Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 2020

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 31 Update:

Hot weather didn't keep anglers from fishing this week — boats targeting cobia and other species absolutely packed the water at times. While plenty of cobia boats headed out, Ocean's East reported that the bite has dropped off a fair bit since last weekend. Boats fishing around the CBBT caught on average zero to two cobia, and had to fight for space. Most boats opted to troll, sight fish, or chunk. Trollers seemed to have the best luck, with Ocean's East reporting that guys pulling red and green surgical eels were catching. Sight casters did okay, and boats that opted to chunk or chum found themselves battling rays and sharks for their bait.

shark fishing in the chesapeake
Nope, not a cobia - but a fun Cape Charles catch nonetheless!

Our friends at Tochterman's headed south this weekend in an attempt to hook up on a cobia and while they reported coming up short, they did mention that the spot, croaker, and bluefish were plentiful at the CBBT. Gottcha plugs were a hit choice for the blues. Hampton Correspondent Chuck Harrison got out with Capt. Stan on the Blind Date and also fished at the CBBT, where he says “everyone else who has a boat was also fishing,” so we’re thinking it’s a popular destination right about now. Harrison says the flounder and reds were elusive (they did hook a couple redfish by one of the islands but both came unbuttoned), but the Spanish mackerel bite was strong, with over 20 hitting spoons trolled behind planers and in-line weights. If you choose to troll for the mackerel, remember to keep speeds up!

Again, you may have to fight the crowds, but anglers tossing three to five inch soft plastics in the Virginia Beach inlets and the lower Elizabeth River caught both speckled trout and redfish this week. Whether the cause was the high temperatures or heavy traffic, the best bite was reported to be right at first light and we heard from one reader that fishing mid-day last Saturday was “pretty miserable.”

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 24 Update:

The dog days of summer have been providing some excellent fishing opportunities throughout Virginia’s waters. This week, the flounder bite proved too tempting to resist for a number of anglers: we had multiple reader reports of limit catches around the CBBT, the Cell, and one from Bluefish Rock. With flounder in the box, few anglers who headed into Ocean’s East were complaining this week. Most guys who headed into the shop or sent us reports were drifting squid and minnow on Fluke Killers or slow-trolling double-bucktail rigs with Gulp! Swimming Mullets. Pink and white were popular colors, as usual. There are also (mostly smallish) spadefish and sheepshead, around the CBBT’s structure. Readers also let us know that the Spanish Mackerel action has picked up inside the CBBT for anglers trolling spoons behind planers. Ocean’s East reported that while the blues aren’t making a huge showing, they’re also around for anglers pulling spoons.

anglers with cobia
Gabe and Todd slammed the cobia!! Gabe and Todd slammed the cobia!!

Cobia are still around, but we heard less noise about them than in previous weeks. It could be due to the initial excitement about them dropping off, or a genuine drop in numbers; we’re really not sure. The reports we did hear were pretty well set between Cape Charles and the CBBT, as they have been in previous weeks. Chumming also continues to be tough with so many rays and sharks around, which we’re not exactly surprised at. Trolling red and green hoses is currently the primary mode of operation, with sight casting coming in at a close second. Side Note: We haven’t received any cool photos of your sight-casting setups this year. Last year’s winning set-up was from an angler who was determined to maintain the party-atmosphere of his pontoon boat while sight casting in style, and strapped a Lay-Z-Boy up top. We’re not recommending it (or encouraging it) but if you’ve got a nifty setup, shoot us your pics!

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 17 Update:

The cobia bite is proving too tempting to resist—the bulk of Virginia’s fleet is hitting cobia hard right now. Sight fishing and chumming remain fair to good around the CBBT and Cape Charles. While both methods are working well, we’re seeing a sharp shift to sight fishing due to the serious ray-and-shark-carnage for chummers. Many anglers who chummed this week found it impossible to keep lines in the water for an extended period of time. If you’re set on chumming, Ocean’s East recommended stocking up on more bait than you think you’ll need, and then getting a little bit extra. Sight casters should plan on having plenty of eels in stock and heading out early, due to hectic waters at the hotspots. There are a lot of boats working the CBBT to Cape Charles zone, so getting out early should give you a little sliver of time where you’re not competing as hard with other boats - even if it is tougher to spot your target before the sun's high in the sky. Trollers are reporting a so-so bite with red and green surgical tubes enticing cobia.

spadefish angler with his catch in virginia
Dolan pulled up this beautiful spade on a clam bit, fished under a float near Cape Charles.

