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The Saltwater Review - June 11, 2003

Volume 17. No. 5
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. This means that no fish which fall between the 28-inch and 32-inch slot may be kept. 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. (click here for form).

Since the end of last year, regulations for black sea bass, grey trout and red drum have been modified.

For black sea bass, the minimum size limit has been upped to 12 inches while the possession limit remains 25 fish but closed periods of September 2 through September 15 and December 1 through December 31 have been added.

The minimum size limit for grey trout is 12 inches and the possession limit is 7 fish year round.

A new state record bluefin tuna was landed Friday, June 6, by Eddie Surratt of Julian, NC, aboard the charter vessel REBEL, skippered by captain Randy Butler. The record tuna weighed 357 pounds, measured 87 inches and had a 59-inch girth. It hit a rigged ballyhoo trolled from a 50-pound class rod and reel and took 3 hours and 20 minutes to land. The complete press release is attached.

The splendid spring run of huge black drum off Cape Charles appears to finally be winding down. Even so, the VSWFT has already registered nearly 900 release awards for drum of 44 inches or more.

As the spring black drum run wanes off Cape Charles, the equally as large but more stream-lined red drum is increasing in numbers. Peeler crab, fished on the shoals rather than the channel edges, is the preferred method. Last week alone, over 100 red drum releases were registered in the VSWFT.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported some flounder were caught in the main channel but overall flatfish action remains slow. Sea mullet were caught near buoy 12 and around the mouth of the inlet while loads of skate and a handful of flounder were pulled from Queen's Sound. Pods of taylor blues are feeding on schools of shiner minnows in the main channel. Outside the inlet, the inshore ocean wrecks produced an excellent catch of sea bass and some tautog for the crew aboard TOOLS-OF-THE-TRADE.

Barnacle Bill's said anglers recorded fair catches of flounder on Monday (June 9) but weekend action was very slow. Striped bass, yearling black drum and trout were caught on peeler crab fished around the bridge pilings and wreckfishing for black sea bass plus a scattering of tautog was very good. The shop held its annual shark tournament last weekend and the crew aboard the RETRIEVER won the event with a 222-pound thresher shark. 

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina credited Mike Parker on the LUCKY DAWG with the season's first tuna, a 42-inch bluefin caught just east of the 21-Mile Hill. The same trip produced steady action on chopper bluefish. The ocean wrecks off Wachapreague continue to produce good hauls of sea bass plus some tautog to 8 pounds. Inside the inlet, the flounder bite remains slow.

Captain Zed's said anglers were catching a few flounder but overall action remained slow. Anglers drifting the inlet for flounder are picking up some trout while anglers soaking peeler crab or clam on the shoals surrounding the inlet are still catching large black drum. Offshore, the wrecks were holding plenty of black sea bass while chopper blues were on the lumps.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported the drum bite slowed over the weekend, though the shop still registered nearly 30 release awards for drum--an even split between red and black drum. Nathan Reynolds caught and released the weekend's longest black drum, a 54-incher, at buoy 13 while Robert Savage, Jr. released two red drum (46 and 50 inches) at Fishermen's Island. The buoy 13 area also produced several large sheepshead, as H.D. Hodges (8 pounds, 11 ounces), Bowdoin Lusk (9 pounds, 5 ounces), Tommy Shaw (11 pounds, 14 ounces) and Barry Courtney (12 pounds, 13 ounces) all boated citation-winning fish. These same waters also yielded citation spadefish for James Beasley, Jr. (9-1/4 pounds) and Luther Butler (9 pounds, 1 ounce). Clem Pruitt caught citation trout of 10-1/4 pounds and 9 pounds, 2 ounces in two trips to the Fishermen's Island Bridge.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported plenty of good-sized croaker in 30 to 40 feet of water off Onancock, where water temperatures are still in the low 60's. Mixed in with the croaker were some flounder, trout, bluefish and spot. One customer hooked but lost a cobia last week. Just north of Onancock "loads of small croaker have moved up," according to Captain Wil, "and I hope they keep moving up," into Maryland.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Jackie at Cobbs Marina registered a citation spadefish from the Tower Reef for Gary West ( 10 pounds, 3 ounces), a citation sheepshead from buoy 13 for Miquel Romas (9 pounds, 3 ounces) and a citation striped bass from the CBBT for Steven Coburn (42 pounds). Customers also reported scattered catches of flounder and croaker at the CBBT.

Lou from Bubba's Marina also had reports of flounder at the CBBT complex, as the shop registered two citation flatfish from the First Island area of the crossing but overall catches were slow. School-sized stripers and pan trout did provide good sport around the CBBT islands, where spadefish are beginning to show. Black and red drum are still biting off Kiptopeke while snapper bluefish and small flounder were hitting around the Lesner Bridge.

