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The Saltwater Review - 3 August 2005

Vol. 19, No. 12
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.

Flounder provided the best inshore opportunity to qualify for a citation (26-inch release or 7-pound weigh-in) last week, as the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament (VSWFT) registered over 80 flounder meeting the minimum criteria. The CBBT complex, Cape Henry Wreck and the Cell/buoy 42 area are the most often mentioned locations for the citation catches.

Sheepshead were number two on the inshore citation hit list last week, as nearly three dozen fish met or exceeded the citation minimums (22-inches release or 9 pounds weigh-in). Nearly all these hard-pulling gamesters were caught at the CBBT complex.

Offshore, white marlin topped the VSWFT list of citation catches with thirty-seven releases last week. Only release awards are offered for white marlin, blue marlin, sailfish or spearfish but there is no minimum size requirement. Eight blue marlin releases were registered last week

Chincoteague -

Bluefin tuna, some meeting the 100-pound minimum qualifying citation weight, still linger at the Lumpy Bottom and Parking Lot. Nearly all the bigger bluefin are caught by anglers chunking with cut butterfish. Trollers have concentrated in waters east of the inshore lumps and recorded mixed catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Inshore, croaker continue to dominate the action but some persistent flounder pounders did manage to land keeper flatfish around the mouth of the inlet last week.


Wachapreague Marina reported anglers trolling between 20 fathoms and the canyons caught a mixture of yellowfin tuna, dolphin, blue and white marlin plus a few wahoo. Rigged ballyhoo are the preferred baits while a Green machine and bird combination fished "way back" and spreader bar squids seem to be the top artificials. The inshore lumps continue to produce some good-sized bluefin tuna. Robert Hitton boated the weekend's biggest bluefin, a 114-pounder, on Saturday at the Lumpy Bottom. The citation bluefin was caught "on the chunk."

Captain Zed's said the inshore flounder bite remains above average for mid-summer. The best action has been around the mouth of the deeper channels. Bottom fishermen are also catching decent numbers of croaker plus a few sea mullet and pan trout.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle described the fishing as "OK" but the weekend weather kept folks either in port or close to the dock. Still, several big flounder were boated off Cape Charles, including three that weighed 7 pounds even. Gary Seay caught a 7 pounder at the Cell, Rob Bradshaw, Jr. boated a 7 pounder at buoy 40 and Hap Winfield decked a 7 pounder at buoy 36A. John Wandrick nailed the weekend's lunker, a huge 30-inch, 12-pound, 2-ounce flounder, at the High Rise. Those drifting for flounder off Cape Charles generally caught more croaker than they cared for but catches of these tasty bottom feeders were even more impressive out of the seaside port of Oyster. Most of the croaker ranged from 1 to 2 pounds with an occasional fish approaching 3 pounds. Anglers fishing off Cape Charles caught some cobia but "none big enough for a citation," according to the shop. The qualifying weight for cobia is 55 pounds and for a release award the fish must measure at least 50 inches. The shop did weigh-in a citation spadefish for Katelin Adkins. The fish weighed 9-1/2 pounds and was caught on an ocean wreck.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported the numbers of good-sized spot were up last week, as croaker pushing the two-pound mark provided a near guaranteed catch. The bigger croaker seem to have all moved "real deep" and into the channels. The flounder bite remains steady; "work the channels edges with a fresh strip of cut croaker," suggested Captain Wil. Other catches include taylor bluefish, pan trout, sea mullet, shark and scup. Surface water temperatures in the Bay are approaching 80 degrees and Captain Wil advised, "fish early in the morning or late in the evening, the fish just bite better."

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported good catches of keeper flounder at the CBBT complex with some of the better hauls coming from the Third Island area, where Mike Phelps nailed an 11-pound sheepshead. The crew aboard the AFTER SIX had a big day at the CBBT on Saturday, as John Ruff landed a 10-pound, 10-ounce sheepshead, Jerry Ruff decked a 9-pound, 14-ounce sheepshead and John Ruff released a 47-1/2-inch red drum.

Bubba's Marina said flounder were biting all along the CBBT complex while pods of black drum still linger around the First and Second islands. Big croaker were hanging around the Third and Fourth islands and trollers working the rips off Cape Henry were catching some Spanish mackerel. The shop also indicated that good-sized spot were available inside Lynnhaven Inlet.

Dr. Jim Wright said a mid-week outing from the seaside port of Oyster produced dozens of small shark, a 75-inch released sand tiger shark but no tarpon. "We saw several tarpon and had two runs when the baits came back crushed (indicating a tarpon had the bait)," but no silver kings were hooked. Off Virginia Beach, the Rudee Inlet charter fleet enjoyed fair to good numbers of billfish encounters and landed decent numbers of yellowfin tuna and dolphin.

