Plans and Statistics Department Staff
Here comes the sun! However, here stays the wind. Though not as intense as in previous weeks, the small craft advisory is still the highlight of the weather report as we go to print. Let's hope the wind lays down and allows some anglers suffering from ‘cabin fever' to escape. Water temps to our south range from a low of 55° F at Duck Pier, to a high of 68° F at Oregon Inlet Marina, whereas it is 61° F at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The big talking point of the week is the arrival of the big drum, red and black. The Eastern Shore anglers are already reporting some impressive catches both by boat and from the surf, and the action continues to spread. The flounder action continues, as anglers have figured out the trick to target the large doormats again this year. There are numerous items to check out in this addition of the Virginia Saltwater Review, including a blue crab fishery management update (pages 6 and 7), and a reminder that the recreational tautog fishery is currently closed beginning May 1 and continuing through June 24 (see page 8). VMRC also reminds you to report your trophy striped bass catches (the trophy fishery began May 1) using either the forms provided (pages 9 and 10), or going online and registering your catch (www.vasaltwaterjournal.com). For those anglers that want to participate in the Marine Sportfish Collection Project, remember that Morningstar Marina at Gwynn's Island (formerly known as the Boatel) has been added on as a site (page 11), and expect an announcement in the coming weeks of an additional project site being set-up on the Eastern Shore. And now…the fishing reports!
Donna at Captain Bob's reports the best hot spot is right in front of the marina, and to the west of the sandbar for flounder. A few flounder are being caught in the Fingers, but the throwback ratio is quite high, with anglers catching and releasing dozens before landing a keeper. The Assateague Channel continues to produce good fishing, especially south of the Assateague Bridge, with a much lower throw back ratio. Gulp Alive continues to be popular bait, but the traditional squid, minnow, and silversides dominate. Double rigs continue to give success, with pink still being the number one color of choice. Fishing in the 4 Mouths Area is sparse, due to difficult passage. A few bluefish have been spotted, along with puppy drum (juvenile red drum). No hook and line anglers have caught trout, but nets are bringing in a few, so look for the trout to start biting soon.
The Wachapreague Marina Flounder Tournament had a great turnout. The first place flounder weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces. The second and third place catches weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 7 pounds, 5 ounces, respectively.
At Captain Zeds, The Hotel Wachapreague and Captain Zeds Spring Flounder Tournament also had a phenomenal turnout for the 10-day tournament. James Collins of Delaware came in first place, bringing in a 7-pound, 14-ounce flounder. Second and third place went to Pennsylvanians Kim Herman (7-pound, 11- ounce) and John Eshleman (7-pound, 7-ounce), respectively. All used squid and minnow bait combination. Staff reports the tournament was the best start they have seen in a long time. A few black sea bass citations were issued during the week, but the most impressive citation went to Mike Shreve. Mike landed a 20- pound, 6-ounce tautog on the F/V FISHING FANATIC at the Monroe Wreck site.
Staff from Chris' Bait and Tackle are seeing an increase in activity. J.P. Hubbard caught and released red drum measuring 51, 48, and 47 inches each. Mr. Hubbard caught the fish off the barrier islands peeler crab for bait. Steve Stevenson of Hungers brought in a 6-pound speckled trout caught with grub. staff has received reports of flounder being seen in the south bay, and black drum coming in around buoys through 16.
Ernie at Cherrystone Bait and Tackle reports sightings of flounder on Seaside inside the barrier islands. flounder are beginning to move into the bay. Croaker and black drum have yet to move. However, with warming temperatures, fishermen should start seeing an increase in the croaker and black drum.
According to Captain Wil croaker are being caught throughout the area. A few flounder have been spotted. Weather has put a damper on fishing, with few boats going out. Water temperature is around 60 degrees. Hopefully the weather will clear up and make way for some good fishing.
Tautog was once again the catch of the week at Cobb's Marina. A citation tautog (9-pounds, 6-ounces, 23 ¾ inches) was caught using crab by Kelly Williams of Virginia Beach in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
Sunset Boating Center is still waiting for the season, and good weather, to pick up. Few tautog are being caught out at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
The staff at the Salt Ponds Marina are seeing little activity, though a few flounder are being brought in. Staff from York River Fishing Center (formally A&S Feed and Bait Supply) are beginning to see croaker around the pier, which is later than usual. It was a good week of fishing across the bay, especially for one young fisherman. Six-year-old Thomas Horsely landed a 10-pound, 8 ounce flounder.
Ken Neill, reporting secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, contributed the following:
The big red drum run is going on strong. Anglers are having great success catching bull reds in the 46 to 52 inch range. The best location has been the inlet between Fisherman's and Smith Islands. The preferred bait has been whole hard crab. Black drum are also being caught but these have been smaller blacks with a few pushing 50 pounds. The run of trophy blacks has not taken off yet but some big blacks should be caught this week. The tautog season is closing with a bang. The season is closed as of May 1. The tautog bite has been fantastic with a lot of fish caught with some large ones in the 20-pound class weighed in. Flounder are receiving a fair amount of attention and anglers are finding some fish large enough to meet the 19-inch minimum. Fish are being caught at Back River Reef, 36 A, along the CBBT, and in the seaside inlets of the Eastern Shore. Croaker are being caught in all of the rivers. The speckled trout bite is getting better in the Mobjack Bay area. Some are available on Poquoson Flats and in Back River and the bite is pretty good on the Eastern Shore seaside. Specks are also being caught inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets. Offshore anglers out of Virginia are deep dropping and having good luck with sea bass, tilefish, snowy grouper, wreckfish, and blackbelly rosefish. A bit further south, offshore boats out of the Outer Banks are encountering more yellowfin tuna, some wahoo, dolphin, and a few billfish have been caught.
Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:
With all the major players in place, the saltwater spring fishery is now in full gear, and the interest in drum is rising to the top of the list. Although the drum fishery is no where near what it will become, anglers are reporting catches of big red drum, with the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore offering some catches of fish to over 50-inches. Peeler crabs, blue crabs, and bunker fished on the shoals and in the surf can put you into some escalating red action. These fish are fierce fighters, and can weigh in upwards of 50-pounds.
The red drum's close cousin, the black drum, is also on the move, pushing its way into the usual haunts. These two species are often caught in the same areas. Some larger fish are also coming from the seaside inlets along the Eastern Shore, especially from the Machipongo and Quinby areas, while smaller fish are still coming from the surf.
With the wind and muddy water, flounder pounders are struggling to find fish, with protected areas offering the best opportunity. Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle reports that some keepers are coming from within Lynnhaven Inlet, along with lots of 4-pound snapper bluefish. According to The Fishing Center, surf anglers are also pulling in lots of snapper blues and scattered flatfish from the bulkheads and the beaches from within Rudee Inlet. The Oyster area and Ship Shoal Inlet on the Eastern Shore are providing limits of keepers, while drifters at buoy 36A are also hooking a few flatties in between dogfish encounters.
Some good numbers of speckled trout are coming from lower bay inlets and shallows. Folks fishing the inshore waters in Oyster as well as the Eastern Shore seaside inlets, are also catching decent fish up to six pounds on peeler crabs, live bait, and swimming lures. Puppy drum are also available in these same areas.
Croaker are hitting along the ocean front, the Hampton Bar, and the lower bay rivers and creeks. The Ocean View Fishing Pier reports steady action lately, with anglers hauling up a mixed bag of croaker, spot, sea mullet, gray trout to 26-inches, and striped bass to 24-inches. Anglers are finding the best luck on blood worms, squid, and Fishbites, especially after dusk.
Some nice sea bass are coming from both inshore and offshore locations, with squid, cut bait, and jigs, such as the Braid Slammer jig, working well. Grouper, wreckfish, and big blueline and golden tilefish, are coming from deep waters off Virginia.
The Carolina offshore fishing fleets are experiencing good numbers of gaffer dolphin, as well as decent numbers of yellowfin tuna. Wahoo and marlin are also adding a little variety.
Heidi of Jett's Hardware reports croaker are being caught in the Great Wicomico River on artificial bloodworms, mostly in shallow water. Expectations are high for a good start to the striped bass season as excellent reports have been filtering down from Maryland. In addition, some flounder are also being seen in the area.
Smith's Point Marina has also heard reports of large striped bass coming out of Maryland. Croaker are being caught in the shallows as well.
Locklies Marina reports that the while the number of fishermen has been very low, the fishing has been good. Croaker are the most abundant fish around there right now, but other fish are starting to show up, including flounder, bluefish and trout. So dust off those rods and catch some dinner!
Garrett's Marina reports that people fishing from the banks have done well on croaker, as long as you can reach water that is 5 to 8 feet deep.
Capt. Jim, out of the Rappahanock River, has the following report:
Some reports are starting to filter in on the flounder and croaker. Flounder have been caught at the Cell on the Eastern Shore; also some striped bass are in the same area but are being released when caught. The nets are bringing in croaker from the same area but not much going on the hook and line. In the Rappahannock there are croaker, but only in shallow waters. With a lot of patience, a nice catch can be accumulated. In the Piankatank River, the same is true but at least some fish are arriving. Nothing going on in the Chesapeake Bay off of Gwynn's Island, as the deeper water is just to cold for the fish to bite yet.
Virginia Beach Fishing Center is seeing an increase in puppy drum (juvenile red drum), and speckled trout in the inlet. Taylor bluefish are populating the inlet in vast numbers. In the offshore scene, anglers are seeing good fishing with tilefish and grouper.
The Lynnhaven Fishing Pier opens today, May 2nd, for the 2008 season.
The Virginia Beach Pier is still seeing little action. A few bluefish are being caught, but it has been a very slow week. Very few have been going out, possibly due to inclement weather.
The Sandbridge Pier reports numerous bluefish at the Little Island Fishing Pier, but not much of anything else.
Water temperatures have now risen into the upper 50's. Speckled trout, in the 2 to 3 pound range, are being caught in good numbers with Green Island Slough (in Oregon Inlet) being a hotspot. Triggerfish and sheepshead are being caught around the pilings of the Oregon Inlet Bridge as well.
Pier fishermen continue to be rewarded with good catches of speckled trout in the early morning, and bluefish keeping lines tight throughout the day. Additional catches of dogfish, skates and rays were also keeping anglers busy.
People trolling offshore, out of Oregon Inlet, were having luck with scattered dolphin, yellowfin tuna, makos, and the occasional blue marlin. Bottom fishermen continue to have success with tilefish, and black sea bass.
The fishing reports for surf fishermen, south of Oregon Inlet down to Cape Hatteras, are very encouraging as well. Bluefish, blowfish, sea mullet and flounder were on the dinner table for many fishermen working on the north and south beaches over the past week. Ramp 43 and the Avon ramps seemed to be favorite areas for those tasty sea mullet. A few big drum are also showing up during the evening and nighttime hours around Cape Hatteras Point.
Offshore fishing out of Cape Hatteras has been good (if you can put up with choppy waters) with people bringing in good catches of dolphin, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, and king mackerel. Bluefish continue to dominate the catches of inshore fishermen.
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