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The Saltwater Review - 05 May 2005

Vol. 19, 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 and our homepage web site (see address above).

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.

Water temperatures on the lower Bay continue to struggle to stay in the mid-50's, but this has been a boon for the spring tautog bite, as these fish are most active in cool water. Many of the best hauls (14-inch minimum size limit and 7 fish possession limit) are coming from the CBBT complex but the biggest fish are caught on inshore ocean wrecks. Black sea bass are just arriving on some of the inshore wrecks and reefs, such as the Triangle Wrecks and Tower Reef area.

Croaker invaded the Bay over a month ago but are just starting to respond to hook and line baits on a consistent basis. The best hauls of the largest fish are made up in the river systems, often in water less than 15 feet deep.

The season's first catches of black drum were recorded off Cape Charles last week

-  Donna at Captain Bob's reported the wind gusted all weekend "until about 3 PM on Sunday afternoon." One party of anglers that fished Friday, despite the strong winds, was rewarded with a trophy doormat, as Keith Mummert decked a 27-1/4-inch, 8-pound, 3-ounce beauty. Another angler fished Four Mouths on Sunday afternoon and boated the season's first bluefish, at 22 inches, and caught a keeper flounder.


Henry at Wachapreague Marina reported good catches of flounder "whenever the weather cooperates" at all the usual haunts. Top weekend catch was a 6-1/2-pound flatfish boated at Green and Drawing channels. The winning flounder in the shop's annual spring flounder tournament topped 7 pounds and an 8-pounder was caught the last day of the event but the angler was not registered.

Captain Zed's has seen flounder of over 11 pounds since the shop opened for business last month. (That fish was caught by Michael Behe, Sr., weighed 11 pounds, 7 ounces and is the current leader in the annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, flounder division).

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported black drum have arrived off Cape Charles and several were caught the past week, including the season's first citation. The huge black drum weighed 93 pounds, 6 ounces but measured just 51 inches. The drum was caught by "Little John" Quiglby, near buoy 16, on fresh sea clam. Bayside waters also produced some flounder around buoy 36 and 38. The flounder bite was decidedly better over on the seaside, where some parties claimed limit catches of flatfish the past week. Anglers hoping for black drum to show at the Cabbage Patch caught plenty of croaker but no drum. Tautog continue provide a steady springtime bite around the Cement Ships and along the CBBT complex.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported the spring season was off to a slow start at Onancock. Bottom fishermen were catching some croaker in the 1 to 2-pound range in the main stem of the Bay while anglers working the creeks managed croaker of nearly 3 pounds. Black drum were showing in the commercial gill nets set off Onancock but no rod and reel catches had been recorded.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Jackie at Cobbs Marina told of good-sized tautog caught at the nearby ODU Reef site and a fair number of flounder caught around the Third Island of the CBBT complex. Commercial gill net fishermen working in the Bay were catching loads of croaker plus some spot but rod and reel catches were sluggish.

Dr. Jim Wright fished the Anglo-African wreck site and managed a dozen tautog up to 5 pounds, "before we were taken over by sharks." Protected waters inside Lynnhaven Inlet had yielded fair numbers of keeper-sized flounder (the minimum size limit for 2005 is 16-1/2 inches) and plenty of snapper bluefish on an earlier outing.

Sunset Boating Center said Tommy Mattioli and crew aboard the MATTY-J caught and released six school-sized stripers at the HRBT on Sunday. During the week, decent catches of flounder were recorded around the Third Island of the CBBT while a scattering of flatfish were pulled from Hampton Bar. The tautog bite remains steady with some of the best hauls coming from the rocks of the Third and Fourth islands of the CBBT and the Cape Henry Wreck.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said very few of her customers had fished, due to the weather, the past few weeks. The few that did venture outside the inlet managed only a few small croaker and flounder.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the season's first catches of black and red drum were made the past week but quickly added, "the bite has not been hot and heavy." Conversely, the tautog bite remains at its seasonal peak with some of the best action along the CBBT complex. Black sea bass are starting to move into the inshore wrecks but bottom fishermen are still catching more tog than sea bass. Flounder have been caught at numerous locations inside the Bay with some of the best action near buoy 36A.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported a handful of 32-inch plus striped bass had been caught in local waters (since the Virginia Spring season opened May 1) but better catches of keeper-sized striped bass were made around the mouth of the Potomac River and in Maryland waters. Croaker have been available for several weeks but the best catches continue to come from shallow water. Fishing from private docks and piers in the evening has been a common successful formula.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said trollers have enjoyed excellent catches of 15 to 25 pound striped bass "for the past three weeks," around the mouth of the Potomac River and north, into Maryland waters, along the 40-foot contour. Umbrella rigs worked near the bottom and Stretch 30's are the favored lures. In fact, the early season striper bite has been so good, "nobody's been bottom fishing yet," according to Dan.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said croaker of nearly two pounds made strong showings in the Piankatank and Rappahannock rivers the past week. Top baits include bloodworms, squid and the new artificial bait Fish-Bites, in the bloodworm favor. Bottom fishermen are marking plenty of the croaker in deeper water around the R-1 and R-2 buoys but getting these fish to bite has been a challenge because of the below normal water temperatures. The prior week, anglers fishing off Cape Charles and near the Cell, at buoy 42, caught flounder but winds kept anglers in port over the weekend.