There’s tons more going on in Virginia where the Bay meets the Atlantic, aside from the cobia bite. Right now, the Spanish mackerel numbers are on the up-swing though fishing outside the Bay is still better than inside. Spadefish, flounder, and bluefish are also available. Anglers hoping to score Spanish mackerel are primarily trolling, pulling Drones and Clark’s spoons. Keeping a fast pace to get the mackerel’s attention is advisable. A few blues are mixed in with the trolling bite as well and more ribbonfish are appearing by the day. For flounder, anglers are jigging pink, white, pearl, and chartreuse soft plastics and drifting squid chunks along the channel edges at the CBBT.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 10 Update:

Contributor Chuck Harrison reports that a day at the CBBT this week produced a mix of small spadefish, a flounder, a small blue, and one very nice 47-inch redfish. Trolling for Spanish proved unproductive though Capt. Stan of Blind Date Charters did get into a mess of ribbonfish plus a kingfish while trolling similar waters. As we noted in the Coastal Reports, the numbers of ribbonfish and Spanish just outside the Bay have increased in number significantly the past week so we’re guessing this bite will just get better and better. Also from the CBBT, we had a couple reader reports of decent sheepshead fishing with crab baits, and of at least one boat doing quite well flounder fishing, coming home with seven keepers up to 22-inches.

happy cobia angler
Jason Kazmarek tied into this 40-inch cobia while fishing near the CBBT.

Still, despite the numerous tempting fisheries many anglers remain focused on the cobia bite. Sight fishing out of Kiptopeke, Cape Charles, and around the CBBT is now being solidly favored over chumming, as the presence of sharks and rays was driving chummers insane last week. We heard from one reader fishing by the CBBT who cut off eight sharks in a row, before finally throwing in the towel on chumming. The numbers of cobia being spotted by sight anglers has dropped a bit from the peak, but double-digit sightings and limit catches were still reported by plenty of anglers this week on days with decent conditions.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, July 3 Update:

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP - Attention Anglers: Everyone should be aware that there's currently a bit of a bloodworm shortage, and you may have trouble locating this uber-expensive but uber-effective bait. Anglers around the dial are reporting that Fishbites Bloodworm flavor has been the next best thing. So if you call around and come up blank on the bloodies, reach for the Fishbites. We now return you to our regularly scheduled fishing report. - BEEP-BEEP-BEEP

happy anglers with a cobia
The Honse family caught and released this GORGEOUS 50-inch red, while fishing near Gwynn’s Island. Congrats, happy family!

Happy Fourth, anglers! We’re sure you’ll be celebrating on the water this holiday- and the birth of our nation isn’t the only thing to light off fireworks for. The cobia bite right now is absolutely killer. Around the CBBT and Cape Charles, FishTalk readers have been slamming them sight fishing. With cobia lolling on the surface, tossing live eels at them is providing excellent results. Ocean’s East reports that some very nice cobia are still coming in, with multiple reports of fish in the 40 to 50 pound range. Those fish were often caught alongside others, and with plenty of cobia to go around, waiting for the big one before boxing number three can be a good move. Although this week’s reports weren’t quite as spectacular as last week’s and some of the fish seem to have shifted slightly north, plenty are still being caught with a dozen or so shots at spotted fish when conditions cooperate. Additionally, we had some readers report reeling them in on trolled surgical tubes and out of chum slicks. However, we also heard from a reader who gave chumming a try this week and said that sharks were a constant hassle while employing this technique within sight of the CBBT, to the point that it was impossible to catch the target species. Also from the CBBT: while we only had one reader check in with a flounder report, the pic he sent was of a true doormat - there are some big ones down there, for sure.

Although we heard less from the drum-hunters in this ares the past week, there were a couple reports of utter monsters being caught (see above!) including the first we've heard of thus far jigged up with a spoon on light tackle, under birds. The runner-up for cool-fish-we-want-to-catch this week is Spanish mackerel. They’ve finally made their way into the Bay, in a big way. Trollers hitting the channel edges are reporting catching multiples while pulling Drones, Clarks, and other metal spoons at a fast pace. Adding to the excitement, multiple blues are also coming in. Ocean’s East reported that the number of Spanish Mackerel and blues jacked up quite a bit this week. They mentioned that spadefish can also be found now occupying their usual haunts, and that they continue to hear from anglers who caught speckled trout in shallow grass beds and off points. Sparkly four-inch paddle tails in white, pearl, chartreuse, and pink are the go-to for many anglers.

Crabbing Report: Get out and crab. Don’t even think about the seafood store. If you’ve got fresh chicken necks, hit the water and get that bushel. (The crabbing is really good, though there are lots of females in the mix).