Isn’t this a great close-up of a dolphin (Mahi Mahi)? It was sent to us by Capt. Bill Pappas Jr. of Playin Hookey Charters.

It’s nice to see people trying different approaches other than the standard “hold your fish up in front of you” photograph.

Fish such as dolphin, speckled trout, puppy drum and others all offer creative opportunities.

And there will be plenty of wonderful chances to document fishing trips in the next month or so, as this time of year is one of the favorites for many, many anglers.

This can be a hyper-exciting time for the area’s legion of inshore fishermen and women.

Speckled trout, puppy drum, spot, croaker, flounder and striped bass all can keep ‘ya busy for as long as you want.

Let’s jump right into the forecast:

SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA

Speckled trout are the main target in the fall, and after a great summer of action, things could really be good.

Anglers are finding specks in a variety of locations that include the York, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers; the Poquoson Flats; most Eastern Shore bayside creeks and around Oyster; all three Southside inlets; and along southern beaches.

Shrimp are starting to show in better numbers and it’s hard to beat a live one under a popping cork. Topwater action has shown to be a lot better than in recent years. And those favorite plugs and jigs with plastic trailers are standard go-to baits.

Puppy drum will be found in just about all of the same areas and also love shrimp. They love fresh cut bait on or near the bottom, too. Freshwater spinnerbaits worked slowly along rocky bottoms will bring fish to the boat as well.

Reports are coming in that were is some pretty good spot action around Ocean View and from the pier. That means they’re also in Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets.

Some croaker are being taken from around rock jetties and Little Creek and Rudee inlets, and along the beach at Ocean View.

Striped bass are now in season, but make sure you are up on the new rules – one fish that measures between 20 and 36 inches per angler per day in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and one fish that measures between 28 and 26 inches per angler per day along the coast inside three miles.

Look for school-sized striper all along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, especially at night, and around most piers and jetties that have lights. Find birds working in open water and chances are good you also will find rockfish.

Tautog action is getting better and will continue to do so as winter approaches. Look for fish along the CBBT and at numerous inshore and coastal wrecks and artificial reefs.

Flounder are moving to deeper waters and will be picked up by those targeting tog.

Anglers venturing offshore are finding options to be more limited these days, as most species are migrating south.

Swordfishing has been both good and challenging.

Deep-droppers are finding plenty of tilefish, but recreational anglers now must have a NOAA Fisheries Highly Migratory Species permit for both blue line and golden.

Since when were tilefish highly migratory species? Asking for a friend who doesn’t get it.

NORTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA

While bluewater trollers will continue to find blackfin and yellowfin tuna, wahoo and dolphin, the emphasis this time of year is on the beach.

The North Carolina Outer Banks offer some of the best fall surf fishing in the world and tournaments are starting to gear up.

Big red drum are the most sought after species, but most tournaments are won with stuff like bluefish, speckled trout, puppy drum and a smaller mixed bag.

Pier anglers also will find lots of outstanding action for all the same species.

Many of the same fish also are being taken in Oregon, Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets.

In the sounds, speckled trout and puppy drum rule the waters, but there are plenty of small striped bass to be had.

FRESHWATER

Largemouth bass anglers love this time of year almost as much as they do the spring.

Bass are now on a mission to fatten up for the colder winter months and their eagerness to feed makes them easier targets.

Anglers are catching them in good numbers on all fronts – tidal systems, water supply lakes, neighborhood water retention ponds, private neighborhood ponds and farm ponds. Heck, if the ditch is full of water after a big storm, throw a lure in it. Who knows, right?

Crappie also are feeding in and around shallow shoreline cover for the same reason.

Bluegill and shellcracker are beginning a move to slightly deeper water, where they can be taken easily with small bottom rigs or split-shoting.

Catfish – especially big blues – can be found in most tidal systems, with the best being the Northwest, Chickahominy and James rivers. Don’t hesitate to fish for them in the drainage canal that runs from northern Currituck South to the southwest corner of Back Bay. They can be caught from the Knotts Island Causeway bridge, but fishing from a boat in the canal produces more fish.

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