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Top Chesapeake Bay Destinations

Top Fishing Charters in Chesapeake Bay

Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is not only the biggest estuary in North America, it’s also a meeting point of hundreds of rivers that feed into the Atlantic. What does this mean to an angler? A real piece of paradise.

This estuary is a 200-mile stretch of glassy water full of fish, with Striped Bass stealing the spotlight. If this doesn’t get you, don’t worry — Chesapeake Bay fishing charters sample other coveted species too. There are Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Black Drum, Tautog, Flounder, Spotted Seatrout, and much more to chase around here.  

The Chesapeake Bay watershed enjoys favorable climate, with hot humid summers and cold to mild winters. Different species forage these shallow waters at different times of the year, so there isn’t really bad time to visit. The perks of fishing Chesapeake Bay don’t end there, though. This is where saltwater, freshwater, and brackish water come together, creating a unique fishery that has spotless reputation worldwide. Here are the places you have to visit if you want to get a bang for your buck.

Chesapeake Bay fishing spots

To comb all the spots that hold epic fish, you’ll need to stay at least a couple of days around here. It helps if you first narrow down your target area and then head to one of many settlements that look out on the Bay. You’ll find surprisingly distinct areas that will see you using entirely different methods to get the fish.  

Fishing the Upper Chesapeake Bay

Spanning the waters from Elk River in the north all the way down to Magothy River near Baltimore, the Upper Bay is a gateway to excellent fishing opportunities. You can get Striped Bass (locally known as Rockfish), Spanish Mackerel, Redfish, Black Drum, Crappie, Perch, Catfish, and more.

Work the waters near river mouths and you can get yourself fine top water species. Try jigging around the bottoms and you’ll find schools of fish lazing around the river floor. It won’t take long before you get a nice meal to grace your table. Come winter, and these waterways become top ice fishing destinations.

Middle Chesapeake Bay fisheries

Moving further south towards the Little Choptank River, the estuary becomes a prime location for monster-sized fish. Try fishing Eastern Bay south of Kent Island to get Bluefish, Croaker, Striped Bass, Flounder, and Spanish Mackerel. River mouths, bays, creeks, and inlets produce Stripers (another name for the beloved Striped Bass), Crappie, Redfish, Mackerel, Yellow Perch, and other keeper fish.

Popular launching points include Annapolis, whose fisheries are excellent in their own right -- think Striped Bass, Mackerel, and Bluefish. Further south, you will find settlements such as Cambridge, Deale, Chesapeake Beach, all looking out on creeks, inlets, and bays. Go to a local tackle shop and talk to anglers who have fished these waters for years to get an insight into tricks that will get you the fish.

If you want to beat the crowd, come early, or find a quiet place as the evening approaches to find a real gem. These waters are rich and often a couple of casts can get you a real prize. Look out for birds as they often mark the spot. Some oyster beds can still be found here and produce massive Striped Bass and Redfish, but you can also get Flounder, Spot, Croaker, and Bluefish.

The waters of Lower Bay

From the Choptank River all the way down to Norfolk, Chesapeake Bay erupts with fishing opportunities. Yellow Perch are found in holes around river tributaries, while Rockfish, Cobia, small Sharks, Mackerel, and Redfish appear around river mouths. The bite can be unpredictable, but trolling can get some good results. These fisheries are full of life for the best of the year and can get you not only a dinner to eat with gusto, but the chase of a lifetime.

Chesapeake Bay fishing season

The Chesapeake Bay is a seasonal fishery. If the weather’s bad, fish will be scarce for a couple of weeks. Even then, however, something will be moving in the creeks and will often turn into a fun day on the water.

Striped Bass Trophy season is open twice a year, in April—May, and later on from November—December. This means pounds of brute force, anywhere between 20 and 40 lbs. Anglers can keep only one fish during this period. In the between, you can get regular Rockfish, and trust us -- their bite is no less timid and you can take two of them home.

Spanish Mackerel move all the way from Florida and come to the Bay in late July, staying here until September.

Perch, Spot, and Croaker are popular among recreational anglers and bite from June until the end of October.

Spring and summer months bring the beating of Red and Black Drums, followed by Trout, which all stay around the bay until early fall. Seek shallow waters to get the most out of your trip if you’re targeting these species.

Fishing techniques

The Chesapeake Bay will see you using a variety of techniques. Its briny and fresh waters are a real playground for both hardcore and novice fishermen. These waters will put you smack dab in the middle of epic inshore fishing.

Shallow waters allow wade fishing around almost the entire stem of the Bay, kayak fishers regularly visit the creeks while trolling for Stripers can turn into a bonanza just minutes after departure.

