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The Saltwater Review - 23 June 2004

Vol. 18, No. 6
by Lewis S. Gillingham


Virginia's Trophy Striped Bass season opened May 1 and ran through June 15.  This special season carried a 32-inch minimum size limit coupled with a one-fish bag limit. From May 1 through May 16, anglers could possess one-fish, 32 inches or greater.   From May 16 through June 15, anglers were 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 could 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 web site by June 30.

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 late summer closed period runs from September 8 through September 21.  The winter-closed period remains December 1 through December 31.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size and possession limit have both changed.  The minimum size limit decreased from 17-1/2 inches to 17 inches in 2004.  The possession limit likewise decreased, from 8 flounder last season to 6 summer flounder in 2004.

The NMFS has increased the bluefin tuna retention limit from 1 to 2 tuna as of June 21, 2004.  See the attached announcement for details. 

Flounder fishermen are seeing a transition in their quarry, as water temperatures rise and flounder move into their summer haunts-deepwater, channel edges and structure. 

Offshore, some of the best yellowfin tuna catches in years were recorded the past 10 days (weather permitting).  Best concentrations of tuna have generally been located along the 100-fathom line from the Washington Canyon and south, down to Triple 0's, on the temperature breaks..

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported excellent fishing the past week for flounder, croaker and trout.  Croaker moved inside the inlet two weeks ago and the best concentration of fish stretched from Four Mouths to the canal.  Four Mouths also held lots of flounder but most were less than 17 inches.  Keeper-sized flatfish were caught at Cockle Creek, along Assateague Channel, Black Narrows and in the main channel near Captain Bob's.  Trout weighing as much as 8 pounds were caught around the pilings of the Queen's Sound Bridge with the best action coming after sundown.  Offshore, yellowfin tuna and a scattering of gaffer dolphin were caught in the vicinity of the Washington Canyon.  The charter boat TOPLESS boated eight tuna on a mid-week trip and the fish ranged from 25 to 52 pounds.  Shark and big bluefish were on the inshore lumps but Donna had no reports of any bluefin tuna.

Barnacle Bill's said croaker were caught around the mouth of the inlet and inside Curtis Merritt Harbor.  Some keeper flounder were boated inside Queen's Sound but "there's an awful lot of throwbacks," warned the shop.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported a good yellowfin tuna bite offshore with some of the best hauls made at the Washington Canyon, where several gaffer-sized dolphin were also boated.  Ron Schneider weighed-in an 11-pound, 9-ounce spadefish but the citation catch was made on the bayside, around Silver Beach tower.

Captain Zed's indicated the inshore flounder bite had improved recently, as one of the charter boats had 30 keepers.  The best recent hauls were made near the old lighthouse and off the Hummocks.  Bottom fishermen are also catching some spot and croaker.  Offshore, yellowfin tuna and a scattering of dolphin provided steady action at the Norfolk and Washington canyons.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported citation-sized cobia, flounder and red drum were checked-in the past week.  Robert Savage, Jr. released a 52-inch cobia and a 52-inch red drum at the Inner Middle Grounds.  The same trip produced a 51-inch cobia release and a 46-1/2-inch red drum release for Robin Wallace.  Mike Wilson (48-1/2 inches) and Jason Sparrow (48 inches) earned release awards for red drum.   The fishing companions were fishing Latimer Shoals, near the High Rise section of the CBBT.  Jack Cranford released a pair of big drum (48 and 53 inches) while fishing the Fishermen Island Shoals and Buddy Vaughn released a red drum off Oyster.  The shop also registered a pair of citation flounder, as Bob Bois boated an 8-pounder off Cape Charles and Juanita Samples landed a 7-1/4-pound flatfish at the Cell.  Weekend bottom fishermen were rewarded with good hauls of large croaker in the vicinity of buoys 36A and 38A.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Fin Charters reported good numbers of croaker in the Onancock area, plus "they're all real fat now," unlike earlier this spring, when the fish were long and lean.  Hard bottom areas close to shore, in 10 to 12 feet of water, produced a range of croaker up to about 17 inches, bluefish, porgy, sea mullet, small spot and "very small" trout.  Captain Wil said jumbo croaker were located in an area "about 7 miles south" and in 50 to 55 feet of water.  Local anglers are catching a few speckled trout-mainly in the evenings, along grassy shorelines.  Despite warm, seasonal weather, surface waters in the main stem of the Bay are still a mild 70 degrees.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina weighed a 32-inch, 9-1/2-pound grey trout for John Adams.  The citation catch was made off Ocean View.  The marina indicated large croaker, black and red drum were biting around the CBBT islands while several cobia were boated over the weekend at Latimer Shoals.  Pods of spadefish were holding around some of the CBBT pilings.  The marina rated the CBBT flounder bite as "OK" but said many of the keepers were barely 17 inches.

