Redfishing in Virginia: Top Spots and Techniques

Introduction to Redfishing in Virginia

Virginia, with its extensive coastline and rich estuarine environments, offers some of the finest redfishing opportunities on the East Coast. Known for its scenic beauty and abundant marine life, the state provides both novice and experienced anglers with exceptional fishing experiences. In this article, we delve into the best spots for redfishing in Virginia and explore the most effective techniques to ensure a successful catch.


Top Spots for Redfishing in Virginia

Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is a prime location for redfishing. The bay’s diverse habitats and nutrient-rich waters support a thriving red drum population.

  • Eastern Shore: The shallow waters and grassy flats of the Eastern Shore are ideal for sight fishing. Areas like Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound are particularly productive.
  • Western Shore: Points such as the Rappahannock River and Piankatank River are known for their trophy red drum. These spots are best explored by boat for access to deeper channels and submerged structures.

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach offers a variety of fishing environments, from surf fishing along the oceanfront to the calmer waters of the Back Bay.

  • Rudee Inlet: This hotspot is renowned for its accessibility and year-round redfish action. Anglers can fish from the shore, piers, or boats.
  • Lynnhaven Inlet: Known for its productive flats and channels, Lynnhaven Inlet is a favorite for those targeting red drum, especially during the summer and fall.

Norfolk and Hampton Roads

The interconnected waterways around Norfolk and Hampton Roads create a redfish haven, with numerous creeks, inlets, and rivers.

  • Elizabeth River: This river is a red drum magnet, particularly in the spring and fall. The structure of docks, piers, and marsh edges provides excellent cover for redfish.
  • James River: Both the upper and lower stretches of the James River are known for their robust redfish populations. Fishing around the mouth of the river near Hampton Roads is especially fruitful.

Techniques for Successful Redfishing

Sight Fishing

Sight fishing is a thrilling method where anglers visually spot and target redfish in shallow waters. This technique requires clear water conditions and calm weather.

  • Polarized Sunglasses: Essential for reducing glare and spotting redfish.
  • Stealthy Approach: Use a trolling motor or pole your boat to avoid spooking fish.
  • Light Tackle: Opt for light to medium spinning gear with braided line for better sensitivity and casting distance.

Topwater Fishing

Topwater lures provide an exciting and effective way to catch redfish, especially in the early morning or late evening.

  • Poppers and Walk-the-Dog Lures: These lures mimic struggling baitfish, triggering aggressive strikes from red drum.
  • Retrieve Techniques: Vary the speed and style of your retrieve to match the behavior of the redfish. Sometimes a fast, erratic motion works, while other times a slow, steady retrieve is more effective.

Using Live Bait

Live bait fishing is a time-tested method that consistently produces results, especially for larger red drum.

  • Popular Baits: Mullet, menhaden, shrimp, and crabs are all excellent choices.
  • Hook Placement: Hook your bait through the nose or back to keep it alive and swimming naturally.
  • Fishing Rigs: Use a Carolina rig or a simple fish finder rig to present your bait near the bottom where redfish often feed.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing for redfish is a rewarding challenge that combines skill and patience.

  • Fly Patterns: Crab and shrimp patterns are particularly effective. Clouser minnows and deceivers also work well.
  • Casting Techniques: Accurate casting is crucial. Practice your short-distance casts and be ready to present your fly quickly when you spot a fish.
  • Tippet and Leader: Use a strong, abrasion-resistant leader to handle the redfish’s powerful runs and rough mouths.

Seasonal Tips for Redfishing


Spring is a prime time for redfishing in Virginia as water temperatures rise and red drum become more active.

  • Focus Areas: Look for redfish in shallow flats and estuaries, where they forage for food.
  • Bait Selection: Crabs and shrimp are abundant during this time, making them ideal bait choices.


Summer offers consistent redfishing opportunities, with red drum found in deeper waters during the heat of the day.

  • Fishing Times: Early morning and late evening are the best times to fish, as red drum feed more actively in cooler temperatures.
  • Topwater Action: This is the best season for topwater fishing, as redfish are more likely to strike lures on the surface.


Fall is perhaps the best season for redfishing in Virginia. The cooling waters trigger a feeding frenzy as red drum prepare for winter.

  • Trophy Fish: Larger redfish are more common during the fall. Focus on deeper channels and drop-offs where big reds hunt.
  • Bait Choices: Larger baitfish like mullet and menhaden are effective during this time.


Winter redfishing can be challenging, but it’s still possible with the right approach.

  • Warm Water Areas: Target areas with warmer water, such as power plant outflows or deeper estuaries.
  • Slow Presentation: Redfish are less active in cold water, so slow down your presentation and use smaller baits.


Redfishing in Virginia offers a diverse and exciting experience for anglers of all skill levels. By exploring the top spots and employing the best techniques, you can increase your chances of landing a trophy red drum. Whether you prefer the thrill of sight fishing or the challenge of fly fishing, Virginia’s waters are ripe with opportunities.

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