Fisherman’s Paradise: Unleashing the Secrets of Surf Fishing in Virginia Beach

Last updated on January 30th, 2024 at 10:57 pm

Virginia Beach is a popular destination for both vacationers and surf fishing enthusiasts. The city’s location on the US Atlantic coast, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, makes it an ideal spot for catching a variety of fish species. Come along and we’ll cover everything you need to know about surf fishing in Virginia Beach.

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Virginia Beach is one of the premier surf fishing destinations on the US Atlantic coast, with a wide range of gamefish species available, plus all the attractions, accommodations, and comforts of a family vacation destination. From striped bass, red drum, bluefish, and more, surf fishing in Virginia Beach has something for anglers of all experience and skill levels.

Surf fishing is one of my favorite types of fishing and I’ve been doing it now for over half a century. So it’s only natural that I seek out the best surf fishing destinations around the county and the world.

Located in southeastern Virginia, Virginia Beach is a long stretch of oceanfront beach that attracts visitors from up and down the east coast. The popular beachfront runs for about 35 miles and includes multiple regions, each with its own unique attractions and fishing opportunities.

Surf fishing is a beloved pastime in Virginia Beach, with many locals and visitors alike taking to the beach to cast their lines. The sport offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while also testing your fishing skills.

Surf fishing in Virginia Beach - Google Map of the Virginia Beach area with surf fishing locations marked with green arrows
Map Credit: Google Maps

Surf fishing is an important part of the local economy and culture in Virginia Beach. Many local businesses, such as bait shops and fishing guides, rely on the sport to attract customers and generate revenue.

The sport of surf fishing presents a unique set of challenges that make it an exciting and rewarding pastime. From reading the beach to understanding seasonal fish patterns, there’s always something new to learn.

As with most fishing destinations, understanding seasonal fish patterns and migrations is key to successful surf fishing in Virginia Beach. So, let’s take a look at what are the best times of year to catch different species of fish, as well as how weather and time of day can affect your success rates.

The best time to go surf fishing in Virginia Beach is from late spring into early fall, with the peak times being during the summer months. Inshore and along the beachfront, things start to heat up in mid to late May as the shallow waters heat up faster.

Offshore, though, where the bigger fish hang out, sees most of its action from July to September. That being said, striped bass peak in the wintertime, along with a few other species that thrive in the cooler waters.

As for how weather, tides, and time of day affect surf fishing, there are a few rules of thumb that can help increase your chances of success.

Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on storm systems and rainstorms, as they will play a large role in the success or failure of your fishing trip and can produce extremely high tides and dangerous rip currents.

Man fishing from the roof of a car that has been trapped in the surf by hightide
Hightide is unforgiving

The best time of day to go surf fishing in Virginia Beach is typically two hours before and after dusk, or from dawn until 10 AM. During these times, fish are often more active and feeding as they search for food in the guts and along the bars in the surf zone. The water is typically calmer, and there is less beach activity, providing favorable fishing conditions.

Pay attention to the tides when planning your surf fishing trip. Some anglers prefer to fish during the incoming or outgoing tide, as moving water can attract fish and increase their feeding activity.

High tide can also be a good time to target certain species, as fish may move closer to shore to feed in the shallower water. Cloudy or overcast conditions can create a more favorable fishing environment as fish may feel more secure and venture closer to the shore to feed when the sun is not as bright or intense. Additionally, the reduced visibility can make it easier for predatory fish to ambush their prey.

Having the right gear is important for a successful surf fishing trip. We’ll break down everything you need from the surf fishing rod and reel setup, the importance of choosing the right bait and tackle, and must-have accessories for comfort and safety on the beach. To maximize your chances of success while surf fishing in Virginia Beach, you’ll need the following essential gear:

Surf Fishing RodSurf Fishing ReelSurf Fishing RigSand Spike Rod Holder
St Croix Triumph Surf Spinning RodShimano Ultegra XTD Surf Spinning ReelBest Surf Fishing Rigs - Hi - Lo Surf Fishing rigFish-N-Mate 45in Sand Spike Rod Holder with cutting board and basket
St. Croix TriumphShimano Ultegra Double Drop RigFish-N-Mate
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Good Basic Surf Fishing Setup

Surf Fishing Rod: A long, sturdy rod is essential for casting your line far out into the water. Surf rods typically range from 9 to 14 feet in length, with a medium-heavy power rating and a fast action. Some popular surf fishing rods include the St. Croix Triumph Surf Spinning Rod and the Penn Prevail Surf Casting Rod.