Lou at Bubba's Marina registered a variety of citation winning fish from the CBBT the past week-sheepshead, cobia, red drum and flounder but added, "nothing was really plentiful."  Lou said small flounder were abundant the mouth of Lynnhaven Inlet and some good hauls of spot and croaker were made inside the inlet "at times."

Dr. Jim Wright said Spanish mackerel and snapper blues were holding in the tide lines from Cape Henry to below Rudee Inlet.  Offshore, yellowfin tuna plus some gaffer dolphin provided splendid action the past week and some seasoned charter captains even called it "the best offshore fishing in years." 

Wallace's Marina weighed cobia up to 83 pounds (the current state leader caught by Scott Breeden) the past two weeks but overall catches remain sporadic.  Most of the cobia caught have come from the Bluefish Rock/Grandview Beach area and have hit some kind of a live bait-usually an eel or croaker.

Sunset Marina said Orand Seaman boated a fat, 3-pound, 5-ounce croaker at the HRBT early in the week and several anglers recorded good hauls of croaker near the bridge over the weekend.  Luke Lenix released a 52-inch red drum at the 13 MP of the CBBT and the shop weighed a 52-pound cobia from the Baltimore Channel on Saturday.   The marina told of decent flounder catches off Fort Monroe, on Hampton Bar and off Buckroe.  The crew aboard the MATTIE-J boated the biggest flounder of the weekend, an impressive 8-pound, 3-ouncer, at Hampton Bar on Sunday. 

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said Barry Bradley boated a 7-pound, 27-1/2-inch flounder at the CBBT aboard the private boat FREE BIRD.  Louis Wright fished the same area earlier in the week and boated a 7-pound, 2-ounce, 28-inch flounder.  Stephen Jones (46 inches) and Bryan Jones (48 inches) each earned release awards for big red drum at the CBBT, where "Gibby" Gibson landed a 19-inch, 3-pound, 2-ounce croaker.  Cindy added that many customers fished for cobia the past week but "ended up catching other stuff."

A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen were still making big hauls of croaker above the Coleman Bridge at the "lump," located off Cheatham Annex.  Some keeper flounder were boated near the pilings of the Coleman Bridge on the south side.  The Gloucester Point Pier has re-opened (it was closed after Isabel nearly demolished the structure last September) and bottom fishermen are catching a mixture of croaker, spot and small flounder.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club told of excellent offshore action for yellowfin tuna along the 100-fathom line from the Norfolk Canyon to Triple 0's.  Most anglers are using rigged ballyhoo and often go through 4 or 5 dozen of the slender baitfish an outing.  Several white marlin and some gaffer dolphin were caught in the same area.  Amberjack are holding around the southern towers but the AJ's off the Virginia coast (Tower Reef, Gulf Hustler, etc.) have not been as cooperative.  The spadefish bite at most of the popular ocean sites remains lethargic.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported 242 boats registered for the 21st annual Reedville Bluefish Derby, held June 11-13.  The biggest bluefish was caught by Sam Swink of Glen Allen at the Southwest Middle Grounds.  The first place blue weighed 9.15 pounds and was caught while chumming with ground menhaden.  The second place bluefish weighed 3.47 pounds and was caught by Jim Hester while Preston Webb boated the third biggest bluefish at 3.02 pounds.  Carl Moyar of Mechanicsville caught the heaviest rockfish and the fish weighed 25.15 pounds.  Wayne Hennage finished in second place with a 20.60 rock and David Nova placed third with a 19.33-pound striper.  Roger added that schools of the biggest croaker were out in deepwater while several keeper flounder were caught near the jetty.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said the charter fleet worked in Maryland waters at the Middle Grounds the past week and returned with limits catches of school stripers and snapper bluefish.  Local waters remain loaded with mixed sizes of croaker while anglers drifting between the jetty and Smith Point Light caught decent numbers of flounder up to 22 inches.  Dan added that Spanish mackerel have yet to make an appearance in area waters but "we're looking for them to arrive soon."

Jerry Thrash at Queen's Creek Outfitters reported medium-sized croaker and a scattering of spot were caught off Gwynn Island in 25 feet of water over the weekend.  A good concentration of larger croaker was off Reedville, on the upper end of Cut Channel.  Croaker numbers diminished in the buoy42/Cell area but the flounder bite improved significantly, though no citation flatfish (7 pound minimum) were weighed.  Small spadefish now dominate the catch at the Cell and Wolftrap Light, though the shop did weigh a 12-pound, 3-ounce, 22-inch beauty for Roane Booker of Gloucester.  Speckled trout made a fair showing inside Mobjack Bay and several were caught in the Rappahannock River.

