Virginia Fishing Reports – April 2008
The lastest Northern Neck Chesapeake Bay Saltwater Fishing news and advice from Capt Rick Lockart plus Missy Fike's Freshwater Fishing Report for the Neck and Northern Virginia. Also available are the archived reports back to 2006 for those wishing to track or review trends.
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Virginia Saltwater Fishing Reports
By Captain Rick Lockart
April is the beginning of Virginia’s true fishing season. True, it can be a bust, but rarely is that the case. For those of us who think it a bust, we are probably expecting too much.
For the striped bass, April is a time of relaxation. That is at least the case of the recreational fishermen, for all we can do is catch and release, and for most of us there is no fun in that. So we look to other species to entertain us through the month of April, and the arrival of most of those other species is dependent upon water temperature. At best, the water temps are tolerable at the first of the month.
April Fools is exactly that to most sport fishermen; however, as the day’s increasing sunshine becomes more direct, the days get warmer and so does the water. This is especially true in the shallows of the Bay and its tributaries. The target temperature seems to be near or at 55 degrees. At this magic temperature, croakers seem to suddenly appear. Though they were here much earlier, we just couldn’t catch them. Flounder and spotted trout make an appearance in the Lower Bay, and tautog have been around structure in increasing numbers since the middle or so of March.
For the Middle Bay, early April is a time to get your boat ready for the start of Maryland’s trophy rockfish season. This, of course, doesn’t lend itself to many of Virginia’s recreational fishermen, and numbers could be down significantly if gasoline prices continue to climb.
For many, the bulk of April’s fishing will be far up the tributaries of the James, the Pamunkey, the Mappaponi, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac Rivers where the anadromous species of yellow perch, white perch, herring, and hickory shad will entice many an early season fishermen. White shad will continue to be a catch and release species. More can be found on this in the freshwater fishing report.
Virginia continues to come under the scrutiny of ASMFC with regards to flounder. The keeper size of this fish is 19”, with 5 as the possession limit. The Eastern Shore is a Jekyll and Hyde situation when it comes to this fish. The Bay side of the peninsula seems to score far more frequently with the larger fish than the ocean side. However, the ocean side is so beautiful that it calls many regardless of the decreased chances of success. Besides, when it comes to water, that scenario can change in a heartbeat. Capt.s Mike Handforth (757-894-0166) and Charlie Koski (757-336-3528) will get an early start searching for these delectable fish on the ocean side. Capt.s Dale Ballard (757-678-7717), Neil Lessard (757-678-0966), and Michael Quade (804-694-9052) will be fishing in the Bay out of Cape Charles. There is an outside chance (again, depending upon water temperatures) that black drum will make a showing before the 1st of May.
Capt.s Jim Brincefield (252-336-4296) and Steve Wray (757-481-7517) will continue to deep drop the offshore wrecks for blueline tilefish, black sea bass, and snowy grouper. Jim told me that he has had several pollack catches this winter and, of course, there are the spiny dogfish. Expect the sea bass to start moving onto the shelf waters as the water temperature improves. Capt. Kenny George (757-548-6991) will be fishing for flounder and tautog.
Capt. Chandler Hogg (757-876-1590) will be deep dropping to blueline tilefish, black Seabass, and snowy grouper. Capt. Jerry Olson (757-288-1081) will fish for tautog, croaker, black sea bass, and black drum. The sea bass, croaker, and drum will be late in the month
Middle Peninsula Capt.s Bill Bailey (804-314-0835), Don Bannister (804-776-0629), and Carlisle Bannister (804-402-9830) will trek across the Bay to hunt for flounder, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Virginia’s trophy striper season that begins May 1st.
Capt.s Danny Crabbe (804-453-0908), Jim Deibler (804-580-7744), Ferrell McLain (888-229-3474), Billy Pipkin (804-580-0401), and Ryan Rogers (804-453-5812) all have Maryland guide licenses and will be fishing the Maryland trophy season for striped bass that begins April 19th. Again, Virginia’s season does not begin until the first of May.
