Just as youngsters return to school, many visiting fish species will also be “schooling” prior to returning to preferred winter hangouts. This is good news for anglers as fish begin to concentrate in certain areas and also to feed heavily prior to migrating south. Some seasonal fish that fall into this pattern include spot, flounder, croaker, white marlin, tuna, Spanish mackerel, and red drum.
Inshore beach, pier and surf catches continue to feature small spadefish and sheepshead, croaker, flounder, pigfish, sea robin, and spot. Spot and croaker are schooling and should provide the best chance to fill a cooler from beach or pier. Flounder and croaker will be larger but not as numerous as spot.
Aerial of Lynnhaven Marina/Inlet
The other exciting inshore news is the arrival of numerous juvenile red drum, a.k.a. “puppy drum”, being caught in the surf and inlets. Lynnhaven Inlet may offer the best opportunity to score with puppy drum. One small group of local beach fishermen recently caught and released over 50 puppy drum in just one morning! While over a third of those fish were in the 12- to 15-inch class, well below 18-inch legal keeper size, they were great sport on light tackle and bode well for the future of the drum fishery and fall fishing.
Boaters wishing to troll along the oceanfront surf should drag small Clark spoons in gold and silver for Spanish mackerel and bluefish. King mackerel still remain a possibility in this zone. Live bait will provide the best chance to hook a king.
Chesapeake Bay anglers can expect to intersect migrating cobia, red and black drum along with Spanish mackerel and bluefish. Trigger fish and sheepshead are still good bets, particularly along the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and around inshore wrecks. The CBBT is now a prime place to locate big fall flounder. Wrecks should also hold some large flounder along with sea bass and amberjack.
Cobia catches are on the upswing, featuring good numbers of 30- to 40-pound class fish with the ever present chance of lucking into an 80- or 90-pound or more monster. Cobia have been cruising open water, weed lines, and hanging around buoys and schools of rays. Several larger cobia and flounder have rewarded excited anglers with handsome Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament citation awards in the past week.
The southern edge of Norfolk Canyon has been the site of some good white marlin fishing and will only get better as fall weather fronts pass through. Blue marlin are also cruising these same waters with several releases tallied in the past weeks. Sailfish round out the billfish possibilities along with a chance of hooking yellowfin and bigeye tuna.
Reel-smoking wahoo are pouncing on some trolling offerings with dolphin normally available to help fill coolers. With offshore fish constantly on the move and following warm water eddies, it is a smart move to book a canyon trip with a knowledgeable Virginia Beach charter captain. These captains can be counted on to have the latest local knowledge to take you right to the fish in a large comfortable boat.
Along the continental shelf, blueline tilefish are providing a steady bite enhanced by yellow bellied rosefish, wreck fish, and golden tilefish. Grouper as well as large sea bass are all potential catches when fishing the shelf.
Captain’s Tip: Now is a good time to check your tackle. Make sure that last few feet of line is not chafed or frayed. If it is, cut it off or reverse the line on your reel. Check that terminal knots are all solid and tight. Reels should be lubricated and drags checked for smoothness. With striper season coming up, this is a perfect time to replace any suspect drag washers. Don’t risk losing that “fish of a lifetime” because of fishing tackle that needed routine maintenance!
The Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
Captain’s Log: Now is the perfect time of year to fish area piers. Try night fishing to avoid the heat of the day and you will reap the added benefit of fish-attracting baitfish swarming in the pier lights. The fall spot run can be outstanding with two-at-a-time spot coming over the rails.
Wishing you tight lines and hard strikes! See you on the water.