As an angler, you know that the adventure of fishing is as much about the experience as it is reeling in the big one. If you're used to one type of fishing (or fish), you'll love the variety that awaits you in Sandbridge Beach, Virginia.
Cast your line in both fresh- and saltwater for a chance to land a trophy catch... or just a delicious fish dinner. This relaxed coastal retreat is truly a fisherman's paradise, where fishermen (and women) of all ages and skill levels will find plenty of challenging fun.
Little Island Pier at Sandbridge Beach
Looking for a laid-back way to fish with family and friends? Head to Little Island Pier at Little Island District Park, just north of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This popular pier juts out 400 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, so you're sure to find a comfortable spot to set up your cooler and tackle box.
You don't need a license for Little Island Pier fishing, and the season extends year-round. But hours are limited from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., April 15 through October 31, and from 7 a.m. until posted closing time, November 1 through April 14.
There's also a modest fishing fee to cover the costs of upkeep. Sandbridge residents pay $8 per day; non-residents pay $10. Weekly fishing passes are available, too - just $25 for residents, $35 for non-residents. You can even get an annual pier fishing pass at a greater discount for residents and non-residents. Kids 9 and under are always free, provided they're with a paying adult. And sightseers can enjoy the pier for a minimal daily fee: $1 for residents, $2 for non-residents.
Visitors agree, the pier-fishing experience more than justifies the modest charge. From spring through fall, the sparkling Atlantic teems with croaker, flounder, and other saltwater favorites. Even in the dead of December, you just might reel in a prize striped bass. (They run in these waters year 'round.)
When you've finished fishing, you can clean your catch at the pier's free cleaning station. Then cook it on one of four charcoal grills at the nearby Little Island Picnic Area... and enjoy a luscious, fresh-caught meal with all the fixin's and trimmin's.
After dinner, you can work off the calories with a fun-filled family game of pickleball, volleyball, or basketball. Or stroll along the 775-foot sandy beach to collect shells, watch the gulls, and wade in the warm, foamy waves.
Little Island District Park provides picnic shelters, public restrooms, a playground, seasonal snack concessions, plus handicapped access to the pier and main beach. Paved parking is available for a minimal charge.
Surf-Casting from Sandridge Beach
For a little more challenge and excitement, try fishing from the Atlantic shoreline. It does require a license, but you can get one at minimal cost - $10 for a 10-day permit (for both residents and non-residents). Local tackle shops, sporting-goods stores, and even a nearby Wal-Mart issue these temporary licenses.
The rewards are well worth it. The coastal waters are especially deep right along Sandbridge Beach, so you can cast your line for some of the most sought-after saltwater species, including red drum, black drum, puppy drum, gray trout, speckled trout, and mahi-mahi (also known as dolphin fish).
Never surf-fished before? Don't know how to gear up? No problem. Several area outposts offer equipment rentals - everything from rods, reels, and lures to beach chairs and tackle boxes.
Freshwater Fishing at Back Bay Watershed
Looking to land some tasty freshwater fish? Just south and west of Sandbridge Beach, you'll find the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, home to a wide range of scavenging seabirds - as well as the fish they feed on.
Here you can cast your line for bluegill, white perch, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, and other species that thrive in fresh and brackish waters. You can even charter a Back Bay fishing excursion or launch your own boat from one of the state-owned ramps at Mill Landing Road or Back Bay Landing Road. Just be sure you have your freshwater fishing license, available for just $8 (one day) or $21 (five consecutive days).
While you're at it, don't forget to fish Back Bay Refuge's sheltered grass beds, where fish-friendly plants like Eurasian watermilfoil are making a serious comeback.
These waters once teemed with largemouth bass, a much-prized freshwater species. Many anglers considered it the best bass fishing spot in America!
Then a devastating hurricane and misguided conservation efforts poured salt water into fresh - and decimated the bass population. Now, however, more recent efforts have restored clean, fresh water and distinctive plant life. Result? The bass are back and local anglers are in seventh heaven.
World-Class Offshore Fishing at Sandbridge Beach
Own a bass boat, cruiser, convertible, or similar sport fishing vessel? Launch it from one of the local ramps for some of the finest offshore fishing in the world.
