Chesapeake Bay

by Chris McCotter

Middle Bay

Striped bass in the middle Bay are transitioning into a fall pattern of behavior due to water temperatures falling into the mid to low 60s, and bait is moving out of the tidal rivers. This sets up a situation for jigging that anglers enjoy, but striped bass can also be found in shallower waters to the delight of anglers casting poppers. 

At the Bay Bridge, striped bass are being caught by anglers casting jigs near the bridge piers. Drifting with live spot, small white perch, and eels is working well, along with cut spot and peeler crab baits. Spot are becoming increasingly scarce as most have moved south into Virginia waters. A few are being caught at the shallower end of the western side of the bridge. Most anglers are now fishing for white perch at the shallower end of the bridge, using peeler crab and bloodworms for bait or dropper jigs rigged with small flies or soft plastics. 

Striped bass are spread throughout the middle Bay, at the mouths of the region’s tidal rivers, the main channels in the Bay, and the shallows in the lower sections of the tidal rivers and Bay shores. The edges of the shipping channel, Thomas Point, the Buoy 83 channel edge, Eastern Bay, and the False Channel are just a few of the more popular areas to find striped bass. 

Juvenile menhaden and bay anchovies are exiting the tidal rivers due to the drop in water temperatures and being swept along by stiff currents in the channels. Jigging with soft plastics or metal is the most common way to fish and provides plenty of fun light-tackle action. At times the action will be marked with large numbers of seagulls diving into breaking fish, which is an angler’s delight. Another good tactic is to watch for slicks that are the result of striped bass feeding on baitfish deeper in the water, which can be verified by a depth finder to reveal striped bass holding deep. 

Trolling umbrella rigs behind heavy inline weights is another method for catching striped bass this week. Heavy tackle is required to haul in fish, inline weights, and umbrella rigs without a lot of struggles from the fish, but it is an effective way to catch striped bass holding deep along channel edges. 

Lower Bay

Striped bass fishing in the lower Bay is greatly improving as water temperatures cool and striped bass feel comfortable to move through various areas. The shallow water fishery is excellent on the eastern side of the Bay, along the shores of the marsh islands, and in the cuts through Hoopers Island. The lower Potomac, St. Mary’s, and the lower Patuxent rivers are all providing excellent opportunities for anglers casting poppers, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and paddletails. Anglers are also finding a mix of speckled trout and small red drum when working the shallower waters.

There are still some bluefish around this week, but they are quickly heading south to Virginia waters. Breaking fish are being encountered in the lower Bay and the bluefish may be mixed in with striped bass that are working on schools of juvenile menhaden and adult bay anchovies. Jigging is the most popular way to work these breaking fish, but trolling along the outsides of the action can pay off as well.

Trolling is becoming a more popular way to fish for striped bass along channel edges where fish may be suspended or near breaking fish action. Heavy inline weights and umbrella rigs are the tackle being used. 

Atlantic Ocean and Coastal Bays

Fishing for flounder is very good at many of the inshore wreck and reef sites as they gather near structure on their offshore migration. Sea bass fishing is excellent with limit catches being common. Anglers are also catching a mix of porgies, triggerfish, and Atlantic bonito. The small dolphin have left for more southern waters. 

The boats headed out to the canyons are focusing on catching blueline tilefish. Others are catching swordfish. There are also some reports of small dolphin still holding close to the lobster pot buoys.

Call Capt. Pete Wallace soon if you want to get a day in duck hunting on Virginia’s eastern shore out of Chincoteague.

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