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The Saltwater Review - 14 September 2006

Vol. 20, No. 15

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


The Virginia Saltwater Review (VSR) will not be published the week of 18-22 September. The next issue of the VSR will be published the week of 25-29 September.

Juvenile bluefin tuna have been implanted with archival tags in a cooperative effort to determine the migration pattern of northwest Atlantic bluefin tuna. These fish have a green streamer tag near their dorsal fin and a light stalk sticking out of their belly. If you catch one of these fish, it is worth $500 but you must keep the fish. These fish will not count against your daily limit of bluefin tuna and you can keep them even if they are below the current minimum size limit. To receive your reward you must contact Jon Lucy at the VIMS: (804) 684-7166, . A copy of this announcement is enclosed. 

The Federal restrictions regarding bluefin tuna changed on July 22, 2006. Anglers in the mid-Atlantic region may no longer keep any bluefin tuna measuring less than 47 inches. For more details, refer to the enclosed notice. 

Researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science are requesting the assistance of the angling public with a study (funded by recreational license monies) designed to determine real-time movement of summer flounder in local waters. One hundred and twenty flounder have been outfitted with special (and expensive) acoustic tags. These flounder also carry a special yellow tag. For more details see the enclosed announcement.

Researchers from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have tagged several thousand striped bass with fluorescent green internal anchor streamer tags as part of a monitoring program to assess the effects of Mycobacteriosis on the health of striped bass. Cash rewards are offered for these tagged fish. For more information see the enclosed announcement.

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's reported fishing was "very slow" the past week inside the inlet. "I haven't heard of any croaker and only a couple of flounder caught since Ernesto." Activity was somewhat better along the Assateague Island surf, as surf perch, snapper bluefish and sea mullet provided fair action. Unfortunately, parking in the park is still a problem, as not all the sand had been removed from the public lots following Ernesto and this week's high tides and wind brought more sand into the parking areas. Offshore action has been very good but the windows of opportunity have been limited. "On the days when they can get out to 30 fathoms or deeper they're catching good numbers of tuna. Some boats had ten or more." The catches included a mixture of mostly yellowfin plus a few bluefin and even a "true" albacore or two.


Wachapreague Marina reported good catches of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin out at the Washington Canyon, where several boats hit double figures on husky tuna. Inside the inlet, the waters had cleared and flounder were biting with some of the best action along the inshore channel along Cedar Island. Some pan trout are showing but most croaker appear to have moved offshore.

Captain Zed's rated offshore action as "very good" over the weekend, as trollers working 30 fathoms recorded good catches of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin and several wahoo. Inshore ocean wrecks produced decent numbers of black sea bass and some flounder. Inside the inlet, bottom fishermen saw lots of small flounder but only a handful of keepers. Best action was in the channel by the Coast Guard Station and Green and Drawing channels. 

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported the weekend flounder bite was on the rebound, following the passage of Ernesto. "We saw quite a few flounder of six pounds and little more but none made citation weight (7 pounds)." The better catches were made along the edge of the shipping channel, near buoy 36A, and from around the High Level section of the CBBT. Anglers fishing the shoals, especially after dark, are catching some red drum and plenty of "biter" sharks. George Caplinger caught and released a 49-inch red drum at buoy 36A. Speckled trout, some topping four pounds, are massing around the entrances to most of the bayside creeks and are providing good sport. Croaker numbers are rapidly dwindling on the bayside and appear "all gone" over on the seaside, off Oyster. Seaside anglers are seeing some pan trout, a few flounder and some sea mullet. The recent storm almost assuredly pushed out any remaining tarpon. Anglers working the Kiptopeke Park Pier enjoyed a mixed bag of sea mullet, spot, a few keeper flounder and snapper bluefish plus some pan trout after sun set.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters believed good numbers of spot plus some croaker and flounder were off Onancock but "the weather has been so bad I haven't been able to get out there to them." Closer to shore and in shallow, protected waters, nearly every creek, flat and shoreline are holding speckled trout and school-sized striped bass. "We're hoping for a good fall striper season."

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel

Eight teams (fishing clubs) and approximately 150 anglers competed in last weekend's 16th annual CCA Anglers Club Challenge fishing tournament, sponsored by the Tidewater chapter and headquartered at Marina Shores, inside Lynnhaven Inlet. The event decides which fishing club has "bragging rights" and possession of a museum grade, hand craved trophy for the next year. Fifteen different species of bay and inshore fish qualify for points with points awarded to the team with the heaviest of each eligible species. Six citation qualifying fish were landed during the event, including flounder of over 8 pounds, croaker topping 3 pounds and a sheepshead weighing over 10 pounds. Competing in their first Challenge, the Tidewater 

Kayak Anglers Club grabbed third place on the strength of the event's heaviest sheepshead and spot. Team Tidalfish came in second place, landing the heaviest triggerfish, tautog and a flounder of over 7 pounds. For the third consecutive year, the Great Bridge Fishing Association took first place, as team members weighed the heaviest black sea bass, spadefish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, croaker and grey trout.