Sunset Boating Center said the Cape Henry Wreck site was the flounder "hot spot" of the week. Danny Brown and the crew aboard the FLAT ATTACK had half-dozen nice keepers Saturday and several other parties told of catching 5 and 6 pounders earlier in the week. Still, the biggest flounder of the week, an 8-pound, 2-ouncer caught by John Gilley, was boated at the High Rise section of the CBBT complex. Thimble Shoals also produced flounder but most were less than the 16-1/2-inch minimum size limit. Thimble Shoals did produce some of the week's better hauls of croaker plus a few hand-sized spot.

Preston at Salt Ponds Marina said the shop registered a 51-inch cobia release for Jerry Willis, Jr. The catch was made at the Baltimore Channel, near buoy 14 on a live eel. Other catches include big flounder around Cape Henry Wreck and up the bay, around buoy 42. Bottom fishermen told of jumbo croaker over the Third Island tube. Offshore, a blue marlin was released at the Norfolk Canyon on Saturday, where other catches included yellowfin tuna and dolphin.

Jimmy Lewis at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said local bottom fishermen are still catching plenty of nice croaker with some of the better hauls made off Cheatham Annex and at the Lumps. Anglers fishing from the public pier at Gloucester Point are also sharing in the run of big croaker, as the shop weighed-in a 2-1/4-pound croaker on Wednesday that was caught at the pier. Despite the heat, spot are showing on several shallow water shell piles, such as the one off the AMOCO Pier and at the mouth of Sarah's Creek. Flounder fishing remains at the top of the list for many customers. Jimmy knew of flounder up to 24 inches that were pulled from the York River, near the Coleman Bridge, but most of the better catches of larger flatfish are caught "out in the Bay." The shop weighed citation flounder for Jimmy Liffer (7 pounds, 14 ounces; Baltimore Channel), Derick Hall (8-1/2 pounds; buoy 42) and Keith Cerny (9-1/2 pounds; Cell). On the downside, the cobia bite tailed-off last week.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said so many big flounder have been caught this season, "it has gotten to the point where it takes one weighing double digits to raise eyebrows." Flounder are being caught in all the normal spots with all the normal methods, according to Neill. That means drifting, power drifting and wire-line trolling are all producing. In all cases, many of the larger fish are being caught by fishing live bait on hard structure (wrecks, CBBT and so on). This technique has gained a lot of popularity over the last couple of years. Another way of working structure with live bait is by holding your boat over the spot with your engine. Virginia's flounder fishery is getting a lot of attention right now, noted Neill, as several TV shows demonstrating flounder techniques have been filmed recently on area waters. On other fronts, cobia fishing is good with both chumming and site casting producing numbers of fish. Red drum have continued to roam the shoals all summer and big reds continue to be caught by anglers targeting cobia. Spadefish can be found over most of the wrecks with some of the larger fish being caught off of the structure of the CBBT. Big sheepshead also are being caught along the CBBT. Spanish mackerel are plentiful along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and through out the lower bay. Offshore, tuna action remains good. The Fingers on out to the 30-fathom area remains hot. More wahoo are being caught but the big news is the number of billfish being encountered; most are white marlin but several blue marlin were released, plus the Virginia fleet hooked a few sailfish the past week.

Taylor's Landing hosted the 17th annual Grady White Owners Fishing Tournament, which drew nearly 50 boats over the weekend. The two-day event features trophies for a long list of popular inshore and offshore species for an adult and youth division. Overall winners are determined by the most points collected for both youth and adult for offshore fish and for inshore species. In the Offshore division, the crew aboard the MERIDIAN finished in first place on the strength of a white marlin release and the top two tuna (both yellowfin). The crew aboard the SEA SCAPE II finished second in the Offshore division, scoring early with the two heaviest dolphin in the Junior category. The crew aboard the CAROL ANN took first place in the Inshore division, scoring points for the top two slots in the Junior category for both bluefish and spot and a second place Adult spot. The WEEKEND HONEYMOON crew came in second for the Inshore trophy, scoring points for the top black sea bass and the top two spadefish.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported catches of eating size spot improved last week. Best action was around the mouths of the local creeks. Anglers chumming and trolling in the vicinity of the Northern Neck Reef enjoyed good action on chunky 2 to 4-pound bluefish. Trollers working the 30-foot contour from Bluff Point out to Smith Point Light scored on Spanish mackerel and some taylor bluefish. Keeper flounder up to 20 inches were pulled from around the jetty. As for croaker, "they're all out in deepwater," according to Roger, with some of the best hauls coming form the eastern side of the channel.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the flounder bite at buoy42/Cell continues to be "pretty good." Mike Hurst and crew limited-out on good-sized flounder on a mid-week outing. The catch included a 9-1/4-pound, 28-inch flounder for Troy Major of Hayes. Others with citation flounder from the buoy 42 area included James Marshall of Gloucester (7 pounds, 15 ounces), Dale Greens of Gloucester (7 pounds, 9 ounces) and Mike Uliasz of Mechanicsville (7 pounds, 3 ounces). Small to medium spadefish still linger around Wolftrap Light and the Cell while bottom fishermen caught good-sized croaker at the Cell and around buoy 42. Bluefish up to 24 inches and good numbers of Spanish mackerel provided some of the best trolling action of the summer at Windmill Bar the past week. Bottom fishermen recorded good catches of mixed sizes of spot, plus a few pan trout, at Butlers Hole and around the spike buoy.

Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen recorded good hauls of spot in the river between the White Stone Bridge and Tulls Point while trollers scored on Spanish mackerel between Mosquito Point and Windmill Bar. Bottom fishermen caught croaker up to 2 pounds and some flounder at the mouth of the river, near Smith Point Light.

Tommy Lewis at Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen are catching some croaker around buoy 19 but "no spot to speak of." Just upriver, good-sized blue catfish provide steady action.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said spot were active at the Spike buoy, Butlers Hole and Sturgeon Bar over the weekend. Taylor bluefish and pan trout are mixed in with the spot but the croaker have all but vanished. Trollers scored on Spanish mackerel at the mouth of the Rappahannock River between the 2R buoy and Stingray Light. Inch-long gold and silver spoons were used to catch the mackerel. Captain Thompson added the Cell was producing some good-sized flounder but "not a lot of numbers."

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported mixed catches of dolphin, king mackerel and yellowfin tuna on Friday. Saturday and Sunday's catches consisted of white marlin, bailer dolphin and 35 to 55-pound class yellowfin tuna. The O-FOUR released a pair of blue marlin. The tuna bite slowed on Monday but several billfish were caught and released plus fair numbers of bailer dolphin and wahoo up to 49 pounds were boated.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina told of a good billfish bite in recent days with some of the best action around Triple 0's, where the crew aboard TIP-A-CANOE caught and released three whites and one blue marlin recently. The same trip produced a 46-pound wahoo. Some good-sized gaffer dolphin are in the same area, as a 47-pound bull was checked-in Tuesday.

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.

Lynnhaven - Aside from crabs, mid-day action has been slow. Early morning and evening, bottom fishermen are seeing some spot, sea mullet and a few small croaker. Pan trout often show after sunset around the pier lights.

Virginia Beach - A strong run of medium spot developed Friday and carried through the weekend. Other catches included sea mullet and snapper bluefish.

Sandbridge - Weekend anglers enjoyed good runs of medium spot plus some taylor bluefish, small croaker and sea mullet

Outer Banks, NC -

Along the Nags Head area beaches, surf fishing was generally slow with only sporadic catches of snapper bluefish, spot, sea mullet and small flounder reported. The Little Bridge to Manteo produced a good early morning bite of speckled trout while spot provided most of the action the remainder of the day. Anglers fishing from the Avalon Pier decked a small cobia and some taylor bluefish, croaker and flounder on Friday. The day before (Thursday) a pair of 20-pound class king mackerel were landed. On Saturday, a pair of cobia, the heaviest weighed 45 pounds, were decked. Taylor bluefish and croaker made a decent showing around dusk. Sunday morning, taylor blues and Spanish mackerel staged a good showing at the end of the pier. A small cobia was landed mid-day and taylor bluefish blitzed the pier in the evening. Water temperature at pierside was a comfortable 78 degrees.

South of Oregon Inlet, the beach surrounding Cape Point remains closed due to a piping plover closure. Beach fishermen at Avon caught some pompano and a few croaker. Anglers fishing the jetties recorded keeper flounder and some croaker while beach fishermen nearest the closed area of Cape Point caught a mixture of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and pompano.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center said billfish and bailer dolphin provided the bulk of the action the past week. Catches were "spiced up" with a scattering of yellowfin tuna, a few wahoo and the occasional bigeye tuna. Inshore boats recorded good catches of taylor bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel. Bottom bouncers aboard the headboat settled for a mixture of croaker and pigfish.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet recorded good catches of bailer dolphin, some white marlin and sailfish plus a scattering of wahoo, king mackerel and blackfin tuna on Friday. On Saturday the fleet flew 19 white marlin and 10 sailfish flags on their return to the inlet. The parties kept good numbers of bailer dolphin and a few wahoo. The weather kept nearly half the fleet in port on Sunday but those that did fish boated limit catches of bailer dolphin and excellent numbers of wahoo. The crew aboard the SUNDOWN had an even dozen wahoo plus dolphin. Monday was another big billfish day, as the fleet tallied 17 sailfish, 4 white marlin and 2 blue marlin releases. Other catches included fair numbers of dolphin and some 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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