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The Saltwater Review - July 9, 2003

Volume 17. No. 8
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 ran through Sunday, June 15. Now that the spring trophy season has closed, anglers should report all catches (when kept) of striped bass 32 inches and greater. By regulation, 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 agency web site (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.

Cobia and red drum continue to provide good action in the Latimer and 9-Foot shoals areas. Most of the cobia are being caught during the daylight hours, when Chad Boyce boated a 53-pounder, while the best red drum bite occurs after sun down. Live fish and eel or fresh cut menhaden are the preferred baits for cobia while cut bait or peeler crab is favored by the drum crowd.

Flounder are finally starting to show some life and the best bite has been along the deeper channel edges leading into or out of the Bay, the CBBT structure and the Cell/buoy 42 area.

Offshore, a scattering of bluefin tuna were caught on the inshore lumps and hills but chopper bluefish continue to dominate these areas. Most boats from the Rudee Inlet fleet looking for yellowfin tuna continue to run "way south" for their quarry but some yellowfin have been taken around the Cigar and Norfolk Canyon.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported several large bluefin tuna were boated at the lumpy bottom by chunkers early in the week, as Myrell Robbins (130 pounds, 10 ounces) and Pat Byerly (130-1/4 pounds) each registered citation tuna. Unfortunately for the inshore weekend crews, the bluefin bite all but halted over the long Fourth of July holiday, though plenty of chopper bluefish were caught. Further offshore, weekend trollers did locate some yellowfin tuna and dolphin near the Norfolk Canyon in 50 fathoms. The shop also checked-in a pair of citation tautog, as Mike Barnes pulled-in a 10-3/4 pounder at Winter Quarter Shoal and Greg Halter, Jr. nailed a 10-pound, 9-ounce specimen on an ocean wreck 10 miles from the inlet. Inside the inlet, medium-sized croaker are abundant in most areas while trout were caught at Chincoteague Point. Keeper-sized flounder remain scarce with the best weekend hauls made along the north side of Queen's Sound.

Barnacle Bill's said flounder fishing "really improved" the past week with decent numbers of larger flatfish in the 4 to 5 pound range. Top spots were the Queen's Sound Flats and the waters surrounding marker #4. The same areas hold plenty of croaker. Outside the inlet, wreckfishing for black sea bass remains above average while the bluewater crowd find tuna fishing "kinda slow." The lumpy bottom area produced a few bluefin to over 100 pounds but these waters still hold loads of chopper blues. Further offshore, both canyons are yielding a few yellowfin tuna and the occasional gaffer dolphin.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported a few bluefin tuna were caught at 26-Mile Hill but most trollers caught only bluefish. Flounder are reasonably abundant around the Coast Guard Station and at Green and Drawing channels but keeper-sized flatfish (17-1/2-inch minimum) remain scarce.

Captain Zed's accessed the flounder bite as "catching is good but not the keeping," as most anglers struggle to find legal-sized flatfish of 17-1/2 inches or more. Outside the inlet, a sprinkling of bluefin tuna were caught at the 21 and 26-Mile hills while yellowfin tuna were boated at the canyons.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle said huge cobia and big spadefish highlighted the weekend action off Cape Charles. James Beasley, Sr. landed an 88-pound, 10-ounce cobia at buoy 16 on Sunday, where his son, James Jr. had released a 48-1/2-inch cobia just two days earlier. Both fish hit cut bunker fished on the bottom. Randy Josemanns boated a 69-1/4-pound cobia at buoy 16 and Henry Trent landed a 68-1/2 pounder at buoy 13, where Betty Fitzgerald released a 46-inch cobia. Robin Wallace released a 44-inch cobia at 9-Foot Shoals, where Curtis Davidson released a 45-inch red drum. Gary Lovatte also earned a release citation for red drum by releasing a 46-inch drum at Smith Island Inlet. Large spadefish were caught at various locations over the weekend, including buoy 36A, where James Beasley, Sr. released a 21-3/4-inch fish, and the Anglo-African wreck site, where Jenne Conley boated a 9 pounder. Decent catches of flounder were recorded in the vicinity of buoy 36A but the weekend's biggest flatfish was caught at buoy 38A by J.T. Burgess and weighed 9-1/4 pounds.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported the schools of bigger croaker have scattered but good-sized fish are consistently showing in the shallows in evenings. Bottom fishermen are seeing more spot with some of the better hauls coming from around the mouth of the creeks in 10 to 15 feet of water. Other catches include sea mullet, taylor bluefish and flounder. Best chance for keeper flounder has been to drift the channel edges with a strip of squid or cut bait. An 8-1/2-pound flounder was boated at Crammy Hack early in the week.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported spadefish to 6 pounds were caught at the CBBT complex while croaker and the occasional keeper flounder were boated at the ODU Reef site.