April is not the first month of 2008 that has seen recreational fishing. It is, however, a month that will bring new fishing excitement for many back into their lives. The shows and seminars are over. It’s time to put what has been learned to the test. Let us all hope that the price of gas will not skyrocket to the point of dampening our enthusiasm.
Virginia Freshwater Fishing Report
By Missy Fike
April is a good month for fishing. The water temps are warming up and so is the fishing!
Ken’s Tackle Shop (540-898-1011) reported that white perch will be biting on the Rappahannock River and the creeks feeding into the river using night crawlers and small spinners or jigs. Large mouth bass should continue biting on the Rappahannock River and creeks. Bass should start to move towards the shallows and brush to prepare for spawning.
Taylor’s Grocery (540-659-2347) reports that crappie will continue hitting well on plastic jigs and small minnows in Aquia Creek. Early to mid April the shad and herring will be running. Large mouth bass will continue biting on artificials and minnows in the creeks and in ponds.
RW’s (804-529-5634) reports that bass should be responding well to spinner baits and crappie should respond well to beetle spins or small minnows.
Hellem’s & Son Supply (540-967-2364) reports that April is a really good month at Lake Anna. The crappie will be biting well at the bridge columns and beaver huts on small minnows and jigs. The bass will be biting well on the points of the lakes on just about everything from worms, lures, jigs, spinners and plastics. The stripper will be at the upper end of the lake and will respond herring and gizzard shad. The catfish will be all over the lake and they respond well to cut bait and worms.
Surfside Bait and Tackle (804-730-2238) on the James River reported that croaker will start on the York River first and can be caught using squid. White perch will be biting well using bloodworms. Shad and herring will be biting well mid April on sabiki rigs and shad darts. The largemouth bass should start to spawn and will be moved into the shallows. Some really big largemouth can be caught during the spring months. The blue catfish will still be biting well. Once the shad and herring start to run then anglers will have them to use as cut bait for the blues. Cut bait works very well on the blue catfish.
Mike at Riverside Camp Grounds (804-966-5536) on the Chickahominy reports the herring run will be in. Largemouth bass will be biting well on spinner baits. They like structures like duck blinds, cypress roots and brush piles. As the vegetation starts to grow in the river the largemouth bass will move to the lily pads and grass beds to hide. Anglers will have better success if they begin using artificial worms when the largemouth move to hide in the vegetation. The bream and bluegill will be picking up really well once the water temps warm. Catfish will continue hitting on cut bait, eels and large minnows.
In the Virginia Beach area waters the bass will be hitting well on spinner baits, jigs and plastics. The crappie will be responding well to small minnows and small jigs. They can be caught in ponds or reservoirs.
Rusty from Buggs Island Bait and Tackle (434-374-8934) reports that largemouth bass will be moving to the shallows for their pre-spawn stage. They will be biting well on spinner baits, plastic worms and grubs. The crappie will be spawning will be in the shallows on brush piles. They may respond to small minnows. The catfish will pick up at the head of the lake on cut bait or herring. Striper will be heading up river to spawn and live shad or Red Fin lures work well for them.
Marvin from The Tackle Box (434-239-1710) at Smith Mountain Lake reported the largemouth bass in depths of 10’ – 12’ and is biting well on jigs, Hopkins spoons, jerk baits and deep diving crank baits. The bass will be in pre-spawn and some will be spawning. When the water temps get to 50 degrees then a lot will move onto their beds. The crappie will begin to move into the shallows and prepare for spawning. They spawn when the dogwoods are in bloom. Stripers will be moving towards to the rivers to start their travel up river to spawn. And will be biting well on Hopkins spoons, lead heads with flukes and crank or jerk baits. White perch will be schooling and biting well on grubs, live bait or small Hopkins spoons.