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The Saltwater Review - May 10, 2007

Vol. 21, No. 1

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

OVERVIEW

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 15, 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 (http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/forms/sbtrophy.shtm). 

Since the end of last year, regulations for summer flounder have been modified and new restrictions for tilefish and grouper have been adopted.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size limit has been increased, the possession limit has been reduced and a winter and summer closed period has been added. The minimum size limit has increased from 16-1/2 inches (2006) to 18-1/2 inches for 2007. The possession limit has been reduced from 6 to 5 flounder. The winter-closed period runs from 1 January through 31 March and the summer-closed period is from July 23 through July 28. 

Over the past two years, "deep-dropping," a relative term that generally applies to recreational bottom fishing in water greater than 300 feet, has become more popular. Several species of fish, primarily blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, wreckfish and snowy grouper, which had been rarely seen by Virginia recreational fishermen, have become the focus of this new deepwater fishery. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission recently set limits for commercial and recreational fishermen. Recreational possession limits are 7 tilefish in aggregate and 1 grouper of any species per person.

On the current fishing scene, black and red drum have made their debut on the Eastern Shore side of the bay and nearby seaside waters. Croaker are distributed throughout Virginia waters but are most active in the tributaries and shallow waters areas, where the water is the warmest. This corresponds to their typical spring pattern. Flounder fishermen have been hampered by the cool spring and unsettled weather but several flatfish topping 10 pounds have already been caught. Not only has the weather been a problem for flounder would-be pounders, it is, by design, much tougher to coral a keeper flounder this year, as the minimum size limit was increased two inches, from 16-1/2 to 18-1/2 inches. 

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's reported flounder, bluefish and even a few sea mullet were biting just before the storm hit. The heaviest flounder the past week was a 5-pound, 9-ouncer pulled-in by Chris Dietch in Queen's Sound. The 24-1/2-inch flatfish was fooled by frozen silversides. Donna also had reports of the season's first croaker were caught from Tom's Cove Campground Pier. Surf fishermen working the Assateague Island beach are seeing respectable numbers of mixed sized bluefish. A few of the larger bluefish have topped 30 inches. Take plenty of bait because skate are very active in the same waters.

Wachapreague
-

Wachapreague Marina reported fishermen are catching plenty of flounder but many measure less than the 18-1/2-inch minimum size limit. Still, some anglers are able to catch their 5-fish limit. Green and Drawing channels are the two most popular locations for flounder anglers but the fish are available throughout the protected seaside waters. Black drum have arrived and anglers soaking clam and peeler crab at Dawson Shoals are catching some sizable drum. 

Captain Zed's said their fishermen are catching lots of flounder but the keeper ratio has been in favor of the flounder. Most of the keeper-sized flatfish range from 19 to 23 inches but the shop has weighed in several citation flounder up to 8 pounds in the past two weeks. Although fishermen are catching flounder "a little all over," many of the biggest flatfish were caught at Green and Drawing channels. The ocean wrecks are producing tautog and black sea bass. 

Cape Charles


Chris' Bait and Tackle reported Joe Pearson (46-1/2 inches), Richard Dubbard (47 inches) and Chris Caseson (50 and 51 inches) all caught and released trophy red drum from a barrier island beach last week. John Bucklin was fly-fishing near Machipougo Inlet and boated a 5-1/4-pound speckled trout. Dan Genin fished an ocean wreck out of Oyster and boated a 17-pound, 2-ounce tautog. The same trip produced a nice catch of tog for the crew aboard the Two Keys and the smallest they kept was 7 pounds. Over on the seaside, flounder action slowed but pan trout did appear off the Concrete Ships and scattered catches of 30 to 38-inch black drum were recorded by fishermen soaking sea clams around buoys 16 and 18. Fishing action at the Kiptopeke State Park Pier was described as very slow. 

