Striper season is in full swing. At the printing of this month’s magazine, no reports have surfaced indicating that the big “cows” are anywhere close to making it to Virginia’s waters. Though the striped bass will no doubt be the primary target of most fishermen, there are still other species to be targeted. Water temperature will dictate whether the flounder will be in the shallows or making their way offshore. Recent years have found more and more flounder caught during the month of December in and around the CBBT and inshore wrecks.
The spotted trout (generally referred to as speckled) should be in abundance from Mobjack Bay south. Of particular interest will be the Lynnhaven area. Sea bass will be concentrated on the wrecks before their trek to deeper waters, and tautog will again become the target of many that lost interest with the rising water temperatures of early summer.
Offshore, the recreational fishermen have been awaiting the return of the tuna. Water temperatures were so high that the fish went north and deep, and now the water is fluctuating so that the fishermen have problems knowing where to fish from day to day. As of the middle November a few reports have surfaced indicating that the bite is on. Surprisingly, there has been a very strong showing of swordfish. These fish are caught primarily at night which limits the number of captains that schedule trips for them. Reports of big bluefish working their way down the coast have surfaced; therefore, the bluefin can’t be far behind, but stories of yellowfin have not been cause for much excitement. December has to be the month for more consistent action.
Fishing in December definitely loses a certain recreational following, due to the colder temperatures, hunting, football, and the holidays. Many boats have already been winterized, anxiously awaiting the return of warm weather. However, it’s really not the time to be putting those rods and reels away. If you have already done so, you might want to give the local charter boaters a try. With the exception of our Eastern Shore fishermen, most charters are still up and running.
Eastern ShoreCapt. Mike Handforth (757-336-6861), indicates that many of the Eastern Shore captains have closed up shop for the year by the time December rolls around. Mike will continue to fish for the larger rockfish (Eastern Shore fish have to be 28” or larger) into December. The large fish migrating from Maine have to go past the Eastern Shore, and the present state record was caught two years ago off the Eastern Shore. Mike also reports that large bluefish have been spotted about a week away. This could make for an interesting December. The offshore boys are awaiting a consistent bite of tuna, according to Mike.
Capt. Rob Savage (757-678-0063) has just completed his spotted trout portion of his season and is looking forward to fishing for tautog, which he says will reach its Fall peak until the water temperature reaches 42 degrees. This temperature pushes the fish to the deeper water structures. Rob also enjoys the light tackle that he employs for the migrating stripers from his 22’ Privateer. Rob will be casting to surface feeding fish, jigging, and live-lining eels. He will troll only as a last resort.
Norfolk/Virginia BeachCapt. Nolan Agner (757-200-0200) will be fishing for tuna and wahoo out of Oregon Inlet, but he plans to be back at Rudee by the middle of December. At that time he will be targeting the striped bass through trolling, casting, and jigging. Jim Brincefield (252-336-4296) and Capt. Steve Wray (757-481-7517) are two captains that will target the swordfish for as long as they are near and the customers show an interest in fishing for them. Jim has a 50’ custom deadrise, while Steve is expecting delivery of his 38’ Evans by the 21st of November. He will have all the quirks associated with a new boat ironed out by the beginning of December. Both Jim and Steve will also target the striped bass, tilefish and snowy grouper, and it won’t surprise me to find Capt. Steve doing the same if the migrating stripers don’t make a strong showing in December.
Fishing inshore, Capt. Joe Ferrera (757-572-9236) will be taking his crews to the CBBT to cast and jig for striped bass, while Capt. Max King (757-650-3176) will be moving his operation from the Monitor-Merrimac where he was chunking, to the Bay where he plans to live-line eels. As a reminder, Max says he will live-line until he runs out of eels. Should the fish still be around, he will then cast, jig, or troll for the larger stripers. Capt. Herman Bunch (757-481-4298) also enjoys eeling for Stripers. Herman will move to trolling the ocean once the really large fish move into the area.
Lower Peninsula Because of its close proximity to the ocean waters, much of the Lower Peninsula’s fishing is similar to that of Virginia Beach. Capt. Chandler Hogg (757-876-1590) will be fishing primarily for striped bass; nevertheless, should a customer want to target tautog or sea bass, Chandler is his man. Capt. Jerry Olson (757-288-1081) is one of the few captains I know that fishes for stripers at night. He loves to chunk. Jerry also trolls, casts, and uses live bait during his day trips. Like Chandler, Jerry is willing to fish for togs and sea bass. Capt. Bill Mershon (757-229-6244) will be continuing to troll for striped bass on his new 30 foot Island Hopper.
Middle Peninsula December for the Middle Peninsula fisherman is strictly striped bass. Everyone is hoping that the concentration of baitfish is sufficient to draw the ocean fish into the Bay. Last year was phenomenal. The major concern right now is whether the fish will show in concentration prior to the end of the season. Capt. Glenn Hubbard (804-337-6357) is taking no chances. Glenn is moving his boat to Rudee Inlet and will start fishing for ocean stripers on December 3rd. Capt Don Bannister (804-776-0629) says he will continue to fish the Bay until there are no more fish to be caught. Last year he never moved his boat south; however, in 2005, he was fishing the ocean by the middle of December. Capts. Bill Bailey (804-776-0255) and Ian Bailey (804-776-7129) will fish for the schoolie rockfish until the migrating fish make an appearance. Both will troll for the big fish.
