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The Saltwater Review - 5 May 2004

Vol. 18, No. 1
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


Virginia's Trophy Striped Bass season opened May 1 and runs through June 15.  This special season carries a 32-inch minimum size limit coupled with a one-fish bag limit. From May 1 through May 16, anglers may possess one-fish, 32 inches or greater.   From May 16 through June 15, anglers are allowed to possess two striped bass within the 18 and 28-inch slot, but one fish of the two-fish allowed during the May 16 through June 15 slot season may be 32 inches or greater.  Most important, anglers must report their Trophy catch (all 32-inch or greater fish caught and kept between 1 May and 15 June) on forms available at all Citation Weigh Stations, many other tackle shops and marinas.

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 late summer closed period runs from September 8 through September 21.  The winter closed period remains December 1 through December 31.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size and possession limit have both changed.  The minimum size limit decreased from 17-1/2 inches to 17 inches in 2004.  The possession limit likewise decreased, from 8 flounder last season to 6 summer flounder in 2004.

Water temperatures on the lower Bay hover around the 60-degree mark, as tautog catches near their spring peak with many of the best hauls (14-inch minimum size limit and 7 fish possession limit) coming from the CBBT complex.  Tautog are still active on the inshore ocean wrecks, where more black sea bass are arriving with each passing day.

Croaker invaded the Bay over a month ago but are just now starting to respond to hook and line baits on a consistent basis.

The season's first catches of black and red drum plus huge trophy-sized grey trout and citation winning flounder were recorded last week.

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's reported a recent flounder fishing tournament sponsored by the Frederick Maryland Chapter of MSSA was won by Bryan Etezler with a 5-1/2-pound flounder.  The shop weighed their first citation flounder (7 pounds or better) several weeks ago but weather played havoc on the fish and fishermen ever since then.  The most consistent recent catches have come from the waters surrounding buoys 11 and 13 (which are located near the Wallops Island Bridge) by anglers drifting a bottom rig baited with live minnows.  Black drum have arrived on the shoals around the mouth of the inlet.

Barnacle Bill's told of good catches of flounder Friday and Saturday, two weeks prior.  "Some were even catching their limits but it has been dead ever since then."  Flatfish were caught "a little all-over, from Chincoteague Bay to Four Mouths."

Wachapreague -

Captain Zed's reported flounder fishing improved through the week with the best catches coming from 17 to 20 feet of water at Drawing Channel and just off the Coast Guard Station.  Anglers working the shoals around the mouth of the inlet caught black drum and "at least one red drum too big to keep."  Red drum carry a maximum size limit of 26 inches.  Outside the inlet, the inshore ocean wrecks are producing good numbers of black sea bass plus some tautog.

Wachapreague Marina checked-in several citation size flounder two weeks prior but strong winds over the weekend (especially Sunday) kept most anglers in port.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported three red drum releases, all caught from the Barrier Island surf on peeler crab, were registered last week, as Kevin Crum (49 inches), Richard Hubbard (46-3/4 inches) and David Morris (46 inches) all earned awards.  Also earning a release award last week was Richard Temple, who released a 23-inch tautog at the High Rise section of the CBBT.  Chris indicated that good numbers of tog were pulled from the High Rise area pilings plus tog were caught around the Cement Ships and from the C-10 area mussel beds.  The flounder bite was good for boats drifting in the vicinity of buoy 36A when the weather and tide cooperated.  Sunday's results were very poor, but on Saturday, several customers were in before noon with a limit of flatfish.  Bottom fishermen caught croaker in the 36A area and around buoys 13 and 16, where pan trout are just starting to show.  Though rod and reel catches consisted of trout less than 20 inches, trout in excess of 15 pounds were pulled from one of the nearby pound nets.  Several mid-size black drum were also boated at buoy 13.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported "we've been catching croaker for a month," and the bite has only improved as water temperatures increased.  "Most of the croaker we are catching now range between 9 and 15 inches but we've had a few go 18 inches."  Bloodworm was by far the most productive bait for the early season croaker, which were holding "around the entrance to any creek," and from 10 to 40 feet of water off Onancock.   Bottom fishermen caught their first spot "April 30," according to Captain Wil, "and now we're catching some every trip, mixed in with the croaker."  The spot are surprisingly big for early spring, as most ranged between 8 and 10-1/2 inches.  Other catches include blowfish, white perch and flounder but "no one has even seen a trout yet."  Mid-size black drum, in the 20 to 30-pound range, moved into local waters last week and were caught on bottom fished crab and clam bait.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported the shop's lone citation fish was caught by Donald McKinney, who boated a 10-pound, 1-ounce grey trout off Ocean View while casting an artificial lure off Ocean View early in the week.

