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The Saltwater Review - 25 May 2005

Vol. 19, No. 4
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


Due to the observance of Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, the Virginia Saltwater Review will not be published the week of 30 May-3 June.

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 (see address above). A reporting form is also enclosed in this report.

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 run had its best week since the first rod and reel catches were made in late April.

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. Offshore, 10-pound bluefish are common and mako sharks are a possibility.

Although not plentiful by any stretch, grey trout topping 10 pounds were pulled from their "usual" spring haunts, such as the northern sections of the CBBT complex, around Lynnhaven Inlet and the Cell.


Donna at Captain Bob's reported Friday was a "wash-out" and Saturday was a "no catch day" due to grass and dirty water. Conditions improved by Sunday and flounder were caught at Four Mouths, Assateague Channel, Cockle Creek and Queen's Sound. The "throwback-to-keeper" ratio was roughly 5 to 1, according to Donna, plus skate and dogfish were grabbing the baits meant for flounder. Donna suggested Queen's Sound as the best recent location for a keeper flounder. Water temperatures were running 55 to 60 degrees on Sunday, according to customer reports. Local anglers Bob and Betty Callahan turned-in one of the best weekend catches with nine keeper flatfish caught at Queens Sound on a white bucktail tipped with a minnow. Taylor blues are scattered throughout the inside waters and a few big stripers were beached at Assateague Island.


Randy Lewis from Captain Zed's reported the weekend weather curtailed most fishing forays scheduled for Friday and Saturday. By Sunday the weather had moderated but "most folks had already headed home." Prior to the weekend, David Smullin nailed a 7-pound flounder "over on the bayside," at Schooner Bay. Weather permitting, flounder were biting at the Hummocks and Green and Drawing channels. Outside the inlet, tautog and black sea bass cooperate on the ocean wrecks, where some chopper bluefish are beginning to arrive. Several anglers stopped by the shop to register red drum releases from the bayside. Most had been boated and released in the shoals surrounding Fishermen's Island but David Rew released a 51-inch red at the Middle Grounds.

Wachapreague Marina likewise bemoaned the weekend weather, noting the only decent weather days this spring seem to fall during the week. The flounder bite remains decent when the weather cooperates. Several of the captains have begun rigging for tuna. Bluefin tuna have shown off Wachapreague as early as late May but a more likely arrival date is mid-June.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported waters off Kiptopeke were "hopping" with good-sized croaker. Although none met the state's minimum citation weight of 3 pounds, several fish were weighed that lacked just a few ounces. Black drum fishermen enjoyed their most productive week of action this season, as several anglers registered citation catches and others just "kept one for dinner," in the 30 to 50-pound range. Perhaps the best location for black drum in recent days was the buoy 13 area, where Todd Wood (47-3/4 inches), Kory Stachowski (47-3/4 inches) and Blake Norford (47 inches) scored release awards and Harry Boteler boated an 80-pounder. Other hot spots included Latimer Shoals, where Robin Wallace released a 47-inch drum and C-16, where Mike Davis boated a 92-pound, 10-ounce fish. The tougher sea clam was preferred for bait over the softer chowder clam but both baits caught fish. Several anglers reported catching red drum in the shoals surrounding Fishermen's Island, where Ron Campbell released a 47-inch red and another angler released a 50-inch drum. Fresh peeler crab and large chunks of bunker were the premier baits for the red drum. The shop also indicated decent catches of flounder registered in the vicinity of buoy 36A.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Fin Charters described the red drum bite as "very good the past several days. B.W. James had three one evening." The flats around Onancock and the waters around the islands just north of Onancock have been the better locations for the drum. Some anglers are slow trolling large spoons with success while others are fishing chunks of peeler crab. "The guys fishing bait complain about all the croaker but they also catch a stray speckled trout or striped bass," according to Captain Wil. Keeper-sized flounder, some topping 20 inches, continue to cooperate around the mouth of the Pocomoke River, particularly near buoys 5 and 6, in 12 to 15 feet of water. The beacon and Cranny Hack also produced some keeper-sized flatfish the past week. The deepwater croaker bite is improving but is still hit or miss. "Some guys go out and can't find any (croaker) and others come in with a cooler full," according to Wil. Many of the better hauls of bigger fish are still coming from fairly shallow water. The entrance to Onancock Creek, Crammy Hack and Hacks Rock all produced some croaker.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Peggy at Cobbs Marina reported a steady tautog bite around the First and Second islands of the CBBT. Anglers drifting for flounder are catching some "keepers" along the small boat channel and near the Yancey wreck site. The week's biggest flounder, a 26-1/2-inch beauty, was caught and released at the ODU Reef site by Shawn Shapiro. Bottom fishermen working off the Ocean View Beach area are catching decent numbers of large croaker plus an occasional keeper flounder.

