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The Saltwater Review - May 17, 2007

Vol. 21, No. 2

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


The next issue of the Virginia Saltwater Review will be published the week of June 4-8.

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 ( 

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

A possession limit of four sheepshead has been established

Chincoteague -

Captain Bob's reported scattered catches of keeper flounder plus a mixture of taylor blues, sea mullet and small croaker. In the surf, anglers are catching a nice mixture of 10 to 20-pound black drum, some keeper striped bass, taylor bluefish, plenty of skate and even the occasional red drum.


Wachapreague Marina reported anglers are catching plenty of flounder but only a handful are keepers on most outings. Green and Drawing channels continues to be the most popular location but keeper-sized flounder are also showing on the nearby flats.

Captain Zed's said the 18-1/2-inch minimum size limit has been tough on fishermen, "they're catching a lot of flounder but not a lot of keepers." The Foxy Lady was out recently and boated 30 flounder but could only keep six fish. The shop indicated Green and Drawing channels were always a prime flounder location but keeper flounder were also caught at Bullshead and the Hummocks recently. Good numbers of taylor bluefish have moved inside the inlet and provide good sport on light tackle. Anglers are also seeing an occasional speckled trout. Anglers working the shoals around the mouth of the inlet are catching some black drum on crab and clam. The shop had even better reports of large black drum from the Quinby area. The CANYON LADY fished an offshore wreck and boated a good catch of black sea bass last week.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported bottom fishermen enjoyed excellent action on large black drum on Saturday, as many anglers caught "six or more" on a tide. The shop registered well-over two-dozen release awards (46-inch minimum to qualify) and weighed drum as heavy as 75 pounds. Top locations were buoys 13 and 16 and sea clam was the premier bait. Raymond Dickerson and Byrd Holloway combined for a double-figure catch of trophy black drum at buoy 16. Anglers are also seeing increasing numbers of red drum and the Barrier Island surf was the weekend hot spot. The shop rated flounder fishing as "OK" but indicated many customers were frustrated by the 18-1/2-inch minimum size limit. Jim White boated the weekend's lone citation flatfish, a 7-pounder, while drifting near buoy 18. Another angler was drifting near buoy 36A for flounder but landed a 32-pound striped bass instead. Pan trout remain available off the Concrete Ships. Anglers fishing from the Kiptopeke State Park Pier are also catching some pan trout after sundown, around the pier lights. Charles Donnell took a group of anglers out of Oyster for a day of wreckfishing. The party had a nice catch of large tautog and the heaviest weighed 15 pounds, 15 ounces. 

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported "nothing much has changed since last week. We still can't seem to get any decent weather and nobody is fishing." Good-sized croaker, taylor bluefish and school stripers are available in the creeks. "It's time for the red and black drum to arrive, and I'm sure they're here, but nobody has been fishing for them."

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel

Cobbs Marina reported large red drum were biting along the northern-most sections of the CBBT complex, where Roy McCausey boated and released a 50-inch red drum. Tautog are available around all four rock islands of the CBBT but the week's biggest tog, a 13-pound, 10-ounce caught by Randy Price, was pulled from the Tower Reef. The marina indicated anglers drifting for flounder did "fair" in the vicinity of the second small boat channel of the CBBT. Other reports indicated school stripers were abundant around the Fourth Island.

Bubba's Marina said flounder and even a few tautog were caught amongst the pilings of the Lesner Bridge while taylor bluefish are holding in the rips around the bridge. Puppy drum and croaker are taking baits back inside the inlet.

Sunset Boating Center said croaker and small flounder were biting at Hampton Bar while decent numbers of keeper-sized flounder were available around the Third Island of the CBBT.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said the fog and poor weather kept many boats in port last week. Those that did fish caught some flounder but "didn't stop to weigh anything in." 

