. (They also note that catfish are… well… everywhere).

In the Bay’s open waters, jiggers and trollers hitting the channel edges are also doing well, although many have been spending a solid chunk of time searching for fish that will make the measuring stick before hooking up with a keeper. Fortunately bluefish are still throughout the Lower Bay, taking up some cooler space when all the stripers are throwbacks. Anglers recommend that trollers weight down their spoons, bucktails, and hoses down to keep them near bottom, where the prime catch has been lazing. Regardless of where you’re fishing or what you’re after, keeping a close watch on the horizon means that you won’t miss an opportunity to get in on quick action. Anglers fishing under working birds – when they can find them – have been enjoying a fast-paced catch, and those bouncing large soft plastics under the breaking fish them are regularly reporting stripers hitting or exceeding the keeper mark. When the plastics come back in pieces, switching to spoons has produced blues.

Jigging beneath the birds hasn’t been producing nearly as many reds as in past weeks, with the chances of finding one decreasing the farther north you go (we heard of just one straggler from the Middle Grounds this week, but a handful from the Cell and points south).

Editor's Note: Many anglers have been cheering the news that Omega has been voted out of compliance by the ASMFC, after busting the cap on bunker. We’re glad the ASMFC did so, but caution that any “real” enforcement action has yet to take place. Can you anglers imagine what the fishing might be like, with tens of thousands of tons more menhaden allowed to remain in the Bay every year? Hmmmmm?