Chesapeake Bay

by Chris McCotter

  With Bay and river temperatures at the low 40s, Bay fish are at their winter holding areas. With plenty of cool waters and oxygen from surface to bottom, look for concentrations of fish in some of the remaining warm water areas. In the Bay mainstem, warmer bottom waters – below 50 feet – are located from about Hart Miller Island south to near Bloody Point in areas with good structure and protection from strong current such as underwater points, channel edges, and bridge pilings with nearby oyster bottom and reefs. The other warm water areas to consider are near the water discharges of your local power plants.

Upper Chesapeake Bay

   In the tidal rivers of the upper Bay, yellow perch will be found for the next month holding in holes 15 feet or deeper. As March progresses, more yellow perch will be found in these deeper channel areas in the middle to upper sections of the spawning rivers, waiting for warmer water temperatures. A small lip-hooked minnow with a split shot placed about two feet ahead of the minnow and worked very slowly across the bottom is a good tactic. Small marabou jigs, the smallest you can find, can be worked under a slip bobber. Once you can determine the depth, the jig must be very close to the bottom.

Middle Bay

 Yellow perch are slowly moving up the spawning rivers this month. They will be staging in deep pools and channels until the water temperatures are warm enough for them to move into the upper spawning areas.   Calm and warm days this month will most likely bring out a few catch-and-release anglers looking for striped bass. Water temperatures are in the low 40s so it will be hard to find striped bass willing to take a jig. The warm water discharge at the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant will most likely be your best bet to drift and jig. 

Lower Bay

  G’Daddy’s Bait & Tackle in Carrollton, Virginia (just across the James River Bridge in Hampton) is stocked with ZOOM soft plastic baits, a limited special collection of Poe’s classic all-wood crankbaits, Duckett rods and Reel Blessed custom rods. Profound Outdoors baits can also be found in the shop. Gift certificates are available at the shop as well as fishing licenses and the City of Norfolk lake fishing permits.

  G’Daddy’s is a good place to call or stop by to see what fish have entered the lower James River. Croaker are usually the first and with this mild winter, it’s possible we see the first reach the James River Bridge by the end of March. 

  W2 would like to welcome Wilcox Bait & Tackle to the magazine this month. Tom Wilcox and his team operate one of the oldest names in fishing and hunting in Virginia and this shop serves many functions for peninsula anglers. If you want a great small boat, stop by and check out their Gheenoe craft. If you are a bow hunter, this shop is must-do! Tom also has a full selection of salt and freshwater fishing gear.


  Fishing for large tautog could hardly be better at coastal wreck and reef sites. Anglers have experienced calm seas and sunny skies on many of the trips. The tautog season will remain open with a limit of four fish per person each day until May 15; the season reopens July 1 through October 31 with a daily limit of two fish per day, changing to a daily limit of four fish per day from November 1 through December 31. Minimum size is 16 inches.

  If you want to know where hundreds of these reefs and wreck sites are consider purchasing one of Wayne Young’s excellent books: Bridges Under Troubled Waters Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reefs, Phantoms of the Lower Bay and Hook, Line & Sinker. Woods & Waters has a limited supply for sale by calling 540.894.3540 with credit card info.

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