Essential Surf Fishing Gear:

  • Surf Fishing Rods, surf rods are typically longer and heavier duty than standard rods. read more.
  • Surf fishing Reels,larger and stronger with greater line capacity to handle big fish. read more.
  • Surf fishing Rod and Reel Combos, pre-matched rod and reel set ups for surf fishing – read more.
  • Sand Spike Rod holder, holds your rods securely while you wait for that big bite. – read more.
  • Surf Fishing Rigs, terminal tackle for fishing the surf. – read more.
  • Surf fishing Carts, for beaches that won’t allow vehicles you need a way to carry your gear – read more.
  • Rod Racks for Vehicles, carry your rods out of harms way and easy to access- read more.
  • Beach Camping Gear, in case you want to fish all night or for several days – read more.

Surf Fishing Reel: A high-quality reel with a large spool capacity is necessary for surf fishing. Look for a reel with a smooth drag system and a high gear ratio for quick retrieval. Some of the best surf fishing reels include the Shimano Ultegra CI4 Plus and the Daiwa Saltist MQ 4000.

Surf Fishing Line: Braided line is the preferred choice for surf fishing, as it offers excellent strength and sensitivity. Look for a line with a test strength of at least 30 pounds. Some popular options include PowerPro Spectra Fiber Braided Fishing Line and KastKing SuperPower Braided Fishing Line.

Surf Fishing Rig: There are many different types of rigs that can be used for surf fishing, including the fish finder rig, the Carolina rig, and the high-low rig. Each rig has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to experiment and find the one that works best for you. For more information on the best surf fishing rigs, check out this guide.

bait shrimp
Seems Everything in the Ocean eats Shrimp

Bait: The best bait for surf fishing in Virginia Beach depends on the species you’re targeting. Some popular options include live bait such as menhaden, spot, and eels, as well as cut bait, squid, shrimp, and sand fleas. For more information on the best bait for surf fishing, check out this guide.

Accessories: Other essential accessories for surf fishing include a sand spike to hold your rod, a tackle box to store your gear, a cooler to keep your bait fresh, and a pair of polarized sunglasses to reduce glare and help you see fish in the water. If you will be wading in the surf, it is recommended that you wear a life jacket.

Virginia Beach is home to a variety of gamefish species, each with its own unique habitat and behavior patterns. The following are some of the commonly targeted species such as drum, bluefish, flounder, and striped bass, as well as tips for identifying fish habitats and reading the beach for clues.

There is a variety of fish species that can be caught while surf fishing in Virginia Beach. Here are some of the most popular species to target, along with their profiles, habitats, and specific baits and techniques for catching them:

Striped Bass: Striped bass, also known as rockfish, are a highly prized inshore species in Virginia Beach. They can be found in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries year-round, with peak season from November to April. To catch striped bass, anglers typically use live or cut bait such as menhaden, eels, or peeler crabs. They can also be caught on artificial lures such as topwater plugs, swimbaits, and jigs. When fishing for striped bass, it’s important to look for structure such as drop-offs, ledges, and channels, as these areas provide good cover for the fish.

Red Drum: Red drum, also known as redfish, are a popular inshore species to catch in Virginia Beach. They can be found in the lower Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, particularly in the fall and winter. To catch red drum, anglers typically use live or cut bait such as crab, shrimp, or menhaden. They can also be caught on artificial lures such as topwater plugs, soft plastics, and jigs. When fishing for red drum, it’s important to look for structure such as oyster beds, rock piles, cuts and troughs along the beach, and docks, as these areas provide good cover for the fish.

Bluefish: Bluefish are a common inshore species that can be caught year-round in Virginia Beach. They can be caught using live bait, such as menhaden or mullet, or by casting lures. The best places to catch them are around structures such as jetties, bridges, and piers. They often chase schools of mullet along the surf zone.

