Virginia Beach Sportfishing Rundown Dec.’16

By Dr. Julie Ball, Dec. 2016

IGFA Representative, Virginia Beach

Most winter-time species are active this time of year. But the species on most angler’s minds is the local favorite cold water game fish, striped bass. Historically, this is the month big rockfish move into lower Chesapeake Bay waters. In turn, boats will begin to assemble along the Eastern side of the bay in hopes of encountering some of the biggest fish of the season.

But last season, local anglers were disappointed when the schools of bigger rockfish stalled further up the bay, several miles short of their more accessible haunts off Plantation Light and along the Eastern Shore. Anglers are hopeful for a return to the patterns of years past for these larger fish, which is thought to be a result of bait deficits and water temperature influences. Most of these fish are caught while drifting or slow-trolling using live eels, and can weigh in excess of 30 to 50-pounds. When the Bay season closes at the end of the year, ocean trolling becomes popular along our coastlines.

Tautog, which are making a great showing this season in many bay locations, will continue to offer good action through December on both lower Bay and coastal structures. Jumbo sea bass are available on several ocean wrecks, along with nice-sized triggerfish, but seabass become off limits at the end of the month. The current regulations allow you to keep 15 seabass per person stretching to at least 12.5-inches. Some chopper-sized bluefish could also fight for your offerings near these same structures during the first few weeks of the month. Although the fishery is very unpredictable, boats will be on the lookout for schools of bluefin tuna this month. Be sure to check the bluefin regulations carefully before targeting these brutes.

The local speckled trout bite is steadily gaining ground. Anglers are content hooking lots of smallish trout, with the best catches occurring in Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets, the Poquoson Flats, and the Eastern Shore shallows. Most specks are measuring from 18 to 20-inches, but a several trophies are also around. Casting both grubs and Mirrolures can get the job done. Puppy drum are also providing action, with keeper-sized fish available in Lynnhaven, Rudee, and Little Creek Inlets.

Deep droppers are still finding good numbers of hefty blueline tilefish, wreckfish, a variety of grouper, and blackbellied rosefish in various areas around the Norfolk Canyon. By-catches of big seabass and bluefish are a good consolation prize, as these fish often compete in the same areas.