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The Saltwater Review - 27 July 2005

Vol. 19, No. 11
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. 

Bluefin tuna still linger 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.

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, into the deep water channels of the Chesapeake Bay and toward the mouth.

The biggest change the past week for the offshore crowd was the arrival of dependable numbers of billfish, mostly white marlin, off the Virginia coast. A pair of billfish tournaments took place last weekend and over a dozen billfish were caught and released in each event. Bluewater anglers have other choices to make, as bluefin tuna topping 100 pounds still linger off the coast plus school king mackerel are on the same inshore lumps. Further offshore, good numbers of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin make for excitement between billfish encounters. 

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's reported chunkers are scoring on bluefin tuna at the Parking Lot and Lumpy Bottom but gave the nod to the Parking Lot as the top location for the bigger bluefin, some of which top 100 pounds. Inshore, croaker dominate the catches and only a few keeper flounder were caught at Queens Sound. Some of the better "croaker holes" include the Queen Sound Bridge and Chincoteague Channel.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported at least a dozen billfish were captured and released during the Eastern Shore Marlin Club Tournament and the crew aboard the AMERICAN MAID was the winner with a blue and a white marlin release on the first day of the event (time-of-release determined the winner). Jeff Coleman landed a 32-pound dolphin and a 109-pound bluefin tuna was brought in aboard the LUCKY DUCK. The marina also registered three red drum releases from the CBBT and indicated the flounder bite remained above average for mid-summer.

Captain Zed's also indicated the crew aboard the AMERICAN MAID had won the annual Eastern Shore Marlin Club Tournament on the strength of a pair of billfish releases on the first day of the event. Inshore, bottom fishermen are catching plenty of croaker and good numbers of keeper flounder.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported the flounder bite slowed somewhat last week but most of the flatfish caught are usually large in size. The shop weighed half-a-dozen flounder of 7 pounds or more, including an 8-1/4-pound flounder for Daniel Parker (caught at the Cell) plus an 8-pound, 3-ounce fish by Stancil Lenier (caught off Cape Charles). Nearly all the bigger flounder were caught near buoy 36A and in water ranging form 40 to 60 feet deep. A number of customers caught cobia but most were in the 25 to 40-pound range with three exceptions. Tim Nugent (87 pounds) and Ronnie Asbury (78-1/2 pounds) were anchored near the "old" C-12 buoy site and using cut bunker for bait when they each landed citation cobia. Bruce Pensey boated the week's biggest cobia, an 87-pound, 10-ounce fish at Latimer Shoals. Some of the best action of the week took place on the shoals surrounding Fishermen's Island, where anglers caught and released as many as 19 red drum in a single outing. The CBBT complex produced several nice catches of sheepshead, including a 9-pound, 9-ouncer and a 22-1/4-inch release for Robert Savage, Jr. and a 9-pound, 9-ounce fish for fishing partner Lee Wallace. Dwayne Woodruff (10 pounds, 6 ounces) and William Lewis (10 pounds, 1 ounce) boated citation spadefish at the Fourth Island. Croaker remained abundant off Cape Charles and out of the seaside port of Oyster. Douglas Wehner caught and released a 65-inch tarpon in one of the passes between the barrier islands on seaside.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters described the bottom as "great," despite the heat. "The spot are beautiful for this time of the year," according to Captain Wil, as many top 16 ounces, but then cautioned, "the spot really want bloodworms." Some of the week's best hauls of spot came from near the Tangier Sound Light in 40 feet of water. Better catches of croaker are made closer to port, "right off Onancock." The best daytime action for the bigger croaker has been along the channel edges in 50 to 60 feet of water but the fish move into 20 to 25 feet of water in the evening. Parties continue to catch a good number of flounder. "We had them up to 26 inches last week." The flatfish's favorite bait was a strip of fresh croaker. Other catches include bluefish up to 20 inches, sea mullet, porgy and a few pan trout.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina rated the flounder fishing as "pretty good" around the CBBT, adding that bottom fishermen were also catching loads of croaker all along the CBBT complex. John Meekins, Jr. boated a 10-pound, 11-ounce flounder at the Third Island on a live spot. Ron Larkin also landed a citation-winning flatfish at the CBBT over the weekend and the fish weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces. Bill Love had the week's biggest sheepshead, an 11-1/2-pounder, at the Second Island of the CBBT.