Cobbs Marina told of a steady flounder bite on the lower Bay along the Baltimore Channel. Sheepshead still linger around the CBBT complex but catches have been more sporadic since the storm. Bottom fishermen are still catching some croaker and starting to see more spot.

Bubba's Marina said flounder were biting along the CBBT complex and the pilings of the Lessner Bridge. Big spot were caught back inside Lynnhaven Inlet recently and the same waters hold a healthy number of speckled trout and puppy drum. 

Wallace's Bait and Tackle said sheepshead were still biting at the CBBT complex, where Dan Hiltke boated a 10-3/4-pounder on crab. Sheepshead should also be available at nearby Back River Reef. Speckled trout are biting at Poquoson Flats and up inside Back River.

Sunset Boating Center said schools of spot are holding off Sewells Point and some decent-sized croaker still linger around the James River Bridge. The flounder bite at Hampton Bar has been slow to re-start since Ernesto. "I'm just not hearing much about flounder except from the Fourth Island area."

Salt Ponds Marina said Stephen Smith boated an 8-pound, 3-ounce flounder at the CBBT aboard TINGS RIG on a large jig with a nice piece of cut bait. John Perry was slow trolling a bucktail at the CBBT aboard the GAFFER and nailed a 7-1/4-pound flounder. Although not of citation proportions, Gibby Gibson landed a nice 22-inch, 6-pound, 5-ounce sheepshead at the CBBT aboard the PELICAN.

Chuck Ash at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said good catches of flounder were recorded Saturday at the CBBT and in the buoy 38/40 areas. Flounder fishermen also encountered a surprising number of large red drum "by accident." Inside the York River, bottom fishermen are hauling in plenty of spot plus some croaker and a few pan trout. Over inside Mobjack Bay, Chuck rated the current speckled trout bite "as good as I've ever seen it," with many anglers claiming a limit of the spotted fish. Puppy drum, most well under the 18-inch minimum size limit, are numerous along the shoreline of the York River and Mobjack Bay.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the fall spot run was underway but anglers are not seeing numbers of citation-size fish yet but are seeing large numbers of eating-sized fish. The spot are available at numerous locations from the Rappahannock River on down to Rudee Inlet. Neill expects the average size of these fish to increase over the next several weeks. Flounder fishing has taken a bit of a breather but should pick right back up as the lower bay water clears up a bit, according to Neill. Big red drum are still hanging around the shoals and along the barrier islands while puppy drum are available inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets and up in Poquoson Flats. Speckled trout are being caught at these same locations as well as in Back River. Cobia are moving on out of the bay but there are still some around "so you have a chance of intercepting one on its way to the south," noted Neill. Sheepshead are available at the CBBT and this is the time of year when some big sheepshead are caught at Back River Reef. In the inshore ocean waters, king mackerel are a possibility and amberjack and jack crevalle can be found at the Chesapeake Light Tower and nearby wrecks. Offshore, a very good tuna bite developed in the Norfolk Canyon the past week, where big longfin tuna have made their fall showing. Some boats came in with big hauls of these tasty tuna this past week. Many of the "true" albacore tuna were large enough to qualify for citations if the anglers had known that they have been added to the citation program this year (40 lb minimum). Good numbers of yellowfin and an occasional bigeye are also being caught. Dolphin, wahoo and some billfish make up the rest of the catch. "All in all, its a good time to be fishing offshore." 

"It is official," said Neill, the IGFA has approved the 3rd and 4th All-Tackle World Records caught on the HEALTHY GRIN this year. Jeff Dail's 36-pound 5-ounce Snowy Grouper was approved as a new world record and then was retired to be replaced by Jason Ferguson's 37-pound 9-ounce Snowy Grouper caught on the same trip. Jason's fish is now the standing record. The other two world records caught on the HEALTHY GRIN were both blueline tilefish. Both Troy Warren and Jeff Dail qualified for blueline tilefish All-Tackle World Records. Jeff has now caught two world record fish this year but neither record stood for very long. The Snowy Grouper record did not last a day. His blueline tilefish record lasted for about a week before being replaced by a fish caught by fellow club member, Darren Foster (17 pounds, 5 ounces) that is the current record. Jeff will receive a pair of world record certificates to hang on his wall. The IGFA has been hearing a lot from the PSWSFA this year. Jenny Manus caught a 17 lb 7 oz blueline tilefish which is pending as the next world record. Barclay Shepard's state leading, 12 lb 1 oz speckled trout is the IGFA 4 lb Line-Class World Record. 

Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:

Although the fishing action waned a bit after the blow, expect a rebound with the fall heavy hitters lining up to bat. The spot, speckled trout, and puppy drum season is already off to a great start, while anglers confer their last hurrahs to the exiting summer favorites. Decent spot are pouring into the lower bay area, with catches scattered in all the usual haunts. Yellowbellies, with a few citations, are hanging along the HRBT, the Hampton Bar, Little Creek Jetties, the Eastern Shore creeks, and all the lower bay inlets. The biggest spot reported thus far, a chunky 1-pound, 5-ouncer was boated by "Foots" Ballance of Virginia Beach, in Long Creek this week. Fall speckled trout are soaring up the charts with good numbers of fish, with a smattering of citations in the mix, hanging in the flats off Poquoson, Hunger's Creek, and Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets. If puppy drum is your passion, casting jigs or presenting fresh bait in Lynnhaven or Rudee will not disappoint, as these aggressive feeders scour the shallows for their prey.

A few big cobia are lingering on buoys along the oceanfront and mouth of the bay, with fish in excess of 50-pounds falling to jigs and live bait. King mackerel have been scarce recently with the dirty water, but this action should improve into October. Spanish are zipping through the tide rips along the Bridge Tunnel, with snapper blues in the 5-pound range competing for trolled spoons. Schools of false albacore have been spotted in close to the beach, which can prove very sporting on light tackle. 

The Flounder action took a break this week, but will heat back up as anglers find cleaner water. Evan Rhodes of Norfolk managed a nice 9-pound, 9-ounce flatfish floating a jig at the Thimble Shoals. The offshore wreck flatfish action is a good alternative for an easy catch, with strip baits bounced over the structure. Expect nice sea bass as a by-catch, along with a few triggerfish.

Although sheepshead action will begin to slow soon, steady catches are keeping bottom bouncers interested along the entire span of the CBBT. A few tog and triggerfish are in the same vicinity. Horse croaker in the 2 to 4-pound range are lurking in deeper areas around the lower bay channels, inlets, and the Bay Bridge Tunnel, preparing for their southern migration.

Red drum will continue to thrill anglers of all calibers, while surf and pier casters are especially interested in this prospect. Many big reds are surprising flounder pounders and wreck anglers all over the lower bay. A 49-inch bruiser red was hoisted onto the Seagull fishing pier at the First Island. Rumors of more bulls from the surf off the Eastern Shore barrier islands and along the Sandbridge breakers are circulating. Speaking of the surf, this is prime surf fishing season. Grab your 12-foot heavers, bloodworms, and cut mullet, and join in the hot surf action. All along the coast, the wash is giving up good numbers of croaker, spot, puppy drum, striped bass, flounder, and even a few prized pompano.

Schoolie rockfish are hitting offerings all over the lower bay, and will only become more active as the water temperature drops. On October 4th anglers can start keeping a few, but until then, just enjoy the release.

The recurring threatening weather is keeping many blue water anglers closer to shore, but improving tuna action will be waiting once they can negotiate a decent day. A few larger class yellowfin and some nice true albacore may be schooling within and near the Norfolk Canyon. Wahoo will continue to slam spreads for several more weeks, while bailer dolphin are still a good backup. The marlin bite has slowed, but may have a few last showings before they head for warmer water. Amberjack are still available on the Triangle wrecks, and will remain on the southern towers through October. 

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware was happy to report Spanish mackerel were biting again, as these fish all but disappeared immediately following the storm. "There's plenty of bait for them (the mackerel) and lots of blues mixed right in." Some of the best action has been along Smith Point Bar. Bottom fishermen enjoyed steady action on spot just east of Smith Point Light and around the mouths of Dividing Creek and the Great Wicomico River.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters told of fair catches of flounder around buoy 42, the Cell and buoy 36A but admitted "not many people went," between the marginal weather conditions and the clean-up from Ernesto. Surface waters in the vicinity of the Cell remain in the mid-70's. Timothy Amos had the week's lone citation flatfish, a 7-pound, 13-ouncer, at buoy 42. A few cobia still linger in these areas, as Danny Walden boated a 53-pound, 14-ounce cobia while drifting for flounder near the Cell. Trollers picked-up a few Spanish mackerel but the schools are scattered. Chunky taylor bluefish weighing up to 4 pounds are a more likely encounter. Bottom bouncers are finding plenty of spot at Butlers Hole and the Spike. These same locations are producing a few croaker, bluefish and pan trout. Kyle Dabney, III caught and released a 49-inch red drum at Wolftrap Light. Casters working the grassy areas inside Mobjack Bay, Dameron Marsh and off Gwynn Island recorded good catches of speckled trout. Herbert Haywood boated a 5-pound, 3-ounce speck at Cherry Point.