Lou from Bubba's Marina said the tautog bite at the CBBT complex was very good with most fish in the 3 to 6 pound range.  Live fiddler crabs, clam and fresh blue claw crab were all drawing strikes from tog.  Inside Lynnhaven Inlet, fishing remained sporadic, though some croaker and a few bluefish and flounder have been landed during periods of mild weather.

Wallace's Bait and Tackle said tautog provided the most consistent action the past week with the rocks and pilings around the Third and Fourth islands and Back River Reef the most productive spots.  Biggest tog of the week weighed 10 pounds, 2 ounces, and was caught Saturday at the CBBT on fiddler crab.  The shop rated the early season flounder bite on the lower bay as "so-so," with Back River Reef, Bluefish Rock, Hampton Bar, the CBBT complex and the buoy 36A area recording sporadic catches.  The shop indicated big grey trout, some topping 10 pounds, had been caught at the HRBT and CBBT while black drum to 53 inches were boated near buoy 13 (located near the High Rise section of the CBBT).  

Sunset Boating Center reported Rich Meister  and crew fished "across the Bay," off Cape Charles, several times the past week and boated keeper flounder each trip.  Many of the flatfish were 20 inches or more and their longest measured 23 inches. George Curtis decked a 22-inch flounder at Hampton Bar. Tom Delbridge fished around the HRBT on Wednesday and landed blues, croaker up to 2 pounds and several shad.  On Saturday, Delbridge fished the CBBT and landed an 11-pound, 30-1/2-inch gray trout.   The shop also indicated that several trout in the 3 to 5-pound range were caught off Fort Wool.  Tom Mattioli boated a 36-inch striped bass at the CBBT opening day of the season (Saturday, May 1).

Cindy at Salt Ponds Marina said few folks at the marina had fished recently, though several were out "trying for tog" the day I spoke with her.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the York River was chock full of croaker with some of the best hauls coming from an area just upriver of the Coleman Bridge.  Bottom fishermen are also catching some pan trout and spot.  Chuck knew of only one speckled trout caught on rod and reel thus far this season and it was caught inside Mobjack Bay.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the tautog bite is excellent on the lower Bay, particularly around the CBBT complex, where trophy-size stripers (32-inch minimum size limit) were pulled from the rocks of the Third and Fourth islands.  Trophy-sized grey trout have been caught at the HRBT, CBBT and inside Rudee Inlet while the season's first speckled trout were caught inside Mobjack Bay.  Other reports indicate big bluefish have invaded the bay and several were caught on Poquoson Flats.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported bottom fishermen are catching croaker and "they're fattening up real good," noting the fish were long and skinny when they first arrived last month.  Some of the best hauls have been made around the mouth of the Rappahannock and over Blackberry Hang.  Anglers are catching some stripers and the best catches have come from the deepwater channels and around the Northern Neck Reef site.  "Everyone's been trolling," according to Roger, with umbrella rigs the most popular lure.

Smith Point Marina said their charter fleet was enjoying excellent success on striped bass in the 28 to 34-inch range.  All the boats are trolling and most were working the Maryland's section of the Bay (where the size limit is 28 inches).

Jerry Thrash at Queen's Creek Outfitters said bottom fishermen are catching croaker and a surprising number of #1 spot in the Rappahannock River above White Stone.  Catches also include a few pan trout.  Shorebound anglers share in the catch of croaker, as the fish move into the shallows in the evenings and early morning hours.  Commercial gill net fishermen working near Gwynn Island are catching bluefish, grey trout, spot, croaker and striped bass, though rod and reel catches remain sparse.  A handful of flounder were boated at buoy 42 last week while the waters off Cape Charles produce more consistent results and bigger flatfish.  On Saturday, Alan Riddle was drifting for flounder off Cape Charles, near buoy 36A, and hooked, landed and released a 48-inch red drum.