Patrick at Bubba's Marina told of excellent catches of big flounder along the CBBT complex. "I'm seeing lots of fish over 8 pounds and weighed a 12-pounder yesterday." Live spot seems to be the ticket for the bigger flatfish. Good-sized croaker are holding along the CBBT and this can be a problem for would-be flounder pounders. "The croaker are so hungry they're going after live spot half their size." Some of the biggest croaker are consistently found around the Third Island. Other catches from the CBBT include sheepshead, some spadefish, "but they seem to be declining," and the occasional cobia. Inside Lynnhaven the biggest "happening" was the strong run of crabs. 

Dr. Jim Wright caught and released a 48-inch dolphin on a recent outing to the edge of the Norfolk Canyon. The trip produced a number of gaffer-sized dolphin, several football-sized yellowfin tuna and the sight of a billfish in the baits for "a few seconds." Inshore, hot weather limited the fishing activity but Dr. Jim heard of an 8-pound flounder that was boated at the bend of the CBBT.

Folks fishing from Wallace's Bait and Tackle continue to record excellent catches of big flounder at Back River Reef. Many of the better catches are made right on structure and live spot, mullet or menhaden are the preferred baits.

Sunset Boating Center said top catch of the week was a 9.9-pound flounder, caught at the Third Island, by Lewis Adams on Friday. On Saturday, the winds picked-up and the fishing dropped-off, although flatfish to over 6 pounds were recorded. The flounder bite was rated as "hit-or-miss" at Hampton Bar but croaker provided fairly consistent action. Better croaker hauls were made around Thimble Shoal Light where some fish topped 2 pounds in weight.

Cindy at Salt Ponds Marina said customers enjoyed fair to very good mixed catches of flounder and croaker last week. Most anglers targeted flounder but usually ended up catching some big croaker in the process. Top catch of the week was a 12-1/2-pound monster doormat-sized flounder caught by James Cross. The catch was made aboard the ALBECROSS at the Cape Henry wreck site. The group had "a big catch of nice fish (flounder)," according to Cindy.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said tuna fishing remains good off the Virginia coast with for a mixed bag of yellowfin and bluefin tuna. Most of the tuna are caught by trollers but chunkers are taking some of the bigger bluefin. A decent white marlin bite has developed east of the Fingers in 30 fathoms. The same area also produced some of the week's best hauls of yellowfin tuna. Amberjack can be found around many inshore ocean wrecks but the two southern towers are the most dependable locations. Some nice king mackerel are holding around schools of menhaden within a mile of the Virginia Beach oceanfront, especially off Sandbridge. Spanish mackerel are mixed with schools of snapper bluefish along the resort strip and just inside the Bay, off Cape Henry. Big flounder continued to provide excitement along the CBBT and in the area of the Cell. Large croaker are also holding around the Cell and near the CBBT islands. Cobia remain available and are being caught by chumming and by anglers running the buoys, who sight cast to the fish. Live baits are preferred by both groups of anglers. Sheepshead fishing continues to be productive along the CBBT. Spadefish can be found over most of the near shore structures.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported Spanish mackerel made a better slowing last week, as trollers scored on these gamesters, plus plenty of taylor bluefish, between Bluff Point and Smith Point, staying close to the 30-foot contour. Nearly all of the larger croaker appear to have moved into the deeper portions of the Bay and bottom fishermen report their best success is in 60 to 70 feet of water. Bottom fishermen caught some pan trout off Dameron Marsh and also caught a few mixed in with the schools of deepwater croaker. Mixed sizes of spot are holding around the mouths of most local creeks while persistent anglers are still managing some keeper flounder around the jetty.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said boats running up into Maryland waters returned with a mixture of striped bass (the season is open in Maryland) and taylor bluefish. Closer to home port, bottom fishermen scored on croaker and a few flounder around the mouth of the Little Wicomico River and out around Smith Point Light.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters rated last week's flounder bite at the Cell and buoy 42 as "pretty good," and quickly added some anglers fail to catch any flounder while others come in with limits of good-sized fish. The shop registered several citation flounder, including a 9-pound, 1-ounce doormat for Joseph Johnson of Glen Allen. John Sibley of Saluda landed a 7-pound, 11-ounce flounder on Tuesday and William Colligan of Newport News weighed its twin (another 7-pound, 11-ounce flatfish) on Saturday. All three fish were tricked into biting a squid and minnow baited hook. Patty Hauser of Colonial Heights landed a 7-pound, 7-ounce flounder on a plain minnow. Spadefish remain available at the Cell and Wolftrap Light but most weigh less than 5 pounds. Spanish mackerel made a strong showing at Windmill Point Bar. Bottom fishermen recorded good hauls of hand-sized spot in the Piankatank River and on the Rappahannock at the spike buoy and at Butlers Hole. Schools of pan trout are showing at Butlers Hole but many of these trout measure less than the 12-inch minimum size limit.

