Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, July 2023

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, July 28 Update:

Red Alert: It's come to our attention that anglers fishing around pound nets in Maryland waters are being cited by Natural Resources Police. We have reached out to the DNR to attempt to get clarification on why (no laws have changed), and will report back to you asap. Meanwhile, we suggest giving the nets a wide berth to avoid any unfortunate situations.

There has been a nice class of bluefish in the Bay this year. The largest of these fish are being caught in the sounds and along the ESVA on submerged structure. Wrecks and reefs are holding blues in the four- to eight-pound range, but some double-digit blues have also been caught this week. There are plenty of schools in open water, but these fish tend to be a bit smaller. Nonetheless, boats trolling spoons are having no trouble picking up their bluefish limit. Spanish mackerel have also become more abundant and are commonly found mixed in with the bluefish feeding on small bait. In the shallows, speckled trout, red drum, and (closed for now) rockfish are providing decent action. Early morning topwater action has produced some big blowups from speckled trout and rockfish alike. Once the sun is up, switch to throwing paddletails and other sub surface baits to stay in on the action.

kayak angler caught a big speckled sea trout
Kevin tied into a beautiful 27.5-inch speck while kayak fishing near Cape Charles.

Larger schools of bull reds have been found cruising around open water often following the blues and mackerel to eat scraps that have fallen to the bottom. In the Tangier and Pocomoke Sound, boats throwing out cut bait on fish finder rigs near ledges, grass flats, and oyster bars have enticed some of these beasts onto their lines. The best description of where to find these fish is everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. They are a tricky fish to pattern, and it often takes a lot of luck to find them. Being tuned in to your side scan can help too. Another popular target right now is the man in the big brown suit. Cobia are cruising around this region of the Bay and larger fish should start to show up as we near the end of summer. Popular spots to fish for them include the lumps south of the target ship and the ledges to the west of Tangier Island. Tossing out live eels and cut bait works well when bait fishing. Just make sure to have a chum bag over the side to attract the fish to your baits. Sight casting is also a popular option when conditions are calm. These fish put up quite a fight, so be ready for a battle if you hook one.

The flounder bite at the coastal bays and nearshore wrecks along the coast has been consistent this week. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that boats jigging the wrecks are catching a nice class of fish using bucktails dressed with Gulp! Baits, squid, or other strips of cut bait. The most productive colors have included chartreuse, pink, and white. Fishing in the bays has been best where clearwater conditions present themselves. The end of the incoming and beginning of the outgoing tide has seen the best bite. Any decent ledge should be holding fish right now.

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, July 20 Update:

The late July heat can make finding a steady bite difficult as the summer doldrums try to set in. This time of year, bite windows are usually concentrated to the early mornings and late evenings, or on either end of the tide switch. If you are in search of a big fish to put a bend in your rod, red drum and cobia are cruising around the eastern shore sounds. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that chunks of peeler crab have been enticing both of these beasts into the net. You’ll want to fish near lumps, channel edges, or shoals and always have a rod ready to cast in case you see a cobia cruising up top. The Tackle Box told us that a decent amount of cobia are being caught just south of the target ship. A nice class of bluefish also continues to give anglers in this region of the Bay steady action. Most of these fish are hanging around shallow water structure and reef sites. Make sure you have the appropriate leader line because these toothy fish can easily break you off.

big speck on topwater
David got into this beaut of a speck on topwater, while fishing with Fishpit.

Guide C.L. Marshall of Tangier Sound Charters has been staying on the fish all summer long. Recent trips have yielded a steady mix of rockfish, speckled trout, bluefish, sea bass, nice red drum, and even cobia. Early morning endeavors are providing good topwater action in the shallows with specks and rocks producing big blow ups. Considering how hot it’s been, the speck bite in the shallows has held up quite well so far this summer, and we heard from several readers this week who enjoyed solid action particularly early in the morning. When targeting specks in the shallows, there are two main things to look for. Either large grass beds or shallow water structure. Both have a good chance of holding specks along with other gamefish like rocks or reds. Popping corks paired with Z-Man paddletails or EZ ShrimpZ work great on the grass beds. Light jigheads paired with soft plastic paddletails or flukes allow for precision casting when fishing submerged structure or wrecks. The speckled trout haven’t been thick this year, but the quality has usually been great when anglers catch them.

