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The Saltwater Review - 21 September 2005

Vol. 19, No. 16
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has established new regulatory management measures for the Chesapeake Bay area fall 2005 recreational striped bass fishery.  The fall recreational season will begin October 4, 2005 and extend through December 31, 2005.  The recreational possession limit will continue as two striped bass per person. The minimum size limit remains as 18 inches. Anglers will be allowed to possess two striped bass 18 inches to 28 inches total length or one striped bass 18 inches to 28 inches total length and one striped bass 34 inches or greater in total length. The major change in the 2005 fishery concerns this "protected" slot limit, whereby it shall be unlawful for any person to possess any striped bass between 28 inches and 34 inches in total length.

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.

Strong winds and rough seas limited fishing opportunities during the week but the weekend turned out to be quite pleasant.  Unfortunately many anglers apparently heeded the mid-week warning of a possible storm event and made plans other than fishing.

Big croaker and cobia both made impressive late season showings, as croaker topping 3 pounds and cobia weighing over 50 pounds were caught. 

The first bluewater boats out in nearly a week were treated to some excellent action on dolphin and yellowfin tuna over the weekend.  Several billfish were also captured but released.

The much anticipated fall run of big, yellow-bellied spot failed to materialize but lower bay waters are still in the upper 70's and the run may merely be running late. 

Chincoteague -

Bluewater anglers found good numbers of yellowfin tuna between the Lumpy Bottom and Washington Canyon.  Mixed sizes of dolphin were holding in the mats of floating grass.  The grass (Sargasum) was so abundant in some areas that chunking was nearly the only way to fish.  Black sea bass and some triggerfish are on the inshore wrecks but the sea bass bite remains sub par.


Wachapreague Marina reported the Washington Canyon was the weekend's offshore hot spot, as several boats sailing from the marina recorded big catches of yellowfin tuna plus some bailer dolphin.  Inshore, croaker remain available with a scattering of keeper flounder caught around the mouth of the inlet.

Captain Zed's said Jeff Kelly nailed a 7-1/2-pound flounder in Bradford Channel on Sunday but overall numbers of keeper flounder were low.  Croaker provided dependable action at Green and Drawing channels while hand-sized spot were hitting in the city harbor during the evening.  Offshore, Tim Ball released a blue marlin aboard the LINDA K and a group fishing with Captain Ray Parker aboard the SCORPIO had a nice catch of black sea bass on one of the nearby wreck sites. 

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported anglers fishing on the evening tide are starting to catch some red drum around buoys 13 and 36A.  Fresh cut fish such as spot, menhaden or mullet is the preferred bait.  The flounder bite began to perk-up over the weekend with buoys 18, 36A and 38A the top locations.  Water over on the seaside had just begun to clear (from all the north to northeast wind from Ophelia) over the weekend and croaker had begun to bite again.  Overall fishing pressure was extremely light, considering how pleasant the weekend weather turned-out.  "When people were making their weekend plans Thursday and Friday, the weather forecast didn't sound too good for the weekend."

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported good weekend catches, as local waters were surprisingly clear and loaded with an assortment of bait.  Working the ledges for flounder produced flatfish up to 29-1/2 inches and over 9 pounds.  Best catches of spot and croaker came from relatively shallow water, from 12 to 16 feet.  Plenty of taylor bluefish, porgy and pan trout are mixed in with the spot.  Captain Wil added a word of caution about the pan trout, saying, "hundreds of them are right at 11-1/2 inches (minimum size limit is 12 inches) but some keepers will measure up to 15 inches."  Local anglers reported catching and releasing several large red drum the past week but say speckled trout remain scarce.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Jackie at Cobbs Marina reported little fishing activity during the week, due to strong winds, and a surprisingly light crowd over the weekend, despite very good weather conditions.  The shop did not register any citation flounder but did see a number of 5 to 6 pound flatfish that were caught around the CBBT.  Lower Bay bottom fishermen also scored on a mixture of croaker and spot.

Bubba's Marina told of good hauls of jumbo croaker from the CBBT area and even around the Lesner Bridge.  Spot weighing as much as a pound were caught inside Lynnhaven Inlet, where a handful of speckled trout were also boated.  The jumbo flounder bite remains good around the CBBT complex and along the Baltimore Channel.  Cobia made a surprisingly good showing in recent days between the CBBT and Sandbridge.