Lou from Bubba's Tackle described flounder fishing as "really good" the past several days, with the First and Second islands of the CBBT and the Lesner Bridge the top locations. Outside the Bay, schools of spadefish are still hanging around the Tower Reef "but the average fish has gotten smaller," according to Lou. Trollers working in the vicinity of the Cigar managed a few yellowfin but "it hasn't been great."

Wallace's Marina said the long Fourth of July weekend produced several impressive catches of flounder and spadefish. The crew aboard the FISH DISH wire-lined the High Rise section of the CBBT on Friday and boated three citation flatfish, one each for Mark McFlowers (8 pounds, 13 ounces), Scott Davenport (7 pounds, 9 ounces) and Charles Flanagan (7 pounds). In all, the shop weighed eight flounder in excess of 7 pounds over the weekend from the CBBT complex and the same waters also yielded grey trout to 8-1/2 pounds. Big spadefish were caught both inside the Bay and out in the ocean. York Spit Light was the most productive Bay location but spadefish were also caught around the CBBT pilings. The top two locations for the largest spadefish were the Tower Reef and Anglo-African wreck site. Brandy Cleveland (10 pounds, 11 ounces) weighed the weekend's heaviest spadefish and it was caught at the Anglo-African on a small piece of clam. Spanish mackerel also provided good weekend sport for trollers working the rips off Cape Henry, where crews had as many as two-dozen. One downside to the long, hot weekend was the dramatic fall-off of cobia at Bluefish Rock.

Debbie from Sunset Boating Center said Dr. Stewart boated a 7-pound flounder at the Third Island for the weekend's only citation flatfish but flatfish to 24 inches were caught at Hampton Bar and off Cape Charles. David Johnson of Hampton released a 60-inch cobia at the CBBT and John Wilcox released a 48-inch black drum at buoy 13. Spot made a decent showing around Fort Woll, where Kevin and Sandi Smith boated a dozen "nice ones."

Salt Ponds Marina said the crew aboard the MISS SUSIE had a banner day off Cape Charles recently, as Ed Younkyan boated a 64-inch, 72-pound cobia and released a 40-inch red drum, Ed Moran released a 56-inch red drum and Max Timberlake landed a 59-pound cobia. Other recent notable catches included a 7-pound flounder at the CBBT by Jan Barmer and a 4-pound croaker at the CBBT by Frank Wheeler. The shop also indicated several customers fished the Tower Reef area for spadefish and returned with limit catches.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said flounder fishing had significantly improved around buoy 42 and the Cell the past week while croaker remain abundant in the York River. Spot numbers rose the past week with the best hauls coming from the mouth of the York River and inside Mobjack Bay.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the best yellowfin tuna bite is south of Rudee, near Triple 0's in 80 fathoms, but yellowfin tuna, gaffer dolphin and chopper bluefish can be caught at the Cigar. As for chopper blues, the Fingers are lousy with them while bluefin tuna remain few and far between. Spadefish remain stacked-up around the Chesapeake Light Tower and can even be caught after dark. Big spadefish are also holding around the Anglo-African wreck site. Cobia and red drum remain available at 9-Foot Shoals. Most of the cobia are caught during the daylight hours while the best red drum bite comes after sundown. Good numbers of medium-sized Spanish mackerel have arrived in the rips off Cape Henry.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported croaker remain abundant in local waters while pan trout remain scarce. Decent catches of spot were made up inside the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers over the long weekend while anglers drifting near the jetty managed a handful of keeper flounder. Chummers, working the Triangles area are catching plenty of striped bass (Maryland waters, season is open) but just an occasional bluefish.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said bottom fishing for croaker has been very productive recently with good hauls coming form the Little Wicomico, as well as the Bay. The shop registered a pair of citation croaker and one spot citation last week. Some flounder have been caught at the mouth of the Little Wicomico. Pan trout and Spanish mackerel remain scarce in local waters. Some boaters are running into Maryland waters, anchoring, chumming and returning limit catches of striped bass.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said most of the charter fleet ran across the Bay, to the vicinity of buoy 40A, for the best weekend catches of croaker. The charter craft LESS STRESS ran to an inshore wreck and boated 21 large spadefish weighing up to 9-3/4 pounds. Big spadefish were also caught at Wolftrap Light, where Gary Hamlett boated a 10-pound, 11-ounce fish, and the Cell, where Gayle Ely landed a 9-1/4 pounder. Flounder showed further signs of breaking out of their season long slump, as a group from Hayes, VA boated several dozen keepers, including an 8-pound, 5-ounce whopper by Billy Crewe. They used minnows for bait and drifted the Baltimore Channel. William Crewe landed a 3-pound, 19-inch croaker on the same trip. Another group of anglers fished near the Cell for flounder and finished with a dozen keeper flatfish measuring up to 24 inches. Weekend trollers found plenty of taylor blues off Gwynn Island and over Windmill Point Bar but very few Spanish mackerel.

