The waters off Chincoteague offer a variety of opportunities for offshore fishermen. Spring weather is usually very windy and boats don’t often get to fish outside the inlet in the early season. When a calm day presents itself, anglers can catch tautog or sea bass over local shipwrecks and artificial reefs.
By June, monster bluefish arrive and are often present in enormous numbers along the 20 fathom line. This fishing usually amounts to a 25-30 nautical mile trip from the inlet.
Days behind the bluefish are several species of sharks, the most sought after being the mako. Sandbar, tiger, thresher, blue, blacktip, bull, hammerhead and other sharks also begin to appear about this time. Local anglers attract sharks by chumming with ground fish, then using wire leaders baited with whatever bait can be attained. Fresh baits like bluefish, trout, mackerel, bonita, or false albacore are preferred.
By mid-June, tuna often appear off the coast. Bluefin tuna prefer cooler water and usually arrive first. In the early season, bluefin are caught among the vicious bluefish by trolling. By July, many anglers switch tactics and fish for tuna with cut butterfish. About the same time, yellowfin and dolphinfish begin to appear and many anglers troll for them as far out as Washington, Poorman’s and Norfolk Canyons. Some of these trips can exceed 70 nautical miles although good fishing is often just 25-30 nautical miles from home.
Late summer usually brings changes to offshore fishing. Better fishing is likely as tuna school up and develop a bigger appetite. Marlin, wahoo and large dolphinfish are also more likely. Another big factor is hurricane season. Some years we enjoy good late season weather and others we wait as systems work off the coast. Patient anglers usually get a few nice days and enjoy good offshore fishing into the fall.
By October, most ocean going anglers turn their attention back to sea bass, flounder and tautog. As the waters cool further, red drum and striped bass or “rockfish” migrate down the coast. By this time offshore fishing has ended and most anglers either retire, or begin fishing inshore for striped bass which goes on throughout the winter months.
For more on local fishing and outdoor recreation, visit Maryland and Virginia Saltwater Fishing.