Assateague Island and the waters surrounding Chincoteague offer some of the best surf-fishing found on the mid-Atlantic coast along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. This isolated area of the Delmarva Peninsula has a string of barrier islands stretching 70 miles. Migrating fish move into the inlets, back bays and marshes. Assateague and Chincoteague are the only barrier Islands in this region that are easily accessed by car, making this a very popular spot for some great surf-fishing action.
Assateague Island is managed by the National Park Service and offers beautiful beaches and public parking areas giving anglers a choice of several prime locations for surf-fishing. Surf-fishing is allowed on the island from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. during the summer months without a permit, to overnight fish a free permit is needed and can be obtained from the ranger station. Assateague also has a four-wheel drive access area, there are about six miles of over-sand area on the Virginia side, a yearly permit costs $70.00, however for most anglers the free parking areas offer more than enough areas for fishing the beach.
Assateague has all the classic barrier beach island characteristics, with drop-offs, sloughs and sandbars. These characteristics change seasonally, sometimes even weekly, depending on storms, wind and tides. The best fishing on a beach is along a deep drop-off, where bait tumbles in and out of the surf and predator fish wait in ambush. Low tide is the best time to “read” a beach when you can locate the outer bars, sloughs, and cuts in the bar.
Late spring and early summer offer some great surf-fishing action for big red drum, black drum, striped bass and bluefish that roam the secluded shoreline of Assateague. Many anglers have tangled with red drum in the 20- to 40-pound range on a regular basis when conditions are right.
During the early summer months, Assateague Island hosts an assortment of great game fish such as striped bass (rockfish), red drum (channel bass), weakfish (gray trout), sharks, black drum, flounder, and bluefish. Fish of all shapes and sizes feed along the shoreline and move into the coastal inlets, following food and warm water.
Assateague is a popular location for puppy drum and is most productive on a falling tide during the early morning or evening hours. The best baits for red drum include peeler crab, mole crabs, fresh-cut mullet or bunker and some lures such as swimming plugs or, gold spoons. Quite often casting as far as the outer sand bar is needed to find these fish, while at other times they can be caught just inside the breakers.
Early in summer sandbar and dusky sharks make an appearance. These fish are actively feeding before they spawn, averaging between 10 and 20 pounds, they are good fighters and can be caught on fresh-cut baits such as bunker or mullet fished inside the beach slough. Big striped bass, weakfish, and bluefish become residents along the beach during the summer months offering some great opportunities to catch them as well.
Stripers are summer fish, usually averaging between 6 to 12 pounds, are active feeders during the early morning and nighttime hours, and found feeding along the slough between the beach and the outer bar. Best baits include finger mullet, peeler crabs, clam, live eels and fresh bunker. Lures will also take fish cast from the beach. Weakfish are also found in the surf throughout summer. Other popular summer surf residents include spot, croaker, flounder and kingfish. Kingfish are great little fighters and make excellent meals.