Outdoors: Virginia's Eastern Shore the place to be in the fall - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Outdoors: Virginia's Eastern Shore the place to be in the fall

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 3:37 pm, Tue Jan 22, 2013.

The Eastern Shore. If there is a lovelier piece of real estate in Virginia, I’m not aware of it. My wife and family have been making the voyage across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel since 1975, when we first discovered Cherrystone Campground.

Originally, a KOA campground, Cherrystone is unquestionably the premier camping destination in Virginia. It offers everything: Primitive camping, trailer sites, trailer rentals, cabin rentals and cottage rentals. What you choose depends on how much you like to “rough it”.

Our first trip to the bayside campground was in a 10-foot pop-up camper that folded out to sleep four. Later, we bought a 26-foot trailer and liked Cherrystone so much that we stored the camper there permanently. But eventually, our trailer began to fall apart from the wear and tear of salt air, and we sold it basically as salvage. But our days at Cherrystone were far from over. The 300-acre campground began building cabins and cottages and we now spend that precious Eastern Shore time in an air-conditioned cottage a few hundred feet from the bay. The compact units sleep six, complete with a private bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, front porch, grill, fire pit and lawn chairs. All you bring is some towels, linens, a few pots and pans and you’re in business.

The deluxe campground offers a cafe, general store, bait & tackle shop and even a farm stand. Cherrystone also has free putt-putt golf, free paddleboats, a magnificent swimming pool, picnic tables, tennis and lots of fun things for adults and children alike.

There are two food sources for Cherrystone visitors — a Food Lion on Highway 13 at Cape Charles and the Chesapeake Bay itself. During our week’s stay we had hard crabs, soft crabs, crab cakes, little neck clams and an assortment of fried fish.

One of the best parts about Cherrystone is the boat rentals. The cost for a 14-foot Carolina Skiff with a 4-stroke, 8 horsepower motor is just $39 for a half day and $65 for all day. With the boat, anglers have quick access to Cherrystone Creek and King’s Creek, both very productive waters. You can anchor up and fish for bottom fish or drift with the current for flounder.

The fish were plentiful — especially croakers. We also caught a bunch of puppy drum, but they were all undersized, about 14 inches. In Virginia, a young red drum must be at least 18 inches in order to creel. We also caught flounder, bluefish, hogfish, sea bass, gray trout and a few nice spot. The crabs were abundant, though many were pregnant females, which we gingerly returned to the water. A mature female crab can lay as many as one million eggs.

Kiptopeke State Park, near Cherrystone is another interesting destination site. Kiptopeke offers beautiful white sandy beaches, hiking trails and bike and kayak rentals. The park has a convenient boat ramp and one of the largest and best maintained fishing piers in Virginia. The cost to visit Kiptopeke is just $3 with another $3 fee if you want to fish. The fishing, by the way, was excellent.

The cost for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is $12 each way, but well worth it. The countryside is magnificent and the fish are plentiful. Fall, by the way, is the best time to be on the Eastern Shore.

Cherrystone is located just 11 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Turn west at the Cheriton traffic light off U.S. 13 onto VA 680 and follow the signs to the campground.

Call Cherrystone Campground at (757) 331-3063 or go to www. Cherrystoneva.com for more information.

If you go

If you happen to make the trip to the Eastern Shore for a little R&R and fishing, leave the deep-sea poles in the basement and bring ordinary bass outfits. I am partial to a medium heavy action 5½-foot rod and an Ambassador bait cast reel with 10-pound test. If the line is any smaller, you’ll snap off sinkers and if it’s much larger, it’ll take more weight to cast and keep tight to the bottom. You can catch huge fish on 10-pound test, just set the drag a little lighter.

I like size 2, long shank hooks for bottom bouncing and size 1/0 circle hooks for drifting. Take an assortment of weights, but go with the smallest size that will hug the bottom.

For baits, squid, peeler crabs, bloodworms, shrimp and cut bait will all put fish in the boat. By the way, bring a fish towel or a glove to take the croakers off the hooks. They will leave bare hands in shreds without a little protection.

Contact Brewer at j44brewer@gmail.com