Chesapeake Bay Fishing Forecast: Spring 2020

I hope that you, your family and friends are doing well in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Virginia will allow reopening of the fishing charter industry on May 15th, and Bay Fly Fishing, LLC will be taking steps to ensure the health of its clients.

I am very optimistic about the 2020 guide season on Virginia’s Middle Peninsula. After several sub-par years of shallow water fishing, all signs point to excellent fishing this season. The skinny-water mixed-bag of striped bass, speckled trout, redfish, and Spanish mackerel should be in full force!

Hopefully, we are rounding the corner in striped bass management with Virginia taking a leadership role in conservation of the species. These rockfish have been the mainstay of my guide business over the last 20yrs and have accounted for innumerable smiling clients. During the warmer months from mid-May through early November, schoolie striper reside in the skinny water of the Middle Peninsula. Water of 2 to 6ft is where most biodiversity and abundance of marine life can be found during the warm half of the year; this is the reason gamefish such as striped bass seek out the shallows to feed on a variety of forage. You can bet my fingers will be “duct taped” from the countless fish brought to hand!

Speckled trout numbers have been rebuilding in the region with 3 consecutive above-average spawns. The majority of these fish migrated south each winter to replenish the population that resides in North Carolina. Aided by the lack of a cold snap this winter, the speckled trout stock should be at a point where the population range expands thus pushing more specks northward into the Chesapeake Bay. Last year produced short runs of excellent speckled trout fishing on the Middle Peninsula in spring and fall, but most speckled trout moved up the bay to Tangier Sound where they settled for most of the season. With greater overall abundance of speckled trout in the Chesapeake watershed for 2020, the specks will be spread throughout the system; this should translate into consistent speckled trout action on the Middle Peninsula from late May through early November.

Redfish are a boom or bust shallow water fishery on the Chesapeake. We haven’t seen an excellent year of skinny water reds in over 5yrs. A tremendous number for adult red drum resided in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast all of last summer, so my fingers are crossed that these drum had a prolific spawn which occurs in late summer. Young-of-the-year fingerlings made it through winter easily without a cold weather kill. By late spring, these juveniles will be close to 12” with some reaching 20” by late fall. In the mix with the puppy drum will be fewer but larger specimens up to 28 inches. Structure in deeper water will provide shots at adult red drum over 32 inches. Historically, late summer and early fall are prime for redfish of all sizes.

A surprise in the skinny water the last couple seasons has been Spanish mackerel. One theory for the abundance of Spanish is the lengthening of the warm season; Chesapeake Bay water temperatures are documented to be hotter for more months than in the past. This results in conditions that facilitate a northward shift in the range of Spanish macks. I expect these high-skying rockets to be of greatest abundance on the Middle Peninsula from late June through August.

Please keep in mind that I stay booked everyday during the fishing season. With excellent shallow water fishing on the horizon, I decided to sell my tower boat and will not be offering cobia charters this year. I want to assure everyone that deposits will be refunded in the event your charter is cancelled due to the pandemic, so please do not hesitate to schedule a fun day on the bay!