Relentless cold fronts and winter storms continue to make saltwater fishing expeditions erratic. Many folks have simply given up, hoping that the spring will hold better options.
Ocean striped bass are basically non-existent, with the fish so far off the coast that no legally fishing boats will encounter the schools of rockfish until they return to the Bay to spawn in the early spring.
Speckled trout are still receiving some attention. Although the speck action is not hot, some decent catches are still coming from the Elizabeth River, with the cove area a favorite. For those putting in their time, some fish to over six-pounds are rewarding anglers for their efforts, mostly in the river sections of the Elizabeth. Anglers using live bait in the cove are also still scoring with some catches averaging to around 20-inches. The occasional puppy drum adds variety in these same locations, with some pups stretching to around 23-inches this week coming from the deeper water near the Marine Science Museum in Rudee Inlet.
Although interest is low, some keeper tautog are available on some coastal wrecks as well as deeper structures off the Virginia coastline. With the tog limit set at a modest three fish per anger at a minimum of 16-inches, most folks are reluctant to brave the cold and elements at these odds. Crabs work well for bait, but with crabs scarce this time of year, folks are turning to alternative baits such as clams, mussels and green crabs. Some big fish are historically caught in March, but none have been reported recently from local waters.
When weather is stable enough to get to deeper water, those who are willing to venture out can expect decent blueline tilefish opportunities along the 50-fathom curve, although weeding though pesky dogfish is making productive catches a challenge. Jumbo seabass are also biting in these areas, but they are illegal to keep right now. Closer to the Canyon’s edge, other deepwater species are active, such as golden tilefish, blackbellied rosefish, and a variety of big grouper.