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The Saltwater Review - 18 May 2005

Vol. 19, No. 3
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.

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.

The red drum bite off Fishermen's Island and the Barrier Islands continues to improve while the spring black drum remains slow to start. The lackluster black bite has been blamed on either cool water or the abundance of croaker off Kiptopeke.

Schools of taylor bluefish have swarmed into the lower Bay and plenty still linger along the Virginia beach oceanfront, where fish approaching 10 pounds were caught the past week.

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.


Donna at Captain Bob's reported decent numbers of flounder were caught over the weekend, as many parties caught several dozen an outing but only about one-in-six was long enough to keep (16-1/2-inch minimum size limit). The Four Mouths area produced the most flounder but also had a higher percentage of "throwbacks." The flounder were fewer but averaged larger at Queen's Sound and the flats. Keith Young had the weekend's biggest doormat. The citation fish measured 27-1/4 inches and weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces. It hit a squid and minnow "sandwiche" at Four Mouths.


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

Wachapreague Marina reported consistent catches of flounder at Green and Drawing channels, where schools of snapper blues have arrived. Captain Sam Parker and a group of fishing buddies fished the shoals around the inlet over the weekend and boated several black drum.

Captain Zed's said the flounder fishing has been good, "as long as the weather doesn't blow-up," which it seems to do every weekend. The Hummocks and Green and Drawing channels remain the top locations for flounder. Some red drum are moving along the barrier Island surf but the shop's only citation drum for the week came from inside the bay, at the Middle Grounds, where David Rew released a 51-inch fish. Outside the inlet, wreckfishing for big tautog remains strong. A party fishing aboard the CANYON LADY boated a pair of citation tog on a recent outing, as Tim Meyers (9 pounds, 9 ounces; 25-1/4 inches) and Curtis Baker (12-1/2 pounds; 26 inches) registered award-winning fish.

Onancock -

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported a good weekend flounder bite developed around buoy 36A, where some anglers claimed limits of flatfish. This area also produced the weekend's biggest flounder, an 8-pound, 9-ounce citation winner, caught by James Beasely, Jr. Black drum bit off Kiptopeke and red drum were active along the shoals off Fishermen's Island. Frank Kaszyc caught and released a 46-1/2-inch black drum near buoy 16. Dave King, Jr. released a 47-1/2-inch black drum at Nine-Foot-Shoal. Bill Perron was drifting near buoy 36A, using cut bunker on a flounder rig and boated an 85-pound, 1-ounce black drum. William Jackson was baited-up with squid and drifting near the High Rise section of the CBBT and caught and released a 4-foot long red drum. Randy Josemans was fishing the shoals off Fishermen's Island and caught and released a 47-inch red. The same waters produced a 49-inch red drum release for Eric Olsen. The shop also indicated red drum and a few "yearling" black drum were showing in the Barrier Island surf.

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

Heidi Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported trollers are catching lots of striped bass "up in Maryland waters" and off Smith Point. On most days, the charter fleet has been in early with their limit of stripers measuring up to 40 inches. Parachutes jigs, staggered on either side of the boat using planers boards, is the preferred method for trollers, but "they're a heck of a lot of work," according to Heidi. The croaker action continues to improve plus bottom fishermen are seeing a few pan trout mixed in with the croaker.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the charter fleet had to run south of buoy 34 and 35 in the Baltimore Channel to find croaker willing to bite. Jerry believes the cooler than normal water temperatures have made the croaker "finicky" in the main stem of the river and Bay for mid-May. Conversely, croaker are readily biting in the shallow water creeks on a moving tide and can be caught from shore or dock. For those bottom fishermen that stick-it-out, some pan trout are mixed in with the croaker at Butler's Hole and Stingray Light. On the plus side, the cooler water temperatures have kept the tautog active at Gwynn Island Reef. Trollers working the lower Rappahannock River and near buoy 59A, located above Fleet's Bay scored on keeper stripers. The best flounder bite was in the vicinity of buoy 36A (located off Kiptopeke) and Jerry knew of very few flatfish that were caught north of Cape Charles, again cooler than normal water temperatures were blamed.

