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The Saltwater Review - 20 July 2005

Vol. 19, No. 10
by Lewis S. Gillingham

Chincoteague | Wachapreague | Cape Charles | Onancock | Lower Bay/CBBT | Middle Bay | Virginia Beach Virginia Piers | Outer Banks, NC


Since the end of last year, regulations for black sea bass and summer flounder have been modified.

For black sea bass, the minimum size limit remains 12 inches while the possession limit remains 25 fish but the closed season has been eliminated.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size limit has been reduced and the winter-closed period has been eliminated. The minimum size limit decreased from 17 inches (2004) to 16-1/2 inches for 2005. The winter-closed period from 1 January through 28 March has been eliminated for 2005/2006. 

Small school bluefin tuna continue to make one of their better showings in recent years off Virginia Beach, Wachapreague and Chincoteague. Check the bluefin tuna regulations (and identification chart) to make certain you know what is legal to keep before it goes into the cooler. A federal tuna permit is required for the vessel. Complete information (including ordering a tuna permit) is available by dialing 1-888-USA-TUNA.

Heat, humidity and the threat of thunderstorms took more of a toll on fishermen than the fish last week. This was especially true for the after-work shift, as temperatures were still high and the chance of a thunderstorm the greatest.

Big flounder continued to provide excitement for bay anglers, as dozens of citation-winning flatfish were registered last week. Most of the better hauls are coming from deepwater structure with the CBBT complex the premier location.

Reports indicate the bigger croaker are moving out of the upper Bay river systems and into the deep water channels of the Chesapeake. 

Offshore anglers have choices to make, as bluefin tuna topping 100 pounds plus school king mackerel and chopper bluefish are on the inshore lumps and good numbers of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin and billfish are in 20 fathoms and deeper. 

Chincoteague -

Some keeper flounder are still being caught but croaker are providing the bulk of the inshore action. Some of the most consistent flounder catches have come around the mouth of the inlet and nearby ocean waters. Black sea bass are on the ocean wrecks but most anglers heading east are looking for tuna. Chopper bluefish numbers have dwindled on the inshore lumps and anglers have begun to chunk for bluefin tuna with good results. Most "chunkers" anchor but some prefer to drift over suitable bottom but all prefer butterfish as bait. The Lumpy Bottom and Parking Lot are the two spots that draw the most anglers seeking bluefin. A few yellowfin were caught in these same waters but most anglers hoping for yellowfin will troll. Trollers generally put lines out in 30 fathoms and work towards the canyons for yellowfin tuna, dolphin and the occasional billfish.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported plenty of school bluefin tuna at the Lumpy Bottom. The hordes of chopper bluefish appear to have departed and chunkers are starting to catch a larger class of bluefin. The crew aboard the FRISKY PHILLY boated a 94-pounder over the weekend. Some yellowfin and dolphin were caught between the 30-fathom line and Washington Canyon. Todd Wessells released a white marlin aboard the 4PLAY at the South Lumps. Inshore, the flounder bite was surprisingly good along Paramour Island.