Dr. Jim Wright said snapper bluefish and pan trout were holding near the 12 MP of the CBBT while school stripers were plentiful over the tubes. Offshore, chopper bluefish were abundant at the Hot Dog, where school bluefin tuna are due to arrive soon.

Wallace's Marina said spot, croaker and flounder were biting at the Hump, but the week's biggest flounder, a 7-pound, 13-ouncer by Tom Martin and a 7-1/2 pounder by Carlin Thomas, were both caught at Back River Reef. Black and red drum continue to provide splendid action at Latimer Shoals, where the crew aboard FLOOD TIDE all earned release awards for black drum to 50 inches Friday night. Good-sized trout are biting around the CBBT islands and high rise section plus the HRBT. Largest fish weighed last week went an impressive 10 pounds, 5 ounces.

Debbie from Sunset Marina said striped bass provided most of the weekend excitement, as the crew aboard the MATTIE J flyrodded a limit of stripers to 34 inches at the CBBT on Saturday and boated fish to 25 pounds at the M & M crossing on Sunday. A weekend outing to the CBBT complex for the crew on the C STALLION produced striped bass to 36 inches while Captain Jim Baugh and his crew boated a limit of bass to 28 inches at the Second Island. Customers caught flounder to 5 pounds, 11 ounces at the HRBT but a majority of the flatfish were "throwbacks" of less than 17 -1/2 inches.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina knew of good-sized flounder pulled from the ammo loading dock on Hampton Bar and the Third and Fourth islands of the CBBT. Terry Stokes caught and released a 44-inch black drum at 9-Foot Shoals while other anglers reported catching a mixture of pan trout and croaker.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said "everything is starting to show now that we're finally getting some warmer weather." As the shop heard of cobia in the Bay and loads of flounder, though most under 17-1/2 inches, in the Gloucester Point section of the York River. The York River was also yielding some spot, the occasional trout and "coolers full" of croaker with most running 1/2 to 1-pound in weight.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say both black and red drum are available from buoy 13 to 9-Foot Shoals. Don Foreman and Don Lancaster fished the 9-Foot Shoal area for red drum, using peeler crab for bait and each caught and released a citation-sized spadefish of slightly more than 22 inches. Phillip Neill fished near buoy 13 and released three black drum to 50 inches. A three-man crew aboard the HEALTHY GRIN fished the South Tower for amberjack with live croaker. The trio failed to catch an amberjack in the 69-degree water but landed several large sea bass and some spadefish. From here, trolling rigs were deployed on a heading for the Chenago wreck site. About two miles from the wreck, the 80-pound trolling outfit, rigged with a horse ballyhoo and Islander and fishing "way back" was hit and nearly spooled. The group chased the fish and had the wind-on-leader in sight but the fish spooked, screamed away again and the hook pulled. A giant bluefin, perhaps?

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported croaker "all over the river and Bay" while some large grey trout were available at the Target Ships. Anglers chumming the Northern Neck Reef and Asphalt Pile areas are catching plenty of striped bass plus a few taylor blues. Roger added that several large bluefish, weighing nearly 10 pounds, had been caught recently in local pound nets.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said chummers are catching plenty of striped bass and the occasional bluefish in the waters surrounding the Northern Neck Reef site while bottom fishermen are catching mainly croaker and the occasional keeper flounder.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said water temperatures dropped to 63 degrees over the weekend when it should be "70 degrees or more by now." In spite of the weather, the weekend did produce the shop's first citation flounder, a 7-pound, 5-ounce beauty, caught near the Gwynn Island Reef by Wayne Fox of Hudgins on a minnow. Jerry said croaker and spot are still available in the creeks and rivers but folks seeking bigger croaker are running to the south end of Cut Channel and fishing in 35 to 40 feet of water. Big spadefish and grey trout are biting at the Cell. James Strickler of Port Haywood boated two citation-winning spadefish of 9 pounds and 9 pounds, 9 ounces on clam, William Whitley of Gloucester nailed a 10-pound, 2-ounce spadefish on Friday and Tom Hawk of Maidens boated a 9-1/2 pounder on Saturday. Brian Day of Gwynn caught a 10-pound, 10-ounce grey trout at the Cell on a plastic jig aboard WET DREAMS.

Locklies Marina said medium to large croaker and spot were biting in the river, off the Silos while the occasional keeper-sized striped bass was caught around the bridge pilings. Flounder action was rated "slow" in the river but spadefish were biting at the Cell.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen were catching plenty of croaker just off the marina, at buoy 19, and downriver, to buoy 16. 