Lou from Bubba's Marina said weekend catches (Friday and Saturday) were marred by poor weather but Sunday turned-out to be one of the best fishing days this spring. Lou said flounder were caught at numerous locations but "there wasn't really any hot spot." Anglers fishing around the mouth of the inlet caught an occasional keeper flounder and plenty of taylor blues plus a few pan trout. School stripers were abundant out at the CBBT complex with a few bigger stripers taken over the tunnel tubes on live bait. The spring tautog bite seems to be tapering off while trophy-sized red drum were available at Latimer Shoals. Several customers have looked for and tried to catch a spadefish but "no spades yet," according to Lou.

Dr. Jim Wright said the spring black drum bite off Cape Charles remains sporadic while anglers choosing the fish the CBBT for school stripers find catching a limit of slot-sized fish is easy. Some large grey trout have arrived at the Cell, where Dr. Wright managed a 31-1/2-inch release mid-week but cautioned, "it was the only large trout we caught." After a few frustrating hours of trying for another big trout, the party moved to the coral beds off Cape Charles in hopes of hooking a black drum. "We didn't catch any drum but we caught a bunch of 2-pound croaker."

Wallace's Marina said flounder and tautog topped the list of catches last week. Top flounder spot was off Cape Charles near buoy 36A, where Kenny Mitchell boated an 8-pound and an 8-1/4-pound flatfish. Decent hauls of flatfish weighing up to 7 pounds were also recorded at the HRBT, Hampton Bar, Factory Point and Back River Reef. Most flounder seekers are baiting up with squid, cut bait or minnows, according to the shop. Tautog were most active at Back River Reef and around the Third and Fourth islands. Large black drum were caught near buoy 13 and the 12 Mile Marker of the CBBT, where several large red drum were also boated and released.

Sunset Marina said grey trout weighing up to 12 pounds were caught by wireliners working the Fourth Island area but school-sized striped bass were a more likely catch. Flounder were "hit or miss" over the weekend with some of the best reports coming from the buoy 36A area, Hampton Bar and right off Fort Monroe. Bottom fishermen working the Fort Monroe Pier caught croaker plus some spot. The headboat that docks at the Marina reported good catches of croaker at Hampton Bar and Thimble Shoals.

Chuck at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the big news the past week was the strong showing of speckled trout in Mobjack Bay, particularly in the Ware River, where Lee Toliver boated a 6-pound, 3-ounce spotted beauty. Bottom fishermen are hauling in loads of nice-sized croaker in the York River. Anglers fishing from the Gloucester Pier caught lots of croaker plus some spot the past week. Some keeper flounder were boated in the lower York River but the best recent catches of flatfish were made off Cape Charles, between buoys 36A and 40, where some of the flounder topped 6 pounds.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the black drum bite picked up a bit the past week and buoy 13 was the hot spot, where David Brabrand (47 inches), Ken Neill (48 inches), Stephen Powell (48.25 inches) and Julie Ball (48.25 inches) all earned release awards. The red drum bite "is getting better everyday," with the Eastern Shore seaside the hot spot for the reds. Good numbers of small gray trout can be found at the 12-mile mark of the CBBT and at the high rise section of the crossing. A few big gray trout were caught at the 3rd and 4th islands of the CBBT, the high rise of the CBBT, the HRBT, and at the Cell. A recent outing to the Cell produced citation grey trout for Julie Ball (9 pounds, 7 ounces) and Ken Neill (10 pounds, 10 ounces). Tautog action remains good at the CBBT while school-sized stripers and taylor bluefish can be caught around the islands of the CBBT and at the HRBT. Some larger rockfish are being caught over the tubes of the CBBT with live bait. Flounder fishing remains good with buoy 36A the most popular location, though fish are being caught pretty much everywhere, according to Neill. Nice croaker are being caught in the Cell area. Sea bass are available over the ocean wrecks. Spadefish and cobia should be arriving soon, according to Dr. Neill. "Actually, there should be some around now." There have been some rumors of spade sightings but no reports of any fish that were caught.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported most area anglers fishing for striped bass are still trolling for the trophy-sized fish. The best striper action has been from Smith Point and north, along the Cut Channel edge. "A few have started to chum for school stripers but with limited success," according to Roger. The Northern Neck Reef site has been the most popular location for the chummers. Bottom fishermen are catching croaker but the best hauls of bigger fish are still coming from shallow water.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said trophy-sized grey trout made a strong showing at the Cell last week, as the shop weighed six citation trout ranging from 10 pounds, 6 ounces to 12 pounds, 12 ounces. The 12-pounder was caught on a bucktail by Troy Major and measured 33 inches. Robert Rowe weighed an 11-pound, 9-ounce trout and released another that measured 30 inches. Tautog are still active at the Cell but spadefish remain a "no show." Bottom fishermen seeking croaker have been running across the bay to buoys 34 and 35 or fishing local creeks in shallow waters. The best word on flounder comes from buoy 36A while black and red drum were caught at Latimer Shoals.

