For most people, Virginia Beach means sand, sun, sea, and surfing. “Resort City” is one of the East Coast’s top vacation spots, with almost 20 million visitors each year. What many of them don’t realize is that Virginia Beach fishing is out of this world. Huge Cobia, doormat Flounder, monster Marlin – the city’s surrounded by fish.
In this article, we’ll break down the ins and outs of fishing in Virginia Beach. Learn about the area’s top game fish. Find out where to catch them, and how to do it. You can also get info on local fishing tournaments, regulations, and much, much more. It’s your complete guide to wetting a line in VA Beach.
What Makes Virginia Beach Special?
You may be thinking, “There are a lot of places to go fishing on the East Coast, what makes Virginia Beach special?” Well, quite a lot, actually.
For starters, it sits on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the country’s largest and most important inshore fishery. The bay is most famous for producing 80–90% of the world’s Striped Bass. That’s just one of hundreds of fish that you can find here, all of which swim within kayaking distance of downtown VA beach as they migrate in and out of the bay.
Virginia Beach is also the meeting place of the Eastern Seaboard. It’s where warm water fish like Redfish and Cobia meet northern species like Tautog and Stripers. An incredible variety of game fish visit over the course of the year. In fact, it seems like fish enjoy vacationing here as much as people do.
Lastly, there’s Virginia Beach’s deep sea scene. Long ago, ancient rivers cut scars into the edge of the continental shelf. These underwater canyons are now the hunting ground of huge Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish, and Sharks. Closer to town, Mahi Mahi and Sailfish patrol structure that also holds huge Seabass, Tilefish, and Grouper. In short, VA Beach has it all.
Top Fish Species in Virginia Beach
You have so many options here that it can be tough to know where to start. Even limiting yourself to the shallows, you have a dozen game fish to choose between. Head father out, and a whole new cast of characters will take your baits. Then there’s the city’s freshwater bite. To keep things simple, here are a few species that you absolutely have to target while you’re in town.
Striped Bass are the superstars of the Virginia Beach winter fishing scene. When most species move south, big “Rockfish” come out of the Chesapeake Bay and line the coast all around town. These are the real trophies, with 40 or even 50 lb fish among them. Enough to warm you up on a cold winter’s morning.
Sadly, Striped Bass numbers have taken a beating over the years. Because of this, Virginia canceled its trophy Striper season in 2019. The good news is that you can still catch as many fish as you like. You just need to release the big ones. Sounds like a small price to pay for protecting these awesome fighters.
If there’s one day that’s locked into the Virginia Beach calendar, it’s the Cobia opener. As soon as June rolls around, everybody with a boat or a kayak heads out for a slice of the action. Cobia offer plenty of that. Even small “rats” put up a decent fight. Bigger fish will pull you clean out of the boat if you’re not careful.
Cobia go hand in hand with another, less exciting catch: Rays. If you hook a Ray, get a second line in the water quick – chances are there’s a Cobia nearby. They hide in the Ray’s shadow to sneak up on prey. It almost makes up for all the broken lines and lost lures from Rays stuck to the seafloor.
Flounder are the perfect species for family fishing trips. They put up a fun fight but are still easy enough to catch. They get pretty big without being too much to handle. What’s more, they’re delicious. No wonder they’re one of the most popular inshore targets in Virginia Beach!
The largest and most common Flounder species in Virginia Beach is Summer Flounder. Also known as Fluke, these guys can reach five pounds easy – more than enough for a fishy feast. Despite their name, the best time to catch Summer Flounder is actually the fall. This is when the big “doormat” Flounder take to the shallows.
Looking for a low-effort way to maximize your catch on your fishing trip. Drop a pot at the start of the day, then check it whenever you get a moment. By the time you’re done fishing, you’ll have a bushel of delicious Blue Crab to add to your haul. You can even use couple as bait for big Redfish to work your way up the food chain.
