June 23, 2024

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Norfolk Fishing Guide: A Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Virginia, lies the vibrant city of Norfolk. Where the Elizabeth River meets the Chesapeake Bay, this place is rich in naval history and urban charm. But it also has a hidden side that many can overlook – its dynamic angling scene. Fishing in Norfolk is more than just a pastime. It’s a true passion.

Blessed with a diverse ecosystem, the waters around Norfolk are home to quite a few game species. Each cast here is unique – be it off a city pier, from a charter boat, or in the intricate network of inlets and estuaries.

This guide is your ticket to uncovering the best spots, techniques, and secrets of fishing in Norfolk. We’ll walk you through the must-visit locations and offer insight into the most interesting species. You’ll be equipped with tips to make your angling adventure in this maritime city unforgettable. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s get started!

Top Norfolk Fish Species

There’s no shortage of bottom fishing action, offshore haunts, fly fishing catches, and everything in between in Norfolk. Locals head to the shallow waters of the rivers for a healthy dose of Seabass, Trout, Tautog, Flounder, and Drum. Further out, the Chesapeake Bay holds large numbers of Rockfish. Meanwhile, the nearshore Atlantic is all about Cobia, Amberjack, Tuna, and even Billfish. Let’s take a closer look at the stars of the show.


A group of four anglers on the deck of a fishing boat in Norfolk, VA, each holding a large Redfish with the water visible behind them on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Sea Mee Charters

Redfish – also known as Red Drum – are truly a spectacle. They often display strong runs, especially when you’re sight fishing for them in the shallows. Reds usually average around 20–30 pounds, but giants over 40 pounds aren’t uncommon.

However, landing a Red isn’t the easiest task in the world. Norfolk anglers know that understanding their habitat and patterns is a must to get the edge over these fish. They spend a significant portion of their life in estuarine environments, closer to the coastlines. Redfish prefer grassy areas, which makes them a popular target among kayak and boat fishermen, especially around flood tides.

And Redfish fishing in Norfolk is all about responsible harvesting, of course. There are size and bag limits for Reds that you need to check in advance. Once you’ve caught your dinner, enjoy the firm, white flash that’s absolutely delicious!


A man in sunglasses and a baseball cap holds a large Cobia fish aboard a fishing charter in Norfolk, VA, on a cloudy day with the water visible behind him
Photo courtesy of RBO Saltwater Fishing Charters

The Chesapeake Bay is a prime destination for Cobia fishing in Norfolk. These exceptionally powerful fish typically weigh around 50 pounds, although they can reach up to 100! From June to September, anglers from all over the area pack their sight fishing gear and chum, and target Cobia near the surface.

Sight fishing for Cobia can be even more exciting when you’re on the water with a knowledgeable guide. These fish can often mistake boat shadows for floating structures. They trail fishing vessels before offering powerful runs once hooked. The Lower Bay‘s main stem, the Middle Grounds, and the waters around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel are key spots for sight fishing.

Beyond the chase, Cobia are also pretty tasty. Their mild, white, buttery meat is a delicacy, especially if you’re a fan of seared steaks or sashimi slices!


A man in a t-shirt, sunglasses, and baseball cap standing on a dock in Norfolk, VA, while holding a record-sized Spanish Mackerel with a boat visible behind him on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Havoc Charters

The waters around the Chesapeake play host to both Spanish and King Mackerel. These are fast swimmers, often skyrocketing out of the water when hooked. Both species aren’t just popular sportfishing targets but are also a rich part of the marine ecosystem, serving as prey for larger pelagic predators.

King Mackerel – also known as Kingfish – can grow upwards of 30 pounds, while their Spanish cousins are generally smaller. You can expect your typical catch to weigh somewhere around 2–5 pounds, although the reward is worth it. Both Mackerels are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids with juicy and flavorful meat.


Two adults stand either side of two children aboard a fishing boat in Norfolk, VA, with each of them holding a Spadefish they caught on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Reel Release Sport Fishing

Spadefish are a unique species that grace the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. You can easily recognize them by their striking black and white vertical stripes. These fish are on the smaller side, averaging 3–5 pounds, but they fight almost like Billfish, especially on light tackle.

Consider a sight fishing trip for Spadefish near structures or over wrecks. Spades tend to hang out near various types of cover and submerged sanctuaries – both for protection and to hunt small crustaceans and mollusks. While these unique fish may not be your first choice when it comes to table fare, you can always practice catch and release.