Locklies Marina told of excellent bottom fishing for croaker and spot "right across from Parrots Island in 39 feet of water."  Most of the croaker are running from 1 to as much as 2-1/2 pounds.  The spot are exceptionally large for early summer, as the shop weighed five that were 16 ounces or better in the last week.

Garrett's Marina said bottom fishermen were loading coolers full of croaker "right across the river at buoy 19."

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported excellent offshore action for 25 to 50-pound yellowfin tuna.  On Friday BIG WOODY limited out on yellowfin and the FROG PILE was just one shy of a limit.  Saturday saw more good catches of yellowfin plus some gaffer dolphin and skipjack tuna.  Inshore boats caught loads of taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel.  On Sunday, all trips were cancelled due to rough sea conditions.  By Monday seas had begun to calm and several boats fished inshore and did well on taylor blues and Spanish mackerel.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina told of limit catches of yellowfin tuna, some gaffer dolphin and a few billfish.  "Finally, we've really got the fish.  We had parties come in from tuna fishing and they didn't have cooler space for all their fish."  Earlier in the week, most of the action was located near the 100-fathom curve but stretched from the 400 down to the 900.  By late in the week, yellowfin were caught as shallow as 20 fathoms between the 360 and 395 lines (Fingers), where several bluefin tuna were also boated.  Inshore trolling action has been even more productive in terms of numbers, as boats trolling within easy sight of the beach at Sandbridge loaded up on snapper bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Virginia Piers -

Grandview -Closed indefinitely.

Buckroe Beach - The pier was completely destroyed by hurricane Isabel. The city of Hampton has expressed an interest to build a pier in this area.

Harrison - Closed indefinitely.

Lynnhaven - Bottom fishermen enjoyed decent mixed catches of medium croaker, sea mullet, bluefish and pigfish the past week.  The evenings have also produced a steady run of blue crabs.

Virginia Beach - A spokesman for the pier said, "we're catching more blues than anything else," and then added that bottom fishermen were landing some croaker, sea mullet and small flounder in the evenings.  Water temperature around the pier ranged from a low of 70 degrees early in the week to 75 degrees on Wednesday (June 23).

Sandbridge - Ed said Spanish mackerel blitzed the pier on Friday, "until the storm came through," and the pier was closed.  By Saturday morning, surf waters were muddy and only a few sea mullet and spot were caught for the remainder of the weekend.  "Except," chuckled Ed, "there were all the skate you could want."

Outer Banks, NC -

Surf water temperatures took a nose-dive from the low 70's to the mid 60's along the Nags Head area beaches over the weekend and the fishing suffered.  Still, persistent anglers managed a mixture of sea mullet, spot, croaker and bluefish.  The two area piers had similar catches, though anglers from the ends of the piers did manage some Spanish mackerel.  Water temperatures were back into the low 70's by Tuesday.  Weekend anglers lining the beach at Oregon Inlet had mixed catches of croaker, spot, sea mullet, flounder and skate.  Folks fishing the Catwalk at Oregon Inlet managed some keeper flounder (North Carolina size limit is 14 inches), sheepshead, spot and bluefish.

Anglers fishing around Buxton caught some nice flounder and a scattering of taylor bluefish just south of the Point on Friday.  On Saturday, bait fishermen reeled-in a scattering of croaker, flounder and shark.  On Sunday several yearling black drum were beached at the jetties while anglers fishing the Point managed some Spanish mackerel and flounder.  A decent run of Spanish mackerel and bluefish developed at the Point early Monday morning.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported a 255-pound bigeye tuna was landed on Thursday and the fleet enjoyed good catches of yellowfin tuna, many in the 50-pound class, plus some gaffer dolphin and king mackerel on Friday.  Over the weekend, the yellowfin tuna bite remained steady, king mackerel were located just 6 miles outside the sea buoy and gaffer-sized dolphin were caught within sight of the beach. 

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet encountered rough sea conditions Friday and recorded less than stellar catches, which included mostly dolphin and a few king mackerel.  On Saturday the GODSPEED and TUNA DUCK released a white marlin, the LUCKY CHIP released a pair of whites and the SUSHI released a sailfish and a white, as the fleet returned to the dock with mixed catches of gaffer dolphin, blackfin tuna and wahoo.  Father's Day Sunday the fleet reported mixed catches of dolphin, blackfin tuna, king mackerel and wahoo.

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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