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December Inshore Report

Christmas and the official start to winter are upon us, and that means a lot of changes for our shallow water fishery.  Locations that were reliable through the warmer part of the year now appear completely abandoned.   The bait that’s still in our backcountry have moved to muddy creeks, and our region is flush with these areas.  Any redfish that were planning on going south are now long gone, and residents are schooled up tightly.  If you can find a creek, muddy flat, and deeper water close together, you have a better chance of finding one of these schools, with their location usually dependent on the temperature trend and tide.  Lynnhaven, Rudee, both seaside and bayside on the Eastern Shore, and the western shore marshes all offer spots worth checking out.  These fish are holding tight to the bottom, so make sure the lure is moving slowly.  Lures need to be more subtle than at any other time of year.  Small Zman jerk shads, Mirrolure Lil’ Johns, and ned rigs are good options.  Flies should also become more subtle.  Leave the flash in the tying desk or cut/pluck it out and use the lightest weight that will still get down to the bottom to avoid spooking the fish on presentation.  The water clarity we enjoy during the winter means natural colors should take precedence over the purple and chartreuse options that help when we are competing against an abundance of bait in the water.

Speckled Trout tend to get the attention this time of year, and this fall has shown us several large fish with many local anglers joining the “Dirty 30” club.  The Elizabeth is no secret, but the Lafayette, James, York, Back, and Rappahannock Rivers, along with Mobjack Bay all hold specks of considerable size.  Depth is going to be dependent on relative temperature, and when it comes to trout, ledges are never a bad spot to spend considerable time exploring.  Slick Lures and Paul Brown “Devils” have been the go-to this year, but the Paul Brown “Fat Boy” and a wide variety of suspending crank baits work well.  Unseasonably warm weather on overcast or rainy days and first thing in the morning presents opportunities for topwater… this won’t lead to the most strikes, but the bites you do get won’t soon be forgotten.  That opportunity is there for fly anglers, as well, but if you intend to bring the buggy whip make sure you have a sinking line and swimming patterns.  Some of the rivers that are hotspots do still have an abundance of baitfish, so don’t be so quick to put away larger more brightly colored patterns. 

This time of year also brings up memories of unbeatable rockfishing for those of us with a few (or more) gray hairs these days.  Reports up the bay have been favorable, and the Rappahannock and Eastern Shore have been producing larger fish.  Deeper holes in marshes are seeing schoolie and “schoolie-plus” sized Striped Bass, and the folks keying in on deeper water have already started having success trolling for the big girls.  A simple paddletail on a jighead can work well and be an efficient way to get to the depth you’re looking for, as can jigging very large spoons.  If you’re lucky enough to find several in the backcountry, swimming a Mirrolure Lil’ John can produce fish, and fly anglers know that it’s nearly impossible to beat any variation of a Clouser Minnow when it comes to Stripers.  We’re currently in season on our rockfish, but the fishery has been beaten down for a number of reasons.  You don’t have to clean and cook a Jimmy John’s sandwich.  Strongly consider letting the striper go and just swing by a fast food joint on the way home. 

Bundle up and get out there!  We’re lucky enough to live in a 12-month fishery, so take advantage of that when you can!  

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