Lower Bay Fishing Reports

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 27 Update:

Fishing has really slowed down this month and we haven’t received many reports from the lower Bay. Frequent wind and poor weather are partly to blame. There are still opportunities for catch and release rockfish, but those endeavors have been nothing short of a grind. Captain Pete Dahlberg Four Seasons Guide Service has been targeting trophy rockfish in the middle and lower sections of the Bay recently. It hasn’t been easy though with some days resulting in zero bites. Other days have produced decent bites with some fish over 40 inches being landed. Captain Pete says in the winter, you must be very observant. Rockfish generally hang around the deeper channels but some days the fish may be way off the channel and others they may be right on the ledge. Some clues to look for are birds sitting or birds actively working. Metal jigs and soft plastics like BKD’s on heavier jigheads is the typical presentation that can get them biting.

james river blue catfish
Last winter Lance, Colton, and Bryson got into some huge blue cats on the James - now's a great time to target 'em!

On the upper larger creeks on the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers, blue catfish have been abundant and willing to bite. Despite the cold weather these fish are very active this time of year and some huge fish over 40 pounds are regularly caught in the middle of winter. The catfish sit in deeper holes and channels but like to be close to flats where they often feed on shad and other fish. It is a good idea to get on a ledge and cast baits shallow and deep to find where the fish are more concentrated. Fresh cut bait like shad or chicken breast work great. Adding some sweet scents to your baits can also help with enticing a bite. It is important to remember that the blue cats are invasive and are very harmful to many native species so keeping them to eat is a good idea. They also taste fantastic and can provide plenty of fillets for a fish fry so don’t be shy to fill a cooler with them!

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 19 Update:

The large schools of rockfish that were frequenting the lower Bay have scattered but die-hard anglers are still braving the cold to do some catch and release fishing. Their motive is likely the arrival of big ocean run rockfish into the Bay. These fish have been in water as deep as 100 feet. Anglers Sports Center reports that these fish are moving around quite a bit from day to day. They recommend starting your search in 40 feet of water and drifting deeper while looking for marks on your meter. If you mark suspended fish, the bigger ones will likely be below them close to the bottom. Use one and a half to two-ounce jigheads or up to three-ounce metal jigs to get down to the fish. Most anglers are launching out of Solomon’s or Point Lookout, but this pattern will exist almost anywhere in the Bay. Patience will be required when targeting these fish. Some days you can find them, some days you can’t, and some days you find them but won't get them to bite. It is a frustrating fishery but also a very rewarding one!

rappahannock catfish
Chunky blue cats like this one from the Rap are a good winter bet (old photo).

Apex Predators guide service has been running catfish charters on the Rappahannock with lots of success. Blue catfish are active and biting right now. The blue cats can get big and there is always the chance to catch a giant. On a recent trip this week they caught a 40 pounder.

The upper portions of the Virginia tidal rivers get lots of yellow perch in the wintertime. The Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Rappahannock Rivers all have spawning populations and a few anglers are having success targeting them. Crappie also school up in the same areas as the yellow perch. Old school drop shot rigs with minnows work great. Usually, the bigger fish will be schooled up lower in the water column feeding close to bottom. Right now, these fish may be as deep as 30 to 40 feet of water, so their bites may be subtle. Pay close attention for a light tap and be ready to set the hook.

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 12 Update:

Rockfish season on the Potomac and in Virginia is closed so only catch and release fishing is allowed right now for them. There are still some fish in the lower Potomac near the mouth, but it seems as though many of the larger schools have moved further south. We heard from a reader who hit the lower Potomac to Smith Point areas for post-season catch and release striper action, but without results. He said there was no surface action, and he only found a few scattered marks on the meter. It will likely take a decent bit of searching to find fish on the meter and even if you do find them, it may be tricky to get them to bite. Jigging soft plastics subtly along the bottom where you mark fish may entice them enough to bite.

bay white perch
If you can locate a deep hole where the perch are holding, they'll be willing to bite.

Perch are staging in deep holes prior to the spawn. They can be tough to find but if you can locate the fish, they'll be willing to bite and we hard from one reader midweek that whites could be found in 30-plus feet of water and bit on small minnow, in an undisclosed lower Chesapeake trib.

The Tackle Box let us know that fishing for blue catfish in the Potomac has really turned on. Big fish are being caught regularly and provide great winter fishing opportunities. As their population continues to grow, it is important to target and harvest them for the benefit of native species like blue crabs. Blue catfish taste great, so filling a cooler with them will set you up for a fish fry. They can be caught in all the tidal waters, but the hotspot seems to be near the nation’s capital. Deeper ledges leading up to flats are popular spots to target them as they will be holding in different depths depending on conditions. Anglers in the Rappahannock have also been enjoying a great bite for blue catfish this winter. Fresh cut bait like menhaden or chicken is always best. Many anglers add sweet scents or flavoring to their baits to increase their chance for a bite. The catfish seem to enjoy chicken breast marinated in powdered Kool-Aid. As crazy as it sounds, it works!

Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, January 6 Update:

The New Year welcomed us with unseasonably warm temperatures which made for some great fishing days this past week, though reports indicate that you may have to cover a lot of ground to find the fish by scanning channel edges with your electronics. When you do find them though, the bite can be great because they are schooled up. We heard from several readers who hit the lower Potomac and the Smith Point areas for post-season catch and release striped bass action, with mixed results. One reported a day of zero action early in the week; another reported that three jigging trips from last Friday through Tuesday included one red-hot day with nonstop action once fish were located on the meter (near the mouth of the Potomac) and two relatively slow days with a fish here and a fish there; a third who reported an overall slow day of trolling with a slight burst of action (four fish) when the tide changed; and a fourth who reported slow but steady action jigging in the mouth of the Potomac in 40 to 70 feet of water for fish glued to the bottom, with each angler aboard catching five to eight fish during a full day of fishing. Most of the fish ranged from 22 to 28 inches with a 30-plus here and there, and all were reported to be fat, feisty, football-shaped fish dripping sea lice. Yet another angler fishing off of Point Lookout reported a great day on the water on Tuesday. Though they gave it their best to try and land one of the big ocean-run fish, they weren’t lucky enough to find one. When targeting the rockfish, Use big baits like 10-inch BKDs on one and a half to two-ounce jig heads. One-to-two-ounce metal jigs also work very well this time of year. They did find fish up to 28 inches on the jig using six-inch BKD’s and Bust Em’ Baits on one and a half to two-ounce jigheads.

football rockfish
Fat football-shaped 20-somethings have been the norm for catch and release anglers.

On the Rappahannock, the blue catfish have been biting good. A reader had three consecutive days of slaying catfish on the upper Rapp. The largest cat was 23.5 pounds. They said that chicken breast cut into chunks is working the best right now. Another angler fishing the Rapp was lucky enough to catch and release two nice specks during a trip out — one speck was 22 inches and the other was 24.5. Pretty cool to catch them in January!

December 1, 2022
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, December 30 Update: There are only a few days left until the new year which means rockfish season is coming to an end. The Potomac River and Virginia rockfish seasons will end this Saturday the 31st. The fishing… Read more...
November 4, 2022
Lower Chesapeake Bay fishing report, November 25 Update: The lower Potomac River is a favorite destination for anglers in the late fall and we have seen plenty of action to support the hype this past week. Schools of rockfish are being found on… Read more...
October 6, 2022
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, October 28 Update: As we approach the end of Rocktober we are seeing some of the best striper action of the year. The Potomac has been a hotspot with breaking fish and lots of bird action reported this week. The… Read more...