The best part about crabbing in Virginia Beach is how darned good Blue Crab taste. The second best part is that you don’t need a license. You can drop a pot and haul in enough Crab for a shellfish feast absolutely license-free. This makes it the ideal backup in case you get skunked with the fishing itself.
“What about Virginia Beach’s deep sea fishing?” You ask. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten the bluewaters. If anything, we saved the best for last. The Tuna fishing Virginia Beach has access to is out of this world. The seas offshore are home to several species of big, tasty Tuna. They’re around all summer and even into the fall.
The main target on Tuna trips is Yellowfin. These guys are every bit as wild as they look. They grow big, fight hard, and taste fantastic. You can also catch Bluefin, Bigeye, and Albacore Tuna out of VA Beach. Bluefin and Bigeye stocks aren’t doing too well, so we’d recommend releasing them if possible. Luckily, Yellowfin and Albacore are both as plentiful as they are delicious.
The ambitious anglers among you may already have Marlin in your sights. If you’re one of them, Virginia Beach has a serious treat in store for you. Both Blue and White Marlin roam the remote waters around the canyons. Blues over 500 pounds are caught here each year, and even the Whites hit triple digits every so often.
The stars of the show are the Marlin, but you can combine them with a bunch of other species. Think fresh Swordfish steaks or a freezer full of Mahi Mahi and Wahoo. And don’t forget the Tuna. Whatever you do, you’re unlikely to head home empty-handed. That’s lucky, because nothing builds up an appetite like wrestling monster Marlin.
How to Fish around Virginia Beach
So you know the what of Virginia Beach fishing. Now it’s time for the how. The main ways people fish around here are from shore and aboard fishing charters. You can also split the difference and head out on a kayak. Here’s a short summary of the pros and cons of each style of fishing.
If you’ve got the gear, shore fishing can be a productive way to catch fish on a budget. Spend a few hours relaxing on the beach with the family and head home with some fresh fillets to show for it. Chances are you won’t land any monsters. But if you’re not in a hurry and just want to catch some fish, this is an easy way to do it.
That’s not to say that the bite’s bad. You can catch some amazing fish from shore in Virginia Beach. Cast into the surf for Sharks and Drum. Fish around pilings and bridges for Croaker and Flounder. Head to a fishing pier, and you can find Spanish Mackerel, Sheepshead, and even Cobia. Don’t forget your Crab pots if you’re pier fishing.
On a Kayak or Paddle Board
Fishing on a kayak or a paddle board opens up a whole range of spots that you just can’t hit from shore. It also lets you escape the crowds when the beach gets busy. Renting kayaks and paddle boards is easy in Virginia Beach. If you’re not sure which one you should use, don’t worry. We’ve got a whole article on paddle boards vs kayaks.
So what can you catch? For starters, all the species you’d find fishing from shore. The difference is that you can get out to where the big fish live. On top of that, you’ll also find Spadefish, Stripers, Cobia, and much more around deeper pilings and islands. If you’re skilled enough, you can even venture out in search of bottom fish like Seabass and Tautog.
On a Boat
Fishing on a boat is the absolute best way to catch big fish. It’s as simple as that. You can reach remote spots, follow the fish, and use a wider range of techniques to catch them. And of course, you’ll have Virginia Beach’s full range of species in your sights. If you don’t own a boat, you have two main options besides piracy: private fishing charters or shared party boats.
Private charters give you the most flexibility and the biggest catch. The captain will take you to the best spots around and will be on hand to help you throughout the trip. You’ll also get quality tackle and bait to fish with. On party boats, you’ll be given a rod and bait but less help from the crew. They’re a good budget option, though, and can actually be cheaper than renting a kayak.
Virginia Beach Fishing Spots
There are several main fishing areas around Virginia Beach. Some can be fished from shore or easily reached in a kayak. Others require a boat, and sometimes several hours of travel time. We’re not going to ruin anybody’s secret honey holes by posting them online. Instead, here’s a list of the most popular spots in VA Beach and what you can catch there.