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, July 14 Update:

Cobia fishing has been slow to kick off near the Tangier sound but the farther south you go, the more fish are being caught. Boats chunking bunker south of the Sounds along the ESVA have had the most opportunities at catching these fish as they are lured in by chum bags and fish finder rigs. Calm days offer good sight fishing opportunities for boats with towers. Live eels or bucktails dressed with large soft plastics will often entice cobia to bite if you can make a precision cast in front of them.

speckled trout in the tangier
Our intrepid Reports Editor Dillon Waters and David Rudow hold up a pair of chunky Tangier specks. Photo courtesy of David Rudow.

There have been a lot of bluefish around deeper structure and more schools of blues and mackerel are making their way north. Trolling spoons behind number one or two planers is a popular way to target them. If you find breaking fish, metal jigs, rain minnows, and Gotcha plugs casted out and burned back will give you some fun light tackle action.

Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that the Tangier and Pocomoke sounds have seen a slight rally in the skinny water despite rising water temperatures. Specks, redfish, and rockfish (remember: no targeting in MD waters) have taken up residence around structure and are some are making the move up onto the flats with the incoming tides. Chunks of soft crab have done the trick and top water lures like the Rapala Skitter Walk and MirrOlure Popa Dog are providing early morning eruptions.

I was able to get out last weekend with Fishtalk contributor David Rudow and my brother Brady Waters for a trip down to the Tangier Sound in search of whatever would bite our lures. We started the morning casting Z-Man paddletails in the shallows behind Smith Island where David landed a 22-inch rock and I caught an 18-inch rock. Both safely released. We spent around two hours fishing grass flats in three to six feet of water with little luck. Water temperatures were reading nearly 87 degrees so we headed for deeper water where we expected to find cooler temperatures and hopefully more fish. Luckily, we found both at a wreck in 17 feet of water where we found a nice school of bluefish ranging from 17 to 24 inches. The highlight of the trip was when we found a section of the wreck holding a few specks. Brady struck first, reeling up a 21-incher. On the next two casts I landed a 25-inch speck and David landed a 24-inch speck. We went on to catch two more specks over 20 inches and more bluefish than we could count. It was a hard outgoing tide when we started fishing and the bite slowed down with the tide switch. Later in the day we anchored up off Tangier Island and chunked for cobia without any luck. The few boats in our area didn’t appear to have any luck either. All in all, it was a very successful trip!

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, July 7 Update:

The shallows of the Chesapeake Bay sounds are providing some of the best fishing in the Bay this week. Every cast you take can land you a variety of different species both small and large. Rockfish and speckled trout are making up most of the catches near grass fields rock jetties, and submerged wood. In Maryland waters, anglers are not allowed to target rockfish from July 16th through July 31st. In Virginia, anglers can still target C&R rockfish but cannot keep them until the fall season opens on October 4th. We have seen an uptick in speck action this week with fish being caught more consistently around Smith and Tangier Island. Captain C. L. Marshall of Tangier Sound Charters has had luck catching specks into the mid 20s this week on both artificial lures and peeler crab. Though the numbers have been slow to show up this year, the quality has been outstanding.

speckled sea trout
Specks have been providing a decent bite, mostly on paddletails (this one was caught just north of the Tangier in four feet of water).

Bluefish have taken up residence around structure like the Target Ships and Watts Island. There have been some very nice bluefish up to five pounds caught in these areas. Casting Rap-10’s, Gotcha plugs, and paddletails have coerced these fish into the net. In slightly deeper water, Spanish mackerel are making their annual return along channel edges anywhere from 15 to 40 feet of water. You can spot them skying out of the water as they feed on bait but are more commonly found breaking on baitfish with schools of blues. Casting Gotcha plugs, metal jigs, and Rain Minnows is effective. Trolling spoons behind number-one or -two planers is also a good option. Remember when trolling for mackerel, your boat speed should match up with “Mack Speed” judged by water temperature. See Finding the Ideal Spanish Mackerel Trolling Speed for the specifics.

The cobia fishing continues to be better in this region of the Bay than points north. Sea Hawk Sports Center reports that most angler are finding success fishing chunks of fresh bunker on fish finder rigs with 7/0 to 9/0 hooks. They also say that calm conditions this week have allowed for more sight fishing opportunities. Look for these fish cruising just below the water surface and have either live eels or bucktails dressed with large soft plastics ready to throw in front of them. Popular areas to search for them include the Target Ships, the bayside off Tangier Island, and ledges or humps in the Pocomoke Sound. July will hopefully bring more fish to this area of the Bay and we will make sure to let you know when the action picks up.