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The Saltwater Review - 30 June 2004

Vol. 18, No. 7
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Due to the observance of the Fourth of July holiday, the Virginia Saltwater Review will not be published the week of July 4- 9.

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. 

Big flounder decided to eat the past week, as the VSWFT had its best week of the season for 7-pound plus flounder.  Top locations for the bigger flounder had at least two things in common-deepwater and channel edge or structure. 

Offshore, some of the best yellowfin tuna catches in years were recorded the past two-plus weeks.  Best concentrations of tuna have generally been located between 20 and 100-fathom line.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported bluefin tuna arrived at the Parking Lot last week, where Jessie Sholtz boated a 73.5 pounder while chunking with butterfish.  The same trip produced a 58-pound bluefin.  Further offshore, yellowfin tuna of nearly 50 pounds and dolphin of over 20 pounds were caught by trollers working out near the Washington Canyon.  Bluefish seem to have disappeared from the Lumpy Bottom but several mako shark in the 120 to 130-pound range were caught at this location.  Inside the inlet, the main channel within sight of Captain Bob's produced steady action for flounder.  The biggest flounder of the week was caught at Queen's Sound and weighed 7-1/2 pounds.  Croaker are becoming more abundant with each passing day with the best concentrations found between the CV marker and buoy 15.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported good weekend catches of tuna, despite less than ideal weather conditions.  Decent numbers of bluefin tuna arrived on the inshore hills the past week with some of the bigger tuna landed at the 26 Mile Hill.  The crew aboard the JAMES GANG boated an 83-pounder on Sunday at the 26 Mile Hill and Bob Rider nailed a 113-pound, 2-ounce bluefin at the same location earlier in the week.  Gaffer dolphin are scattered about the same areas and several billfish were caught and released the past week.  The crew aboard the HEAT WAVE released a white marlin on Sunday.

Randy Lewis at Captain Zed's also told of good catches of bluefin tuna at the 26 Mile Hill, as both the CANYON LADY and SCORPIO limited out on bluefin at the 26 Mile Hill over the weekend.  The crew aboard the AMERICAN MADE caught the weekend's biggest bluefin, a 111-pound tuna, at the 20 Fathom Finger.  Inside the inlet, Randy described the flounder bite as excellent, "we're seeing more keepers (17 inches or longer) now than at any time during the season.  Randy suggested Horseshoe Lead for flounder but Green and Drawing channels for bottom fishermen seeking croaker.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle Shop reported good flounder catches off Cape Charles, especially at the Cell, where J.T. Burgess nailed a 7-pound, 5-ouncer, the High Rise section of the CBBT, where William Brown decked a 9-pound, 7-ouncer and the Baltimore Channel, where Ronald Johnson boated the weekend's biggest flatfish, at 29 inches and 11 pounds, 14 ounces!  Hank Conley (10 pounds, 3 ounces) and Mike Griffith (10 pounds, 11 ounces) both boated citation spadefish at the Cell and Robert Savage Jr. (51 inches) earned a release citation for red drum at the Middle Grounds.  Dave Griffith released a 72-inch shark at Cobb Island, Richard Temple released a 54-inch cobia at the Fourth Island and Turk McCauley boated a 61-pound, 3-ounce cobia at Latimer Shoals.

Onancock -

Croaker remain abundant over shell piles, channel edges and along the edges of grass beds.  The bigger fish are found in deepwater during the day but move into water 20 feet or less in the late evenings and after dark. Speckled trout up to 4 pounds were caught around Parkers Island but catches of these spotted fish remain sporadic.  Flounder fishing remains above average with flatfish to nearly 7 pounds pulled from Hacks Rock. Bottom fishermen are also catching some spot but trout remain scarce.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported sheepshead have moved in amongst the pilings of the CBBT and several customers had impressive hauls of these "convict" fish.  The marina also heard the spadefish were often spotted around the CBBT complex but these fish "just weren't biting."   The most consistent recent action was for flounder, especially around the Third and Fourth islands, along the small boat channel (located between the First Island and shore) and off Ocean View.  Pods of black drum still linger around the rocks islands of the CBBT, where customers hooked several the past week.

Bubbas Marina told of red drum on the shoals near the High Rise section of the CBBT, cobia at Latimer Shoals and large flounder along the Baltimore Channel.  Inside the inlet, bottom fishermen recorded fair, mixed catches of croaker, spot and flounder.

