Along the Mid Atlantic Coast, several species of saltwater fish are caught during Spring. Species such as tautog, flounder, shad and striped bass are ready to bite long before most anglers are ready to begin the spring fishing season.
Among the first fish to be caught along the Mid Atlantic coast are usually tautog. These ocean bottom fish are sometimes called blackfish. Found around shipwrecks, rockpiles, reefs and other structure, these odd looking fish are caught using baits such as blue crabs or sea clams. Occasionally, anglers fishing for tautog may catch cod, haddock, pollock, whiting, spiny dogfish or other cold water species. Head boats or charter boats are the best bet for catching early spring tautog, with some boats having reputations as tautog specialists.
Another early spring fish is the striped bass. Large stripers migrate along the surf in spring and are sometimes caught in good numbers. Mid Atlantic surf fishermen use fish finder rigs and baits such as menhaden, crab or squid when catching spring striped bass.
Beginning in late March and continuing thru early May, waves of summer flounder (fluke) enter Mid Atlantic inlets. Anglers in Virginia are usually the first to catch summer flounder although catches in Maryland, New Jersey and New York are not far behind. Early spring flounder fishing can be fast paced as fish school together in large numbers in areas where warmer temperatures prevail.
As shallow estuaries such as the Chesapeake and Delaware bays begin to warm, Atlantic croakers move in to feed. The first croakers are sometimes caught in late April or early May, around the time that blue crabs begin to move into shallow bay grass beds. Croakers will take a variety of cut baits, including peeler crab, quahog clam, squid, bloodworms or other baits.