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The Saltwater Review - 31 August 2005

Vol. 19, No. 15
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


The Virginia Saltwater Review (VSR) will not be published the week of August 22-26. The next issue of the VSR will be published the week of August 29-2 September.

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. As of September 1, daily retention limits in the Charter/Headboat category have been modified (a copy is enclosed). A federal tuna permit is required for the vessel. Complete information (including ordering a tuna permit) is available by dialing 1-888-USA-TUNA.

Once again, flounder provided the best inshore opportunity to qualify for a citation (26-inch release or 7-pound weigh-in), as the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament (VSWFT) registered 90 flounder meeting the minimum criteria. The CBBT complex, Back River Reef and the Cell/buoy 42 area are the most often mentioned locations for the citation catches. 

Sheepshead remained number two on the inshore citation list last week, as 63 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.

Rounding out the top four inshore species, twenty red drum were released and nineteen spadefish were registered. 

Offshore, billfish easily led the VSWFT list of citation catches again last week, as forty-six white marlin and thirteen blue marlin were registered last week. Only release awards are offered for white marlin, blue marlin, sailfish or spearfish but there is no minimum size requirement.

Chincoteague -

Croaker continue to dominate the action inside the inlet but some keeper flounder were boated around the mouth of the inlet and just outside. The inshore ocean wrecks hold some black sea bass, triggerfish, spadefish and even a few keeper flounder. Offshore, chunkers scored on bluefin tuna up to 150 pounds at the Parking Lot while trollers managed a handful of 20 to 35-pound yellowfin tuna and some bailer dolphin east of the Parking Lot and out towards the canyons. 


Wachapreague Marina reported a mixture of dolphin, tuna and billfish offshore. Yellowfin numbers were down over the weekend but decent numbers of bluefin tuna still linger on the inshore lumps. The crew aboard the CLASS ACT had six fat yellowfin, a bluefin tuna and half-a-limit of dolphin over the weekend. NITA DREAM boated a wahoo, yellowfin tuna and dolphin. Shayne Cochran released a white marlin at the 20-fathom line aboard SPOONS. MARLIN MAGIC released a white marlin out at the Norfolk Canyon on Wednesday and boated a limit of king mackerel at the 26 Mile Hill on Saturday. The shop indicated good numbers of dolphin were holding under floating lumber out in 30 fathoms. Inshore, croaker dominated the action but some keeper flounder were caught mixed in with the croaker. 

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported a pair of tarpon were caught and released on the seaside out of Oyster, as Neil Sullivan released a 68-inch fish and Bob Shepard a 55-inch tarpon. The same waters are loaded with good-sized croaker, many of which top 2 pounds. Croaker are likewise available off Cape Charles, but for the time being, the biggest fish are on the seaside. Waters off Cape Charles are producing decent numbers of flounder in the 3 to 6-pound range. Top locations include the Cell, buoy 36A, the edge of the Baltimore Channel and the High Rise section of the CBBT. Bill Driskill, Jr. had the week's only citation flatfish, a 7-pound, 11-ouncer, caught at buoy 36A. Besides the croaker and flounder, bottom fishermen are also catching some sea mullet, pan trout and pigfish.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported good catches of 7 to 10-inch spot with "a few bigger and a few smaller" the past week. Croaker remain available in area waters and most run between 1 and 1-1/2 pounds. Best catches have come in 25 to 40 feet of water along the edges of the shipping channels. Bottom fishermen also saw an influx of pan trout but many of these tasty fish were under the 12-inch minimum size limit but some ranged up to 21 inches. Other catches included sea mullet, lots of bluefish, porgy and pigfish. As for bait, "clam worked well for us last week," noted Captain Wil, as decent bloodworms remain hard to find and very expensive.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported good catches of 3 to 5-1/2-pound flounder and croaker to nearly 2 pounds at the CBBT complex, where the sheepshead bite reached record levels. David Haggle, II aboard the REEL NAUTI boated a 9-1/4-pound sheepshead and released fish up to 22-1/4 inches. The weekend's biggest sheepshead was boated aboard the BLUE BEAR, as William Stridell, Jr. wrestled a 14-3/4-pounder aboard at the Second Island, where crewmember Mike Phillips nailed a 10-pound, 14-ouncer. The Second Island produced a 9-pound, 2-ounce sheepshead for Ray Joyce. Patrick O'Toole weighed in a pair of citation sheepshead from the Fourth Island at 10-1/4 pounds and 9 pounds, 14 ounces. The catches were made aboard REAL HARD. The Fourth Island severed up a 7-pound flounder to Robert Smith, where Jeff Haynes boated a 7-1/2-pound flatfish. 