Black Seabass

A view from above of a man and a woman, with the woman posing with two fingers making a "V" shape and the man holding a Black Seabass aboard a fishing charter
Photo courtesy of Shelton’s Charter Fishing

Norfolk’s Black Seabass are also a favorite among anglers, both for their delicious meat and fighting qualities. These bottom dwellers can reach up to 5 pounds, although they average around 1–3 pounds. Since their meat is pretty popular in upscale restaurants, it’s never a bad idea to keep a few for the table while releasing the rest.

A cool fact about Black Seabass is that they’re pretty territorial. Males typically stick to a particular spot around a certain structure, which they vigorously defend. Locals know that this type of behavior gets even more intense during the breeding season, making the fish much more aggressive. This, in turn, helps anglers get multiple hook-ups with well-presented baits!


A man standing next to a large Marlin that's hanging above a dock next to an offshore sportfishing boat in Norfolk, VA on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Payback Sportfishing LLC

Every sportfishing enthusiast knows that the thrill of hooking into a Billfish is unmatched. Well, the Atlantic waters off the coast of Norfolk offer an exhilarating experience to those who are up to the challenge. The Billfish menu consists of Blue and White Marlin, along with Swordfish, Sailfish, and the occasional Black Marlin.

These powerful, majestic creatures can range from 100 to over 1,000 pounds, depending on the species. The peak season to hunt for these pelagic monsters is during the summer months. And this is when Norfolk plays host to some prestigious Billfish tournaments.

Note that while Marlin and Swordfish can be consumed, the emphasis is more on the sport. All Billfish caught while fishing in Norfolk should be released back into the water. Don’t forget to snap a few pictures, though!

Types of Fishing in Norfolk

Norfolk stands where the plentiful Chesapeake Bay meets the mighty Atlantic Ocean. From brackish inlets to deep blue expanses, fishing in Norfolk offers a lot of diversity and adventure. You can cast a line from shore, hire a guide, wade in the shallows… The opportunities are endless! Let’s talk about some of the most popular ways you can enjoy your Norfolk angling adventure:

Norfolk Inshore Fishing

An aerial view of a fishing charter on the water out of Virginia, with two people on the front of the boat and two more on the flybridge on a clear day, with a dock just about visible on the top of the image
Photo courtesy of Reel Release Sport Fishing

If inshore game sounds like you, Norfolk has plenty. You can spend your day chasing Seabass, Trout, Tautog, Flounder, and Drum in the calm, shallow waters of one of the rivers. Lake Whitehurst, for example, is a good spot for Trout and Drum, along with both the Elizabeth River and its tributary, the Lafayette. Additionally, you can target Flounder in Willoughby Spit.

With a variety of species lurking beneath the water’s surface, the challenge isn’t only in knowing the right spots, but also in using the correct techniques. Seabass and Tautog react well to bottom fishing. Drifting is effective for Flounder. Meanwhile, Drum are fond of live bait. If you’re targeting Trout in shallow waters, consider casting soft plastics. We told you it was diverse here!

Norfolk Nearshore Fishing

A view across the water towards an inflatable fishing boat in the nearshore waters of Virginia, with two shirtless men fishing from the flybridge and others standing around on deck on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Patriotic Excursions, LLC

Nearshore fishing in Norfolk will take you to the Chesapeake Bay, where you can target Rockfish, Amberjack, and Cobia. Some of the best spots include the pilings and artificial islands by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) and Ocean View Fishing Pier that extends into the bay.

Additionally, you can check the bite in Cape Henry during the Cobia migration season or target Rockfish in Lynnhaven Inlet. Slightly further from the coast, Norfolk’s nearshore waters offer angling experiences that are worth going the extra mile – literally.

Sight fishing, trolling, and bottom fishing are the go-to nearshore techniques. However, you’re always welcome to experiment. For example, Amberjack are known to respond well to poppers.

Norfolk Deep Sea Fishing

An aerial view of an offshore sportfishing boat heading to the deep waters of the Atlantic from Virginia, complete with outriggers, on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Fly’n Fish Sportfishing

Both Norfolk and neighboring towns such as Virginia Beach sit at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. And what can be a better gateway to the deep sea waters and canyons of the Atlantic? If you’re up for a little ride, you can set your sights on Blue and White Marlin, Swordfish, Yellowfin Tuna, and Mahi Mahi.

Deep sea fishing in Norfolk is all about serious heavy lifting. You’ll mainly be going for tried and true techniques such as trolling, although you’ll need a much stronger gear – and, of course, a professional crew by your side. However, there are other novel ways to land that dream catch, with kite fishing proving particularly popular to land topwater feeders.