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported croaker have arrived off Onancock but the biggest fish are being caught in shallow water inside the feeder creeks. The normally skinny for this time of year croaker are "already fat," according to Captain Wil. School stripers are likewise active inside the creeks but few, if any, of these fish would meet the current 32-inch minimum size limit. Red drum have arrived in local waters and area commercial gill net fishermen are already catching large black drum.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel
-

Cobbs Marina reported customers had good luck with flounder, some even claimed their 5-fish limit, around the CBBT prior to the weekend. The shop registered a pair of red drum releases, as Steve Kendell released a 49-1/2-inch red near Fisherman's Island and Camerine Brett released a 50-1/2-inch drum at Latimer Shoals.

Dimitri from Bubba's Marina said good numbers of flounder were available around the bayside of the First Island prior to the storm but some anglers claimed they had to catch 20 flounder to find one 18-1/2-inch or better flatfish. Good numbers of flounder had also moved into Lynnhaven Inlet while schools of taylor bluefish were active around the Lesner Bridge. 

Wallace's Bait and Tackle said customers were catching flounder at the Hump and at the "bend" of the CBBT prior to the storm. Several customers reported decent catches of tautog at nearby Back River Reef but the bite was more consistent around the CBBT rock islands.

Sunset Boating Center said customers fishing prior to the storm were catching mostly under-sized flounder at Hampton Bar and around the HRBT. Weather permitting, anglers traveling across the bay and fishing the CBBT enjoyed better success on keeper-sized flatfish. Some croaker are showing at Hampton Bar but better catches of croaker are being recorded at along the M & M crossing.

Salt Ponds Marina indicated recent fishing activity was nearly non-existent due to the weather but several anglers had success with flounder early last week. 

Chuck at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen were catching lots of croaker inside the York River "but everything has been in shallow water, nothing over 15 feet deep." Anglers fishing the Gloucester Point Pier are also seeing decent numbers of croaker. York River bottom fishermen are likewise seeing good numbers of flounder but keeper-sized flatfish, of 18-1/2 inches or more, are rare. Weather permitting, anglers fishing across the bay, from the Cell to buoy 36A, located off Cape Charles, had much better success with keeper-sized flounder and some even boated their 5-fish limit. Chuck added that a few speckled trout had been caught inside Mobjack Bay.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said big red and black drum are the hot bite now and they are being caught off Cape Charles and along the seaside. Spadefish are not here yet but gray trout and flounder are available. The HRBT has been the spot for trout. A few nice grays have been caught inside Rudee Inlet. The pilings of the CBBT and the Cell are the places to hunt for trophy-sized trout. The flounder bite has been pretty consistent with most anglers coming home with some keepers but few limits are being caught. The CBBT and the buoy 36A area have been the best locations. Tautog action is still good on structures inside the bay but not very many are still fishing for them with the drum and flounder bites going on. It is time to look for speckled trout on Poquoson Flats and inside of Back River. The offshore bottom fishing scene is still going strong. Virginia's new 7 fish tilefish limit has not put a damper on angler enthusiasm. Boats are coming back with limits of blueline tiles and nice catches of sea bass.

Offshore fishing out of the Outer Banks remains good with yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo and the occasional sailfish and blue marlin being caught. "We are on the cusp of the beginning Virginia's offshore fishery. There may be bluefin out there already. I know that the bluefish are on the seamounts like the Cigar and the Hot Dog and there have been some bluefin tuna caught out of Ocean City, Maryland. Things should really break loose by the end of this month, according to Neill. There are some bluefin studies going on. I recruited some of you to collect finlet samples last year. That study is still ongoing. Now they would like you to place tags in any bluefin tuna that you are releasing. If you would like to help with these studies, contact me and I will get sample vials for the finlets and some tags to you: jackcrevelle@msn.com .

Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:

The saltwater fishing along the Mid Atlantic was incredible up until Sunday when the nor'easter set in and blew up to 50 mph for three solid days. Although the winds have since dropped, the water will take a few days to clear. Right before the blow, anglers were reporting good red drum action on 9-Foot Shoals and around Fisherman's Island, where some fish are pushing over 51-inches. One boat landed 9 fish in one outing on crabs in 12 feet of water. Some nice fish are also coming from the barrier island surf on peeler crab. Reds like churned water, so as soon as anglers can get back out, the action should be excellent. The best bait is peeler crab, blue crab, and bunker but the trash fish like it too, and are out in force. Black drum are making a slow start with most fish coming from the seaside inlets along the Eastern Shore on clams. A smattering of smaller fish are hitting around the bayside shoals, especially near buoys 13, 16, and 36A. No fish have been caught since the blow, not even in commercial nets. The flounder scene was steady before the blow, with good catches still coming from the 1st island area, and buoy 36A. The best places to try while waiting for the waters to settle are the backwaters and inlets. Both Rudee Inlet and Lynnhaven River are providing limits of flatfish ranging up to 5-pounds pulling strip baits against the current.

Bluefish and puppy drum are still the word inside Rudee Inlet where anglers are experiencing excellent catches of decent blues to five pounds, and healthy keeper sized pups. The lure of the week is a smoke colored 4-inch grub on a red head. Surf casters throwing from the seawall are even getting in on the hot action within the inlet. A few gray trout and scattered speckled trout are also available, but don't expect that scene to return the waters have cleared. The Eastern Shore seaside inlets and the backwaters of Oyster are also good places to seek out nice specks with peeler crabs and MirrOlures. Nice gray trout are still coming from the CBBT, the HRBT, and the Willoughby Spit jetties. Croaker are getting a lot of attention lately since they are available in protected water. The best hauls are coming from the James and York Rivers where squid and crab are doing the trick. Decent fish in the 17 to 18-inch range are filling coolers from near the Coleman Bridge, York River State Park, and the oyster beds near the James River Bridge. Tautog are hitting most any type of crab offering within the lower bay, with the best catches coming from the Cape Henry wreck and the tubes of the four artificial islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The best bite seems to be on the flood tide this week. Big fish are coming from inshore and offshore ocean structures, where blue crab is the top bait. Nice sea bass over five pounds are also available on these wrecks, and will readily take your crab offering. 

Offshore fishing will begin to improve this month as the outstanding action off Carolina begins to move northward. The fleets out of Oregon Inlet are taking limits of nice yellowfin tuna when they can get out. Billfish are also in the mix with a few blue marlin and sails reported recently. Bull dolphin are taking most of the spotlight, with gaffers over 40-pounds the norm lately. Mako sharks are still available, and big wahoo are also in the mix. Although most anglers are turning to other species, the tilefish scene is still luring boats to the deep off Virginia in search of an easy target. Remember the limit changed to seven fish per person this month.

Virginia Middle Bay -

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported fishing activity was very light in this area. "A few anglers are going after trophy striped bass but almost all of them are heading up into Maryland waters." Best results have been by trollers pulling daisy chains and umbrella rigs along the shipping channel edges and working mid-depth to the surface. Local waters are producing a scattering of croaker on rod and reel while the nearby commercial fish traps have loads of taylor blues plus a few speckled trout and nice flounder.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said all their customers were out chasing striped bass and most were fishing in Maryland waters. "We've seen lots of 20 to 30-pound fish and weighed one that topped 40 pounds." In recent days a good striped bite developed nearby and "they've been working the channel edge right outside Smith Point." Dan indicated bottom fishermen have scored on a few croaker but "it's nothing great."

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said speckled trout are available in the Piankatank River, around Hole-in-the-Wall and back inside Mobjack Bay, at Ware Neck. Bottom fishermen fishing the shallows inside Mobjack Bay, the lower Rappahannock and Piankatank River are catching croaker. The best action has been on the evening tide and the fish have shown a preference for bloodworm over cut squid. The flounder action slowed around the Cell buoys 40 and 42 and off Cape Charles last week and that was before the storm hit on Sunday. 

