Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 2023

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 31 Update:

There is a lot for southern Bay anglers to look forward to as we head into April. The fishing has been slowly picking up since the start of spring and some warmer weather should really kick things into gear. The speckled trout bite is on the rise and the Elizabeth and York Rivers are two reliable areas to target them. One angler fly fishing in the ER with two other anglers was able to find a steady trout bite. They kept seven and released two undersize trout and two small puppy drum. We saw reports of more rockfish in the ER this week as well, which may be due to more anglers getting out there with the warmer weather, but they must be released this time of year. Most of the fish are schoolie sized and are hanging in six to 10 feet of water. The stripers can offer a fun catch and release opportunity while other bites are still slow. Farther up on the James the shad run is in full swing, with darts and spoons collecting the fish.

catching shad in the river
Spring runs are in full force up and down the Bay's tribs, and that includes the shad. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing says the mild winter we had should be good news for species like speckled trout and could cause an early arrival for other species. There are mixed reports on the red drum bite coming out of the inlets. It appears the bite is either exceptional, or very slow. Many anglers are marking fish but having a hard time getting them to bite. There was an outlier report from an angler who was on a boat that caught a six-man limit of puppy drum. He mentioned that they had to release many over slot fish in the low 30s to eventually get their limit. Now that’s a good problem to have!

At the nearshore wrecks and reefs, the tog bite continues to be great when the wind cooperates. Double digit tog have been fairly common and many boats are reporting limit catches. It may take some searching to find the fish but when you locate them, they are usually willing to bite. Both jigs and crab baits are working well. The CBBT has also been picking up with tog action. One angler weighed in a 10-pound fish from that area this week.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 24 Update:

Many anglers are excited for the start of Spring, but the wind hasn’t made things easy on us fishermen lately. We received more reports of puppy drum being caught inside Lynnhaven Inlet this week. The bite is still slow, but the action is starting to pick up.  One angler reported fishing Lynnhaven one afternoon last weekend and found a few fish to sight cast on. They caught fish in the upper slot range and a few over 30 inches. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing let us know that most of the speckled trout are still in the deeper areas of the Elizabeth and York rivers, but a few fish are starting to be caught in shallower water. Once we get a few more warm days, they expect the water temperatures to rise and more baitfish to move into the shallows, thus bringing the trout with them.

bul drum in virginia
We should start seeing images like these (this one's from last spring) any day now! Photo courtesy of Dave Moore, Shark Whisperers.

We still haven’t received any reports of big black drum nor bull redfish along the coast but if we get some warmer weather those fish will be moving in very soon. Any day now people, any day. Meanwhile Contributor Eric Packard reports making an experimental trip to Kiptopeke and the cement ships to see if the tog had woken up yet. Water temps were in the upper 40s, and no bites materialized. If we get a few consecutive warm days, we should see the tog bite improve at the concrete ships, the CBBT, and other areas in the mouth of the Bay. Out at the nearshore wrecks and reefs, tautog fishing has been good when a decent weather window allows boats to get out. Many large fish have been hanging around these areas and multiple boats reported double-digit tog this week. Some even surpassing the 20-pound mark. Tautog jigs are working well but the larger class of fish seems to be preferring crab baits. Stay tuned because there are a lot of great fishing opportunities on the horizon.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 17 Update:

Windy conditions and cold weather made it difficult to get out and fish for much of this week. Luckily, spring is right around the corner and hopefully more favorable fishing conditions will come with it. Action is picking up in the southern portions of the Bay. We have seen better action on puppy drum this week inside Lynnhaven Inlet. Captain Todd Beck of Knot Wish’n Custom Charters reported catching a few inside Rudee. The action should only improve from here on out.

redfish in norfolk
Redfish catches are picking up, and should soon look as good as this one for the Run of the Marsh guys back in spring of 2020.

The speckled trout bite is also picking up and will continue to do so as we progress towards the end of the month. The shallow waters that feed into the Elizabeth and York rivers are good areas to target the trout right now. A few anglers fishing near Portsmouth on the Elizabeth caught some quality speckled trout despite the windy conditions this week. One of them caught their personal best speck, which was a whopping 27 inch, 5 pound fish.

Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that the tautog bite continues to be good when the wind allows boats to get out to the nearshore wrecks and reefs. Fish up to 20 pounds have been caught and more fish should be showing up at the CBBT. Crab baits always work but if you can’t find any, Fishbite E-Z Crab strips have become popular as well. The black drum will soon make their return along the coast. These fish start showing up at the end of the month and peak in April. Popular areas to target them include the Cabbage Patch, Concrete Ships, and the high rise of the CBBT. The action is going to pick up real soon folks, so make sure to get your gear in order to make the most of the opportunities to come.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 10 Update:

Spring is on our doorstep, and we have already seen the first signs of its return. This is an exciting time of year for many anglers as warmer weather means more fishing opportunities on the horizon. The mild winter we had should hopefully make for a great year of speckled trout fishing. The bite is still slow but anglers willing to put in the work are finding some fish willing to bite. One angler fishing on the Elizabeth River near Portsmouth caught a 26-inch, five-and-a-half-pound speck this week. We did hear reports of a decent speck bite on the peninsula side of the Elizabeth with one angler picking up five fish all around 20 inches. The frequent changes in weather that is a staple of our region can turn the bite on or off depending on the day, but in the spring, a warm front is always a good time to fish for the specks.

black drum in the water
Those big blacks should start showing up very, very soon! (Old photo).

Puppy drum are still being caught in Lynnhaven Inlet this week, but the bite isn’t on fire. Shallow water on an outgoing tide has been the best bet for catching these fish. Anglers catching fish are finding that slowly bouncing soft plastics along the bottom is enticing the drum to bite. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that water temperatures at Thimble Shoal are in the low 50s and they expect the black drum to begin showing up at their usual areas along the bayside of the Eastern Shore. They said good locations for the drum run include the Cabbage Patch, the Concrete Ships, Buoy 13, and near the high rise of the CBBT. The best baits are clam and crab which can be used separately or together.

The tautog bite continues to be good when the weather cooperates. Larger fish, up to 20 pounds, have been found at the nearshore wrecks and reefs over the past several weeks, and smaller ones should be biting at the Bay locations. Fresh crab baits always work best but Fishbite E-Z Crab strips are popular as well.

Way South Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 3 Update:

Puppy drum are starting to show up at the inlets and it reports show that a fair amount were caught inside Lynnhaven inlet this week. One angler fishing Lynnhaven found a decent school of drum in three feet of water on the outgoing tide. Slowly bouncing soft plastics along the bottom got a few fish to bite. Virginia Beach Sport Fishing reports that the speckled trout are becoming more plentiful in the Elizabeth and York River tributaries. An angler fishing undisclosed backwater areas from shore reported catching puppy drum and speckled trout on Salt Strong Slam Shady Paddletails. His largest trout was four and a half pounds and measured up at 23 1/2 inches. If the weather continues to trend warmer, these fish should push into shallower water. Spring is almost here folks and the fishing should only get better as these fish become more active.

speckled sea trout winter fishing
The bite's beginning to pick up pace, right along with the water temps.

The Virginia Special Black Sea Bass season came to a close on Tuesday and many boats enjoyed excellent fishing all month. Fishing charter Wreckless Sport Fishing LLC got out over the weekend to target the sea bass one more time and reported catching a limit with many over three pounds. They also caught four bluefish over 10 pounds and plenty of pesky dogfish to round out an awesome end of season trip. Captain Drew on the Big Worm was also still enjoying excellent action before the season closed. When the season comes back in on May 15, there should be plenty of bass out there just waiting to be caught. Tautog are also still plentiful at the nearshore wrecks and reefs off Virginia Beach. Water temperatures in the Bay have hit 50 degrees so the tog should become more active at areas such as the CBBT islands, but they can be found anywhere with structure. Popular areas include the CBBT, the Light Tower, and the Triangle Wrecks. Crab baits work best but strips of clam, whelk, and Fishbites E-Z Crab will also work