Norfolk Charter Fishing

For both seasoned anglers and those new to the sport, Norfolk’s charter fishing scene offers a premier way to explore the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The area is home to a fleet of well-equipped boats and a friendly community of seasoned captains.

Booking a Norfolk fishing charter isn’t just about the convenience of having all the fishing gear provided. Local guides are skilled navigators with years – sometimes even decades – of fishing experience. They know how to read the waters and fish movements, and choose the best bait and techniques for any given trip. The Norfolk charter fishing scene caters to everyone!

Where to Go Fishing in Norfolk

Now that you’ve picked your target and know which type of fishing to try out, it’s time to talk about the where part. Even though Norfolk isn’t the biggest city in the area, it’s certainly blessed with productive spots to cast your line from. Here are some of them for you to consider:

  • Indian River. A tranquil and scenic spot, the Indian River is perfect for inshore fishing. Here, you can target an array of species in its brackish waters, including Seabass and Flounder. The mangrove-lined shores also offer excellent opportunities for fly fishing.
  • James River. Flowing majestically, this river offers a diverse habitat with both fresh and brackish waters. Anglers can expect to reel in anything from Trout to Tautog, Catfish, and Drum, especially near the oyster beds and grassy flats.
  • Elizabeth River. This tidal waterway boasts some of the best urban fishing in Norfolk. With its deep channels and structures, the Elizabeth River is home to a plethora of species like Rockfish, Croaker, and Speckled Trout. The river’s docks and piers offer easy access points for anglers.
  • The Chesapeake Bay. This fishing heaven is teeming with marine life. Its expansive waters are known for an abundance of Rockfish, but you’ll also find Cobia, Amberjack, and Bluefish here, to name a few. The many reefs and shipwrecks in the bay serve as hotspots for bottom fishing.
  • Atlantic Ocean. This hardly needs an introduction! Venture into the vast bluewaters of the Atlantic for an offshore excursion and target game fish like Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Marlin.
  • Willoughby Bay. Nestled near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, this is a serene spot ideal for inshore fishing. Its shallow waters and grassy beds are perfect for targeting species like Flounder, Red Drum, and Speckled Trout. Plus, its proximity to Norfolk makes it a popular choice for both locals and tourists.

When to Go Fishing in Norfolk

A view from a dock or pier towards a harbor and the city of Norfolk, VA, at sunset, with the sun setting in the middle of the image

Nestled strategically between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk offers a year-round fishing experience like no other. However, the peak seasons can vary drastically depending on the species you’re aiming to catch. Spring marks the beginning of the true fishing season. As the waters begin to warm, species like Rockfish, Flounder, and Seabass become more active, making it a delightful time for inshore and nearshore fishing enthusiasts.

Summer is arguably the best time to fish in Norfolk’s waters, especially if you’re looking for diversity. This is when the Chesapeake Bay comes alive with Cobia, making it a top destination for anglers from all around the world. The warm waters of the Atlantic also teem with Tuna and Mahi Mahi, while Marlin also start their migration.

As the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisp in fall, the cooler waters encourage species like Tautog and Drum to become more active, especially in the inshore waters of the rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. For those willing to venture offshore, the fall season offers the last chance to battle with Sailfish before they migrate to warmer waters. Winter, while quieter, is not devoid of fishing opportunities in Norfolk, so there’s never a bad time to come!

Norfolk Fishing Rules and Regulations

Every angler age 16 and over needs a valid VA fishing license. But another beauty of fishing with a charter in Norfolk – and throughout Virginia – is that your fishing license will already be covered. But head out on your own and you’ll need to get one.

While a professional captain will keep you up to date on the latest bag limits, it’s essential to consult the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) for the most up-to-date regulations, size limits, and bag limits.

Fishing in Norfolk FAQs

Fishing in Norfolk: Embracing the Chesapeake’s Bounty

A view across the water towards the skyline of Norfolk, VA, after dark on a clear night

The allure of fishing in Norfolk is a blend of the city’s maritime history, the Chesapeake’s bountiful angling menu, and the vibrant local community. It’s a place that makes you want to come back for more, whether that’s casting your line off the bustling pier or seeking solace in a hidden estuary. Check it out for yourself!

Have you ever been fishing in Norfolk, VA? Would you like to share your fish stories with us? Let’s talk in the comment below!

The post Norfolk Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Lisa
Title: Norfolk Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/norfolk-fishing/
Published Date: Mon, 02 Oct 2023 14:54:21 +0000

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