The 6 Best Fish to Catch in Virginia This Summer

Written by Crystal
Published: August 19, 2022
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What are the best fish to catch in Virginia this summer?

It depends on what type of challenge you’re looking for. Do you want a leisurely day of reeling in plentiful bluegill? Or do you want to spend hours battling a mighty blue marlin? Instead of choosing, you could always go after both!

As long as you have enough time, you can catch your fill of small and large gamefish. Thanks to the coastal waters, you’ll also be able to take your pick of freshwater vs. saltwater species too! Where should you start?

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Here’s a list of the 6 most popular fish to target in Virginia this summer.

1. Blue Marlin

Mounted Blue Marlin
Blue marlin can fight on the line for hours.


Go all out this summer and try your hand at catching a mighty blue marlin. The noble species is known for waiting hours before taking a bite.

Preparation is the key to success. You’ll need to travel miles away from the coast to catch a blue marlin. So, double-check the weather and look for any possible storms. The last thing you want to do is travel miles out, only to turn around because of lightning.

Many anglers use live bait, but that’s not your only option. You can also set up artificial lures. However, the blue marlin will respond to anything it’s currently eating. That means you can catch your bait straight from the ocean and put it to work!

Once they bite, let the marlin run the hook for a little bit before setting it. When you’re ready to set the hook, tug it firmly and prepare for battle. The blue marlin is famous for putting up a big fight that can last hours.

2. Bluegill

With vivid colors, the bluegill is all but common throughout the USA. Its a great sporting fish, with healthy populations found in lakes, ponds and rivers.
Bluegill is a type of sunfish.

©Stacey Ann Alberts/

Are you ready to catch one of North America’s most popular and widespread sunfish species? Then target the bluegill. It’s one of the best fish to catch in Virginia this summer! Plus, there are so many bluegills that angling doesn’t impact their populations.

The bluegill is one of the largest sunfish in North America. On average, they weigh half a pound, but larger specimens can weigh over 2 lbs. As long as there’s the right combination of food, cover, and spawning grounds, the bluegill can exceed weights of 2 lb.

Bluegills prefer oxygen-rich water, and they’re particularly active during the summertime. Their habitat includes weedy lakes, slow-moving streams, ponds, and the backwaters of rivers. During the summer, bluegill can spawn as many as three times! That means they’ll be plenty of them for you to catch.

3. Swordfish

Animals with large eyes – swordfish
Swordfish can weigh over 1,000 pounds.


Another famously large fish to catch is the swordfish. This species made our list of the best fish to catch in Virginia because it’s so massive. They can weigh over 1,000 pounds!

Residing in tidal creeks, offshore waters, and estuaries, swordfish are available day and night. Once you catch your first one, you’ll be hooked and want to catch more! They’re one of the most exciting species of big game fishing, and true success lies in studying the fish’s behavior.

For instance, swordfish respond well to bait such as squid or Mahi bellies. Once you pick your bait, pay close attention to the rigging process. You’ll need to secure the bait so it doesn’t fall off when it’s far beneath your boat. You’ll also need to set it up so the bait swims straight rather than spinning.

The hook you use will determine how the bait sits and moves. One of the best hooks includes the Mustad 7691 since it has a tight/firm hold. The hook’s closed throat requires less pressure, too, making it easier to penetrate.

4. Mahi Mahi

Mahi Mahi on a white background
Mahi Mahi come close to the shoreline during summer.


Another saltwater fish to target is the Mahi-Mahi, also known as dolphin fish. They’re lean fish with a mildly sweet flavor. Whether you’re a new or experienced angler, it’s a gamefish you’ll have fun going after.

Since they travel in schools, it’s easy to catch more than one. You’ll find them swimming and just off the Virginia coastline. During the summer months, they’ll wander even closer to the shore, which makes things easier on you!

Some of the best baits include cut fish of all varieties, ballyhoo, and squid. Some of the best mahi-mahi lures include diving plugs, spreader bars, daisy chains, and soft plastic jigs. They are muscular fish, and it’ll take some strength to reel one onto the boat.

Professional anglers suggest using tackle that will hold up and bringing back up tackle just in case. You’ll also want a heavy action rod for the best results. The leader size can be between 40-80 pounds of fluorocarbon. If you’re using bait circle hooks, stick to 9/0 or 6/0, they’re the most common. Finally, if you’re trolling for mahi-mahi, use a 30-50 pound class rod and reel.

5. Crappie

Crappie jumping out of water
Crappie like to swim in large dense schools.


Would you like to catch a cooperative and great-tasting fish? Then you should target crappies while you’re in Virginia this summer. They’re one of the best panfish species in the entire state. One of the reasons they’re so popular has to do with their tendency to congregate. Crappies live in schools that are large and dense. Once you find one, you’ll have a ton nearby.

Throughout Southern Canada and the United States, the black crappie shares its habitat with the walleye. They prefer cool, clear, deep waters in lakes and streams. Black crappies prefer to hover around vegetation such as submerged brush as a schooling fish. They’re most active in the low light hours of early morning and dusk. It’s during these hours that they move as a group into the open waters to feed. Their diet mainly consists of small fish, insects, and invertebrae.

You can also target the white crappie in Virginia. White crappie typically weighs under a pound, and they share many of the same habitats as black crappie. However, there are giant crappies out there.

6. Sauger

Another close relative of a walleye we have is the sauger fish. Sauger is one of the best fish to catch in Virginia this summer because they’re plentiful and challenging. They also play an essential role in the game fish community.

Often the sauger shares habitats with the walleye. They prefer deep cool waters and are most often found in big lakes and rivers. In rare cases, sauger will adapt to smaller waters, but small lakes aren’t its preferred habitat.

A few of the nicknames for the sauger include sand pike, sand pickerel, and pickerel. Even though they’re closely related to walleye, sauger doesn’t reach the same size. Typical catches will weigh less than 3 lb. But who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and catch a 4 pounder!

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Burke Lake Virginia

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About the Author

Crystal is always looking to learn more, and share her finds with you along the way. It's amazing how you can spend your entire life living with plants and animals, but still know so little about them! Let's explore our world together as Crystal covers topics about creatures, places, and experiences.

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