Captain Zed's reported good catches of bluefin and yellowfin tuna over the weekend. The crew aboard the AMERICAN MAID released an estimated 300-pound blue marlin on Saturday and caught and released a white marlin earlier in the week. The shop also indicated a strong mid-summer flounder bite was underway "right in the inlet," in the channel that runs by Cedar Island. In addition to the flounder, "there's plenty of croaker to go around," according to Zed's.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported croaker remain abundant on both the bayside, off Cape Charles, and the seaside, out of Oyster. The biggest fish the past week was caught, and then released, as Doug Wehner earned a release award for a 74-inch shark out of Oyster. Over on the bayside, Charles White III, released a 50-inch red drum and wife Gail released a 51-inch red at the Inner Middle Ground. Fishing partners Brandon Beach (47 inches) and Thomas Heath (46 inches) each released red drum at Inner Middle Grounds, where Pat Mish released a 48-inch red. Jesse Hacket boated the weekend's biggest cobia, a 68 pounder, at buoy 16 while Ralph Giannini released a 53-inch cobia at the Inner Middle Grounds. Large flounder were pulled-in from various locations-usually the water was 35 feet or deeper and offered some sort of structure. Julie Seay boated an 8-3/4-pound flounder at the Cell, Ron Harlow landed a 7-pound, 9-ounce flounder at the Third Island tube and Robert Savage Jr. decked a 7-pound, 5-ounce flounder at buoy 42. An inshore ocean wreck produced citation spadefish for April Roberts (9 pounds, 5 ounces), Michelle Adkins (9 pounds, 6 ounces) and ten-year-old Calvin Adkins, Jr. (11 pounds, 7 ounces). In addition to croaker and flounder, bottom fishermen are also catching some pan trout and sea mullet off Cape Charles.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported excellent catches of large croaker the past week but cautioned the croaker move with the tide and time of day. Captain Wil's advice, "go early and fish deep or go late and fish shallow." The best catches of croaker came in 15 to 35 feet of water on the change of tide. Good numbers of medium spot were mixed in with the croaker. Other catches included taylor bluefish, sea mullet, porgy, hogfish and some keeper pan trout in the 12 to 17-inch range. "I usually get about a half-dozen or so flounder each trip," to add to the mixed bag. Captain Wil had his best luck with shrimp for bait but squid and bloodworm also worked.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina registered several citation flounder over the weekend, including a 26-inch release for Jeffery Haynes aboard TIGHT LINES. Justin Cockrell boated an 8-pound, 10-ounce flounder at the Second Island aboard FLATFISH and Val Rapp, Jr. had a 7-pound, 14-ounce flatfish at the Third Island. Sean Olah (23-1/2 inches) and Regina Spence (24 inches) each released big sheepshead at the Second Island aboard PEEWEE. David Amerson boated a 9-pound, 6-ounce sheepshead at the Fourth Island, where Jon Teig Jr. released a 50-inch black drum, and John Kidwell decked a 12-1/4-pound sheepshead at the Second Island. A few boats went offshore and recorded mixed catches of bluefin and yellowfin tuna. Deanne Pullian released a 65-inch white marlin at the Fingers and Mike Keltner released a 90-inch white at Norfolk Canyon.

Patrick at Bubba's Marina said the current heat wave slowed some of the fishermen but not the fish, as the shop weighed and registered numerous citation flounder and sheepshead from the CBBT. The cobia bite appeared to slow the past week but black and red drum remain available at the CBBT. Croaker are abundant around the CBBT with some of the biggest, up to 3 pounds, holding around the Third Island. Anglers also report hooking into large bluefish in the 5 to 12 pound range occasionally while the smaller taylor bluefish plus some Spanish mackerel are holding in the rips around the CBBT rock islands. Waters inside Lynnhaven are producing mixed sizes of spot, some keeper flounder but very few trout or puppy drum. Blue crabs are abundant around the inlet but most are egg-sac bearing females.

Dr. Jim Wright said bluefin and yellowfin tuna and even white marlin were caught at the Fingers last week while Spanish mackerel were available along the CB line. Inshore, Dr. Jim described the flounder season as "tremendous" for trophy-sized flatfish, indicating the Fourth Island was the current hotspot for live baiting.

Sunset Boating Center said the crew aboard the FLAT ATTACK fished the buoy 42 area Saturday and Sunday and kept a dozen nice flounder up to 27 inches. Bill Adair nailed a 22-inch flounder near the M & M crossing on Sunday and Chris Frazier landed an 8-pound flounder at Hampton Bar. The waters surrounding Thimble Shoals held plenty of flounder but many of these fish were under the 16-1/2-inch minimum size limit. Croaker remain abundant around Hampton Bar but the best hauls of bigger fish are coming from the deeper channel waters.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said business had slowed (especially fuel sales) because of the extremely hot weather. Folks that did fish usually sought flounder but many complained, "they couldn't get a bait (for flounder) past the croaker." The croaker were all "real large," according to Cindy.

