Lower Bay Fishing Reports
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 27 Update:
Well anglers, we’ve been advised to stay home and keep at least six feet away from other people. Tough, right? We’re already feeling a little cramped up. But, we’ve got some groovy weekend plans that allow us to heed directions from our all-powerful, all-mighty regulators while getting off of the couch and onto the water. Is there ever a reason you should be fishing within six feet of another person anyway? Heck no! And is there ever a reason your boat should be passing six feet within another? HECK no! As long as we’re sticking by long-mandated water-going etiquettes – and only heading out with our families – fishing is a green light. And as Monthy Python reminds us, you’ve gotta look on the bright side of life!
Anglers escaping the confines of their home are reporting that shad are running up the tributary rivers. We've had multiple photo-documented reader reports come in from the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg and the Potomac up by Fletchers. We didn’t get any reports coming from the James yet, but we expect the fish to be there as well. Most people targeting them are reporting just a few thus far, but this run will only pick up steam for the immediate future as long as the rain doesn't muddy things up too much. The Tackle Box let us know that a few small stripers are also showing up in the rivers. While it’s great to hear that they’re coming in, remember that targeted striper catch-and-release fishing will be illegal starting April 1. We’d also like to point out that The Tackle Box remains open for business, with a limited-entry policy in place at the store.
In other news, while the yellow perch have mostly completed their run in the southern tribs, the rivers are still supporting strong populations of white perch that can be landed with bloodworms on a bottom rig. In areas supporting snakehead populations, the bite’s been heating up quickly on warm sunny days and although the chill in the air early this week slowed things down a bit, this recent warm-up should get ‘em chomping again in no time. Best of luck, tight lines, and remember: if you see your buddies floating around out there with ya, give ‘em a wave but forgo that hug.
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 20 Update:
Yes folks, we know we’re all tired of hearing about CV-19, but we need to mention that due to the current situation we had a tough time getting a hold of some of our usual contacts this week. We apologize for the somewhat abbreviated reports. The good news? For as long as it remains an option, the best way to practice social distancing is to go fishing!
Catch-and-release trollers have been finding a few trophies to play with, in the water of the Lower Bay. The zone from off Point Lookout down to Smith Point has been best, and although boats are mostly reporting just a fish or two during a day of trolling, some mighty big ones have been caught and there are outliers—we heard of eight big fish caught and released in a day, from one angler.
Up the rivers, the yellow perch run seems to be petering out with fewer reports of success the farther south you go, but whites should move in quickly to take their place. Not much word yet on the shad (other than gizzards) but unless the calendar is mistaken they should be on their way up the rivers right now and in prime form within the next week or so. Meanwhile… catfish? Yes, catfish. We did hear from a few readers who said the bite was difficult at times this week, maybe the result of multiple fronts moving through, but we also had reports of a couple blue cats over the 50-pound mark coming out of the upper James between Dutch Gap and Hopewell. As usual, cut gizzard shad was the bait of choice.
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 12 Update:
MARYLAND SUMMER/FALL STRIPER SEASON RED ALERT: The public comment period is open (but only until March 18) regarding summer and fall regs for Maryland waters; we know many Virginians fish MD waters for stripers too, and if not, we're still sure you care just as much about this fishery as Marylanders do - so we hope everyone will check out the full details on the options in our Summer and Fall Striper Maryland Season Emergency Fisheries Update. That said, it all boils down to this:
- Option 1 – Recreational anglers and charter boat anglers get one 18-inch fish per person per day.
- Options 2 and 3 – Recreational anglers get one 19-inch fish per day with a two-week summer closure and five days shaved off December, while charter boat anglers get two 19-inch fish per day.
Since these options are calculated to result in the same number of fish being harvested/killed, please do not be misled into thinking that any of these options are more or less conservation-minded. That being the case, we strongly support Option One and hope you will send the DNR your comments ASAP. If you feel that we need better science to understand the realities of catch and release mortality regarding striped bass in the Chesapeake, please also be sure to make this opinion known—and request that the state do something about it—in your comments.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled fishing report: This week has been the best of winter so far: the perch are running, we’ve got steady catching, and the weather is warm. But this action won’t last forever, so get in on the perch jerking while the action is hot! The list of rivers of note this week is long so we’ll boil it down to this: from the Potomac down through the James all have had stellar runs going on, with yellow perch schooled up throughout the creeks and rivers headwaters. Whites are still holding a bit farther down the rivers, mostly in deeper holes and channels. Anglers hitting the water and heading to the shorelines are showing up equipped with plenty of grass shrimp, minnows, shad darts, and bottom rigs to hit a great payoff. While no bait has been working better than another, the Tackle Box did note that grass shrimp have been in high demand. The guys at Apex Predators in Potomac Creek, VA, however, pointed out that the fantastic crappie fishing also hasn’t let up, making minnow the go-to choice if you want a shot at a multispecies meal.
Meanwhile, blue catfish have continued providing a fantastic option. As usual, they’re strewn throughout the tribs, quick to hit fresh chunks of mud shad, menhaden, chicken breast, and gizzard. While we’re hearing about them just about everywhere, the best reports this week came from the James from the mouth of the Chick on up, and from the Potomac in the DC region.
Lower Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report, March 6 Update:
This week yellow perch are our shining stars, as they’ve began their run and revived fishing throughout the Chesapeake. Yes, the yellow perch are on!! If you're new to chasing the yellows be sure to look at our Ring In the New Season article to get the scoop on targeting these tasty fish. The Tackle Box reported that multiple areas all around the dial are producing, and the perch can be found with some hunting throughout virtually all the Western Shore tribs and their creeks at this point, in their usual spawning run areas. Anglers reportedly observed that yellows are feeding on minnows offered under a short leader on bobbers, or at times on bottom. A few are also taking tiny jigs and Beetle Spins, with some crappie and bass showing up in the mix. Some readers are also letting us know that that grass shrimp and small minnows on bottom rigs has been their ticket to catching. Bottom line, these fish are on the move so trying multiple techniques and location until you really get into 'em is the smart move. The Tackle Box also let us know that the catfish who have been providing the main fishery in the Bay's tribs in mid- and up-river areas previously this winter are still around. They also noted that the cat bite should only get better as the water warms up.
On the eastern side of the Bay the story is much the same so if you're headed that way check out the Tangier and Lower Shore report, and farther south in saltier areas, the speck bite is already picking back up from its winter slow-down particularly in the Elizabeth. But that's all the way down at the mouth of the Bay so see the Way South report, for more details there.