From May through October, prized sportfish abound in these deep coastal waters - wahoo, striper, mackerel, marlin, sea bass, tuna, shark, tautog, and more. It's seventh heaven for novice anglers and veterans alike.
No boat of your own? Charter one. Several Virginia Beach companies offer customized fishing excursions, with expert anglers on hand for guidance and support. Who knows? You could reel in a giant drum or mako shark... or even a bluefin tuna weighing several hundred pounds.
Family-Friendly Inshore Fishing on a Head Boat
Seeking a fishing experience that will delight your entire family, from tiny tots to grandparents? Charter a head boat out of nearby Virginia Beach.
Often larger than regular charter boats, these well-appointed vessels come equipped with every comfort, from full snack bars to enclosed spacious cabins (heated in cold weather, air-conditioned in summer).
You won't need to bring along your own rod, reel, bait, and tackle. Everything is supplied as part of the package price. Even the appropriate fishing license is included.
You can book a head-boat for either offshore or inshore fishing, but inshore - just a few miles from shore - is probably better for toddlers and younger children. Excursions typically last half a day, although day-long trips (and longer) are also available.
Often the boat will linger around submerged wrecks, rocks, and reefs where gamefish swarm in the early mornings and evenings. You can expect to spot - and hopefully catch - inshore favorites like redfish, flounder, and speckled trout.
Head boat excursions cater to novice anglers, so, if you're a newbie, no worries. Expert deckhands will gladly help you learn how to bait your rod, cast your reel, and haul in your catch.
Try Crabbing, Too - It's Fun and Easy!
Fish are not the only native delicacy available at Sandbridge Beach. The warm Atlantic waters teem with scrumptious Blue Crabs, especially when the tide is coming in. Simply bait your net with chicken wings or turkey necks and dip it into the water. Keep trying and you're sure to nab a few meaty specimens.
Normally no license is needed for crabbing with a standard dip or cast net. And the nets themselves are sold at any sporting goods store. So, even if you've never gone crabbing before, go ahead, give it a whirl.
How About Shrimping? (It's All the Rage)
Yes, you can catch your own shrimp at Sandbridge Beach, VA. You'll need a Cast Net License, which you can easily obtain for a modest annual fee. (Ask any Virginia tackle shop for details.)
Shrimping during daylight hours? Back Bay is the perfect spot. Use a cast net with wide webbing and rugged sinker weights, available at most bait-and-tackle shops. Add some shrimp meal as bait. Then, cast your net into the bay's deeper waters (20 to 30 feet deep) and make sure it sinks to the bottom. Jig the net a few times, then draw it up and dump the contents in a bucket.
You should nab a few dozen shrimp with each cast. Separate out the smaller shrimp to use as fish bait. Keep the larger ones for dinner.
Shrimping at night? You'll want to try your luck in the ocean. First, use a flashlight to draw the shrimp to the surface. Then use a long-handled dip net to corral your catch.
You've Caught Your Seafood. Now What?
Ready to dine on your delectable catch in the comfort of your Sandbridge vacation rental? If you know how to clean and fillet your fish, you can easily do so once you're back on land. Then use the pans and utensils in your unit's well-stocked kitchen to prepare a luscious feast.
Recipes can be simple - just butter, salt, and pepper for sizzling pan-seared trout, flounder, bass, or catfish. Prefer something a little fancier? If you're an avid gourmet chef, you can really go to town with delicate savory sauces like lemon garlic butter, bechamel, or creamy Dijon mustard.
As for shrimp and crabmeat... even easier. Peel shrimp, then boil or grill, and serve with a tangy dip or cocktail sauce. Boil fresh Blue Crabs and serve with melted butter. Or look up any of the countless fish-and-seafood recipes available online.
Not up for toiling over a steamy stove after a long day of fun in the sun? Several Sandbridge Beach restaurants will gladly prepare your day's catch to your specifications, then serve it to you, piping hot, with fresh, delicious sides, in a relaxed, elegant setting.
An Unforgettable Family Experience
Whether you're pole-fishing from the pier or trolling for trout and bass, you're sure to have the time of your life and make memories you'll cherish forever.