A & S Feed and Bait Supply said flounder continued to provide good action at numerous locations including Twin Stakes, Back River Reef, the First, Second, Third and Fourth island areas of the CBBT, buoy 36A, buoy 42 and the Cell. Cobia were caught at York Spit while decent numbers of croaker were in the York River but "we still don't have any spot or trout."

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said tuna action is very good off of Virginia right now, both for yellowfin and bluefin tuna. A few billfish, mostly white marlin, are showing in the tuna spreads but nobody is really fishing for billfish, according to Neill, who suggested that situation is about to change as the marlin tournament season begins this coming weekend. Amberjack are holding around the legs of the southern towers, where Brandy Clifford (50 inches), Hunter Southall (50 inches), Stephen Powell (58 inches) and Charles Southall (52 inches) all earned amberjack release awards on a recent outing aboard the HEALTHY GRIN. Trollers are catching Spanish mackerel at Cape Henry and along the CBBT. Big flounder remain in good supply at the CBBT and at the Cell. Sheepshead are being caught at the CBBT, both off of the pilings and over the tubes. Cobia are being caught by anglers chumming for them but anglers running the buoys are also seeing some success.

Virginia Middle Bay

Heidi Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported fishing the past week was "good for those that could stand the heat." Croaker seemed to be "everywhere," according to Heidi, and pan trout were mixed in with croaker off Bluff Point and over in Tangier Sound. Keeper flounder were caught around the Smith Point Jetty and Blackberry Hang produced some spot. Trollers working the mouth of the river recorded good catches of taylor bluefish, with more fish in the 3 to 4-pound range the past week, while Spanish mackerel remain scarce.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said trollers caught plenty of taylor bluefish at Smith Point Light plus a handful of Spanish mackerel. Bottom fishermen working the channel edges near the lighthouse recorded good hauls of croaker and the occasional pan trout. Anglers drifting for flounder managed a few keepers around the mouth of the Little Wicomico River.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said heat, humidity and the near constant threat of thunderstorms kept many anglers off the water the past weekend. Those that did fish did pretty well on flounder around buoy 42 and at the Cell, as Vernon Hume of Saluda boated a 7-pound flounder at buoy 42 and William Whitaker caught an 8-1/4-pound flounder at the Cell. Spadefish continue to be caught on the Cell and at Wolftrap Light but the average size has diminished significantly. Trollers are catching plenty of taylor blues plus some Spanish mackerel at Windmill Bar. Schools of pan trout are showing on the lower Rappahannock but many measure less than the 12-inch minimum size limit. Good numbers of spot were pulled from the Piankatank River and at the spike buoy and Butler's Hole. At least one speckled trout was caught inside Mobjack Bay over the weekend and it was a beauty, as Walter Smith of Gloucester caught a 28-1/2-inch, 7-pound, 5-ounce speck on a MirrOlure at Ware River. 

Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen caught plenty of #2 spot off Cherry Point, at buoy 8 and around Parrots Rock while bigger, yellow-bellied spot were caught at buoy 7. The croaker bite was slow in this section of the river. Anglers traveling down to the mouth of the river caught some keeper flounder around Windmill Point and encountered more croaker. 

