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

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, September 29 Update:

Tropical Storm Ophelia brought strong winds and heavy rains to much of our area last weekend and the winds have stuck around for the better part of this week. Small craft advisories have kept many boats off the water which has left us for slim reports from the Eastern Shore this week. Protected shoreline shave been key for finding fish recently. Those who have keyed in on these areas are enjoying a taste of the great fall fishery the Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds provide. Speckled trout have moved into the shallows near grass beds and in the tidal marshes now that water temperatures are starting to drop. Clean water is important for having success with the specs, so do your best to find areas with better water quality. Sea Hawk Sports Center reports that the grass flats are also providing fairly good puppy drum action and that twitchbaits on an incoming tide has been the recipe for success.

puppy drum in hand
Photo courtesy of Eric Packard, from the west side. Sorry, it was tough scrounging current pics this week after all that awful weather!

A decent grade of rockfish has moved into areas with shallow structure such as stump fields and rip rap. Early morning anglers throwing topwater lures have been rewarded with some explosive blowups and screaming drags. Fishing during a moving tide will usually yield the best results this time of year. It is a good idea to fish near creek mouths during an outgoing tide as rockfish and other gamefish will be waiting to ambush any bait coming out of the creeks. Brian Esteppe from Y KNOT Fishing Adventures let us know that bottom fishing with peeler crab was catching just about everything before the storm last weekend. He hasn’t been out this week but expects that bite to resume once the winds die down. Out on deeper water structure, the sheepshead bite has been pretty good with some trophy fish holding tight to structure. Tog jigs baited with crab baits have tempted these beasts over the gunwales for those anglers patient enough to fish for them.

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, September 21 Update:

Fall is finally here, and we are already enjoying some of the cooler weather that comes with it. Fish are starting to move back into the shallows to search for bait and the shallow water grass flats have seen an uptick in action recently. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that a combination of popping corks and twitchbaits are getting the specks to bite. There is also a good amount of puppy drum in the 14- to-30-inch range in the shallows. The higher concentrations of fish have been from the Pocomoke Sound south. Sea Hawk says that the tide hasn’t mattered as much as the time of day. A running current at first or last light has produced the best bites.

grouper in the chesapeake
Photo evidence, people - grouper in the Chesapeake! Photo courtesy of Jeremy Drumheller.

The Tangier and Eastern Shore of Virginia have seen some impressive (and crazy) catches this week, and two new Maryland State records were broken this week. The first was angler Brian Summerlin, who set the new state record sheepshead with a 16.5-pound fish caught in the Tangier Sound near Crisfield. Check out the article on the Maryland DNR website. The second record was set by angler Bobby Graves who caught a record breaking six and a half pound Florida pompano near Bloodsworth Island. He caught the fish while fishing for speckled trout using soft crab for bait. The fork length of the fish was 20 and a quarter inch, and the total length of the fish from tip to tail was 22 inches. You can also read about this fish on the Maryland DNR website. In the “crazy catch” department, a reader sent in pictures after catching two baby grouper near Cape Charles – how cool is that!?

There are still nice sheepshead hanging around the deeper structures like the various wrecks in the Tangier Sound. Chunks of peeler crab on sweeper jigs are doing the trick for these hard fighting fish. Big red drum are also still around which can be tempted into the boat by both artificial lures and cut bait. The jigging bite has been found along deeper channel edges in 15 to 40 feet of water. Big fish in shallower waters of the Pocomoke are being caught on cut spot paired with fish finder rigs. Of course, considering the winds we're in for this weekend few anglers are likely to enjoy this potential action - let's hope next weekend looks a bit better!

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, September 15 Update:

It is starting to feel like Fall across the Chesapeake region as the first few cold fronts have brought milder temperatures our way. Cobia numbers have been better over the past few weeks in this region of the Bay and many boats have been trolling large surgical tubes for them. Dropping down cut bait or live eels have also been working but the season goes out today. You can still target them for catch and release fishing while they are around. Boats have been finding success at the lumps near the Target Ship and near the south side of Tangier Island. Big bluefish are still hanging around along with a few Spanish mackerel but the macks will likely head south soon as water temperatures start to cool off. The bluefish have been around in greater numbers and will stick around longer. Boats trolling along channel edges have been picking up plenty of bluefish while trolling metal spoons and surgical tubes. They have also been hanging around the wrecks and reef sites in this region of the Bay and have been eager to hit paddletails or Rat-L-Traps.

dillon with a bg cobia
Our reports editor said goodbye to cobia season in the best way possible!