Flounder: Flounder are a popular inshore species to catch in Virginia Beach, but can also be found in the surf. They can be found in the lower Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, particularly in the summer months. To catch flounder, anglers typically use live or cut bait such as minnows, squid, or shrimp. They can also be caught on artificial lures such as jigs and soft plastics. When fishing for flounder, it’s important to look for structure such as drop-offs, ledges, and channels, as these areas provide good cover for the fish.

Croaker: Croaker are a well-known saltwater fish caught in Virginia. They can be caught in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Virginia coast. Croakers run from around 10 inches up to a few pounds. In many areas, you can keep croakers when they fall in the 14-24 inch length. The juveniles have become a go to bait for speckled trout in many areas. These fish are silver in color with metal flecks along their flanks. Croakers have a sharp spine on every gill plate.

Atlantic Croaker
Atlantic Croaker

Their body shape is fundamentally the same as their larger cousin, the red drum or redfish. Virginia fishing piers docks are known for their croaker runs. Piers and docks along the Chesapeake Bay and waterfront shorelines are particularly beneficial. To catch croaker, anglers typically use live or cut bait such as squid, bloodworms, or live minnows.

Sandbridge Beach: Sandbridge is a secluded beach hideaway of sand dunes and dancing sea oats. It is a relaxing and peaceful community where you can truly slow down and unwind on your vacation. This beach is located 15 miles south of the resort area of Virginia Beach and is known for its 5 miles of pristine wide, sandy beaches and excellent surf fishing opportunities. And for those craving even more of the great outdoors, the marshes and open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park make for great kayaking, hiking, and fishing.

Little Island Park: Little Island Park is a 122-acre beach park in Sandbridge, just north of Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. The park has a 775-foot beach north of the 400-foot fishing pier for surfing and a 2,000-foot beach for swimming and surf fishing south of the pier. Back Bay, a brackish lake, provides excellent fishing and crabbing along the western border of this unique park

Croatan Beach: This beach is located just south of the resort area of Virginia Beach and is known for its excellent surf fishing opportunities. Croatan Beach is three-quarters of a mile long and stretches from Rudee Inlet to Camp Pendleton. With 2 designated surfing areas – one at the north beginning at Rudee Inlet and one at the south at Camp Pendleton – it has long been a favorite of local surfers and surf fishing enthusiasts.

Chick’s Beach: For beachgoers looking for kinder, gentler waves, refuge can be found along the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay, in the community known affectionately to locals as Chic’s Beach. This beach is located on the Chesapeake Bay and is known for its excellent surf fishing opportunities. From swimming and building sand castles to dolphin watching and volleyball, all the traditional beach rituals are here in a setting that has a decidedly laid-back, family-friendly vibe.

Different casting techniques, baits, and bait presentations can make all the difference when it comes to catching fish in the surf. The following strategies will help you maximize your chances of catching fish instead of just fishing.

  1. Choose the right spot: Before you head out, research the best spots for surf fishing in Virginia Beach. Some popular spots include Sandbridge Beach, Little Island Park, and Croatan Beach. Check with the local bait and tackle shops. Or, check out the local online fishing forums for the most current information.
  2. Pay attention to tides: Fish tend to be more active during incoming tides, so plan your fishing trip accordingly.
  3. Be patient: Surf fishing can require some patience, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch anything right away.
  4. Try to Match the Hatch: Use natural baits like squid, shrimp, or mullet to start out with. These types of baits tend to be the most effective, and they work well for several different species of fish.
  5. Wear polarized sunglasses: Wear a pair of polarized sunglasses that cut through any glare so that you can spot fish in the water.
  6. Watch for signs of feeding fish: Diving birds, jumping baitfish, splashes, and swirls on the water’s surface can all be signs of feeding fish and a good area to try your luck.
  7. Stay safe: Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for strong currents or rip tides. Always wear a life jacket if wading out into deeper water.

As responsible anglers, it’s important to understand catch and release practices and local fishing regulations. You can find the most up-to-date information about license and bag limits for surf fishing in Virginia Beach on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) website.

The VMRC is responsible for regulating and enforcing fishing regulations in Virginia, and their website provides detailed information on saltwater fishing licenses, size limits, and bag limits for various species of fish.

In general, all three states bordering Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, require you to have a saltwater fishing license of some type to fish from the beach. Most states offer short-term licenses in case you will be there for only a few days. Maryland and Virginia are reciprocal states, so they honor each other’s saltwater licenses.