Shore Fishing Spots
- Rudee Inlet: A classic shore fishing spot just a stone’s throw from many Oceanfront hotels. It can get pretty crowded, but it’s still a good place to fish. Cast from the rocks banking the inlet for Flounder, Spot, Croaker, and Drum.
- Chic’s Beach: Chic Beach has something for every angler. Enjoy some of the best surf fishing in Virginia Beach. Cast around the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Either way, expect Sharks, Rays, Drum, Trout, and much more.
- Fishing Piers: Spanish Mackerel, Red and Black Drum, and even Cobia show up around the piers. Virginia Beach Fishing Pier is the most convenient. Farther away, Sandbridge Pier has just as many fish with fewer people.
Kayak Fishing Spots
- Lynnhaven Bay: These sprawling marshes are just a short hop from town, but they feel a million miles away. They hold Flounder, Speckled Trout, and “Puppy” Drum. Fish the bay itself or work the pilings around Lesner Bridge in the inlet.
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge: The bridge is fun from shore, but it’s even better from a kayak. As well as your full range of inshore species, experienced ‘yakers can fish deeper spots for Spadefish, Cobia, Sheepshead, Stripers, and more.
- Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Looking for some freshwater fun? These sheltered waters hold everything from Bluegill and Crappie to Bass, Catfish, and even Gar. It’s also a great place to escape the infamous Resort City crowds.
Boat Fishing Spots
- Chesapeake Light Tower: This much-loved nearshore spot is synonymous with big Spadefish. Less famous but just as fun are the Bluefish and Bonito that hunt around the tower. You might even hook an Amberjack if you’re lucky.
- The Triangle Wrecks: And artificial reef 30 miles offshore, centered around a 500′ liberty ship. It holds Bluefish, Seabass, and Flounder, as well as Amberjack in summer. You can catch bigger fish farther out, but it’s a good place to fill the boat without a long journey.
- Norfolk Canyon: It’s a 70-mile run to get to Norfolk Canyon, but your efforts will be rewarded with Tuna, Marlin, Swordfish, and Sharks. Need a break from the big game? Try deep dropping for monster Grouper and Tilefish.
Fishing Tournaments in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach has plenty of fishing tournaments for anglers looking for a challenge. The biggest offshore event is the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament. It’s been going since 2003 and now sees hundreds of anglers fight for over half a million dollars in prizes. Needless to say, only the best stand a chance of winning.
If that sounds a little extreme for you, try the Monarch Cobia Classic, a charity event run by Old Dominion University. There’s also the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. In this season-long competition, any citation-size fish can be reported to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. Report enough and you’ll get an award at the end.
Virginia Fishing Laws
You’re almost ready to hit the water. Before you go, there are a couple of things to be aware of to make sure you’re fishing by the book. If you’re on a fishing charter, you don’t really have to worry about any of this. But if you’re heading out on your own, it’s best to read up before you go.
Virginia Beach Surf Fishing Rules
You’re allowed to fish pretty much anywhere in Virginia Beach, as long as you have a license. Areas where fishing isn’t allowed will be clearly marked. Even though you can technically fish wherever you want, it’s polite to stay away from areas where lifeguards patrol. These tend to be the busiest parts of the beach, anyway.
Getting a Fishing License
You need to buy a fishing license to fish in either salt or freshwater in Virginia. The exceptions to this are if you’re fishing on a licensed charter or party boat, or if you’re on a fishing pier. On top of that, you don’t need a license to go crabbing. The license-free limit is one bushel of hard crabs and two dozen peeler crabs per person per day.
Fishing in Virginia Beach: The Perfect Angling Vacation
Virginia Beach is one of the most popular vacation spots on the East Coast. It’s called “Resort City” for a reason. If there’s one thing that can make this beautiful coastal spot even better, it’s VA Beach’s endless mix of game fish. Whether you’re a complete beginner, a family with young kids, or a hardcore record-chaser, you’re in for a real treat when you wet a line here.
Have you ever fished in Virginia Beach? Where did you go and what did you catch? Did you fish any of the spots on our list? Drop us your tips and stories in the comments below!