Locklies Marina said the bottom fishing was just "kicking in good," with nice hauls of croaker recorded near the mooring buoy and around buoy 9. Decent numbers of catfish plus some white perch are mixed in with the croaker. Best action has been in relatively shallow water, "in 18 feet or less," according to the shop.

Karen from Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen are doing well on 12 to 18-inch croaker "all up and down the river," plus some catfish. Shrimp and squid are the most popular baits.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the headboat fleet had good catches of large black sea bass on their last deep-drop outing but that was over a week ago and before the storm. Inshore ocean wrecks are starting to produce a mixture of tautog and black sea bass and schools of 8 to 12-pound chopper bluefish are moving through the area. Inside the inlet, taylor bluefish have been plentiful for the past two weeks and anglers are also catching some flounder, speckled trout and grey trout.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina some of the charter boats are planning to fish for striped bass and flounder around the mouth of the bay but the charter is in a lull at present. "We did have several charter boats run deep-drop trips for tilefish two weeks ago." Tuna should be arriving within reach of the Rudee fleet in the next few weeks but large bluefish are on the seamounts off Virginia Beach at present.

Virginia Piers -

James River - Croaker are providing most of the action but bottom fishermen are also catching some catfish and taylor bluefish plus few spot and school stripers (striped bass must measure at least 32 inches from May 1 through May 15 to be kept).

Ocean View - Bottom fishermen are catching mixed sizes of croaker and taylor bluefish. A few puppy drum and speckled trout have been caught close to the pier house and from the nearby shoreline.

Lynnhaven - The pier has just recently opened and weather has been poor most of the open days. Some sea mullet, croaker and taylor have been caught.

Virginia Beach - Taylor bluefish provided the bulk of the recent action. On Saturday, the bluefish bite was on "all day," and most anglers easily limited-out, if they cared to.

Sandbridge - Anglers are enjoying good numbers of taylor bluefish plus a scattering of puppy drum, sea mullet and blowfish. Several speckled trout were beached from the surf nearby.

Outer Banks, NC -

Along the Nags Head area beaches and piers, taylor bluefish provided most of the action. Besides loads of taylor bluefish, Avalon Pier had a decent showing of speckled trout and one or two puppy drum and a few sea mullet. Water temperatures were running 57 to 59 degrees. Fishing came to an abrupt halt by early Sunday morning, as northeast winds pushed 50 knots.

South of Oregon Inlet at Cape Point on Buxton, beach fishermen enjoyed decent runs of red drum during the week but the bite slowed by Friday. Some puppy drum and decent numbers of taylor bluefish were beached at the Point while sea mullet made a fair showing on the southside beach. On Saturday, puppy drum and taylor bluefish provided steady action through the day and large drum moved to within casting in the evening. An estimated 30 to 50 large red drum were beached and released by first light on Sunday. The remainder of the day and all of Monday the beach was over washed, as winds gusted in excess of 60 miles per hour.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported the offshore fleet had good catches of yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin plus several wahoo on Friday and Saturday. Catches of yellowfin tuna ranged from 6 fish to boat limits and quite a few tuna topped 50 pounds. Two dolphin went 40-plus pounds and the biggest wahoo was a hefty 69 pounds. One charter boat had an estimated 600 to 700-pound blue marlin swallow a hooked yellowfin. The huge fish would not let go until it was nearly boatside. The tuna was landed but the marlin is still swimming. Several smallish mako sharks were also reported. Inshore, trollers and the headboat loaded up on taylor bluefish around the mouth of the inlet and near the bridge. Anglers drifting Green Island Slough caught some speckled trout, a few flounder and plenty of taylor bluefish. No boats fished Sunday or Monday due to weather. 

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a nice mixed bag on Friday, including king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. Saturday produced similar results plus Robert Anderson of Hardy, Virginia, boated a 36-pound king mackerel aboard the RELIANCE and William Hussey of Earlyville, Virginia, released a sailfish aboard the GODSPEED. The fleet was weathered-in Sunday and Monday due to the weather.


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 in the right side navigation panel of most webs page to get to the index of previous Saltwater Reviews


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