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The targeted species

Updated: May 19, 2022

These are the fish that we're likely to come across, and can specifically target throughout the year.

Inshore and backcountry fishing in the mid-Atlantic generally tends to target a few species that we will come across, so I figured I would put together a post where you can learn about all of them in one place.

Redfish - Red Drum, Spot-tail bass, Channel Bass, Redfish, Puppy Drum. Whatever you want to call them they are a very popular game fish, and it is easy to see why. They readily take bait, lures, or flies, and when they do - hold on tight. These fish are said to "have shoulders", and will pull hard enough to often make the drag on your reel sing as they take line. A redfish's diet includes worms, crustaceans, shrimp, and baitfish. During the cooler months, and to a lesser extent all year long, redfish can be sight-fished in very shallow water leading to some exciting and very memorable action. When we have large tides that flood the marsh area, they can sometimes be seen with their tails out of the water, showing the false-eye "spot" just forward of their caudal fin.

Spotted Sea Trout - Speckled Trout, or more commonly just "speck" these fish aren't actually trout, but in the drum family. Specks can be found throughout most of the year here in Virginia, but the fall fishing for them is simply incredible. Speckled trout are a great target in many of our estuaries, but they thrive on grassy flats. While this habitat isn't what it once was in the bay, there are still plenty of places like this, and where you are most likely to find the large "gator" trout that are a trophy for any angler.

Flounder - These flat fish wait on the bottom for it's prey to come by and then pounce. At certain times of the year flounder fishing can be fantastic in this area, and if the water is smooth enough in the Chesapeake Bay, we can fish for big "doormat" flounder near the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (considered the world's largest artificial fishing reef).

Bluefish - Blues are an aggressive species with sharp teeth that tend to school in the bay, and can have ravenous feeding frenzies at times. Chopper blues (the big boys) come into the shallows in the spring, and Taylor blues (smaller, "schoolie" bluefish) tend to gather around jetties and structure. Both will eagerly take a fly... and if we get into them, I'll be sure to have some wire leader available!

Striped Bass - At one point Virginia Beach was the best striper fishery in the world. Locals will talk about the amazing "rockfish" angling we used to have here. Those stories usually continue talking about monsters overflowing coolers. Some accuse overfishing of their primary food source (menhaden), some talk about how people came from all around and took too many big, old females, and some signs point to the health of the spawning tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. No matter what it is, our rockfish fishery is a shell of what it used to be. They can still be found, but they're an important part of our ecosystem, and need to be protected. If you'd like to target striped bass, I have to let you know in advance that you shouldn't plan on taking any home.

Black Drum and Sheepshead - Both of these are fun game fish and are certainly present in the water that we'll be targeting, but aren't primarily our targets. If we come across either of these, we'll take a shot, but it's likely that we'd only pursue these fish that look like escaped prisoners if you are looking to cross a species off your bucket list. King and Spanish Mackerel fall into the same category.

Tarpon - Shhhhhhh! The rumors are true. They come to visit Virginia for about 2 or 3 months in the summer. They are tough to find and aren't always where you expect them, but they do show up. This fishery is only for serious and skilled anglers - knock that up to "damn-near-professional" if you want to pursue them with a fly. This is not a numbers fishery. If you catch and land a tarpon in Virginia, it will win you a trophy fish citation from the state. There are only about 20-25 per year. The expectation on this trip should resemble looking at water for long, boring periods of time, and hoping to see a rolling fish at the right time and location with the tides. Catching a Virginia tarpon is a rarity, but I'm happy to chase them and do everything I can to put you on a fish and help you try to land it.

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