Jack at Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen were catching some "real nice croaker out here," quite a number top 2 pounds and several citation fish (3 pounds or better) were checked-in the past week.  The most recent was a 3-1/4 pounder caught by Norman Roane on a piece of shrimp off Parrots Island.  The waters off Locklies have warmed to a comfortable 66 degrees and bottom fishermen are starting to see a few spot (to 14 ounces) and a scattering of pan trout.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen are catching a mixture of croaker and catfish with some of the better hauls coming from the buoy 18 area, in shallow water.

Captain Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina said the best croaker catches from his section of the river are still coming from shallow water on the evening tide.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported several charter boats found big bluefish "about 35 miles offshore," the past week.  The headboats are running three days a week and catching mostly black sea bass.  Inside the inlet, anglers drifting minnows or strips of squid are picking up some keeper flounder.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina knew of a few tautog caught on the inshore ocean wrecks plus a scattering of flounder from inside Rudee Inlet.  As for tuna and dolphin catches, "it's still too early for our charter boats to go looking offshore."

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - Closed indefinitely.

Buckroe Beach - The pier was completely destroyed by hurricane Isabel.  The city of Hampton has expressed an interest to build a pier and has requested funding from the Recreational Development Fund.

Harrison - Completely demolished.  Closed indefinitely.

Lynnhaven - The pier is still under going rebuilding but plans call for a May 15 opening.

Virginia Beach - Bottom fishermen scored on a mixture of panfish the past week, including croaker, sea mullet, taylor bluefish and even a few pan trout.  Skate and dogfish are abundant at times.

Sandbridge - Scheduled to reopen (closed since September 2003, due to damage from hurricane Isabel) on Friday, May 8.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen recorded mixed catches of speckled trout and puppy drum early in the week in the Avalon/Nags Head area but the action slowed by the weekend.  Oregon Inlet was slow but areas just south of the bridge produced a good mixture of taylor blues, sea mullet, pan trout and even a few small black drum. Bottom fishermen on the Avalon Pier last weekend enjoyed good catches of spot plus a scattering of puffers and speckled trout.  Bottom fishermen quickly learned shark and skate were most abundant out near the end of the pier.  Casters working Gotcha plugs had taylor blues and a few pan trout.  A good run of sea mullet developed Sunday.  Water temperature was a mild 56 degrees Saturday and Sunday.

On Hatteras Island, 11-year old Matthew Gillette pulled-in a 52-inch black drum on the north side of Cape Point.  The day also featured good catches of taylor blues on "metal" while bait fishermen settled for a scattering of flounder and puppy drum.  Pompano weighing as much as 2 pounds were beached at Avon.  Saturday produced another good run of bluefish up to 4 pounds at the Point.  Bottom fishermen scored on decent numbers of flounder in "the hook" while good hauls of sea mullet were recorded north of the Point.  On Sunday, the season's first surf caught cobia was landed by Paul Cupka.  The fish was 60 inches long and weighed 87 pounds.  Daytime action was again dominated by bluefish and flounder while a good run of large red drum developed in the late evening.  

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported good catches of yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin the past week when the boats were able to fish offshore.  On Friday a fleet of 21 boats left the dock and all returned with a mixture of gaffer dolphin and yellowfin tuna plus a scattering of wahoo up to 73 pounds and several small mako shark (minimum size limit is 54 inches fork length).  One spearfish was also boated and released.   Several of the inshore boats located a huge school of 40 to 60-pound red drum and caught and released fish until arm weary.  On Saturday a fleet of 33 boats left the inlet and found good numbers of gaffer dolphin and some yellowfin tuna.  Several wahoo, three small mako shark and a scattering of king mackerel were landed plus a sailfish and white marlin were caught and released.  On Friday, the headboat recorded a good mixed catch of sea bass, sea mullet, dogfish and flounder while Saturday's trip produced a good haul of snapper blues.  The fleet was weathered-in Sunday and Monday.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet on Friday recorded good catches of gaffer dolphin plus some yellowfin tuna and a scattering of wahoo and king mackerel.  On Saturday, catches were equally split between yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin.  Clifford Schaffer of Fort Defiance, VA boated a 43-pound wahoo while a sailfish was released by the crew aboard the Big Eye.  On Sunday only two boats sailed due to weather considerations but both managed a mixed catch of tuna, dolphin, wahoo 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.


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