The debut of red drum is always exciting, as they are the first big inshore game fish to arrive for spring. With the first showing of reds in the Bay last week, folks filtering over to the Eastern Shore barrier islands have released a few scattered fish on both bunker and crabs. But the best action is still yet to come. Huge schools of big red drum are making their way into to the Bay and were encountered off of Rudee Inlet this week. Rumors of a few black drum catches are also in the air as folks further up the Eastern Shore in Machipongo are finding a few fish using clams. These fish will begin moving in this direction soon.
Many anglers are turning their attention towards flounder with mixed results. The better catches of flatfish are coming on the outgoing tide around the 8-mile marker along the Bridge Tunnel. The winning bait is drifted squid or cut bait, which is enticing keepers ranging from 19 to 22-inches. Anglers are also finding some keepers around the 3rd and 4th islands. The lower Bay inlets are starting to show more activity, with keepers now coming from both Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. In Lynnhaven, boats are scoring with fish to 21-inches with squid and minnows presented on bare hooks within the basin area. This bite will continue to pick up as the water continues to warm.
Croaker are becoming a more common occurrence, with reports coming from various locations around the lower Bay, especially near the 1st island of the CBBT. Medium-sized hardheads are also hitting at the Little Island and the Ocean View, with larger fish coming from the James and Rappahannock Rivers. Nice-sized sea mullet, along with a few small spot have also debuted within the Bay, with blood worms working best for all pan fish right now.
Even with new species to target, folks are taking full advantage of the recent tautog explosion. Bait is now easily accessible, and fish are hitting on most any lower Bay or coastal structure right now. Boats are catching dozens of fish, with several weighing over the 9-pound minimum size for a state citation, with fiddler crabs and blue crabs working well. On deeper offshore structures the bite is also good, with fish ranging between 10 and 15-pounds not uncommon. One angler even lucked into a 24-pounder which could squeak by the existing state record.
The deep dropping interest off the Virginia coast is still good. When the weather allows, boats are loading up on good catches of blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, black bellied rosefish, and a variety of grouper.