Trolling around channel ledges can get you Rockfish and Cobia. Use cut bait for good results, or try experimenting with live eels when trolling for Cobia and see if the catch improves. If you want to get Spanish Mackerel, you’ll need to be patient and willing to burn some fuel, looking for birds as they indicate where Mackerel are.

Rockfish can’t resist Spot, so live lining should produce ‘reel’ magic. During the Bass trophy season, you can easily get fish over 50 lbs. Back in the 30’s, someone apparently saw a Chesapeake Bay monster — a serpentine beast that roamed the waters, nicknamed ‘Chessie’. Although no one has confirmed its existence, we’d like to believe it was a monster-sized Striped Bass.

Deep jigging can get you Redfish even in the open bay, though you’ll have better chances near the Tangier Sound. You can also get Bluefish, Flounder, Spot, and Croaker exploring the bay floor.

Come winter and some patches of the Bay turn into an ice fishing bonanza, letting you win keeper Perch.

Need to know

You will need to buy a fishing license before you head out and start producing some magic. Depending on which state you’re fishing in, you should consult relevant info on government websites. As a rule of thumb, you will need the fishing license for both saltwater and freshwater. In some cases, when fishing on your own, you’ll need to register online as well.

However, if you’re fishing from a licensed charter, you don’t need a license.

When packing for the trip, you should bring warm clothes in layers, rain gear, food, and drinks, as well as a cap, sunglasses, Dramamine, and a fish cooler. It’s best to check with the captain before the trip if there’s anything else you need to take care of. 

Chesapeake Bay
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Chesapeake Bay Fishing Seasons

Ice can scare off anglers, but those bold enough may give it a try and get some Perch and Crappie. Ice fishing can be highly productive, but fishing may turn sour due to a spell of cold weather.

Rain may make ice unsafe, so you better pair up with a local guide to take you on the water. You can get some Perch and Crappie.

As the snow thaws, fishing slowly gets ready for Striped Bass season. If you want a warm-up, head to the creeks and fish for Perch, Crappie, or some odd migratory fish.

It’s all about that Trophy Striped Bass. Get on the water and start searching for 50lbs of pure strength. The weather’s just about right for fishing, and the season kicks off in style.

The hunt for Trophy Striper continues as crowds get thick. Luckily, there’s plenty of fish in the bay for all anglers that come out to play. You can also troll for regular-sized Striper.

The possibilities are now improved, as Spot, Croaker, Bluefish, and Perch start taking the bite. Rockfish are still the most sought-after fish, and you can also get Trout and Redfish.

You can’t avoid humid summer days, but you also can’t miss Rockfish, Redfish, Trout, and Cobia. Perch are biting well, and later in the month, Spanish Mackerel start showing up.

Party is in full swing as trolling produces Cobia, Spanish Mackerel. Fish around shallow waters to get Redfish and Trout, or rig your hook with Spot and do live lining for Rockfish.

The Mackerel bite still lingers, with Rockfish striking steadily. You can also get Croaker, Perch, Bluefish, some Redfish, as well as Cobia.

Read any Chesapeake Bay fishing report and you’ll see — Rockfish are getting bigger before their second annual epic bite explodes in November. You can also get Summer Flounder, Croaker, and Perch.

Showtime! Trophy Striped Bass are on fire and they should make it to the top of your wish list. Trolling with bait and lures is an effective way to get them.

Trophy Rockfish are still hot shots, with anglers bent on getting one. The weather plays a major role here, so be patient.

Chesapeake Bay Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Chesapeake Bay

"Great Time!"

Lamar V. fished with Reel Release Sport Fishing on August 17, 2019

Be sure to fish with someone that knows the waters well.

"YOU WILL BE DELIGHTED IF YOU GO OUT WITH FISH TALES SPORTFISHING"

Ted P. fished with Fish Tales Sportfishing on August 17, 2019

I was amazed at the marine life in the Hampton area of the Chesapeake Bay. I saw more fish of various species in one day than I could have imagined. Red and black drum, spade fish, cobia, sheepshead, cutlassfish, dolphins (by the dozens), and even a sea turtle up close to the boat. The Bay water was beautiful, clean, and clear. If you ever go out once, you will be hooked for life.

"Fishing with Dominic"

Brian E. fished with Fish Tales Sportfishing on August 16, 2019

Spanish were hitting pretty well for our trip. Good for a sure catch. Support your local private charters.

"4 Hour Trip"

Keith S. fished with Knot Wish'n Custom Charters on August 15, 2019

Go out for the 4-6 hour trip. Great fishing!

Top Targeted Species in Chesapeake Bay

Bass (Striped)

Bass (Striped)

Bluefish

Bluefish

Spanish Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel

Cobia

Cobia

Black Drum

Black Drum

Redfish

Redfish

Flounder

Flounder

Spotted Seatrout

Spotted Seatrout

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