Chuck Ash from York River Feed and Fishing Supplies said bottom fishermen are catching "croaker galore" along the York River and many anglers are coming in with a cooler full of fish. Flounder are likewise very abundant but it is rare to find a flounder of 18-1/2 inches or more. Outside the York River, anglers are finding some keeper flounder along the CBBT shipping channels as far up the bay as buoy 40. 

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the yellowfin tuna bite remains very good out of Oregon Inlet plus decent numbers of dolphin and wahoo have arrived. Up here in Virginia, anglers are still waiting for some good water to push in. Offshore bottom fishermen have sighted bluefin tuna but I have not heard of anyone fishing for them. The offshore bottom fishing action has not slowed down. The 44-pound golden tilefish caught by Jeff Dail and the 49 pound 9 ounce snowy grouper caught by Roger Burnley have been approve as new state records. World records from that trip on the Healthy Grin are still pending. Inshore, the flounder bite is scattered throughout all of the normal flounder spots. Many of the fish being caught are too small to keep but if you stick with it, you will catch some fish to bring home. Red and black drum fishing is very good right now. The best spot for the reds has been at the inlet between Fisherman's and Smith Islands. Whole, hard crab has been the bait of choice to limit the number of skates and dogfish. 9-Foot-Shoal is another good spot for reds. Buoys 13 and 16 have been the places to catch black drum. Both sea clams and chowder clams have been effective baits. I have not heard any reports of cobia, spadefish or sheepshead yet. The bay water temperature is warm enough for them. We will probably see the first catches over the next two weeks. 

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

The "red" in red drum must stand for "red hot" since that best describes the amazing action emanating about this incredible fishery lately. These flashy scavengers are a success story in the making, according to Claude Bain, Director of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Although reds are not present in the large numbers which existed in the 1960's and early 1970's, he feels the fishery is becoming healthy, and on its way to recovery due to successful spawning and recruitment and strict regulations. Mid Atlantic anglers will surely agree, with some boats releasing up to twenty bull reds in one outing along the shoals of the Eastern Shore. Black drum action is also heating up, with good catches escalating on the Eastern Shore shoals, with Latimer Shoals, the Inner Middle Grounds, and the 9 Foot Shoals producing the best numbers of fish on clams and blue crabs. Flatfish are not at the top of the list this week, but anglers who work for them are pulling decent hauls from the Hump and the small boat channel south of the 1st island of the CBBT. Anglers working Lynnhaven River and the basin area are scoring with nice keepers as well as incredible puppy drum catches. One boat fishing Lynnhaven Inlet lost count after releasing over 30 pups this week. Small gray trout are available jigging after dark in Willoughby Bay and off Ocean View. The lower bay rivers are holding croaker, as well as the Little Creek jetties, where hardheads up to 2.5 pounds are hitting squid and Fishbites.

Tautog continue to make wreck anglers happy with non-stop action coming from lower bay structures, and coastal wrecks. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the Chesapeake Light Tower Reef, and the Triangle wrecks are the hot spots this week with blue crabs and fiddlers the top baits. Jumbo sea bass will not disappoint, with some fish pushing six pounds. These tasty fish will hit your offering at the above-mentioned locations, with squid and shrimp producing the best results. If blueline tilefish are your desire, plenty are available in deeper water, but with other species making a showing closer to shore, this fishery will probably get a break. Rudee Inlet is still an excellent source of respectable bluefish and puppy drum. John at the Fishing Center reports gray trout up to 3 pounds and nice speckled trout are hitting twister tail grubs, but the bluefish are making it difficult. A few keeper flounder are also available at the mouth of the inlet.

Virginia Middle Bay -

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported trophy-sized striped bass made a better showing the past week around buoys 1 and 62. Nearly all the stripers were caught trolling with umbrella rigs and daisy chains the preferred lures. Croaker are biting FishBites and squid fished on the bottom of the local creeks and river mouths. Roger had no reports of any rod and reel caught bluefish but said the local pound nets were catching plenty of blues up to 10 pounds.

