Unless you’re from Virginia, you may not find that a significant portion of North America’s largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay, is in the Old Dominion. The easternmost and northeasternmost parts of Virginia encompass the bay, making this region one of the best fishing spots in northern Virginia.
From the mouth of the Potomac River east across the southern tip of Smith Island and across Pocomoke Sound to the town of Saxis on the east coast, Chesapeake Bay offers abundant and varied fishing, as well as great boating and wildlife viewing.
The main reason it’s one of the best fishing spots in Northern Virginia is because the area immediately south of Maryland and Virginia is one of the best places on the east coast to catch striped bass. Known locally as the “rockfish” or “rock”, the striper is Virginia’s state saltwater fish. The upper reaches of this estuary provide critical spawning grounds for this species, making Chesapeake Bay the main source (70 percent) of the striped bass on the east coast.
With a Virginia saltwater fishing license, you can fish the bay in both states, as well as the tidal areas of the Potomac and other rivers. However, the fishing times and some regulations differ. So be careful when crossing state lines.
While you can fish for strip fishermen year round in Virginia, the season for retention (two per person over 20 inches, one of which can be over 28 inches) in Chesapeake Bay is June 16-16 May 15 and from October 4th to December 31st. This coincides with the best fishing times. October is particularly good for watering in shallow areas, around the structure and along the marsh edges. Throwing, jigging, and trolling in open water usually starts in mid-November, and there’s a very good chance a boat with three anglers could catch between thirty and fifty stripes on one excursion, especially if you can find a focused school that feeds on menhaden .
Many other types
This area of the Chesapeake is also one of the best fishing spots in Northern Virginia for other species. Bottom fish such as the spot and croaker are favorite catches, small to medium sized bluefish are common, and there is the option of spotted sea trout (locally called “speckled trout”), red drums, weak fish (locally called “gray trout”) and Cobia and Spanish mackerel. The latter two species are high summer visitors and are more common when low rainfall allows a higher salinity in the bay. Flounder and tautog are even among the fish available, although they are not widely available.
Lots of boat options
The bay is huge and the surface water often gets very rough as there are often windy days. Large deep V-hulled boats handle open water best and allow you to get to your fishing spots with ease. But shallow draft skiffs do very well when anglers fish on days with light winds. These vehicles, as well as kayaks, can penetrate deep into the shallow marshland that abound along the east coast and between the northern islands like Smith and Tangier. Kayak anglers are particularly good at stripers and spotted sea trout in these locations and in the many streams on the mainland.
Lots of wildlife
If you want to see birds fishing this region is great. Ospreys nest on almost every navigation marker, a sure sign that this is one of the best fishing spots in Virginia. The chances of seeing all types of waterfowl are high, as are bald eagles, loons and a wide variety of waterfowl and wading birds.
Diamond turtles are often seen near the swamps. Blue crabs are abundant, often seen swimming in the water, and available for sport fishing. Horseshoe crabs come to the bay in the spring, as do an army of cownose rays, and porpoises are a common sight in the spring and fall.
Chesapeake Bay is such a treasure that it can be called not only one of the best fishing spots in Virginia, but also one of the best natural areas in the world.