Reel in the Best Fishing Spots in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

Stretching nearly 200 miles through Maryland and Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay offers world-class estuary fishing opportunities. This massive body of water provides anglers access to trophy rockfish, migratory saltwater species, and backwater freshwater action.

In this in-depth guide, we’ll break down the top fishing spots across the Virginia waters of Chesapeake Bay. Learn where to hook striped bass, bluefish, speckled trout, flounder, catfish, and more in one of the East Coast’s most productive estuaries.

From the mouth of the Potomac River to the seaside Eastern Shore, excellent fishing awaits across this iconic bay. Keep reading to start planning your next Chesapeake Bay fishing adventure!

Overview of Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

As the largest estuary in the United States, Chesapeake Bay offers a diversity of fish species and fishing opportunities:

  • Access to offshore ocean species migrating into the bay
  • Strong populations of resident saltwater species like rockfish and speckled trout
  • Flats, creeks, shorelines, bridges, wrecks, and open water structure to target
  • Freshwater rivers and impoundments feeding the bay
  • Fishable year-round, but peak seasons in spring through fall
  • Charters, kayak fishing, shore fishing, crabbing, and cast netting

Next we’ll look at some key species and fishing methods in more detail.

Top Fish Species in Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay offers outstanding fishing for these primary species:

Striped Bass – The iconic rockfish grows to massive sizes in the Chesapeake. The main draw for many anglers.

Bluefish – Hard fighting and tasty, bluefish provide exciting action casting or trolling for them.

Speckled Trout – Inhabit grass flats feeding on shrimp and baitfish. Put up great light tackle fights.

Flounder – Bottom-dwelling flatfish that ambush prey. Fun to target and excellent tablefare.

Croaker – Abundant bottom scavengers providing easy action. Reach 2+ pounds.

Red Drum – Thepuppy drum limit is under slot 18″-27″ requiring release outside that zone.

Catfish – Channel, blue, and bullhead cats thrive in the bay’s brackish waters and prowl the bottom.

Perch & PanfishWhite perch, crappie, and others seek structure in rivers, docks, and marinas.

Let’s look at some of the top techniques to catch these species:

Light Tackle & Lures – Great for targeting rockfish, bluefish, speckled trout over structures with jigs, plugs, spoons, spinners.

Bait Fishing – Highly effective using bunker, peeler crab, and bloodworms for everything from flounder to catfish.

Fly Fishing – Excellent on flats for rockfish, trout, puppy drum. Poppers, baitfish patterns are go-tos.

Trolling – Covering water to hit schools of gamefish like blues, Spanish mackerel, trout, rockfish.

Crabbing/Cast Netting – Use baited crab traps or cast nets for bountiful crabs, baitfish like menhaden, mullet, and more.

Next, let’s look at top seasonal patterns and fishing spots in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake.

Best Fishing Seasons on Chesapeake Bay

Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay is productive all year, but peaks during warmer months:

Spring (April – May)

Striped bass runs peak as post-spawn fish migrate from rivers to the bay. Speckled trout become active in shallows.

Early Summer (June – July )

Warming waters bring migratory species like bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and cobia into bay waters.

Late Summer (August – September)

Hot conditions drive fish deeper. Target structure, channels, forage species like mullet. Weedy areas hold grass shrimp.

Fall (October – November)

Cooler water and baitfish activity triggers excellent rockfish, trout, and puppy drum action into late fall.

Winter (December – March)

Slowest season but hardy anglers can still catch striped bass, catfish, white perch and other cold water species.

Spring through fall provides the most consistent fishing in the Chesapeake, with late spring rockfish runs a major highlight. But don’t overlook cold weather fishing which can also be rewarding.

Top Fishing Spots in the Virginia Chesapeake Bay

Next let’s break down top fishing spots and techniques in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay going from north to south:

The Potomac River

Where the Potomac River enters the bay provides outstanding fishing opportunities. Anglers target striped bass in early spring as they migrate upriver to spawn. In summer, fish the river mouth and nearby structure for bluefish, Spanish mackerel, croaker, trout, and more.

Target Fish: Striped bass, bluefish, croaker, trout

Techniques: Light tackle, trolling plugs and spoons, bait fishing

Access Points: Point Lookout State Park, Colonial Beach

Smith Point Light

The rocky structure and pilings around the historic Smith Point Light near the Potomac attracts all species and provides good fishing from shore or small boats. Striped bass, trout, puppy drum patrol the area all season.

Target Fish: Striped bass, speckled trout, puppy drum

Techniques: Casting plugs, jigs, spoons around structure

Access Points: Smith Point Marina, public pier

Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds

Protected waters between the mainland and Virginia’s Eastern Shore, these sounds harbor abundant speckled trout, puppy drum, croaker, and flounder. Wade or boat fish sandy points, grass flats, and creek mouths.