Northern Neck The Northern Neck doesn’t differ much from the Middle Peninsula. It’s all a matter of baitfish. Nevertheless, styles differ somewhat. In the Middle Peninsula, the use of planer boards is at a minimum. In the Northern Neck, planer boards are the rule. I can’t explain such. Perhaps it is like California trying new styles in clothing before the state of Virginia. It’s just a matter of time. Capt Ferrell McLain (804-453-0696) will be trolling as soon as the big fish arrive. His boards are the biggest in the Neck. Capts. Jim Deibler (804-580-7744), Gene Pittman (804-453-3643), Billy Pipkin (804-580-7292), and Bob Reed (804-435-9785) will troll primarily between Smith Point Light and the Cut Channel, while Capts. Danny Crabbe (804-453-3251), Ryan Rogers (804-453-5812), Chuck O’Bier (804-529-6450), and David Rowe (804-529-6725) will troll primarily in Maryland waters until their season ends. That is a generalization, for any of these captains can be found wherever the greatest concentration of fish is to be found. Many will move their boats south when the Bay season ends, some prior to its ending.
All, along with the thousands of recreational fishermen that have not winterized their boats or put their fishing tackle away, stand between the stripers of our waters and their season to be jolly. It is our strong desire that the season of Ho, Ho, Ho be on the side of the fishermen, not the fish. Happy Holidays to all.
Northern Virginia - At Burke Lake the fish have moved into the deeper waters so the key here is to fish deep and slower in your presentation. At Lake Orange the crappie will be deep around structures. Try small minnows moved slowly back and forth at the depth you mark fish. Walleye should bite while trolling jigs tipped with nightcrawlers. Try crankbaits too. Fish slower than you did last month.
On the upper Rappahannock and Potomac smallmouth have moved to deeper holes. Using minnows should prove a successful trip. The river is low but redeye will be biting on red wigglers in the deep holes in the Rappahannock. Be sure to fish areas thoroughly.
On the tidal Rappahannock the fishing is still good for crappie near wood structure. Try for bass in the same areas with dark colored plastics and spoons or jigs fished at a crawl. Large catfish in the 30lb range are active and bite well on cut shad and eels from Fredericksburg down to Hicks’ Landing.
On the tidal Potomac the bass angling will switch to drop offs and structure this month. Jigs and cranks are def. the way to go. Taylor’s Grocery (540-659-2347) reports that the crappie in Aquia Creek are and will be hitting on minnows. The bass on the Potomac will deeper on slower Pig N Jigs.
At Lake Anna we contacted Carlos at High Point Marina (540-895-5249). He reported that right now the stripers are concentrated at The Splits up to Stubbs Bridge. However by print time they will move back down lake to the Rt. 208 bridge area. They will be hitting well on live bait and Redfin or Zara Spooks. Crappie might be hard to find because they will move from around the bridges and will be suspend deep in the main lake. Bass have moved out from the creeks and are deep on the main lake points and will hit on Pig N Jigs and 7” worms.
In the Northern Neck area, RW’s (804-529-5634) reported that the water temps have dropped and the fish in the ponds become more active again. Debbie at Surfside Bait and Tackle (804-730-2238) on the James River states the catfish have picked back up with the cooler temps. A customer caught an 8lb, a 10lb and a 30lb catfish. Catfish bite well on eels and fresh shad. Stripers on the lower part of the river will really pick up and are now hitting well on large minnows or extra large minnows. Bass are hitting well in ponds and are being caught in the 6lb range.
On the Chickahominy fishing is great and should pick up according to Mike at Riverside Camp Grounds (804-966-5536). The bass are schooled up and biting really well on anything that resembles small baitfish. This is the time of year when the fish swarm and feed off the small fry and baitfish in the water so using lures that resemble that will prove successful. The bass caught seem to be in the 12” – 15” range and are chunky. They are busy putting on the fat for the winter. A few crappie are being caught on small minnows and tiny jigs. The water finally cooled down and the stripers can be caught trolling using Redfin style of lures or by jigging using blade baits like the Ripper. Let the bait go all the way to the bottom and bounce it up about 3-4 feet. They also hit well on small grub heads with a bucktail on it. Stripers bite well on either tide as long as the tide is moving. The bigger blue catfish have turned on and are hitting very well on eels and fresh shad. They are active and bite really well from October – April.
Over on the Virginia Beach/Suffolk area we contacted Bobby at Dashiell’s Sporting Goods (757-539-7854). He reports, that the pickeral are hitting in about 10’ of water using crankbaits. Bass slow down but Silver Buddy spoons work well.
Down at Buggs Island at Buggs Island Bait and Tackle, (434-374-8934) Rusty reports that the crappie fishing is good now and people are getting 200 a day. The size is a little small but the fishing is still great. Cast around bridges and brush piles with minnows and jigs to make for a successful trip. The largemouth bass are hitting well on Rat’ L Traps and spinnerbaits in the back of the creeks. The stripers are hitting well on shad at Clarksville. Drift shad up to Bluestone along the bridges. The lake level is about 4’ low.
The Tackle Box (434-239-1710) at Smith Mountain Lake reports that the striper will respond well to live bait, bucktails and flukes. The largemouth bass will respond well to Shakey Head lures. It’s a small finesse worm pegged on a jig. The largemouth bass have started picking up in November and that should carry over into December because they are feeding and thickening up for the colder winter months ahead. The color that seems to work well is the green pumpkinseed and watermelon colors. The blue, flathead and channel catfish will be biting well on shrimp, chicken liver and a lot of the catfish packaged baits.
Northern Neck Fishing Report is Prepared by the free