Amberjack is a popular gamefish found in the western Atlantic Ocean that are often fished in Chesapeake Bay, with anglers from around the world setting out to capture this aggressive fish. All amberjack fishing is done by boat over deep water because the fish cling to the deepest areas of the bay up to 250 feet below the surface.
Fishing techniques vary, depending on the time of year. Read on to learn about some of the techniques successful anglers use for catching amberjack on the Chesapeake Bay.
Finding Cheasapeake Bay Amberjack
The best amberjack fishing in Chesapeake Bay is southeast of Rudee Inlet, which is south of the Virginia Beach resort area. All the charter boat captains are familiar with Rudee Inlet.
Fish finders are mandatory for tracking down amberjack in the bay. Look for the younger fish (10 pounds or less) in tight schools, while amberjack in the 20- to 40-lb. range tend to move about in loosely scattered groups.
Current possession regulations limit anglers to two amberjack per day. The fish must be at least 32 inches long, measured from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
Fishing Techniques for Amberjack
Most amberjack on the bay are caught with live bait such as croakers and mullet weighing one lb. or less. The best way to hook the baitfish is below the spinal cord behind the dorsal to avoid paralyzing the fish or limiting its movement. Some anglers prefer to hook the baitfish near the tail.
Add six to 12 oz. of sinker weight to the rig about two to three feet up from the hook on your main line. This weight is needed to get the baitfish into the depths where amberjack are cruising for a meal. Use the depth finder to get your bait down in the water where the amberjack can see, smell and hopefully taste it.
Jigging artificial lures is a common strategy on the Chesapeake because amberjack are bottom-feeders. Use soft, plastic jigs resembling mullet, croaker or shrimp, and make sure the jig can reach the bottom of the bay. Twitch your rod tip to make the jig dance, giving the lure time to hit bottom before you move it again.
Best Times for Amberjack Fishing on the Chesapeake
The amberjack fishing season peaks between June and September, which coincides with prime-time tourist season for the Virginia Beach area. Knowing this, amberjack anglers will want to make their reservations early for the best locations and rates.
Boat charters can be booked ahead of time, but will likely require hefty advance deposits. For spontaneous fishing plans, you might consider a makeup charter where several anglers sign up their availability and the marina staff try to put together a full boat. If enough anglers arrive the day of the trip, everyone shares the cost of the charter.