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The Saltwater Review - May 8, 2003

Volume 17. 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 (click here for form). 

Since the end of last year, regulations for black sea bass, grey trout and red drum have been modified.

For black sea bass, the minimum size limit has been upped to 12 inches while the possession limit remains 25 fish but closed periods of September 2 through September 15 and December 1 through December 31 have been added.

The minimum size limit for grey trout is 12 inches and the possession limit is 7 fish year round.

The slot limit for red drum (puppy drum, channel bass) has been reduced to 18 to 26 inches and the possession limit is 3 fish. Anglers should note that the allowance to keep one fish larger than the open slot (18 to 26 inches) has been eliminated. No red drum greater than 26 inches may be kept.

The spring run of black and red drum is underway off Cape Charles and along the barrier islands.

The flounder bite continues to be inhibited by rain and winds.

Grey trout are showing increasingly and quite a few top the 9-pound minimum qualifying citation weight. The heaviest reported last week went 12 pounds, 2 ounces and was caught off Wachapreague.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported weekend flounder catches were slow but earlier in the week the Four Mouths area had produced keeper flounder. Robert Pellicott boated the heaviest flatfish to cross the dock this season, a 7-pound, 6-ounce, 28-inch beauty, near the Wallops Island Bridge. Taylor blues have also moved inside the inlet and seem most abundant around Four Mouths.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina described the weekend flounder bite as "slow and spotty" but some huge tiderunner sea trout had moved inside the inlet. The biggest thus far was caught Saturday, by Hill Jewecc at Swash Bay aboard the LUCKY DAWG. The citation trout measured 32-1/2 inches and weighed 12 pounds, 2 ounces. The marina also indicated good-sized sea bass were available at the Liberty Ships.

Captain Zed's also indicated the recent flounder catches were poor, "mainly because the weather won't cooperate." Anglers are catching some snapper blues, a handful of flounder and trout. The shop suggested Green and Drawing channels as a good choice for flounder, "once conditions improve."

Cape Charles

Mark from Chris' Bait and Tackle reported Hank Jones released a 53-inch red drum while fishing companion Kevin Crumb released a 47-inch drum. The pair were fishing from the beach at Smith Island. The shop also registered a release citation for a 22-inch tautog. It was caught on the bayside, at the Cabbage Patch Reef, by James Baugus. Big black drum have arrived off Cape Charles and have been caught on rod and reel but Mark described the "catching" as only "so-so, because of all the croaker." Bottom fishermen find the abundant and aggressive croaker quickly strip the large drums hooks of bait. The flip side is, anglers looking for croaker are making excellent hauls of these bottom fish to 18 inches. A consistent run of flounder on the bayside has yet to materialize, though some keeper flatfish were boated around the CBBT. Bottom fishermen working the state park pier at Kiptopeke caught mostly blowtoads over the weekend.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported good catches of 14 to 17-inch croaker just south of Pocomoke Sound in 24 to 35 feet of water. Squid, shrimp and frozen peeler crab are all productive baits and outgoing tide sees the best bite. Bottom fishermen are also catching some pan trout, flounder and taylor bluefish plus the occasional 20 to 30-pound class black drum. Several large red drum were reportedly caught in 12 to 20 feet of water on shrimp and clam "just off Onancock." Anglers are reminded that all red drum over 26 inches must released.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina had good reports of tautog along the CBBT but "not many fished this weekend due to the weather."

Lou at Bubba's Marina said some flounder, loads of taylor blues and the occasional croaker were caught just inside the Lesner Bridge over the weekend. Lou also had good reports on tautog from the CBBT complex earlier in the week while reports of trout, croaker and flounder were mixed.

Dr. Jim Wright and his party boated at least a dozen citation sea bass (5-pound minimum), with the "pool winner" going 6-1/4 pounds, on a recent outing to a deepwater wreck off Rudee Inlet. Dr. Wright knew of "at least a dozen" citation-winning grey trout that were caught inside Rudee Inlet recently. Dr. Jim caught and released a 33-inch trout on a blue backed Windcheater plug but most anglers have used either a MirrOlure or bottom fished with chunks of crab. Taylor bluefish have also invaded Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets and were caught around the First and Second islands.

Harry Johnson at Wallace's Marina said Kevin Jenkins boated a 10-pound, 13-ounce, 32-inch grey trout on a chunk of peeler crab at the HRBT while Scott Hall earned a citation by releasing a 22-inch tautog at Back River Reef. Anglers seeking flounder managed a few keepers off Factory Point and around Back River Reef but the best recent haul of flatfish was made by Scott Hall and crew, as they wire-lined the CBBT. Poor weather kept many anglers either in port or close to the dock over the weekend. One productive "protected" spot was inside Back River, off Messick Point, around buoys 16 and 17, where bottom fishermen scored on medium-sized croaker.

Debbie at Sunset Marina said Frank Belton Sr. and Jr. fished the HRBT mid-week and Junior landed a 9-pound, 3-ounce grey trout on a Storm Wildeye Jig. The week's best hauls of croaker, with some fish measuring up to 18 inches, were made around the James River Bridge, according to Debbie, who heard of some keeper flounder caught around Back River Reef. Some of the wildest action was at the HRBT after dark, where Wayne Williams, using a flyrod, caught and released school stripers and taylor blues "one right after the other," aboard the MATTIE J.

Alan Vanasse at Vanasse Bait and Tackle said Sonny Risk and Don Lancaster had a decent catch of keeper flounder at the Hump. Alan also indicated that a few flounder were caught off Factory Point and some big trout were boated at the CBBT last week but "a lot are going and not catching nothing."