Dr. Jim Wright drifted live spot over the tube at the Second Island and caught flounder to 5 pounds and released several striped bass.  Dr. Jim heard the amberjack bite at the South Tower, which is usually a sure bet using live bait at this time, was uncharacteristically slow.  Divers reported seeing large amberjack at the Chesapeake Light Tower but there were no reports of any catches.  Further offshore, the bluefin tuna bite was very good at the 26 Mile Hill while yellowfin tuna provided good action between the Fingers and the Norfolk Canyon.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina weighed-in several citation winning fish the past week.  Larry Snider boated a 22-inch, 8-pound sheepshead on clam at the CBBT, where Barry Brady decked a 7-pound, 27-1/2-inch flounder on a bucktail.  Jerry Wenner landed a 150-pound, 82-inch mako shark on a trolled ballyhoo at the Fingers.  But perhaps the most impressive catch was a 68-pound cobia, caught at Bluefish Rock by Tackson Tam, on a light bottom rig baited with bloodworm.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the flounder bite "has really picked-up," especially at the Cell and off Cape Charles.  Keeper flatfish are also caught inside the York River with some of the best hauls coming near the Coleman Bridge.  The croaker bite in the York is "still good," and the "lump," located upriver from the Coleman Bridge, is one of the top locations.  Chuck was happy to report that the Gloucester Point Pier, a free public fishing pier that was heavily damaged by hurricane Isabel last September, is "fully open."  On the downside, "cobia are just about non-existent" at York Spit, according to Ash.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the flounder bite was good at "all the normal spots from the Cell, down to the CBBT" the past week.  Matt Rinck and crew fished the CBBT for flounder and they caught nearly two-dozen including several over 6 pounds plus a 7-1/2-pound citation winner for Dave Rinck.  Bobby Scott and his crew fished the Back River Reef site for just a few hours and boated over a dozen flounder to 22 inches.  Cobia action improved over the weekend, especially at the Inner Middle Ground, where Phillip Neil released a 54-inch cobia and little brother Keith Neil boated a 68-inch, 88-pounder.  Offshore, bluefin tuna are available at the Fingers and 26 Mile Hill but so are loads of bluefish and skipjack tuna plus the occasional yellowfin tuna.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported most of the larger croaker have moved to deep water and the best action is late in the evening or after sundown.  Some keeper flounder linger around the jetty while schools of surface feeding bluefish are active throughout the lower portion of the river.  Roger paused and added, "We still haven't seen any Spanish mackerel or trout."

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said good-sized spot were caught at the spike buoy and pulled from several of the deeper holes in the Piankatank River.  Spot are also taking bloodworms baits fished off Gwynn Island in 25 to 30 feet of water.  Pan trout made a decent showing inside the Rappahannock River last week and peeler crab is the favored bait.  The Cell and Wolftrap Light yielded a few large spadefish but fish less than 2 pounds are far more common.  The bigger spadefish seem to bite best on slack tide, according to Jerry.  The top news of the week was the red-hot flounder bite at the Cell/buoy 42 area.  The charter boat LESS STRESS boated 14 keeper flatfish on a recent outing, including a 27-inch, 7-pound citation winner for 84-year old Victor Long.  The shop registered five other citation flounder from the same area, including an 8-pound plus fish for Wayne Nuthall. Greg Thayer checked-in the heaviest flounder of the week, a fat 8-pound, 10-ounce fish but it was caught at the CBBT complex.  Decent catches of speckled trout were recorded at Cherry Point, and Gwynn Island.  Charles Hudgins nailed a 22-inch, 3-1/2-pound croaker in the Piankatank River, at Shove Point.   

Locklies Marina said good-sized croaker plus some large spot are holding off Parrots Island in about 40 feet of water.  Bloodworm pieces and small chunks of peeler crab are the top baits.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen are hauling in plenty of good-sized croaker "just across the river" near buoy 19.

Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said most of the larger croaker have left the mid-portion of the Bay.  "We're catching more flounder in the buoy 42 area now that they (croaker) are gone."  The structure of the Cell is also producing good-sized spadefish while the Rappahannock has good numbers of mixed sizes of spot.  Sturgeon Bar and the #3 spike buoy produced the best hauls of larger spot while Butlers Hole was rated as "fair" for spot and medium-sized croaker.  Sea mullet and a few pan trout are mixed in with the spot and croaker.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported excellent offshore action for yellowfin tuna.  The weather on Saturday was a bit rough but all the offshore boats returned with a mixture of yellowfin and gaffer dolphin.  Inshore boats caught plenty of taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel.  On Sunday the weather improved and the tuna bite remained good.  The FROGPILE was the top boat with 8 yellowfin and a pair of gaffer dolphin (one topped 20 pounds).  Frank Lowling, Jr., Anthony Potts and Eric Dubois all caught and released 40-inch bluefish (earning release awards) on an inshore wreck.

Paula Owens from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the offshore yellowfin tuna bite remains excellent.  Trollers are also picking up a few gaffer dolphin and the occasional white marlin and bluefin tuna.  Very few of the charter boats have fished deliberately for bluefin because "the yellowfin are so close and the limit for bluefin is small (two bluefin between 27 inches and up to 73 inches curved fork length)."  The best tuna bite has been between the 350 and 450 lines and the 850 to 900 lines.

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 - Daytime anglers are catching more crabs than fish, though some keeper flounder up to 5 pounds, sea mullet, taylor blues and croaker were decked.  Sheepshead have appeared around the pilings.  Taylor blues plus a few Spanish mackerel were caught by casters working the end of the pier in the late evening.  Pan trout are showing "around the lights" after sundown.

Virginia Beach - Sea mullet and croaker provide most of the action here for bottom fishermen-plus the ever-present skates and rays.  Casters are catching taylor blues and a few Spanish mackerel "early and late" in the day from the end of the pier.

Sandbridge - Bottom fishermen enjoyed sporadic but strong runs of sea mullet and croaker the past week.  Several pompano were decked-along with plenty of skates and rays.  Casters working the end of the pier enjoyed good runs of taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel in the evenings when clear water conditions were present.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen in the Nags Head area recorded decent catches of taylor blues and sea mullet plus the occasional keeper flounder, pompano and speckled trout.   Area piers enjoyed the same assortment; only bluefish were more abundant and often mixed with Spanish mackerel.  Water temperatures in the surf held in the mid-70's.

The fleet sailing from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center enjoyed a solid week of good yellowfin tuna catches with many of the tuna in the 50-pound range.  Most offshore trips produced a few to near limit catches of gaffer dolphin as well.  A scattering of billfish (whites, blues and sailfish) were also caught and released by the fleet.  Inshore boats recorded fair catches of taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel but the torrid cobia bite slowed in recent days.

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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