Smith Point Marina said anglers were focused on the spring trophy striped bass season and had good reports of 20 to 30 pound fish. Timmy Wolf checked-in a 40-1/2-pounder that was just a -inch shy of four feet long.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the spring speckled trout bite remains underway in the Piankatank River, around Hole-in-the-Wall and in the vicinity of Ware Neck. Tony Hudgins of North boated a 5-1/4-pound speck, on a topwater lure, while fishing in the Piankatank. Lee Oliver of Gloucester nailed a 5-pound, 10-ounce trout on a MirrOlure in the Ware River. Bottom fishermen are enjoying their best success on croaker fishing the shorelines of Mobjack Bay, the lower Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers and local creeks. Bloodworm is the favored bait but these feisty bottom feeders are also taking cut squid at times. The croaker have yet to make a strong appearance in their normal deepwater haunts in the bay. Flounder are becoming more active but the new 18-1/2-inch size limit has made a big dent in the number of keeper flatfish, according to Jerry. Anglers fishing the lower bay are seeing a strong influx of large red drum. Joseph Clarke of Norfolk stopped by the shop and registered a 46-inch red drum release on Saturday. The citation catch was made off Fishermen's Island on a large chunk of hard crab. 

Locklies Marina saw some really big croaker over the weekend and weighed several that were just ounces shy of the 3-pound minimum citation qualifying weight. One group of anglers that had an especially good catch of large croaker caught their fish in 55 feet of water off White Stone. "They were catching smaller fish in shallower water but when they drift out into the channel they caught the bigger fish." Bottom fishermen are also picking up some small spot while pan trout are showing in the local pound nets. Several customers reported catching school stripers around the bridge prior to the May 16 opening of the spring slot season, when 18 to 28-inch fish are legal.

Tommy Lewis from Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen were loading up on large croaker, as many of the fish ranged between 2 and 2-1/2 pounds. The shop's biggest weigh-in went 3-1/2 pounds. The croaker were biting in a large portion of the river, from the Towers to Waterview," according to Tommy. The bigger croaker are "real shallow," noted Tommy, with some catches coming from as little as five of water in the early morning and after dusk. Bottom fishermen are also catching catfish, whose numbers increase the closer Tappahannock Bridge.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I described the croaker fishing as "just fair" in the deeper waters of the Rappahannock and Piankatank, as these areas have yet to consistently produce. "I think its because the water is still really cold," stated Captain Thompson.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported a private charter ran a "deep-drop" trip last weekend and returned with a big catch of large black sea bass and blueline tilefish pushing the 10-pound mark. The headboat fished several ocean wrecks and loaded up on black sea bass. Both Kevin Swisher (5-1/4 pounds) and Don Hanlon (5 pounds, 6 ounces) boated citation sea bass.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said action from the marina remained at a low ebb, as the offshore season has yet to begin. One captain did fish the CBBT for striped bass recently, and did well. Two other boats fished the shoals for red drum one night but Paula had yet to hear a report of their trip.

Virginia Piers -

James River - Croaker, catfish and the occasional bluefish and spot are providing decent action. The best croaker fishing is on the late evening tide. With the spring striper slot season now open, this pier offers one of the better opportunities on hooking an 18 to 28-inch striped bass. 

Ocean View - Bottom fishermen have started hitting croaker consistently in the evenings. Hickory shad, taylor bluefish and school stripers are showing sporadically, after sundown, around the pier lights.

Lynnhaven - Bluefish put in a strong appearance Friday and some of the largest fish measured up to 30 inches. School stripers are holding around the light shadows created by the pier lights after sundown.

Virginia Beach - Casters scored taylor bluefish, some even taking 10-fish limits, as schools of feeding fish moved within casting range. Bottom fishermen had a slow pick, for everything except skate, catching a few spot, sea mullet and too small to keep flounder.

Sandbridge - Snapper bluefish are providing much of the excitement here. Bottom fishermen are catching some small to medium spot, a few sea mullet and plenty of skate. 

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.

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