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The Saltwater Review - 13 May 2005

Vol. 19, No. 2
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.

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.

Weather was the main "catch" over the weekend, keeping most anglers in port Friday through Sunday.

Prior to the weekend, the spring tautog bite was still "on" at the CBBT complex. Tautog are still active on the offshore wrecks, where more black sea bass are arriving with each passing day.

The croaker bite was more consistent in the main stem of the Bay now that water temperatures have moved above the mid-50-degree mark but the best hauls of the largest fish are coming from up in the river systems, often in water less than 15 feet deep.

The season's first catches of red drum were recorded off Cape Charles last week, where medium-sized black drum have been caught for two weeks.


Donna at Captain Bob's reported several charter captains attempted to fish Four Mouths over the weekend but were turned away by stiff winds. Some sought shelter in Assateague Channel in the lee of the barrier islands. Captain Mac on the ISLANDER did manage to put one keeper flounder in his cooler at Four Mouths before leaving for calmer waters. Not surprising with all of the wind, local waters "look like chocolate milk." Donna assured there was an upside, "the are fish here, both flounder and bluefish."


Wachapreague Marina reported the weekend, including Friday, was a complete blowout. The shop was pleased with the flounder bite so far this season but not the weather. "Whenever they can get out they're catching flounder." Top spots remain Green and Drawing channels and the Hummocks.

Captain Zed's had the same problem with the weather, saying, "the fish are here they just can't get out after them." That has been especially true on the weekends this spring. During the week, one charter party boated 148 flounder, keeping their limit of 24 fish, at the Hummocks. Bruce Childs reeled-in an 8-pound, 6-ounce flounder while fishing with longtime captain Sam Parker aboard the SCORPIO. Giorgio Uccelo nailed a 7-pound, 13-ounce flounder at Drawing Channel.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported schools of croaker had moved into the Cabbage Patch area and many of these fish were in the 15 to 16-inch range. A croaker just ounces shy of three pounds was weighed Sunday. But the croaker, along with many small sharks, were not well received by black drum fishermen working the same waters. "We had one party go through three-quarters of a bushel of sea clams in just a few hours. They couldn't keep a bait on the bottom long enough for a drum to find it and all they caught were shark and croaker." Although the shop failed to register any citation black drum the past week, several black drum in the 20 to 40-pound were caught and a pair of large red drum were boated and released. William Wright released a 49-inch red drum at the Cabbage Patch aboard the BUCCANEER and David Griffith released another 49-inch red off Ship Shoal Island.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters described bottom fishing for croaker as "hit or miss because the fish are constantly moving." Anglers had no complaints on the size of the croaker, "they're all big fish and many are nearly 3 pounds," according to Captain Wil. The mouths of Onancock and Chessenox creeks have been especially productive for croaker. Anglers drifting for flounder did very well inside Schooner Bay the past week and most of the flatfish ranged from 18 to 22 inches. Captain Wil described the striped bass bite as "amazing for this time of the year," as trollers caught numerous 32-inch plus bass at the mouth of Pocomoke Sound, near buoys 5 and 6. Most of these fish are females and many were still full of roe. Bottom fishermen recorded catches of black drum in the same area. There were no reports of any speckled trout but some large spot were caught.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Jackie from Cobbs Marina reported poor weather kept most anglers in port over the weekend but Mike Wroton boated an 11-pound, 25-inch tautog at the CBBT just prior to the weekend. Besides the CBBT complex, tog were also biting at the ODU Reef site and fair numbers of flounder were caught around the Third Island.

Bubba's Marina told of loads of snapper bluefish along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and a mixture of snapper blues, grey and speckled trout and even a few flounder inside Lynnhaven Inlet. At the CBBT, impressive hauls of tautog were coming from the First Island, where bottom fishermen were also catching medium-sized croaker and plenty of snapper blues.

Dr. Jim Wright had by all accounts a "great day" on Tuesday (May 10). The party anchored over a wreck within sight of the Tower Reef and "didn't move until we ran out of bait (and that was to return to port)." The catch included a pair of citation tautog, black sea bass up to 5 pounds, bluefish up to 30 inches, one pollock and a five-foot long shark.

Sunset Boating Center said Rich Meister aboard the UNDUTCHABLES and crew boated eight flounder in the 17 to 22-inch range off Cape Henry. Back at the CBBT, the group managed one "keeper" striper at 34 inches and a bunch of school-sized bass. John Derrick and Bill Harris aboard the ROCK&ROLL caught a pair of keeper flounder at the Third Island and the crew aboard the FLAT ATTACK put seven keeper flounder ranging up to 25 inches in the box at buoy 36A. That trip also produced croaker up to 17-1/2 inches.

Salt Ponds Marina was certain nobody had fished recently and if they had, no fish were kept. "We put in a new fish cleaning station two weeks ago and its still spotless."

