Waking up to walk Oliver Tolliver, and the neighbor’s dog Lola, who’s spending a couple of weeks with us, and the first thing that hit me was a cool hint of things to come. As I’ve gotten older, my favorite times to fish have been narrowed to the spring and fall. And this morning smelled fresh of autumn.

Yeah, it’s sad when some species begin their migration to the south, but we’ve got plenty of time before that happens. Maybe it’s the low humidity; the feeling of a warm sweatshirt needed for early in the day, one you can remove when the sun gets higher and heats things up…

Nah, it’s probably more the fishing than anything else.

And while catches have been pretty good so far this year for a variety of species, some just really seem to turn on as temperatures cool. It sounds like a good excuse for a fishing forecast.

So what in the heck is that in the picture, some combination of a mutant strain of dentist-deprived human and fish?

Nope, just a sheepshead – one of the species that, in about a month, will start heading either to the deep or to the south. But my goodness, what kind of choppers are those?

Some are used for plucking crustaceans off pilings, rocks, and wrecks, while the others are used to smash them to get to the meat. Sheepies are tackle and skill testers as they live around structures that fishing line isn’t fond of. And they are brutes – thick-bodied, rounded, and powerful. Let’s not forget they make for one great meal.

Dwelling in similar territory are spadefish, triggerfish, and flounder – all of which have enjoyed a good summer. Cobia are plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay and along the coast, but you’d best hurry up and get after them since the season closes September 15th.

Big red drum are all over the place and are spending more time on the surface where sight-casters can have the time of their life. Juvenile reds and speckled trout continue to provide good action throughout the lower bay and inside the southside’s three inlets. Also look for them in the York, Nansemond, and Elizabeth rivers, along with the Poquoson Flats and Eastern Shore seaside creeks.

Spot and croaker are all over the southern bay, but haven’t started to get very big just yet. Striped bass are abundant, but not yet legal to keep in the bay. Coastal trollers will find bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and ribbonfish for several more weeks.

Offshore action is pretty good when it’s turned on, with billfish, tuna, dolphin, and wahoo providing the top catches. White marlin tend to put on a magnificent show when we get more into the end of the month.

And please don’t deprive yourself of some fantastic action brewing in local freshwater lakes and ponds, and brackish tidal systems.

As waters cool, largemouth will spend more time in the shallows as they fatten up for tougher times in the winter. Crappie are starting to migrate into shallow-water structures for just the same reason. Bluegill and shellcracker – especially the bigger ones – are spending more time in waters from 5 to 10 feet deep.

And catfishing on tidal systems has and will continue to be fantastic.

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