Virginia Beach fishing adventure

August 29, 2020

My wife Barbara and I drove down to Virginia Beach Aug. 19 to visit with my son Ric, his wife Natasha and my granddaughter Dasha. The ride takes about four hours under normal driving conditions, but Wednesday we ran into some heavy rain and a traffic stop that tied up both lanes of Route 13 for at least 20 minutes. This should have been a warning of what was to come Thursday.

The primary purpose of the trip was to fish with Ric on his 20-foot Jones Brothers boat. We left the house by 6:30 a.m., Thursday, and drove to Owl’s Creek, where we launched the boat before heading out to the ocean through Rudee Inlet. It was not a happy ocean that greeted us.

I would guess the wind was 10 to 15 northeast with seas running three to four feet. Running into that was out of the question, so Ric set out three trolling lines; two with small spoons for Spanish mackerel, one with a high-speed plug for cobia or king mackerel.

Ric’s boat does not have a chair. It has a leaning post, so I had to brace myself with my legs against the base of the console and hold on to the T-top support with my right hand. After four hours, I was beat. Also, after four hours, we didn’t have a strike.

Back at the ramp, I could hardly walk, and the seat in Ric’s truck felt like heaven.

Friday was a much better day. The wind had dropped out and we headed to a wreck just a few miles east of Sandbridge, a small town south of Virginia Beach.

I baited up with FishBites on a top-bottom rig and as soon as it hit bottom, I had a black sea bass. As you would expect with a wreck this close to shore, most of the keepers had been taken. I did manage to cull out one or two, but did not catch any triggerfish as I had hoped. Ric picked up a couple keeper flounder and sea bass on a white bucktail baited with cobia belly.

We left that wreck and headed to the Tiger that is directly off Virginia Beach. I was still hoping for a triggerfish, and the instant my rig hit bottom my hopes were answered. A solid hit followed by a dogged fight before my first trigger came onboard.

If you have never caught a triggerfish, picture a five- or six-pound sunfish hooked in 60 feet of water and you will have some idea of the fight they put up. I was using my Tsunami HYBRID 20 reel on my Tsunami Classic TSCC 761H rod, and these fish really put this outfit to the test. They are also excellent table fare.

Ric kept fishing his bucktail with the cobia belly, and darned if he didn’t catch triggers on that rig. I always use small hooks and baits because triggers have a small mouth, but somehow, they managed to get that big bucktail hook inside.

We drifted over both wrecks and saw spadefish on every drift. Ric tried to catch them with a small hook baited with clam, but no takers. This is, unfortunately, not unusual behavior for spadefish. They will often show up in huge numbers and refuse to take a bait.

We also saw the largest remora either of us had ever encountered. When it first approached the boat, I thought it was a cobia, but then saw the bright-blue colors and realized what it was.

As fast the triggerfish bite began is how fast it stopped. By then it was well past 2 p.m., so we packed up and headed in. That ride was so much better than Thursday’s.

I am proud to say my son outfished me. It makes a dad happy to see all his fishing lessons have been improved upon.

Fishing report

Flounder and black sea bass have been joined by dolphin on the inshore grounds. The Del-Jersey-Land Reef is one of the better locations to encounter all three. The Old Grounds, Delaware Lightship, B Buoy and A Buoy also hold flounder, sea bass and dolphin. Jigging with a bucktail sweetened with Gulp!, cut fish, FishBites or squid will attract all three species.

Closer to shore, there are sheepshead at the Outer Wall and they will take sand fleas. Try putting two on the same hook.

The fishing pier at Cape Henlopen State Park has seen good fishing for spot with some croaker and kings mixed in the catch. The best time to fish here is high tide. Clams, bloodworms or FishBites are the best baits. A few flounder are pulled from the pilings on jigs baited with Gulp!


  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age. Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast. He has been the regional editor for several publications and was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine. Eric is the author of three books: Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits. He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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