Jimmy at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen are loading up on croaker in the York River and the best action has been in shallow water of 10 to 15 feet. Anglers fishing from the public pier at Gloucester Point are also catching croaker but "not much else." Jimmy said several customers did well on flounder off Cape Charles but the spring run of speckled trout in Mobjack Bay has yet to materialize.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say flounder have been caught at Hampton Bar, the Hump, the Cell, off Cape Charles and along the CBBT while big grey trout were caught inside Rudee Inlet, along the HRBT and at Willoughby Spit. Tautog are biting at the inshore ocean wrecks and Tower Reef but more sea bass are showing daily.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported fair numbers of croaker are being caught in the Great Wicomico and Little Wicomico rivers. Best action has been in the evenings and in relatively shallow water (as opposed to the channels). Even though Virginia's Trophy Striped Bass season opened May 1, most of the area fishermen are running into Maryland waters (whose Spring Season began in April) and fishing near buoy 72 or the mouth of the Potomac River. Roger did know of several keeper bass caught in Virginia (minimum size is 32 inches) at the Northern Neck Reef site.

Queen's Creek Outfitter's said bottom fishermen are catching croaker on bloodworm, squid and shrimp from the area's creeks that average about a pound. The shop heard of a few speckled trout caught inside the Piankatank River, flounder that were pulled-in off Cape Charles and some keeper stripers trolled-up near buoy 62.

Locklies Marina said stripers up to 35 inches were caught off Parrots Island, where pan trout were reported in recent days. Bottom fishermen are catching plenty of croaker from the bridge to Towles Point. The marina also heard a few flounder were caught at Cherry Point.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen are catching huge croaker in the river "whenever they can beat the weather." Some of the croaker top two pounds and were caught from right outside the marina and "all the way up to Tappahannock."

Captain Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina said recent parties caught "all the croaker they wanted" and the fish ranged up to 19 inches. Captain Thompson fished in 16 feet of water, just inside the channel and the croaker hit shrimp, squid and bloodworm. Included in the catch were blue catfish up to 24 inches and a few spot to 11 inches.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center checked in several citation black sea bass last week and the biggest weighed 6-1/4 pounds and was caught by Joseph Ingram aboard the headboat SUPER SPORT II. The charter fleet has yet to begin running offshore for tuna, dolphin and billfish. Inside the inlet, anglers working from small boats have been catching some huge grey trout for about two-and-a-half weeks. Five citation trout were registered at the Center the past week and the heaviest weighed 10-1/4 pounds, measured 36 inches and was caught by Jim Zell on an artificial. The C enter also indicated that good numbers of taylor blues (a few topping 5 pounds) and a handful of flounder were caught inside the inlet.

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the deepwater wrecks off Rudee Inlet are yielding excellent hauls of large sea bass, as some fish top 5 pounds (minimum qualifying citation weight).

Virginia Piers -

James River - Croaker have been biting in the evenings the past 10 days and the daytime bite has improved the past week. Taylor bluefish and catfish are mixed in with the croaker.

Grandview - Croaker dominate the action here and most fish range from 1 to 2.8 pounds. Pan trout, school stripers (all released) and skate add to the action after dark while a few keeper flounder (17-1/2-inch minimum size limit) up to 4 pounds were decked during the daytime.

Buckroe Beach - Bottom fishermen are catching mostly croaker with the best action coming in the evenings.

Harrison - Charley said medium croaker and sea mullet have been staging a strong bite in the evenings the past week while bluefish in the 1 to 3-pound range made a strong showing the past three days. Striped bass to 27 inches (all released) have been caught after dark. Skate are becoming more abundant.

Lynnhaven - Nice-sized taylor blues have been showing in the evenings and providing good sport. The favored lure has been a Gotcha plug but blues have been caught on everything from bottom rigs to bucktails. As for bottom fishermen, most are using bloodworm and catching a respectable number of sea mullet.

Sandbridge - Taylor bluefish and sea mullet dominate the action. Most of the blues are caught by casters throwing artificial while the mullet are hitting bottom rigs baited with shrimp or bloodworm.

Outer Banks, NC -

Surf and pier fishermen from the Nags Head area beaches and south to Oregon Inlet reported a mixed bag of taylor bluefish, blowfish, croaker, sea mullet and shad. The bluefish seemed especially abundant around the piers and at Oregon Inlet.

South of Oregon Inlet, large red drum made a strong showing at Cape Point Friday night while big but skinny bluefish pushed to the beach at Avon. A front moved through early Saturday and only taylor blues were reported at Cape Point Saturday. On Sunday, surf waters were still roiled but bottom fishermen caught a mixture of sea mullet, taylor blues and a few trout southside of the Point. Monday morning several large red drum were beached plus a good number of chopper bluefish to 13 pounds (again, very skinny).

Offshore, the fleet sailing from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported mixed catches of yellowfin tuna, gaffer dolphin and king mackerel on last Thursday but were blown out the next three days. On Monday, the season's first blue marlin was caught and released aboard the SKILIGAL. The limited number of charter boats out Monday reported fair catches of dolphin, yellowfin tuna, king mackerel and wahoo. The headboat had fair catches of sea bass, pigfish and flounder.

The bluewater fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet found rough conditions Friday and Saturday but managed fair numbers of dolphin, king mackerel, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. Seas were calmer on Sunday and the meatfish bite improved. A sailfish was released aboard the BIG EYE. On Monday, the SUNDOWN released a sailfish and most boats reported good catches of dolphin, tuna and king mackerel. The fleet registered three citation wahoo.

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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