Hey, we all know what early spring weather can be like in our neck of the woods – 80 degrees one day, freeze advisories the next.

But the fish don’t seem to care either way.

On the unfishable days, take the time to get all your gear in top working order.

Angling opportunities on all fronts are doing nothing but heating up.

Nowhere is that more true than the freshwater scene.

Crappie are being caught in good numbers anywhere you can find them, and largemouth bass have started to work shorelines for food and a place to spawn. Bluegill are starting to migrate out of the depths and catfishing has been fantastic. While not many take part in this special spring fishery, the shad have started running on many tidal river systems.

And, yes, the catching has been pretty darned good on the saltwater scene as well.

So let’s get to it:


The best opportunity is currently being provided by red drum, especially juveniles known as puppy drum. All three southside inlets and portions of the Elizabeth River are holding plenty of fish. The water is still a little cold for most of them to hit artificial lures, so turn to fresh cut bait if that’s the case. And there are few things more fun that doing battle with a drum on light tackle.

Larger red drum are being caught down south and should be showing along the coast and over the shoals at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and in Eastern Shore barrier island breakers any time now.

Black drum also are on the move and a few have been caught. The first ones are usually hooked in Eastern Shore seaside inlets.

Anglers fishing for drum will be the first to score with sheepshead when they arrive soon.

Flounder are being caught in Eastern Shore barrier island backwaters and more should start showing inside the bay very soon.

It’s about time for decent-sized bluefish to show along the coast and in Rudee Inlet.

Speckled trout also are available in good numbers, thanks to an overall mild winter.

Some croaker will start to bite soon and area pier anglers will be the first hook-and-liners to encounter them.

On that note, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission on April 15 will enact new regulations for croaker and spot – setting a bag limit of 50 fish per angler per day. Seems crazy, ’cause that’s an awful lot of fish.

There are plenty of striped bass cooperating throughout the area, but that fishery is closed until next month. So enjoy some catch-and-release action.

Other seasons that will open next month are seabass, blueline tilefish and cobia.


Yellowfin tuna in the 20- to 50-pound class continue to provide excellent action for the offshore fleet out of both inlets. And the good news – knock on wood – is that the sharks haven’t caught wind of the action just yet.

Other bluewater species are on the way.

Closer to the coast, and from Outer Banks beaches, big red drum have been putting on a good show. More and more fish are heading this way and will soon be joined by cobia.

Lots of small stuff will be heating up the surf casting scene in the coming days.

Some big shark have been beached by surf casters.

Look for bluefish to start showing at any time.


Nobody loves crappie fishing more than this guy and now is one of the best times in the world to fish for these beautiful and tasty panfish. And right now, some of them are going to require a pretty big pan. Fish are working the shallows for probably one last spawn. Look for them especially around shoreline cover, including docks and fallen timber.

Plan on hooking into a few largemouth bass while you’re searching for crappie, which will make for a great time on that light tackle you should be using.

Anglers targeting bass will find them roaming the shorelines, feeding as they prepare to set up beds for spawning. This is the time to find some really big fish, since the females will be fat with roe.

Lots of blue catfish are being taken on tidal rivers, especially the James, Chickahominy and Northwest. With salinity levels low where brackish or freshwaters meet saltier water, you’ll also find blue cats. Many anglers are catching them from the pier next to the northern portion of the James River Bridge.

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