Inshore fishing begins in the spring as Virginia Beach fishing charter boats begin to target flounder, croaker, bluefish and other fish that enter the bays and inlets. Meanwhile inshore wrecks hold tautog and sea bass. In May, many charter boats visit the lower eastern shore for a chance at catching black drum and red drum. Both of these fish migrate in the bay and may be caught for just a few days or for several weeks. Both fish may be very large, with black drum often exceeding 80 lbs.
Summer brings a wide range of inshore fishing to the area, with species such as spadefish, cobia, sheepshead and Spanish mackerel being caught. Flounder fishing continues and the main runs of croaker attract large numbers of fishermen.
In the summer months, offshore fishing is very popular. Fishing for tuna is typical off the Virginia coast. Yellowfin tuna like deeper water for the most part, often being caught in water from 30 to 100 fathoms. Charter boat captains watch the satellite shots to get a general idea of where the tuna are located. In addition to yellowfin tuna, anglers catch bluefin, bigeye, skipjack and longfin albacore tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo, billfish and sharks.
Fishing spots include the Norfolk Canyon, Cigar, Weather Buoy, Wayne’s World and others. These hotspots range up to 75 miles off the coast. Many fishing groups elect to charter a trip to Washington and Norfolk Canyons. Just before reaching the canyon walls are slopes that are often very productive areas. Near the canyon walls, the bottom becomes steeper and rockier. Fish congregate along the drop offs to catch food that is caught in the hard running current.
Along the edges are lobster traps which are marked by orange buoys or “lobster balls”. The buoys attract dolphin fish which in turn attract the larger marlin, swordfish and sharks which feed on them heavily. Fishing by a buoy can be uneventful, or one or more lines might be attacked by mahi mahi, tuna, marlin or other fish.
Some anglers stop in these deep areas and use special tackle to drop baits down into depths of 300 feet for more. Virginia deep sea anglers sometimes catch tilefish or even snowy grouper. Snowy grouper get very large and Virginia records have been broken recently on these delicious fish. Several charter captains specialize in this exciting fishery and offer trips to specifically target tilefish and grouper.
Late August and September often feature the best fishing with anglers seeing larger numbers of tuna as well as an influx of wahoo and bull dolphin. Offshore fishing continues into October, when windy weather and falling water temperatures make fishing less productive.
After the offshore season winds down, Virginia charter captains and guides switch over to striped bass fishing. Known locally as rockfish, these delicious fish migrate down the East Coast and congregate in the lower Chesapeake Bay and coastal waters from November thru March. Anglers sometimes catch monster rockfish, exceeding 50 lbs. The Virginia state record rockfish has been broken many times recently, with some of the biggest fish being caught out of Virginia Beach and other Hampton Roads Virginia ports.
These beautiful game fish love cold and windy weather and feed in immense schools along the coast, often right off the beach near Cape Henry Lighthouse. Local charter boat captains keep watch on local fishing and are usually able to find the fish reliably when a winter weather window of opportunity becomes available.
The author writes for Virginia websites including Virginia Beach VA, Tidewater – Hampton Roads Virginia and Chincoteague Island Virginia.