Locklies Marina said good numbers of large croaker are holding near the marina and "they're catching them when they can get out there," but the weather failed to cooperate for much of the week. Parrots Rock off Carters Creek, the Silos and Butlers Hole were all productive at times the past week. Bottom fishermen are also seeing a few spot. Kenny Vass caught a 3-pound, 2-ounce croaker at the White Stone Bridge and Frank Bowler decked a 3-1/4-pound croaker at Whiting Creek.

Garretts Marina told of good catches of medium to large croaker plus a surprising number of chunky catfish "between the power lines and Morattico." The better catches are still coming from relatively shallow water and not from the deeper channels.

Captain Jim Thompson described the bottom fishing at the mouths of the Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers as "slow," and indicated most of the charter fleet was running down towards Cape Charles and fishing around buoys 34 and 36. Here, croaker were abundant, as well as dogfish. A few pan trout were caught, plus the occasional flounder and even a striped bass or two. A few croaker are starting to show around the Cell and just above Wolf Trap Light near buoy 3. For those with enough patience, a few croaker were pulled-out of Butlers Hole and at Cherry Point. Perhaps a better bet, tautog were active over the Iron Ore deposits located off Gwynn Island, the Cell and the Gwynn Island Reef.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported several charters ran offshore "20 to 30 miles" the past week and loaded-up on chopper bluefish that averaged about 10 pounds each. Closer to shore, anglers fishing along the beachfront and inside Rudee Inlet are catching plenty of taylor bluefish with an occasional blue in the 10-pound range. Rudee Inlet fishermen are also scoring on keeper flounder and a few trout. The headboat fleet is splitting time between fishing the ocean wrecks for black sea bass and bottom fishing inside the Bay for a mixture of croaker, pan trout and taylor bluefish.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said their boats remained tied to the dock for another week, "the weather has just been too crummy," but predicted trips will be run over the long Memorial Day weekend. Paula did hear of several large grey trout that were caught inside Rudee Inlet.

Virginia Piers -

James River -Croaker provided good action, particularly around dusk and after sunset. Some keeper-sized slot stripers were also decked.

Harrison - The pier is being rebuilt and plans call for it to open sometime in 2005.

Lynnhaven - Anglers are enjoying steady catches of taylor blues with an occasional fish of 10 pounds or slightly more. Best bluefish action has come in the evenings. Bottom fishermen are seeing an influx of sea mullet and some flounder but few flatfish meet the 16-1/2-inch size limit.

Virginia Beach - Catches the past several days include good numbers of sea mullet, sporadic blitzes of taylor bluefish plus a mixture of spot, surf perch, puffers and skate. The water temperature was 59 degrees at pierside on Sunday. The pier is now open 24 hours every day.

Sandbridge - Bottom fishermen were confined to some sea mullet, skate and a very few flounder. Casters and those throwing bait off the end of the pier caught numerous taylor bluefish plus a few blues that measured 30 inches or more. Water temperature at pierside was a chilly 52 degrees on Saturday but jumped to 62 degrees by Wednesday thanks to the strong northeast wind.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach and pier fishermen in the Nags Head area enjoyed good action on taylor bluefish plus some mullet and speckled trout early in the week but as the weather soured later in the week, so did the fishing. The best speckled trout bite was from the beach between the Avalon and Outer Banks piers. A few speckled trout were also caught inside Oregon Inlet and from the Little Bridge to Manteo. Trollers working the mouth of the inlet loaded-up on taylor blues.

South of Oregon Inlet, at Cape Point on Buxton, big red drum swarmed the Point about 6 PM on Friday and at least 20 were beached before a front pushed everyone off the beach just after dusk. Taylor bluefish, sea mullet and flounder had been caught earlier in the day. Saturday was slow with only one red and a few taylor blues and sea mullet. Sunday's catch was somewhat better, more taylor bluefish and sea mullet and a pair of red drum. Monday dawned promising with good action on taylor bluefish and sea mullet but by the day's end, no red drum had been caught.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center said their boats remained in port Friday and Saturday due to the weather. Sunday and Monday produced good catches of gaffer dolphin but yellowfin tuna were scarce. The headboat returned with a mixture of taylor bluefish and flounder.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a good gaffer dolphin bite but other meat-fish were scarce on Friday. No boats fished offshore on Saturday due to the weather but inshore boats had good hauls of pan trout and taylor bluefish. On Sunday, the fleet returned with good mixed catches of dolphin to 41 pounds and yellowfin tuna. The crew aboard the NANCY K boated a mako shark while the crew aboard the HATTERAS FEVER released a sailfish. On Monday, boats came in early due to building seas but still managed a good catch of dolphin.

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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