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March 2024 Fishing Report


For the first time in a while, the fishing from the beginning of the month will be pretty different from the end.  March is the time of year when we see many of our target inshore species break out of their winter patterns and start responding to water temperatures that, in the bay, should cross over the 50-degree mark before the month is over.  We are closer to that number than usual now, and it appears that we’ve survived another year in Southeastern Virginia without a significant winter kill event.  On warm and sunny days, the backcountry water temperatures will be quite a bit warmer than that.  During the first part of March, keep your eyes on the outgoing tide, as fish will become more active as the water warms in the shallows.

This is also the month when we’ll see the first bull red drum showing up on the Eastern Shore and some of their other typical early-season haunts.  Flies and jigs in your cobia box work well if presented near the bottom.  As the water clarity dissipates, lure colors should follow along and get more vibrant.  As these fish travel in schools, subtlety is not necessary.  Anything that resembles food at the correct depth will get attacked. 

Some of the best sight fishing for puppy drum will occur this month when they can be found.  The spring transition can make it challenging to pattern fish, but taking advantage of low tides on sunny days will make them easier to find.  Some larger slot- and over-slot reds are already breaking away as singles. Rudee and Lynnhaven have active fish transitioning between shallow and deep water daily. There's been more movement in the inlets on the Western Shore of the Bay, and we should see that soon on the lower Shore, specifically Fisherman's Island. Ledges and oyster bars near deeper water will likely hold good fish in our local systems. Small soft plastics, such as the Lil' John (or Lil P&V) or the 3.5" jerk shadZ in natural colors, seem to be the trick.

Targeting those areas isn’t just for puppy drum, as speckled trout will be in those same holds.  While the number of pictures on Facebook and Instagram may have slowed, trout fishing in the Elizabeth River has not.  The warming water has led to some impressive catches and should only improve as spring progresses.  Traditional speck lures, baits, and flies will continue to work, but small topwaters (Heddon “Spook” or Berkeley “Walker” styles) need to get added into the mix this month if they haven’t been.  These should be thrown right up against grass lines and retrieved with a walk-the-dog presentation.  I am a big fan of the "bone" color for any of these, but reflective metal colors work very well on speckled trout.  I also suggest replacing trebles with in-line hooks, as the better mistake is to throw the lure into the grass on the bank rather than several feet from it.   

Our rockfish are on their way up to Richmond.  The shad have already arrived, and their numbers will get thicker daily through mid-April.  Fly anglers who have not fished this run should set aside time to experience it.  6 or 7 weight rods and sinking lines with heavier shad-dart style flies like the “wooly jigger” are productive with a medium-length, 12”-18” constant strip and the rod tip near or in the water.  Hickory shad are abundant, but when you catch an American Shad, let it go, as the population needs to be protected and restored. 

Finding the fish can be difficult during this transition time, but when you get on a pattern, they tend to be more interested in attacking lures than they have been during the winter.  Time out on the water is the key to predicting where they’ll be, so get out there and enjoy (or suffer through, depending on the day) the spring weather. Don’t forget the sunblock.      

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