Locklies Marina said the heat had slowed the fishermen but good hauls of #1 spot were made by those who did fish. Top locations included the Whitestone side of the bridge, off the Silos and around Parrot Rock. Flounder weighing up to 4 pounds, 14 ounces were caught on the lower portion of the river. Trollers caught Spanish mackerel up to 24 inches and plenty of taylor bluefish while trolling small spoons between Mosquito Point and Windmill Point.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen were catching nice-sized croaker "when its not too hot to fish." The shop suggested buoy 19 and off the Towers as favored locations.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I told of a good spot bite on the Rappahannock River through the week but the action slowed over the weekend. Top locations included Sturgeon Bar, Butlers Hole and the spike buoy. Cherry Point, located inside the Piankatank River, also produced decent catches of spot. Schools of taylor bluefish are in the same areas plus a few keeper flounder were pulled-up at Sturgeons Bar. Fair catches of croaker were recorded off Windmill Point at the 2R buoy.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the FISH HAWK had a big catch of school king mackerel and a fat bluefin tuna on the inshore lumps on Friday. The crew aboard the VIRGINIAN fished east of the Fingers and had a mixed catch of yellowfin and skipjack tuna. The entire fleet fished on Saturday. Offshore boats returned with mixed catches of bluefin, yellowfin and skipjack tuna plus released several white marlin while the inshore boats loaded up on taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The O FOUR released a blue marlin and several white marlin were released by other boats on Sunday. Back at the dock, coolers contained mostly yellowfin tuna and a few gaffer dolphin.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said last weekend's billfish tournament was won by the crew aboard FAST CAST with four white marlin releases. DOUBLE DOWN finished second with three sailfish releases. Twenty-three boats participated and a total of fifteen billfish were caught and released. Other weekend catches included gaffer-sized dolphin and yellowfin tuna.

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 - Daytime fishing action has been very limited but the crabbing has been very good. After sundown, small to medium spot staged some decent runs. Other catches include a few pan trout, taylor bluefish and small shark.

Virginia Beach - Best action has been around sundown and catches include spot, pan trout, croaker sea mullet and crabs. Water temperature at pierside was 75 degrees on Monday.

Sandbridge - Thursday saw a big run of small croaker. The croaker bite continued over the weekend plus some nice-sized sea mullet and a few spot and pan trout were decked. On Monday, good-sized spot, some topping 16 ounces, made a strong showing. Taylor bluefish also came within casting distance of the pier.

Outer Banks, NC -

Fishing was generally slow along the Nags Head area beaches for surf anglers last week, as only a scattering of taylor bluefish, sea mullet, Spanish mackerel and small flounder were reported. Weekend action at the Avalon Pier was likewise on the slow side with only a handful of sea mullet, spot and taylor bluefish crossing the rail each day. Water temperature hit 80 degrees at the pier on Monday but the day saw a decent run of sea mullet and a run of croaker after sundown. 

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported dolphin dominated the catches Friday through Monday. Most of these tasty fish were bailers but some gaffers were also boated. Parties generally had limit to near limit catches of dolphin plus a scattering of yellowfin tuna, wahoo and billfish. The exception was a small handful of boats that located pods of yellowfin and boated as many as a dozen. Inshore boats caught taylor bluefish and some Spanish mackerel while croaker provided the bulk of the action for bottom fishermen aboard the headboat. 

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed excellent catches of dolphin, some king mackerel and wahoo plus released five blue marlin, four whites and four sailfish on Friday. Saturday saw a billfish bonanza, as 31, mostly white marlin, were released. The SUSHI recorded a grand slam, releasing six white marlin, a blue marlin and a sailfish. Sunday was another big billfish day with 27 releases recorded by the fleet. Boats returned with good catches of dolphin plus some king mackerel. Monday was another excellent day of billfish action. Top boat was the BITE ME with six sailfish releases and one white marlin. Most of the coolers were loaded with limits of dolphin plus a few yellowfin tuna and wahoo.

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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