Science for Better Fishing

Planning a fishing trip to Chesapeake Bay or mid-Atlantic coastal waters? Research and monitoring programs at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) can help you fish better, and provide the knowledge and data needed to manage the fish stocks that provide food and sport for you and more than a half million other recreational anglers each year.

No matter what species you’re after—spot, croaker, striped bass, bluefish, summer flounder, weakfish, or other favorites—our scientists have been working for 75 years to make sure they’ll be there for you to pursue. But remember, finding and landing that trophy is still up to you!

A pair of happy anglers.
We count small fish so you can catch big ones

Researchers in our Juvenile Abundance Monitoring Surveys measure the distribution and abundance of recreationally important species like striped bass, as well as prey species like blue crabs. Their data, collected since 1955, provide the information managers need to ensure healthy fish populations for your enjoyment today and tomorrow.

SAV Interactive MapWe restore and map the grass beds that fish love

VIMS scientists lead the world’s largest and most successful seagrass restoration project, with 4,700 acres of eelgrass meadows now thriving in Virginia’s seaside bays. These and other seagrass beds provide key nursery habitat for striped bass and other recreationally important fishes. And because big striped bass like to feed along the edge of grass beds, you can use our interactive maps of seagrass distribution, created through annual aerial surveys, to help choose your fishing spot.

Virginia Clean Marina Program
We help ensure clean marinas

Our Clean Marina program, now with 74 members throughout Virginia, ensures that the facilities you use to launch and berth your boat employ best practices to keep sewage, petroleum products, and other contaminants out of our waters for healthier fishing. Apply these practices to your own boating activities and you can become a certified “Clean Boater.”

Algal Cells
We track harmful algal blooms

VIMS researchers are developing genetic techniques to quickly identify algal species that generate toxins that can kill fish and impact human health. As members of Virginia’s HAB Task Force, they monitor local waters so that the Virginia Department of Health can warn anglers, boaters, and beachgoers when a harmful algal bloom threatens marine life or human health.

A living shoreline.We encourage “living shorelines”

Chesapeake Bay's shoreline stretches 11,684 miles—more than the entire west coast of the U.S. As sea level continues to rise, VIMS encourages waterfront property owners to use  plants, stone, and sand to protect their shorelines from erosion—rather than traditional bulkheads. In addition to erosion control, these “living shorelines” enhance habitat for juvenile fishes and the invertebrates bigger fish like to eat. Watch the video.

Ghost Pots
We remove marine debris

During the last 6 years, VIMS staff and commercial watermen have hauled up nearly 40,000 derelict crab “ghost pots,” lost fishing nets, and assorted other junk from Chesapeake Bay. Because ghost pots can continue to capture and kill animals, their removal means more crabs and fish survive as prey and for sport.

Tidewatch Forecasts
We forecast water levels

Our Tidewatch forecast system predicts weather-related departures from the predicted astronomic tide, important information for navigating to your favorite fishing spot, and knowing the expected water depth when you get there.

A billfishWe help decrease mortality in billfish

VIMS research showed that a simple change in fishing hooks—switching from a “J” to an “O” shape—could increase the survival rate of white marlin caught and released by recreational anglers from just 2 percent to 35 percent.

Virginia Gamefish Tagging ProgramWe’ll train you to generate catch data for better management

Through the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program, a cooperative project of VIMS and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, we train recreational anglers who volunteer their time and effort to tag and release their catch. Data on tagged and recaptured fish provide critical information on habitat and seasonal movement for red drum, black drum, cobia, speckled trout, and tautog—species for which scientific data have traditionally been lacking.