Captain Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina fished "across the Bay" on Monday, off Nassawadox Creek in 32 feet of water and loaded up on large croaker, plus some flounder to 22 inches and school stripers. Peeler crab proved to be the best bait. Captain Jim also heard of good catches of grey trout up to 7 pounds at the Cell and recommended using jigs tipped with peeler crab for the trout.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported excellent catches of black sea bass by the headboat fleet while private boats and some of the charter fleet had caught spadefish at the Tower Reef. Several charter boats ran "way south" on Friday and returned with yellowfin tuna and dolphin.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina weighed-in the state record bluefin tuna last week, saying "that was quite a fish." A group of boats from Rudee fished "way south" that day and all had yellowfin tuna plus some gaffer dolphin. Closer to home, "we just can't get any warm water," and the bluewater season has yet to begin. However, big bluefish are holding offshore on the SE Lumps and sea bass are congregated on the ocean wrecks.

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - The pier could not be reached by phone but other reports indicated the season's first "keeper" cobia had been caught. Bottom fishermen were catching good numbers of croaker plus some sea mullet, pan trout, small flounder and the ever present skate.

Buckroe Beach - Bottom fishermen are catching a mixture of medium croaker, sea mullet, spot and the occasional keeper flounder. Pan trout and larger croaker are hitting after sundown. A 33-1/2 pound cobia was decked Monday. 

Harrison - Several Spanish mackerel were decked Monday but weekend catches consisted mainly of 13 to 16-inch flounder, croaker and spot with pan trout showing after dark.

Lynnhaven - Anglers are catching a variety of fish including sea mullet, taylor bluefish, striped bass and some keeper flounder.

Virginia Beach - Sea mullet, croaker and spot provided most of the recent action but casters also managed some taylor bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel. The water temperature around the pilings was 65 degrees on Tuesday.

Sandbridge - Bottom fishermen using bloodworm pieces for bait and fishing the late evening tide did well on sea mullet and pan trout last week. Casters are catching taylor bluefish and a few Spanish mackerel.

Outer Banks, NC -

Catches along the Nags Head area beaches and piers were dominated by taylor bluefish on Friday, though scattered catches of croaker, mullet and spot were also made during the day. A handful of persistent anglers managed a few bluefish in the driving rain on Saturday. Sunday, croaker, spot and sea mullet were caught in the muddy surf. Water temperatures were back near the 60-degree mark on Monday but a few Spanish mackerel were caught from the piers, as well as some sea mullet along the surf line.

South of Oregon Inlet, decent catches of sea mullet, a 40-pound cobia plus some spot and pompano were caught at Cape Point in Buxton on Friday. On Saturday, eleven cobia were caught by six different fishermen using a kayak to carry their baits past the first bar. Beach fishermen scored a few Spanish mackerel early morning but snapper blues provided the action the remainder of the day. No cobia were caught Sunday but decent catches of pompano, sea mullet, bluefish and even a 32-inch red drum were reported. Even more pompano were caught on Monday with some fish of nearly 3 pounds reported. Flounder and puppy rounded out the day's take from the beach.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported excellent catches of bigeye tuna and large yellowfin tuna on Friday. For the day, eight bigeye tuna tipped the scales at over 200 pounds and seven yellowfin tuna weighed 90 pounds or better. Inshore boats scored with plenty of taylor bluefish and some Spanish mackerel and cobia. Saturday, the results were similar, plus some gaffer dolphin were sprinkled in the catch. The crew on the REEL MAGIC boated five bigeye over 100 pounds while the SKILIGAL had three with a lunker of 198 pounds. The excellent tuna bite continued Sunday, as the POINT RUNNER returned with nine bigeye tuna and the FIN GALLEY had a dozen nice yellowfin tuna. The bite slowed Monday, with the average catch about eight yellowfin plus an occasional bigeye. Inshore, Spanish mackerel numbers improved while bluefish numbers remained steady. Several boats had good catches of cobia while working the tide lines. For the period, the headboat recorded good catches of croaker but little else.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet reported good catches of gaffer dolphin on Friday, when the BIG EYE and GODSPEED each released a blue marlin and the SUNDOWN a sailfish. On Saturday and Sunday, rain and wind kept most boats in port, though some dolphin and wahoo were caught and the GECKO released a sailfish. Monday was fishable, and the fleet recorded good catches of dolphin to 51 pounds and a scattering of wahoo (a 50.8 pounder was landed aboard the NANCY K) and yellowfin tuna.

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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