Bubba's Marina described fishing as "very good" with much of the best action centered on the CBBT complex. Flounder were biting around all four rock islands, cobia were hiding around the CBBT pilings and the lower Bay buoys and the biggest croaker were caught around the Third Island. In addition, good numbers of Spanish mackerel were caught in the rips off Cape Henry and hand-sized spot were plentiful inside Lynnhaven Inlet. 

Dr. Jim Wright said billfish, mostly white marlin, were caught early in the week SE of the Cigar while the CBBT complex was on fire for big sheepshead. The sheepshead were hitting both live fiddler and mole crabs during a recent outing that produced release citation fish to 24 inches and weight citation fish to 11 pounds. 

Sunset Boating Center said bottom fishermen found big croaker in the channel at the HRBT with lesser-sized fish at Hampton Bar and Thimble Shoals. An occasional keeper-sized flounder was caught at Hampton Bar but most of the flatfish here measure less than the 16-1/2-inch minimum size limit. The best weekend hauls of flounder were recorded at the Third Island, according to the shop. Sheepshead also cooperated for weekend anglers at the CBBT while fishermen working the lower Bay buoys caught several cobia.

Salt Ponds Marina said "everybody's been looking for flounder and they found at the CBBT," where Jack Lawson (9 pounds, 3 ounces), Jason Hicks (8 pounds, 3 ounces), Butch Morgan (8 pounds, 2 ounces) and Jeff Wilson (8 pounds) all landed citation flatfish the past week.

Jimmy Lewis at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the flounder bite "slacked off a little" last week with the better hauls coming from the CBBT complex rather than the Cell/buoy 42 area. The Cell did produce a citation 3-pound, 13-ounce croaker for Mark Mellon of Gloucester. Decent catches of croaker also made in the York River and from the public pier at Gloucester Point, according to Jimmy. Fair numbers of spot were caught by bottom fishermen drifting between Tulls Point and the Amoco Pier while trollers enjoyed their best Spanish mackerel action of the season around York Spit, where taylor bluefish were nearly as plentiful.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the flounder bite has been "just unbelievable this year in terms of the big fish being caught." Neill added, "there was a time when a 10 pound flounder was big news. It is still a big fish but it is not even big enough to win the club's monthly anymore." At the July meeting, numerous 10-pound plus flounder were entered into the monthly tournament and it took a 12-pound 8-ounce fish to win in July. Most of the bigger fish are being caught with live bait (spot, mullet, croaker) on structure, according to Neill. The tube between the 3rd and 4th islands was the best area but numerous locations along the CBBT, Back River Reef, and Cape Henry Wreck also produced monster flatfish. Another fish that has been caught in unprecedented numbers was sheepshead, as multiple citations in a single outing were not uncommon. Crab and clam, with fiddler crab being the preferred bait, have been producing big sheepshead at the pilings and islands of the CBBT. Red drum fishing remains good on the shoals. "They just don't want to leave this summer," surmised Neill. Cobia fishing is very good, particularly sight fishing around the lower bay and ocean buoys. The York Spit area has been kind to trollers looking for Spanish mackerel. Spadefish, barracuda, amberjack, and jack crevalle are all at the Chesapeake Light Tower but "getting them to bite has been the trick," cautioned Neill. The Peninsula Anglers Club had a couple of club tournaments recently. The Club's flounder tournament was July 23-31 and the winners of that tournament were: Dr. Julie Ball with a 10 lb 4 oz fish, Jim Leiffer with a 7 lb 14 oz fish, and Michael Hudgins with a 5 lb 11 oz fish. The annual Youth and Ladies Croaker/Flounder Tournament ran August 6-14. The Youth croaker division was won by: Sidney Rinck-1 lb 13 oz, Hunter Southall-1 lb 9.5 oz, and Casey Neill-1 lb 2 oz. The Ladies croaker division was won by: Judy Hudgins-1 lb 3 oz, Lisa Southall-1 lb 3 oz, and Debbie Lane-15.5 oz. The Youth flounder division was won by: Hunter Southall-4 lb 8 oz, Katelyn Southall-4 lb 6 oz, and Cameron Neill-3 lb 4 oz. And the Ladies flounder division was won by: Ruth McCormick-5 lb 12 oz, Lisa Southall-5 lb 3 oz, and Julie Wooley-4lb 7oz.

