Chesapeake Bay summer flounder

Dr. Julie Ball of Extreme Sportfishing is one fortunate angler.

Her backyard is home to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, coined "One of Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World." Just that name alone (Engineering Wonders of the World) yells 'Massive Structure' and it's a bridge.

The CBBT is a fish magnet with the region producing countless 50-pound striped bass, mega-sized summer flounder as well as abundant schools of spadefish, triggerfish, black and red drum and more.

The CBBT connects Virginia's Eastern Shore with the Virginia mainland at Virginia Beach near Norfolk and crosses over as well as under open waters where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

It is here where Ball and her trusted fishing friend, Capt. Rudy Lavasseur of Hell Bent Sportfishing, targets really big summer flounder, also referred to by locals as flatfish. The CBBT offers anglers countless bridge pilings, wrecks, strewn rubble fields and forage for summer flounder.

Summer flounder reside in the bay bridge area from spring through autumn but it is important to note that some have been known to winter over winter in the Bay. These fish are bottom-dwellers that often hold in deep channels, ridges, sandbars and manmade structures like the CBBT.

However, plenty of summer flounder can be caught on shallow water flats in as little water as three or four feet. Right now, bigger summer flounder are holding along the structure of the CBBT, according to Ball.

"Live bait, including four to seven inch croaker and spot, are excellent choices," Ball said.

Lowering 3-way swivel rigs tipped with live bait along bridge pilings, strewn rubble, wrecks and adjacent flats produces excellent results with flatfish as heavy as 9 pounds. Like all summer flounder aficionados, Ball prefers to fish moving water and the prevalent structure the bridge yields.

Ball's knock out 3-way swivel rig consists of a "sinker drop" line with a loop that is six to eight inches below the swivel. This loop typically holds 6 ounces of lead. Her sinker drop line is made from 15-pound test monofilament to ease break-offs when stuck. She then affixes a 3-foot section of fluorocarbon leader with a 5/0 live bait hook to the other swivel eye. Her live bait of choice is that four- to seven-inch spot or croaker.

While drifting along the CBBT structure, her passengers bump bottom by slowly raising and lowering the rig on a tight line.

"Muskie rods, such as the Compre series by Shimano, offer plenty of backbone to fight larger fish yet allows my anglers to manage heavy lead," she said. "When they feel the summer flounder hit, she instructs her passengers to wait as much as 2 minutes."

Sounds to me like eternity but right now, her customers are catching flatfish up to around 9-pounds and I am not. She did inform me that the average size is typically 17-23-inches or 1 to 4 pounds.

If You Go:

Dr. Julie Ball's Extreme Sportfishing http://www.drjball.com/
The Virginia Beach Fishing Center, Virginia Beach 757-491-8000

DIY (Do It Yourself Angler):

Owl's Creek - 717 General Booth Blvd - Virginia Beach, VA 23451 - 757 437-2038
Crab Creek Boat ramps (757-460-7590)

The current Virginia Regulations on Summer Flounder are as follows:

2010 - No Closed Season

Minimum Size Limit............................18.5 inches
Possession Limit.................................4 per person

The above flounder restrictions apply to Virginia tidal waters, except that in Virginia's Potomac River tributaries the minimum size limit, closed season, and possession limit will be the same as established by PRFC for the mainstem Potomac River.

Editor's note: Capt. Chris Gatley can be found with his fishing clients chasing striped bass in front of the Statue of Liberty, or heading offshore to the Atlantic Ocean canyons off the NJ/NY coast for tuna. His articles on cutting-edge fishing techniques can be found in The Fisherman Magazine, and he's a regular presenter at key sports shows during the winter months (when he's not pursuing whatever he can find in East Coast rivers).