Though known as Striped Bass by most people, if you are from east of I-95, they are "Rockfish" or "Rock."
Unlike the freshwater large and smallmouth (which are sunfish), this is a true bass, a family of fish that includes white bass, white perch, and other species around the world. Rock have been one of the most important species for commercial fishermen and a favorite of sportsmen on the bay for decades. Due to over fishing, a moratorium was put on the fish to help the population recover. Thanks to wise management decisions, the Rock are back and available for all to enjoy.
Rockfish is a Virginia favorite
Rock tend to seek shelter around structure such as bridges, jetties (hence the name) and large piers. Sometimes they can be found in the shallows at night chasing bait fish. Trolling is very productive for these predators. With a fish finder, it is possible to find a spot and anchor for good fishing.
Head out for rockfish this season
The Virginia State Parks in the Chesapeake Bay Region should be on your rockfish "bucket" list as they are located near some of the best fishing holes. Kiptopeke State Park is one of the Eastern Shore has the "concrete ships" providing great habitat for them. First Landing State Park gives boaters quick access to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (and the pier on the first island) with the choice of going into Hampton Roads or the Atlantic Ocean.
Piers can produce rock, cats, and other favorite fish
Don't pass over the parks on the rivers though. Chippokes Plantation State Park isn't too far from the James River Bridge and other structures. York River State Park has access to the bridges on the Matttaponi and Pamunkey Rivers as well as many marshy islands. Belle Isle State Park is near several creek mouths and the bridges that span the Rappahannock. When the temperature drops, surf casting at False Cape State Park is possible for the intrepid angler.
Rock are one of the hardest fighting fish and also one of the best tasting. A favorite of my family is Stewed Rock. Fry up the fish in your favorite breader and drain the oil. Slice onions and place in a pan with a little water. Place the fish on the onions with the water just touching them. Cover and simmer gently until the onions are tender. For a more gourmet twist, use a combination of water and wine or beer.
Rock love the Concrete Ships of Kiptopeke
Rockfish are in season from now until December 31st with a minimum size limit of 18 inches and maximum of 28 inches. Please visit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission website for more information about rock and other fall and winter species. Get your recipe book ready!
Directions to Belle Isle State Park: Lancaster County on the Rappahannock River. From Warsaw, take State Route 3 East to SR 354. Turn right and follow for three miles. Turn right onto SR 683 at Somers to the park entrance. From Kilmarnock, take Route 3 West to Lively, then left on SR 201 for three miles, then right on SR 354 for three miles and left onto 683 to the park entrance
Directions to Chippokes Plantation State Park: Surry County. From I-95 and I-295, take Route 10 towards Hopewell. Follow Route 10 East for approximately 40 miles to Surry. Turn left at the intersection of routes 10 and 31 (this continues on Route 10). Turn right at the stop light. Turn left at Route 634 (Alliance Road), and the park entrance is four miles on the left.
Directions to False Cape State Park: From Interstate 64, exit on to Indian River Road East. Go 13 miles, then turn left onto Newbridge Road, then right onto Sandbridge Road. Next, turn right onto Sandpiper Road to Little Island City Park. Parking fees required Memorial Day to Labor Day. Day use only parking also is available at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Directions to First Landing State Park: From I-64, take Northampton Blvd.-U.S. 13 North (Exit 282). Go through eight lights, then turn right at the Shore Drive/U.S. 60 exit (last exit before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel). Take a right on Shore Drive and go four and a half miles to the park entrance. To reach the Chesapeake Bay Center, park office, camping or cabins, turn left off U.S. Rt. 60 at the stoplight and check in at the contact station. For the Trail Center, picnic area and trails, turn right instead.
Directions to Kiptopeke State Park: Located on the eastern shore of Virginia, this park offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay and the chance to explore a unique coastal habitat featuring a major flyway for migratory birds. Kiptopeke is three miles from the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which has a substantial each-way toll charge, on Route 13. Turn west on Route 704; the park entrance is within a half mile. The park has an area for swimming Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Directions to York River State Park: From I-64, take the Croaker Exit 231B. Go north on Route 607 (Croaker Rd.) for one mile, then right on Route 606 (Riverview Rd.) about one and a half miles to the park entrance. Take a left turn into the park.