Virginia Middle Bay

Heidi Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported bottom fishermen are catching croaker along the deepwater channel edges with some pan trout and flounder mixed in with the croaker in the vicinity of buoy 62. Trout were also caught in Tangier Sound and off Dameron Marsh. Spot are available at Blackberry Hang and over some of the local oyster rocks. Trollers are still catching fair numbers of Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish on the lower Rappahannock.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said boats fishing between the mouth of the Potomac River and the Target Ships are catching limits of striped bass and plenty of bluefish up to 4 pounds. Most of these anglers are anchoring and chumming with ground menhaden. Trollers working the waters surrounding Smith Point Light are catching lots of bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel. Bottom fishermen are catching some croaker and a few keeper flounder around the jetty.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the flounder bite slowed the past week but some big flatfish were still boated in the buoy 42/Cell area, as Darrell Worley Jr. of Hopewell (7 pounds; buoy 42) and Gary Agee of Richmond (7 pounds, 10 ounces; Cell) each weighed citation flounder. Flocks of frenzied birds mark feeding schools of bluefish and Spanish mackerel in the mornings and evenings around Windmill Point Bar and Wolftrap Light. Casters and trollers are able to cash in on the action when the fish are feeding near the surface. Mid-day catches are mainly reserved for trollers pulling small spoons on planers or hefty in-line sinkers. Bottom fishermen working the lower portion of the Rappahannock are catching mostly spot with some croaker and pan trout in the mix.

Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen enjoyed decent catches of spot and croaker plus a few pan trout and occasional keeper flounder off Towles Point and along the White Stone side of the bridge. Weekend trollers likewise had productive outings, catching a mixture of Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish. 

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen caught a mixture of croaker, catfish and spot in the Morattico Bar area.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said spot were in good supply at the spike buoy, Butler's Hole and Sturgeon Bar plus a few pan trout and keeper flounder were mixed in with the spot. Trollers working Windmill Point Bar enjoyed good action on Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish. A few croaker still linger in the Rappahannock River but bottom fishermen recorded decent catches of 15 to 17-inch croaker out at the Cell.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the offshore boats had good catches of bailer dolphin, a scattering of yellowfin tuna and released several white marlin on Friday. Half-day boats found lots of Spanish mackerel and even a peanut dolphin or two. On Saturday, the WAVERUNNER weighed a 60-pound wahoo, as the fleet loaded up on bailer dolphin and released up to four white marlin per outing. The VIRGINIAN was the only boat offshore on Sunday but the crew found the tuna and returned with nine fat yellowfin. An inshore trip produced a banner catch of spadefish. No boats fished Monday but on Tuesday the VIRGINIAN had a nice catch of bailer dolphin.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina described the current white marlin bite as "snapping" with some large wahoo and a few yellowfin tuna mixed in with the billfish. Best recent action has been between the 300 and 200 lines and out in 100 fathoms or more.

Virginia Piers

Harrison - The pier is presently closed but is in the process being rebuilt. Significant progress has been made this summer and plans call for a portion of the pier to open this season. 

Lynnhaven - The best daytime action has been for crabs. The crabbing improves as the sun nears the horizon but so does the fishing. Bottom fishermen recorded fair catches of spot, mullet and croaker plus some pan trout around the pier lights after sunset.

Virginia Beach - Casters managed only the occasional Spanish mackerel but had fair success on snapper blues when clear water conditions prevailed. Bottom fishing was best when the water was at least a little turbid. Spot dominated most of the action but some croaker, small flounder, sea mullet and pan trout were caught.

Sandbridge - Weekend bottom fishermen caught a variety of fish but only spot were reasonably abundant but not on the entire tide. Other catches included croaker, sea mullet, snapper blues and skate. Monday saw the season's first pompano and a decent run of three-to-the-pound fish developed. 

Outer Banks, NC -

Shore fishermen along the Nags Head area beaches generally encountered slow to fair action for a mixture of spot, croaker, snapper bluefish and sea mullet the past week. Folks at the Avalon Pier fared slightly better, adding small flounder to the list on Friday plus several cobia were sighted. The menu for the weekend included more flounder, snapper bluefish and spot. By Monday, surf waters had dropped to just 62 degrees and spot and sea mullet responded. 

South of Oregon Inlet, beach fishermen at Cape Point caught flounder up to 6 pounds in the "hook" while large sea mullet and pompano were caught on the South Beach. On Monday, bluefish made a decent showing at the Point in the morning but it was a slow pick for only a handful of sea mullet the remainder of the day.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported plenty of dolphin, scattered yellowfin but decent numbers of billfish, including one Grand Slam, on Friday. Saturday was another big day for billfish as the fleet tailed 31 white marlin, 5 blue marlin and 4 sailfish releases. Other catches included good numbers of dolphin but only scattered numbers of yellowfin tuna. Big news for Sunday was a boat hooked-up 9 large bigeye tuna (100 to 150 pounds) simultaneously and was able to land 7 of the fish. Other catches included plenty of dolphin (some boats had limits), a scattering of yellowfin tuna and some billfish.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet had good hauls of dolphin and scattered wahoo on Friday plus several sailfish were released. On Saturday, several boats recorded limit catches of dolphin. Saturday also produced more wahoo and a scattering of yellowfin tuna and king mackerel plus six billfish were released. Sunday's catch was nearly identical-good numbers of dolphin, some wahoo and several billfish releases. Monday saw more dolphin and wahoo plus a scattering of yellowfin tuna and king mackerel.

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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