Dr. Jim Wright fished offshore Tuesday (September 20) and found huge grass mats loaded with dolphin weighing up to 10 pounds.  The group also tried a few "deep-drops" over usually productive bottom but managed only a handful of keeper black sea bass and several medium-sized greyline tilefish.  Inshore, the cobia bite just off the Virginia Beach oceanfront has been phenomenal the past several days, as some anglers scored into double digits on 50-inch class fish.  Dr. Jim also told of a good speckled trout bite at Rudee Inlet and decent numbers of nice spot up to 11 inches back inside Lynnhaven Inlet.   

Sunset Boating Center weighed a 7.04-pound flounder for Bill Tanner.  The citation flatfish was caught at the Hump and several other anglers recorded decent flounder catches at Hampton Bar over the weekend.  The headboat OCEAN EAGLE fished near the mouth of the Elizabeth River on Saturday and marked fish "top to bottom" but caught only a handful of spot and croaker.  The shop weighed spot to 16 ounces the past week but "not very many."  The 2005 minimum qualifying citation weight for spot was increased to 18 ounces.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the big news this week was the strong late season run of cobia at York Spit, where several citation-size fish were boated the past week and numerous other cobia in the 40-pound range were caught.  Most of the cobia were caught on boats that had anchored and chummed.  The same technique produced a pair of red drum releases as well.  Inside the York River the spot bite had become suddenly slow, "even for the commercial guys," noted Ash.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said anglers finally got some nice weather, which gave them a chance to see what was biting after all the wind created by Ophelia.  The offshore fleet found a lot of grass and a lot of fish.  Yellowfin tuna, albacore, and wahoo are here in numbers.  Dolphin are extremely plentiful and can be "almost pests at times," according to Neill. Decent numbers of billfish are around and even a few bigeye tuna.  Inshore, there has been a very good cobia catch by anglers intercepting fish as they stage before heading south.  Flounder numbers have been down recently but not their size.  Some big flatfish are still hanging around the structure of the CBBT, plus the CBBT is a good location to find some jumbo croaker.  It is also time to expect the fall run of big, yellow-bellied spot.  The bay striped bass season is just right around the corner and is set to open October 4.
Stephen Powell, Charles Southall and Ken Neill did an overnighter in the area of the Norfolk Canyon.  The group trolled during the daytime, swordfished and chunked at night and had action the whole time. The party had a number of wahoo bite offs, pulled off a big eye after about an hour fight, pulled off a swordfish and lost count of the number of tuna lost.  The group did not lose everything.  First stop was a weed line on the Fingers, where Charles caught a 40-pound wahoo. Stephen caught a barracuda at the same location.  The group continued trolling and caught a number of false albacore including a 32-inch release citation for Stephen.  The trio landed a yellowfin tuna and several dolphin and then ran out to 44-fathom wreck.  Bottom rigs were deployed and some decent sea bass were pulled from the wreck site.  They started trolling again catching more dolphin and several yellowfin tuna up to 50 pounds. A much larger tuna was hooked, likely a bigeye, and the reminder of the daylight was spent fighting the big fish until the hooked pulled.   The crew then set up for swordfish at the mouth of the Norfolk Canyon.  The first bait was being deployed when the line jerked and a fish was on.  Total time fishing was 1 minute.  Everyone suspected the fish was a tuna but when it came up it was a swordfish, 83 inches from the lower jaw to tail.  The remainder of the night the party caught dolphin and hooked up with another swordfish but that one pulled off after a short fight. At first light, the crew shifted back to trolling and picked up a couple of longfin tuna in the 40-pound range.   A stop at another weedline and the group bailed more dolphin. 

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported trollers are still catching Spanish mackerel around Smith Point Light and over the flats off Tangier Island while taylor bluefish are "just about everywhere."  Good-sized spot were caught at the mouth of the Rappahannock River, off Dividing and Indian creeks, around the N2 buoy and inside the Piankatank River.  Nearly all the larger croaker seem to have departed local waters, leaving only fish less than 10 inches.  Small pods of pan trout are holding along the shipping channel edges and are best caught by locating the fish on the depth finder and vertical jigging on the marks.