Target Fish: Speckled trout, puppy drum, croaker, flounder

Techniques: Light tackle, topwaters, soft plastics, bait fishing

Access Points: Public landings, kayak launches

Concrete Ships at Kiptopeke

Sunken concrete ships at the Kiptopeke State Park pier provide great structure to catch tautog, sheepshead, puppy drum, striped bass and more. Fish from pier or hire charter.

Target Fish: Tautog, sheepshead, striped bass, drum

Techniques: Bottom fishing with bait and heavier tackle around wrecks

Access Points: Kiptopeke State Park Pier

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT)

This impressive 17.6 mile bridge-tunnel complex connects Virginia’s mainland to the Eastern Shore and holds massive rockfish, sheepshead, trout, and more around its pilings and tubes.

Target Fish: Striped bass, sheepshead, speckled trout, tautog

Techniques: Working bait or lures around bridge pilings

Access Points: Public fishing pier, hire charter boat

Cape Charles

The marshy Eastern Shore around Cape Charles provides protected backwaters to target speckled trout, puppy drum, and flounder. Fish creek mouths and grassy points of the bays and coves.

Target Fish: Speckled trout, puppy drum, flounder

Techniques: Wade fishing, kayaks, small skiffs. Topwaters and soft plastics.

Access Points: Public marina and boat ramp in Cape Charles

Elizabeth River

The protected and urban Elizabeth River near Norfolk attracts fish to its industrial structure like docks, jetties, and bridges. Largemouth bass, striped bass, speckled trout, panfish present.

Target Fish: Largemouth bass, striped bass, speckled trout

Techniques: Casting plugs, spoons, spinners around urban structure

Access Points: Public landings, parks in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth

Best Baits and Lures for Chesapeake Bay

Always pack these proven lures and baits:

  • Bucktails and spoons – Cast or troll for rockfish, blues, trout
  • Swimbaits on jigheads – Imitate baitfish for all predators
  • Walk-the-dog style plugs – Topwaters exciting rockfish and blues
  • Metal lip plugs – Cover water to find striped bass
  • Soft plastic shrimp and paddle tails – Specks, redfish love these
  • Cut bait – Use bunker, menhaden, peeler crab for many fish
  • Circle hooks, fish finder rigs – Essential for bottom fishing bait
  • Fly rod – Poppers, shrimp and baitfish patterns for variety

Adjust colors and styles based on water clarity and baitfish activity. Always pack extra terminal tackle like leaders, snaps, and swivels which take a beating in the saltwater environment.

Fishing Regulations in Virginia Chesapeake Bay

Know the laws before dropping a line:

  • Saltwater fishing license required for ages 16+
  • Striped bass – 2 fish per day between 20″-36″. Slot limit applies in the bay from May 16-June 15
  • Know seasonal closures, size and creel limits for regulated species
  • Circle hooks required when chumming or using bait for striped bass
  • Report tagged rockfish catches for population monitoring
  • Be ethical – don’t keep more than you’ll use and practice catch and release when possible

Full fishing regulations for Chesapeake Bay are available on the Comprehensive Guide about Fishing Licenses in Virginia.

When to Visit the Chesapeake Bay

The fishing action on the Chesapeake Bay varies by season:

Spring – Striped bass runs and spawning peak in April through early May. Good trout action early in shallows.

Early Summer – Warming waters bring blues, mackerel, croaker. Grass shrimp appear.

Late Summer – Scorching temps push fish deep – bridge structures produce.

Fall – Rockfish feed aggressively before winter along with trout and puppy drum in the shallows. Excellent time to visit.

Winter – Slowest but faithful anglers catch striped bass, white perch and catfish.

Fishing Charters on the Virginia Chesapeake

If you don’t have a boat, hire a guide! Top charter captains include:

Upper Bay Charters

  • Based in: Northern Neck
  • Target Species: Rockfish, trout, croaker, catfish
  • What They Offer: Half-day and full-day charters from their 24′ boat

Buzzard Island Charters

  • Based in: Deltaville
  • Target Species: Redfish, flounder, cobia, trout
  • What They Offer: Light tackle fishing in Middle Bay

Bay Fly Fishing Charters

  • Based in: Gloucester Point
  • Target Species: Striped bass, speckled trout, puppy drum
  • What They Offer: Flats and light tackle charters specializing in fly fishing

Dockside Charters

  • Based in: Hampton
  • Target Species: Rockfish, sheepshead, tautog, trout, cobia
  • What They Offer: Bay and pier trips from Hampton and Poquoson

Long Bay Pointe Charters

  • Based in: Virginia Beach
  • Target Species: Cobia, sheepshead, tautog, rockfish, spadefish
  • What They Offer: Half-day charters from Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach

Along with outstanding fishing, these captains provide gear, local knowledge, and their collection of proven fishing spots around the lower Chesapeake Bay region.