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen were catching plenty of croaker throughout the York River with many of the biggest hauls of larger fish made upstream of the Coleman Bridge. When the weather permits, anglers traveling across the Bay to buoy 36A did well on flounder. The spring run of speckled trout inside Mobjack Bay continues to sputter. A few nice trout will be caught but then a cold front moves through and the catches recede.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said fishing action is really starting to bust loose now. Big gray trout are being caught at the 3rd and 4th islands of the CBBT. Plenty of striped bass can also be found at the CBBT and also at the HRBT. Speckled trout can be found at the normal speckled trout places. The Mobjack Bay area has been good. Poquoson Flats could be a good place to try this weekend. Flounder action is good throughout the lower bay. The buoy 36A area has been very good with limits of flatfish to over 7 pounds. Limits of tautog are being caught at the CBBT. Black drum have staged near buoy 13 and buoy 16 and along the seaside of the Eastern Shore. Big red drum have also arrived. The best area has been the seaside of the Eastern Shore but more of these bruisers will be caught on 9 Foot Shoal as some anglers get out there and try for them. Croaker are everywhere and they have been quite a nuisance to anglers soaking clams for drum. Big bluefish should be out in the ocean now at places like the Hot Dog and Bluefish Alley but no one has been fishing for them.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported bottom fishermen are catching more croaker with each passing day but "they're still in relatively shallow water of 10 to 12 feet." Roger did know of one angler that did very well on croaker at the SP buoy "but he was fishing at night." The best catches of keeper striped bass during the trophy season have been around the mouth of the Potomac River and up in Maryland but "that's where everyone has been fishing." Roger did know of several 32-inch plus fish that were caught near the Northern Neck Reef by trollers working the channel in 70 feet of water.

Jerry Thrash from Queens Creek Outfitters said the best croaker bite remains in shallow water and pointed to the success from the private docks and piers. Bottom fishermen in the Rappahannock River, working near Parrot's Island caught a scattering of grey trout mixed in with decent numbers of croaker. Tautog remain active around the Gwynn Island Reef with live fiddler crab or chunks of blue crab the preferred baits. Trollers working the Rappahannock River found school stripers up to 24 inches but Jerry had no reports of any 32-inch plus keepers.

Locklies Marina reported good catches of croaker up to 18 inches at the "barge" in 36 feet of water. "Two guys were out yesterday and came in with a cooler-and-a-half full (of croaker)." Good-sized croaker remain available in shallow water as well. "They're catching them right off our docks, dozens of them." Bottom fishermen are catching a scattering of catfish.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen were, "tearing the croaker up" around buoy 19 in 10 to 15 feet of water. Croaker were also available in shallow water, around the shorelines and up in the tidal creeks. The cooler weather has kept some of the larger striped bass in local waters and the shop knew of rockfish up to 41 inches that were caught recently.

Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said the cool weekend weather resulted in a "light" croaker bite in the Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers the past week. "The fish were all good-sized," assured Captain Thompson, "the amount was just limited." Rough sea conditions kept most anglers near port over the weekend, "until Sunday afternoon," when a few boats slipped out to the Cell and were rewarded with croaker to nearly 3 pounds and keeper-sized flounder. Squid, peeler crab and bloodworms were the most productive baits.

Virginia Beach -

The charter fleet sailing from the Virginia Beach Fishing Center was idled Thursday through Monday due to wind and rough seas. Inside the inlet, flounder, bluefish and a few large grey trout (to over 9 pounds) provide good action puppy drum and speckled trout remain scarce.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the charter fleet remained in port over the weekend but one boat went out Tuesday (May 10) and wreckfished. The trip yielded a pair of tautog topping 9 pounds and a 5-pound, 1-ounce black sea bass. Other than the one wreck trip, "that's about it. The warm finger of water down at Triple 0's that held yellowfin tuna before the weekend blow has moved."

Virginia Piers -

James River -Croaker continue to provide the bulk of the action here, although bottom fishermen are catching a few catfish and occasional school-sized striper.

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

Lynnhaven -Anglers have caught bluefish every day since the pier opened April 29. Gotcha plugs are the favored lure and many anglers are opting to remove one set of treble hooks and pressing the barks down on the other. Most of the blues range from 1 to 3 pounds but a few larger specimens have been decked. Bottom fishermen are likewise catching bluefish plus some sea mullet and croaker.

Virginia Beach - Snapper blues dominated the catches but bottom fishermen did manage some spot, croaker and the occasional trout.

Sandbridge - Seas had calmed enough by Sunday evening that the blues moved within casting distance. Most of the fish ranged from 1 to 3 pounds but several topped 5 pounds

Outer Banks, NC -

Friday and Saturday were pretty much "no fish days" everywhere on the Outer Banks but the action had begun to recover by mid-day Sunday. The northern beaches were yielding a mixture of bluefish, croaker and sea mullet. Anglers on the Avalon Pier enjoyed a nice mixture of snapper bluefish, croaker, trout, spot and sea mullet on Sunday and Monday. Anglers fishing from the beach at Oregon Inlet caught lots of snapper bluefish while anglers fishing with bait from the "little bridge' to Manteo had spot and black drum.

On Hatteras Island, fishing at Cape Point came to a standstill on Friday. A few black drum and sea mullet were pulled from the South Beach on Saturday. Cape Point came back to life on Sunday with a mixture of sea mullet, spot, croaker and bluefish. Monday saw more bluefish, some dog sharks and several black drum.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center enjoyed excellent catches of yellowfin tuna plus some gaffer dolphin and occasional mako shark just prior to the weekend. No boats sailed Thursday through Saturday. On Sunday, the fleet averaged a dozen yellowfin tuna each, plus some dolphin. The take on Monday was similar. Inshore waters are loaded with snapper bluefish and a few false albacore.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet remained in port Friday and Saturday. A handful of boats fished Sunday and put together a decent catch of yellowfin tuna, gaffer dolphin and wahoo. On Monday most boats returned with limits of king mackerel. Yellowfin tuna were in good supply and several limit catches were recorded. On Tuesday the yellowfin action was described as "excellent" plus the dolphin catch was "really good.

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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