The zone is still yielding some big spawning red drum especially between Cape Charles and Watts Island. Boats finding them along deeper channel edges are jigging large soft plastics. Dropping down cut baits such as spot, croaker, or kingfish on fish finder rigs with 8/0 circle hooks is also a great way to get on the drum. I had the pleasure of getting out with Captain Drew Grahame with Griffin’s Guide Service this week to target the bull reds and cobia. We fished alongside Captain Steve Griffins boat and ran the channel edges searching for fish. Captain Steve struck first and put his anglers on a school of fish where they landed two bull reds and had a big cobia that pulled the hook at the boat. We then transitioned to jigging in around 20 feet of water and our boat landed a 44-and-37-inch cobia. Steve’s crew also landed two underside cobia in that area. We were using four-ounce jigheads with large eight-inch Z-Man paddletails to get the big fish to bite.

Speckled trout and puppy drum are starting to move into their Fall patterns in the shallower water. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that puppy drum anywhere from below the slot to the lower 30-inch range are being caught in the Pocomoke Sound down to the CBBT. Popping corks with paddletails have been the most productive on the spot-tails. The specks have seemed to be liking straight paddletails retrieved steadily. Sea Hawk mentioned that the larger specks have been found in Maryland waters while a smaller class of fish have been found in the Virginia portion. The shallow water bite will continue to improve with dropping water temperatures. One of the best times of year to fish on the Chesapeake is almost here, so get ready.

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, September 8 Update:

This region of the Bay has seen some of the better (and most diverse) fishing this week. More reports of very chunky bluefish up into the five- and six-pound range have come in from the Tangier, often focused around wrecks but also trollers are getting into them. We also had a couple reports of trollers pulling tubes for cobia getting into them both in the Sounds and outside in the main Bay south of the Targets. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that some anglers are still busy chasing the schools of bull red drum that have been cruising around this section of the Bay. These fish have been found anywhere between Cape Charles and Buoy 72A. The sporty spot-tails have been taking cut baits like spot, kingfish and hardhead, on fish finder rigs with 8/0 octopus circles. The late afternoon hours and into the early evenings have produced the most activity with a running tide also being key to getting bites. Most fish have been between 40 and 50 inches but a few over 50 have been caught. Bycatches of sharks, rays, and cobia have also kept things exciting. These fish have taken up residence around reef sites and shoals in the 15- to 30-foot depths.

bluefish in the sound
The WIllards got into a nice class of blues between the Targets and Smith Island.

An interesting report of good numbers of kingfish (roundhead) also came in this week from the Tangier, where they hit baits sent to the bottom while fishing for spot and croaker. Some are apparently quite nice, up into the 15” range. Sheepshead have shown up at the Targets near Tangier Island and other wrecks in the Pocomoke Sound. These fish have been willing to bite peeler crab, clams, and fiddler crabs. They’re holding tight to structure, so you’ll need to get close to get your bait in the strike zone. Sweeper jigs are a popular option when targeting these fish.

As water temperatures begin to slowly drop, more speckled trout and puppy drum will move into the shallows. Small paddletails have been doing most of the catching in skinny water and areas around grass beds. Look for this action to pick up if we get some more cold fronts soon. An angler fishing Smith Island last weekend reported slow action on specks and a lot of boats at many of the hotspots, but a nice bluefish bite plus a Spanish mack in the open Sound near the #8 buoy, willing to hit Zman paddle tails.

Tangier, Pocomoke, and Lower Shore Fishing Report, September 1 Update:

The lower shore region of the Chesapeake is a special place to fish during the late summer as the yearly gathering of spawning red drum offer some fantastic action. Jigging large soft plastics on heavy jigheads is how most of these fish are being caught in open water but anchoring up and chumming could also lure one of these beasts to your line. While the reds have been scattered around the lower Bay, the areas between Watt’s Island and Cape Charles seem to be providing the best action. The areas around buoy 72 and the Tangier targets are also holding schools of reds, but they move around so frequently, you’ll likely be running ang gunning searching for them on most days. When you find them however, all those miles are worth it.

big bluefish in the sound
The best grade of bluefish on the Bay seems to be in the Tangier this season, as Patrick discovered.

Spanish mackerel and bluefish are still providing plenty of fun action for boats trolling and those using light tackle gear. The largest bluefish this year have been found in this region of the Bay and many boats are still finding quality fish chasing bait. If you happen to be near any wrecks or reefs, it is worth checking those for blues as well because there have been some up to 30 inches caught in these areas. Sheepshead are also an option at any of these submerged structures and we have heard reports of them being caught as far north as the Target Ship.

The shallows in the sounds have been fairly quiet, but that should change soon as water temperatures begin to drop. Rockfish and speckled trout can be found scattered about near shoreline points, riprap, and grass beds but these fish should move into the shallows in droves to chase bait towards the end of the month. Sea Hawk Sports Center let us know that the seaside bays have continued to produce good late season flounder action. The best bite has been during the last part of the incoming and beginning of the outgoing but clean water is the most important factor for finding bites. Drifting silversides and minnows on any variety of flounder rig is tempting keeper size fish in the boat anywhere down to Wachapreague.