Locklies Marina told of good catches of nice-sized spot, pan trout up to 17 inches and some croaker weighing nearly 3 pounds. Most of the better hauls were made near the White Stone Bridge in 25 to 30 feet of water.

Garretts Marina described the bottom fishing as "very good" since the storm. "People are saying there are fish all over the river," with some of the best catches of spot coming from the buoy 19 area.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said bottom fishing has yet to recover from Ernesto. "The bite is steady when you locate them but they are not committing suicide." Most of the spot are now number ones and good numbers of pan trout are mixed in with the spot. Top locations include the mouth of the Rappahannock around the spike buoy, Cherry Point and off Gwynn Island. Some Spanish mackerel still linger at Windmill Point and Fleets Bay. A school of large red drum meandered through the Cell on Sunday. Two citation drum were caught and released but "a lot more were hooked and broken off." 

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the crew aboard the BACKLASH had a huge catch of longfin tuna with several topping 40 pounds, yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin on Friday. Saturday saw several of the charter fleet with a mixture of dolphin, "true albacore" tuna and yellowfin tuna. Unfortunately the fleet was forced to remain in port Monday and Tuesday (11 and 12 September). 

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said several of their charter boats "crushed the tuna" on Friday at the Norfolk Canyon. "They caught both yellowfin and longfin tuna." The crews did nearly as well on 

Saturday, plus several wahoo and some dolphin were landed. On Sunday, catches shifted to mostly dolphin plus some yellowfin tuna and several white marlin releases.

Virginia Piers -

Ocean View - Anglers saw a nice mixture of fish the past several days. In between runs of spot and snapper bluefish, catches included croaker, pan trout, surfperch, cow-nosed rays and sea mullet. 

Lynnhaven - Snapper bluefish and spot provided the bulk of the action but bottom fishermen also managed a few sea mullet, croaker, pompano, speckled trout and puppy drum.

Virginia Beach - After a "so-so" weekend of sporadic catches of spot and snapper bluefish, Monday and Tuesday saw good runs of large spot with a few croaker mixed in.

Sandbridge - Spot and bluefish were the dominant catch here but bottom fishermen saw a wide assortment of fish, including pompano, black drum, spadefish, sea mullet, puppy drum, rays and shark.

Outer Banks, NC -

Surf and pier anglers along the Nags Head area beaches saw a week of rough surf and extra high tides, especially over the weekend. It was a challenge just to hold bottom. Pier anglers had the advantage here, as they could merely walk beyond the pounding surf-line. Catches were "scattered" at best, even though conditions were nearly ideal for a "two-at-a-time" run of large spot. Perhaps the water temperature, still a very pleasant 74 degrees, kept the spot at bay. Beach fishermen did manage a few puppy drum, snapper bluefish and spot but it was hardly a bonanza. Pier anglers saw the better variety with pompano, Spanish mackerel and black drum added to the list.

South of Oregon Inlet at Cape Point on Buxton, a strong run of Spanish mackerel developed mid-morning on Friday and many beach fishermen walked away with limit catches. Bottom fishermen settled for a few small puppy drum and some snapper bluefish. Another good run of Spanish mackerel plus snapper bluefish developed Saturday morning at the Point. Pods of false albacore moved within casting range mid-afternoon. Bottom fishermen recorded decent catches of sea mullet and spot. Sunday morning saw some bluefish, puppy drum and pompano beached but by late morning the tide was up and carrying loads of grass and seas were rough. In the afternoon the Point washed over and there was some flooding.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported good catches of large yellowfin tuna, dolphin and a few wahoo on Friday. The fleet landed a pair of bigeye tuna and the heaviest weighed 146 pounds. Inshore trollers working near the inlet had good catches of snapper bluefish plus some Spanish mackerel. The headboat recorded mixed catches of pan trout, sea mullet, spot and croaker. Saturday and Sunday produced excellent catches of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin and wahoo but the fleet has been "weathered-in" since the weekend.

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.

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