Locklies Marina told of an excellent croaker bite "whenever they can get out to them." Several fish of over 3 pounds were caught in the past several days and many of the fish are in the 16 to 18-inch range. As for location, "they're catching them from the creeks and docks to Parrot Rock and everywhere in-between," according to the marina. Bottom fishermen are also catching some catfish and a few school-sized stripers.

Tommy Lewis at Garretts Marina described the croaker bite as excellent "for those brave enough to go out in the weather." Bottom fishermen have been filling coolers with croaker measuring up to 17 inches plus a good number of pan-sized catfish. Buoy 19, in 7 to 10 feet of water, has been a favorite location but Tommy assured me these tasty bottom feeders were biting along the shorelines and creeks as well.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said the fishing season is running late but croaker weighing over 3 pounds have been caught on the lower Rappahannock River. Flounder have made the seasonal debut at the Cell and trout are just arriving in the rivers.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported their charter fleet was idled all weekend due to strong winds and heavy seas. One Tuesday (May 3) one boat fished offshore and well south of Rudee Inlet and returned with yellowfin tuna. Around the inlet, keeper-sized flounder have been biting for several weeks and snapper bluefish have arrived in good numbers. Back inside the inlet, casters are catching an occasional trout and puppy drum.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the crew aboard the CANYON EXPRESS fished near the Triple 0's Wednesday (May 4) and had a good catch of yellowfin tuna. That was the first catch of tuna this season from the marina.

Virginia Piers -

James River - Bottom fishermen are catching a mixture of croaker and catfish. Anglers are also catching a few sub-legal striped bass (minimum size limit 1-15 May is 32 inches). Many of the striped bass will be legal once the 18 to 28-inch slot season opens (16 May through 15 June).

Harrison - The pier is being rebuilt. The owners plan to open sometime this season.

Lynnhaven - This pier just opened for the season last week (April 29) but anglers have been pleased with almost daily runs of snapper bluefish plus a scattering of sea mullet, croaker and skate.

Virginia Beach - Bluefish weighing as much as 3 pounds provided most of the excitement. Bottom fishermen reported a few sea mullet, spot and trout. Water temperatures remain in the low 50's.

- Bottom fishermen are catching plenty of skates plus a few sea mullet and trout. Casters enjoyed several strong runs of snapper bluefish the past several days. Water temperature around the pier was 56 degrees on Tuesday (May 3).

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach and pier fishermen along the Nags Head area caught a mixture of sea mullet, snapper bluefish and spot the past week, despite water temperatures that remain in the low 50's. At Oregon Inlet, good numbers of snapper blues have been available in recent days. Anglers fishing from the Catwalk recorded decent catches of bluefish plus some spot and grey trout while anglers fishing from the Little Bridge to Manteo recorded a scattering of speckled trout. Boaters drifting Green Island Slough reported decent catches of flounder during periods of clear water.

South of the Oregon Inlet, the beaches from Salvo to Avon produced good catches of sea mullet and snapper bluefish. At Cape Point, surf fishermen scored on sea mullet, snapper blues plus a few flounder and puppy drum. At least half-a-dozen drum were beached at the Point Saturday night and a few larger bluefish in the 6 to 10-pound range were caught Sunday.

The fleet sailing from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center returned with good catches of gaffer dolphin, decent numbers of yellowfin tuna and a 150-pound mako shark on Friday. Offshore trips were scraped Saturday and Sunday due to high winds. Monday saw excellent catches of yellowfin tuna plus a scattering of dolphin.

Boats fishing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed good mixed catches of yellowfin and blackfin tuna, gaffer dolphin, wahoo and king mackerel on Friday. Saturday was windy and rough and catches suffered. On Sunday the boats that fished left late (due to weather) but returned with good hauls of yellowfin tuna plus some wahoo. Monday's catch included good numbers of yellowfin tuna, some dolphin and wahoo plus a few 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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