Top Fishing Piers and Shore Access

Many excellent fishing piers and public water access points allow shoreline fishing along the Virginia Chesapeake Bay:

  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Fishing Pier
  • York River Fishing Pier
  • Norfolk Fishing Pier at Ocean View
  • Willoughby Public Beach Pier
  • Point Lookout Fishing Pier and Park
  • Rudee Inlet Jetty in Virginia Beach
  • Kiptopeke Fishing Pier
  • Gloucester Point Fishing Pier -numerous small public landings in the Middle Bay
  • Community beaches and parks in Hampton, Poquoson
  • Piers at commercial harbors like Reedville

Search for local fishing piers, parks, and beaches when visiting different Chesapeake Bay towns and cities. Pack light spinning tackle and bring a variety of rigs and baits to adapt to species and conditions.

Kayak Fishing the Chesapeake Bay

Kayak fishing is a popular way to access the Virginia Chesapeake Bay. The protected rivers and sounds are ideal for kayaks while the open bay requires more experience and proper safety gear like a VHF radio.

Some top kayak spots include:

  • Marshy creeks and flats behind Tangier and Smith Islands
  • Tidal rivers like the Severn, Ware, East, and North near Mobjack Bay
  • Back Bay along the coastal barrier islands
  • Queen Sound and King’s Creek off Cape Charles
  • Little Wicomico River near Reedville
  • Beach fronts along the Eastern Shore
  • Coastal inlets like Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach

Check tide charts and wind conditions carefully before planning kayak trips. Many bait and tackle shops rent kayaks and offer guided kayak fishing trips on the bay.

Top Chesapeake Bay Marinas and Ramps

Here are some of the popular marinas and public boat ramps to access fishing grounds:

Northern Neck

  • Ingram Bay Marina
  • Chesapeake Bait and Tackle Wet Slips
  • Fairview Beach Ramp

Middle Bay

  • Yopps Cove Marina
  • Regent Point Marina
  • Gwynn’s Island Public Ramp

Hampton Roads

  • York River Yacht Haven
  • Salt Ponds Marina
  • Willoughby Public Ramp

Virginia Beach

  • Lynnhaven Boat Ramp
  • Little Creek Marina
  • Pretty Lake Ramp

Eastern Shore

  • Cape Charles Harbor Marina
  • Kiptopeke State Park Ramp
  • Oyster Harbor Ramp

Search for additional launch ramps, harbors, and marinas along your section of the bay to access deeper waters.

Top Baits and Tackle Shops

Local bait and tackle shops offer insights on productive lures, live bait options, and updated fishing reports. Some of the top spots near the bay include:

  • Chesapeake Bait and Tackle – Mathews
  • Buzzard’s Roost Bait and Tackle – Deltaville
  • Big Willy’s Bait and Tackle – Hampton
  • Long Bay Pointe Marina and Bait & Tackle – Virginia Beach
  • Broadwater Bait & Tackle – Cape Charles
  • Horn Harbor House Bait & Tackle – Burgess

There are too many great local shops to list them all! Search for bait and tackle options near your destination to plan a successful fishing trip.

Hotels and Lodging on the Bay

Some good lodging options near Virginia Chesapeake Bay fishing access:

Northern Neck

  • Tides Inn Resort
  • Blue Heron Inn Bed & Breakfast
  • Comfort Inn Gloucester near York River

Middle Bay

  • Point Plaza Suites & Marina Hotel
  • Holiday Inn Express Kilmarnock
  • Queens Lake Guesthouse B&B

Virginia Beach Area

  • Four Sails Inn
  • Holiday Inn & Suites Virginia Beach North
  • First Landing State Park Cabins

Eastern Shore

  • Bay Creek Inn
  • Town of Cape Charles Cottages
  • Island House Bed & Breakfast

Check hotel booking sites for additional lodging options near your chosen destination. Campgrounds are another affordable option for overnight stays near the bay.

Plan Your Trip to the Chesapeake

The Virginia waters of the massive Chesapeake Bay offer world-class fishing for anglers of all interests and skill levels.

Use this guide to help plan the perfect Chesapeake Bay fishing adventure. Do some additional research on conditions, seasonal patterns, and fishing reports for your target species.

From protected backwaters to wide open waters, few destinations can compete with the Chesapeake’s diversity of fishing opportunities. Load up your tackle and get ready for outstanding action on your next bay fishing expedition! Let us know how you do when you hit the water.

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