The following are good sources of local Virginia Beach fishing information:

  1. Virginia Beach Inshore Fishing (VBIF): This Facebook group is a great place to connect with other local anglers, share photos, and stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the area’s waters.
  2. Virginia Beach Fishing: FishingBooker’s guide to Virginia Beach fishing provides a wealth of information on local fishing tournaments, regulations, and more.
  3. Virginia Coastal Fly Angler’s Club (VCFA): This club welcomes new members and provides a brochure with informative details.
  4. Virginia Beach Anglers Club: Established in 1959, this club is one of the oldest in the area and holds meetings on the first Wednesday of each month.
  5. Virginia Beach Saltwater Fishing: Online forum with the latest discussions on saltwater fishing tips and happenings.
  6. VA Outdoors: Outdoor forums covering everthing from hunting, freshwater fishing, camping, hiking and saltwater fishing.
fishing booker world's number one Fishing charter booking site

One of the great things about Virginia Beach is that, in addition to being a premier surf fishing destination, it has a wide variety of attractions and activities that make it a great family vacation destination. There is a 3-mile boardwalk stretching along its beach-lined oceanfront. A flourishing local culinary scene, rich history, a variety of arts and entertainment, and family-friendly attractions for year-round entertainment.

Historical attractions like the bayside First Landing State Park mark the 1607 arrival of the Jamestown colonists from England. From the lively Oceanfront area to remote Sandbridge Beach, the calming Chesapeake Bay to the bustling Town Center, or the eclectic ViBe creative district, your Virginia Beach family vacation awaits you.

If you’re like me, you might be tempted to spend every waking moment at the beach surf fishing, but, don’t overlook Virginia Beach’s lush parks, amazing attractions, enticing restaurants, amusement parks, and unforgettable concerts. Virginia Beach truly is fun for the whole family.

Here are just some of the most popular Virginia Beach family-friendly attractions:

  1. iFLY Virginia Beach: An indoor skydiving experience that simulates free fall conditions, without having to jump out of an airplane. It’s suitable for all ages.
  2. Atlantic Fun Park: A fun-filled amusement park with rides and games for all ages.
  3. FunVille Playground and Cafe Virginia Beach: A family indoor playground with entertainment and dining.
  4. Ocean Breeze: A water park with a million-gallon wave pool, water slides, a winding river, and a water playground for the little ones.

For more information about family-friendly activities in Virginia Beach, you can check out the following sources:

  1. Family Destinations Guide: They have a list of 28 fun things to do in Virginia Beach with kids.
  2. TripBuzz: They have a list of 101 things to do with kids in Virginia Beach.
frequently asked questions sign

What are the size and catch regulations for surf fishing in Virginia Beach?

All three states, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, require you to have a saltwater fishing license of some type to fish from the beach. Most states offer short term licenses in case you will be there for only a few days. Maryland and Virginia are reciprocal states, so they honor each other’s saltwater license. Virginia Beach has a 16-inch minimum size limit for striped bass, and a 28-inch maximum size limit for red drum.

What is the best time of day to surf fish in Virginia Beach?

The best times to surf fish are in the morning, and later in the afternoon.

What are some good spots for surf fishing in Virginia Beach?

Some popular spots for surf fishing in Virginia Beach include Sandbridge Beach, Little Island Park, and Croatan Beach.

What kind of bait should I use for surf fishing in Virginia Beach?

Some popular baits for surf fishing in Virginia Beach include bloodworms, squid, and shrimp.

What kind of fish can I expect to catch while surf fishing in Virginia Beach?

Some common species of fish that can be caught while surf fishing in Virginia Beach include striped bass, red drum, bluefish, and flounder.

Surf fishing in Virginia Beach is some of the best on the entire US east coast. And, it is a great family vacation destination. There is plenty of fun family-friendly activities to go along with 35 miles of beach and awesome saltwater fishing.

As always, stay safe, enjoy the journey and please try to leave it cleaner than you found it. If you have any comments, questions, ideas, or suggestions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you ASAP. You can follow us on Facebook: Rex The Beach Angler, Instagram: thebeachangler7, Twitter: @AnglerBeach, and YouTube: Man Art Creations.

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