The Chesapeake Bay provides rich and varied fishing grounds, and this is a huge body of water. In fact, before white Europeans began exploring and settling the area, many of the Native Americans living near the Chesapeake found it difficult to believe that an even larger body of water lay just to the east of the Bay. Within this expanse of water are several different types of fish habitats, along with a wide range of fish species that anglers find attractive so long as you can brave the cold.
Perhaps the most popular type of fishing in the Chesapeake is bottom fishing, where baits are placed right on the bottom. This angling method is relatively simple and straightforward, and it can prove very productive. Depending on the time of year you’re fishing and on your selection of bait, you might catch seatrout, flounder, croaker, or spot – all excellent table fare. You’re also likely to hook some larger fish, including black drum, cobia, and the Bay’s most famous occupants, stripers, also called “rockfish.”
Deep Drop Fishing
The Chesapeake has numerous deep holes, wrecks, and artificial reefs that both fish and fishermen love. For this type of angling, the deep spots must first be located, of course. Because some of these “holes” can be over 200 feet deep, drop fishing can be pretty demanding, but it’s usually very productive, as well. Catches for deep drop fishing in the Bay include sea bass, grouper, tautog, and tilefish.
Surf Fishing & Shallow Water Fishing
Although the Bay contains some deep pockets and channels, most of the Chesapeake is relatively shallow. The average depth is 21 feet, and some 700,000 acres are six feet deep or less. That’s an immense amount of water to cover! Some of the species you might catch with this type of Chesapeake Bay fishing include red drum, weakfish, croaker, cobia, blues, Spanish mackerel, black drum, and stripers.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Fishing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, or the CBBT, as it’s often referred to locally, provides some of the best angling in the entire region. Fish are attracted to the bridge and tunnel structure, along with the small islands nearby. And you don’t have to own a boat to take advantage of this type of Chesapeake Bay fishing, either, thanks to a fishing pier. What can you hope to catch here? Trout, Spanish mackerel, sharks, flounder, reds, black drum, blues, spots, spadefish, sheepshead, tautog, and croaker are common catches.
Boat anglers also take advantage of the CBBT. Stripers can often be found around the bridge pilings, along with some large bluefish and the occasional amberjack.
Bay fishermen with their own boat and those who hire the services of Chesapeake Bay fishing guides or Chesapeake Bay fishing charters often use trolling as a way to locate and catch fish, especially stripers and blues. Trolling artificial baits behind a boat is a way to cover a lot of water in a short period of time. Sometimes chumming is used in conjunction with trolling.
Deltaville, Virginia is a quaint community that’s located on the eastern point of the state’s Middle Peninsula. Once the center of the wooden ship-building industry on the Chesapeake Bay, the town is now a tourist center dotted with yacht clubs, marinas, and sailing charters. One of the biggest draws to Deltaville, however, is its fantastic fishing. One reason for this is its prime location – where the Rappahannock River empties into the Chesapeake. If you’re an experienced angler, you know what that means for fish. And of all the fish species in the Bay, the striped bass is king.
The Chesapeake is one of the best places on earth to fish for striped bass – or as they’re usually called here – rockfish. It’s estimated that about 75% of the all the stripers in the world were spawned in one of the Bay’s tributaries. Since striped bass must have fresh water in which to lay their eggs, the Chesapeake is very inviting to the mature fish. More than 150 streams and rivers feed into the Bay, so stripers have plenty of places to spawn.
If you want to experience the thrill of doing battle with a real trophy fish, check out the Chesapeake Bay’s spring trophy season for rockfish. These fish have spent the winter feeding up for the spring spawn, and the ones in the Bay are fresh from the Atlantic Ocean and they’re strong, healthy, and looking for a fight! Many of these fish measure over 30 inches in length.Fall striper season in the Chesapeake Bay
During the summer months, as the water in the Chesapeake heats up, most of the striper population heads north to cooler waters. In the autumn, New England waters get a little too chilly for the rockfish, so they head back south. This migration is usually timed well – the big predators can take advantage of all the smaller fish leaving the Bay to winter elsewhere. If you’re in the right spot, you can make numerous striper hook-ups on the same day.
Most Popular Fish
Some of the best Chesapeake Bay fishing can be found on boats out of Chesapeake Beach. The best angling usually runs from April through November, when the rockfish season begins, some time around the middle of April. Check out the general fishing guidelines for Chesapeake Beach below.
If you’re itching to fish before trophy striper season opens, head out in March for some black drum fishing. Black drum are often caught on crabs, and the fish can grow to enormous sizes. In fact, individuals weighing over 100 pounds have been caught. These fish are fun to catch, but the big ones aren’t good to eat. Smaller drum weighing five pounds or less, often referred to as “puppy drum,” make for some good eating, however!
Also known as stripers, rockfish are the most sought after fish in the Chesapeake. During the spring trophy season, fishermen will have the opportunity to catch some very large striped bass, including a few individuals that measure more than forty inches in length. Rockfish are usually caught by trolling or casting artificials.
In early May, the flounder start biting. These fish are usually caught on or near the bottom, while fishing with artificial baits or live fingerling fish. Flounder don’t get huge, but because of their flat shape, they put up quite a fight. These are perhaps the tastiest of the fish in the Bay, with mild white flesh. The flounder in the Chesapeake can often be landed until late October.
Croaker and Spots
Both these small fish species start biting in late spring and can be found throughout the Bay, especially in shallow areas. Easy to catch, plentiful, and excellent in the frying pan, spot and croaker are great to target when you’re fishing with kids or with beginners. Both of these species usually bite well into the fall months.
Weakfish and Spotted Seatrout
These two species are similar in appearance, size, behavior, and taste. In fact, some anglers have a hard time distinguishing the two. Usually landed on artificials, shrimp, or live minnows, these fish are highly prized for their excellent flesh. Weakfish and trout might be caught by drifting, bottom fishing, casting, or trolling.
Blues are very aggressive fish that can be tempted by a wide variety of baits, including dead shrimp, cut bait, artificials, and live bait. Once hooked, they put up quite a fight. The flesh is somewhat bloody, but if you know how to prepare it for cooking, it can be quite tasty.
Black Sea Bass
Another warm-weather resident of the Chesapeake, black sea bass are usually found on or near the bottom, near structure. This might include rocks, wrecks, or artificial reefs. Their flesh is delicious, and it’s highly prized by chefs.
Chesapeake Bay Fishing Guides & Bay Charters
To take full advantage of striper fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll need a fishing guide or fishing charter, and there’s no shortage of either. You need to be careful when choosing one, however. Because the rockfishing is so famous in the Bay, anglers from all over come to enjoy it, and unfortunately, a few unscrupulous charter boat captains take advantage of the situation. Some of the boats aren’t even from the Chesapeake, so they’re not familiar with the local waters or with the feeding patterns of the fish. This means you could be throwing your money away on nothing more than a boat ride.
There are, however, several great captains and crews on the Bay that can help you land the fish of your dreams. One is Captain Jeff Adams, a lifetime native with years of experience. Captain Jeff can take up to 24 anglers aboard the Providence II for inshore fishing, or up to 18 anglers for offshore action. Although his 53-foot long boat is certified for up to 42 passengers, Captain Adams wants to make sure everyone has plenty of room to fish. The boat has heating and air conditioning, a full galley, a TV with a DVD player, a shower, and a private restroom.
Whether you’re an old pro or this is your first striper fishing experience, the captain and crew will see to it that your trip is enjoyable.