Locklies Marina told of decent weekend action despite gusty winds. Many bottom fishermen opted to stay in Locklies Creek, due to the wind, and caught croaker plus a scattering of pan trout and spot. One lucky angler boated a 34-inch striped bass on Friday the 13.

Garretts Marina told of good hauls of 12 to 17-inch croaker with most of the better catches coming from the shallows near buoy 19. The spokesperson added, "they're not catching much else but a few catfish."

Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I described the croaker bite in the Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers as "slow" the past week with the best action coming after sundown and in the shallows. Captain Thompson did note that some pan trout were moving into the rivers but most measure less than 12 inches. Because of the slow bite on the Rappahannock, most of the charter boats ran down off Cape Charles and bottom fished near buoy 36A. Here, the croaker were biting with an added bonus of flounder up to 26 inches.

Virginia Beach -

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 Piers -

James River - Croaker are the main drawing card but school stripers are biting in the evenings on the moving tide and after sundown around the light lines. The after dark croaker bite has likewise been productive.

Harrison - The new pier is still under construction.

Lynnhaven - Taylor bluefish continue to provide predictable action. The best runs come in the late afternoon and through dusk and in the early morning hours. Bottom fishermen are catching some sea mullet, medium croaker and skate.

Virginia Beach - A strong run of medium spot developed Saturday and a few more spot were decked Sunday. Taylor bluefish come within casting distance daily. Bottom fishermen also caught a few pan trout, sea mullet and the ever-present skate.

Sandbridge - Water temperatures finally hit the 60-degree mark over the weekend. Taylor blues and sea mullet provided most of the action. A 9-pound, 15-ounce bluefish was landed on a "king rigged" live snapper blue.

Outer Banks, NC -

The beaches and piers along the Nags Head area provided decent catches of taylor bluefish, sea mullet and a few spot over the weekend. The waters around the Avalon Pier warmed to 60 degrees on Sunday and the pier crowd had a banner day for bluefish, spot, croaker, speckled and grey trout and black drum. Anglers fishing the shoreline along Oregon Inlet recorded a mixture of taylor bluefish, sea mullet, spot and a few trout.

South of Oregon Inlet, at Cape Point on Buxton, the action was relatively quiet on Friday, after a good late Thursday night red drum bite. Daytime bottom fishermen did score on a few mullet and bluefish. Daytime catches Saturday included skate, ray, sea mullet and surf perch. Saturday night about a dozen drum up to 48 inches were beached and Sunday night produced a real "drum blitz" with catches estimated to have topped 50 fish. Monday night was another memorable night for drum fishermen at the Point.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported fair catches of yellowfin tuna, dolphin, king mackerel and wahoo on Friday. Inshore boats loaded up on bluefish. Boats that sailed on Saturday averaged 8 to 12 yellowfin tuna plus some gaffer dolphin back at the dock. Dolphin dominated the catches on Sunday. A 177-pound bigeye tuna was also landed. When boats returned Monday it was clear the party either wanted dolphin or tuna and depending on the party's choice, that was what they got-all gaffer dolphin or all yellowfin tuna and a wahoo or two.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a very productive week for "meat fish." On Friday, the charter fleet returned with coolers of yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo. William Horbaly of Charlottesville nailed the day's biggest dolphin at 43 pounds. The weather on Saturday was beautiful but the sight at the dock when the boats returned was even prettier. Catches included lots of yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus scattering of wahoo and king mackerel. Sunday's haul was similar plus the crew aboard the GAMBLER released a white marlin and Chris Kreybig boated a 47-pound dolphin aboard the BITE-ME. The catch was down a little on Monday but the species mixture was the same. Tuesday's action bounced back and good hauls of dolphin and yellowfin were brought back to the dock. Millard Hall of Powhaten earned a citation with a 48-pound wahoo aboard the SEA CREATURE.

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 to get to the index of previous Saltwater Reviews

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