By Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA Representative, Virginia Beach
Finally, the spring fishing scene will come together, and water temperatures will get a boost as the weather warms this month.
Tautog are always a favorite for bottom bouncers, with the bite really taking off in bay and inshore waters in April. Bay water anglers can anticipate catching limits of tog, with most bites coming from the pilings and the tubes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, with the best luck always happening with fiddler crabs, when you can get them. Most fish generally range from 3 to 5-pounds within the bay. Deeper water wrecks will offer up some bigger fish, but this bite will slow as the water warms throughout the month. Big seabass will also compete for your offerings on the same structures, but these fish remain off limits until mid-May. Hurry if you want to get in on the tog action, since this fishery closes at the end of April.
And everything will be right in the world of saltwater fishing once the catches of big red drum from the Eastern Shore at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay jump-start the courtship between drum and angler for the season. As schools of big drum filter into the lower bay and spread among the shoals and breakers lining the Eastern Shore barrier islands, local anglers will rush to intercept these early season drum using blue crabs and peelers. Some of these bulls can measure to well over 45-inches. Black drum will also make a solid showing in these same areas, with sea clams a favorite bait for these scavangers.
The flounder bite will emerge in lower bay waters for the rest of April. Some limits of keepers are possible, rewarding those who put in their time along the Eastern Shore seaside inlets, Oyster, Magothy Bay, and Back River Reef. Look for this trend to heat up with the warmer temperatures.
Pier anglers will be smiling again as croaker light up their worlds at local fishing piers. Plenty of medium-sized hardheads will filter in along the ocean front, Oceanview and Buckroe, and within the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary rivers, hitting on squid and blood worms. Sea mullet will also make a showing in these same locations on bloodworms. Nice snapper bluefish can also swarm the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and lower bay waters this time of yea
Puppy drum usually provide good action in Rudee Inlet, with some good numbers of pups also showing in Little Creek and Lynnhaven. Speckled trout are also expected in these same areas this month, but the recent fish kill could put a considerable dent in this backwater action this season.
The deep water off the Virginia coast is still the place to crank up big blueline and golden tilefish, black-bellied rosefish and grouper from over 300 feet of water. But pesky dog fish are still a nuisance this month, but they will begin to thin out soon. Jumbo black seabass are also in the same areas, but these fish are illegal to keep right now.
Offshore opportunities are pushing this way. Most of the action is still happening mostly off North Carolina, with bluefin, blackfin, and yellowfin tuna presenting a variety for the fleet