Smith Point Marina said a huge Spanish mackerel, caught by Bob Tolhurst off Smith Point, highlighted the weekend.  The incredible fish weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces.  Other trollers reported good success on mackerel up to 4-1/2 pounds and loads of taylor bluefish.  The fall run of spot is underway but the fish are not as big as last season, when 1-pounders became commonplace.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said good-sized spot are showing in the Piankatank River, at the mouth of the Rappahannock River and off Gwynn Island.  Bottom fishermen are also catching pan trout in these same areas.  Trollers working Windmill Point Bar caught plenty of taylor bluefish but only an occasional Spanish mackerel.

Locklies Marina told of excellent catches of spot and plenty of small to medium sea mullet.  Local waters are also producing some pan trout but most are less than 12 inches.  Best recent catches of spot have been made between Carters Creek and the mooring buoy.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said good numbers of pan trout have arrived on the lower Rappahannock River and at Cherry Point, on the Piankatank River.  Many of the small trout are sublegal (less than 12 inches) but some measure to 15 inches or a little more.  Spot were caught at Butlers Hole while schools of taylor bluefish were chasing bait in shallow water around Broad Creek.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center ran their first offshore trips of the week over the weekend and catches were quite impressive.  Both the BACKLASH and FROGPILE fished on Saturday and each returned with a box full of 40 to 60-pound class yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina told of good offshore action, as dolphin have erupted in huge numbers since the passage of Ophelia.  The dolphin numbers are "all you could want," according to Donna.  The main reason for the dolphin abundance has the extensive amount of grass out in 20 to 100 fathoms.  Trollers are also catching some nice yellowfin tuna and the occasional longfin or true albacore tuna.  One boat caught and released an Atlantic spearfish and white marlin on Saturday.  The southern portion of the Norfolk Canyon has been the recent hot spot.

Virginia Piers

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

Lynnhaven - Weekend anglers were treated to strong but sporadic runs of spot, surf perch, taylor bluefish and sea mullet.

Virginia Beach - Spot and croaker provided most of the action but a few small sharks were caught after dark.  A large striped bass was decked Saturday night.  Other catches include taylor bluefish, pan trout and sea mullet.

Sandbridge - A large red drum was hooked but lost Friday morning and the rest of the weekend yielded mostly spot.  Three large red drum were decked Monday morning and a small cobia was landed and released that afternoon. 

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen in the Kitty Hawk area enjoyed steady runs of spot and mixed catches of snapper bluefish, blowfish, speckled trout and even a few pompano the past week.   The Avalon Pier reported a mixture of spot, puppy drum, pompano and speckled trout on Saturday.  On Sunday, pier fishermen scored on Spanish mackerel and taylor blues out at the end of the pier and a mixture of spot, sea mullet, and pompano in close to the pier house.  Anglers fishing from the catwalk at the Oregon Inlet Bridge had mixed catches of bluefish, spot, trout, surfperch and a few croaker.

At Cape Point in Buxton, the weekend saw a mixed size of red drum, from pups to fish measuring up to 46 inches.  Taylor bluefish were available throughout the daylight hours and Dan Willard beached a tarpon Saturday after sunset.  Beaches around Avon produced a mixed bag of sea mullet, pompano, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center recorded limit catches of yellowfin tuna, several bigeye tuna to 142 pounds and a scattering of dolphin and wahoo on Friday.  Saturday's catches were even more impressive, as the yellowfin tuna bite remained strong but even more bigeye tuna, weighing as much as 218 pounds, were landed.  Other catches included mixed sizes of dolphin and wahoo up to 58 pounds.  Inshore trollers caught loads of taylor bluefish and some Spanish mackerel and false albacore.  Sunday was a repeat of Saturday with impressive numbers of bigeye tuna to 214 pounds plus yellowfin tuna and bailer dolphin.  Bottom fishermen aboard the headboat returned with mixed catches of croaker, trout and sea mullet.

For the fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet blackfin tuna and mixed sizes of dolphin was the catch-of-the-day on Friday, with only a scattering of yellowfin and wahoo reported.  Richard Fenner of Richmond caught and released a white marlin aboard the BITE ME.   Saturday saw good numbers of blackfin tuna and plenty of bailer dolphin with an occasional fish to 10 pounds.  Sunday produced plenty of blackfin tuna and dolphin plus a sprinkling of wahoo, as yellowfin tuna and billfish remained scarce.

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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