Garretts Marina said area bottom fishermen are catching plenty of catfish, some white perch but "they're having to hunt for croaker." The extremely warm weather appears to have pushed the croaker towards the deeper portion of the river.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said July is the flounder month at the Cell and bottom fishermen caught flounder the 20 to 28-inch range and very few small fish last week. Cobia and spadefish still linger in this same area and are occasionally hooked while bottom fishing. Croaker numbers have begun to dwindle at the Cell but decent numbers of 14 to 17-inch fish still remain. The mouth of the Piankatank and Sturgeon Bar, Butlers Hole and the spike buoy on the lower Rappahannock produced good hauls of hand-sized spot. Trollers on the lower Rappahannock River caught taylor bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the weekend saw good catches of 20 to 35-pound yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin and several white marlin releases. Many parties are stopping either on the way out, or on the their way back to inlet, and catching a quick limit of bluefin tuna on the inshore lumps. On Sunday bluefin up to 97 pounds were weighed plus an estimated 800-pound plus blue marlin was hooked but lost at boatside.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said trollers enjoyed a good week on yellowfin tuna. Top locations were the backside of the Fingers and just east of the Cigar, where several white marlin were caught and released. Trollers are also seeing a few dolphin and the occasional wahoo. Bluefin tuna remain available on the inshore lumps. A party aboard the GOOD GRIEF had a limit of bluefin and a nice catch of king mackerel at the Hot Dog on a recent outing.

Virginia Piers

Harrison - The pier is presently closed but is in the process being rebuilt. Significant progress has been made the past several weeks (due to good weather) and plans call for a portion of the pier to open this season, perhaps as soon as the end of July. 

Lynnhaven - Fishing was slow during the mid-day period but early morning and evening produced a mixture of sea mullet, spot, pan trout, bluefish and skate. Crabs are abundant and either a nuisance or a blessing depending on what is your menu for the day.

Virginia Beach - Sea mullet, spot and skate provided most of the action here. Some snapper blues were caught on Jerk-jiggers early and late in the day.

Sandbridge - There is plenty of bait around the pier but most of the catches have been smallish panfish, such as sea mullet, croaker and snapper blues.

Outer Banks, NC -

Along the Nags Head area beaches, surf fishermen caught a mixture of snapper blues, croaker, sea mullet and flounder. Beach fishermen recorded good catches of sea mullet south of Oregon Inlet, down to Avon. At Avalon Pier, the catch was triggerfish, snapper blues and speckled trout on Friday. Saturday featured triggerfish and bluefish during the day and croaker and trout after dark. A pair of nice cobia (42.3 and 54 pounds) were decked on the end of the pier Sunday afternoon but bottom fishing was slow, as triggerfish made a fair showing but the croaker bite was sporadic.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported good catches of dolphin and billfish on Friday, as one boat released four white marlin and a blue marlin. Fair numbers of king mackerel but few tuna were also caught. On Saturday, dolphin to 38 pounds, lots of billfish and a few yellowfin and wahoo were caught. The season's first Grand Slam (a white and blue marlin and a sailfish) was recorded. Sunday saw more billfish and plenty of dolphin. The crew aboard the CAROLINIAN released five white marlin and a blue marlin. The CAPT BC had a good mixed catch of five yellowfin, half-a-dozen dolphin, a dozen king mackerel and a pair of wahoo. Monday it was more billfish and dolphin and a scattering of yellowfin, wahoo and king mackerel.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a good billfish bite (10 sailfish, 3 white marlin and 3 blue marlin) Friday, as the BITE ME posted the season's second Grand Slam. Good numbers of dolphin and king mackerel were brought to the dock plus a few wahoo and yellowfin tuna. On Saturday, the billfish bite cooled but the dolphin and king mackerel were snapping. Trollers also boated a few yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Limit catches of bailer dolphin were the norm on Sunday, as the fleet released a pair of sailfish. The billfish action was hot Monday, as the fleet released 19 white marlin, 5 blue marlin and two sailfish. Limits of bailer dolphin and some king mackerel made the trip back to the dock.

If you have additional information or would like further details contact Lewis Gillingham at (757) 247-2243.

Please credit the Virginia Marine Resources Commission's THE SALTWATER REVIEW as the source of the fishing information.   Project is funded by NOAA and VMRC.

Click on Newsletter link to get to the index of previous Saltwater Reviews

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