Jack from Locklies Marina said spot numbers improved while the croaker dwindled the past week. Many of the spot are good-sized with some up to 12 inches. Top locations were the waters off the old pickle factory and the Silos. Trout remain a "no show" but several keeper flounder were boated just above the White Stone Bridge.

Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina said Spanish mackerel have arrived off Windmill Point and trollers are catching them on gold or silver Clark Spoons. Bottom fishermen are catching plenty of croaker plus some small to medium spot and a very few pan trout. Spadefish up to 7 pounds are available at the range light and are hitting small bits of clam.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center recorded its first billfish release this season on the Fourth, as T. Evans Williams of Richmond released a white marlin at the Norfolk Canyon while fishing aboard the BACKLASH. The warm water pocket of water at the Norfolk Canyon also produced decent numbers of 20 to 57 pound yellowfin tuna and a smattering of dolphin. Boats searching for bluefin tuna on the inshore seamounts "about 30 miles out" were greeted by loads of chopper bluefish but very few tuna. The Tower Reef continued to produce loads of spadefish and attract a flotilla of fishing craft not long after sunrise. Spot weighing as much as 19 ounces were caught inside Rudee Inlet.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina described the yellowfin tuna action as very good. Many of the boats are still making the long run south of Rudee but "they're still in early" with a limit of tuna. Boats fishing closer to port are making decent yellowfin catches at the two canyons but "there's not much else out there," meaning dolphin, billfish or wahoo. Anglers using bits of clam for bait and fishing the legs of the Chesapeake Light Tower are still catching plenty of spadefish.

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - Karen said a good number of flounder up to 21 inches were decked over the long holiday weekend. Spot and croaker provided a steady bite while pan trout remain scarce. No cobia were caught recently but a big cobia was lost at pierside after a 30-minute plus fight Sunday.

Buckroe Beach - Bottom fishermen are seeing mixed catches of spot, croaker, small flounder, sea mullet and taylor bluefish. A few Spanish mackerel were landed the past several days and two small cobia were decked and later released.

Harrison - Charley said it was "dog gone slow" during the daytime with only a few spadefish and pompano taken recently. After sundown, bottom fishermen are getting a steady bite of spot and croaker while more pan trout are available around the pier light shadows for casters.

Lynnhaven - Daytime action has been slowed by the heat but after sundown, taylor bluefish, spot, pinfish, crabs, skates and rays become more active.

Virginia Beach - Overall action has been slow--especially during the heat of the day but bottom persistent fishermen are able to manage enough sea mullet, spot and taylor bluefish to have dinner.

Sandbridge - A mixture of sea mullet, spot and taylor blues provided sporadic action the past few days.

Outer Banks, NC -

Anglers fishing along the Nags Head area beaches and piers found little to get excited over during the long holiday weekend. Skates provided the most consistent action for bottom fishermen using bait while casters managed an occasional taylor bluefish. Some sea mullet and medium spot were pulled from the surf which stayed "muddy" with the steady SW wind.

South of Oregon Inlet, Cape Point beach fishermen found a mixture of spot, croaker, sea mullet and the occasional puppy drum on Friday. On Saturday, a scattering of flounder and taylor blues were caught at the jetties while the Point yielded a mixture of spot and croaker. Spot and croaker headed the list of catches Sunday but some flounder and yearling black drum were also caught. Monday morning put taylor blues within casting range briefly but croaker and spot provided the only action the remainder of the day. Southwest winds, to over 20 knots dominated the four day period, as surf waters stayed cloudy.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center recorded excellent catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus one bigeye tuna on Friday. Catches on Saturday and Sunday consisted mainly of yellowfin and most boats returned with a limit of tuna. A 41-pound dolphin was boated Sunday. Most of the fleet had a limit catch of yellowfin tuna on Monday plus five bigeye tuna were landed and the occasional dolphin.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet on the Friday, the Fourth, enjoyed good weather and excellent catches of dolphin plus decent numbers of yellowfin tuna and a few king mackerel and wahoo. Many boats were in early Saturday, due to steady building seas, but had good numbers of dolphin and some yellowfin tuna. Ryan Noland of Hopewell boated a 40-1/2-pound wahoo aboard the HATTERAS FEVER. On Sunday, most of the fleet remained in port due to high winds but those that did fish returned with good numbers of gaffer and bailer dolphin. Winds were still up Monday and only a handful of boats fished. Those that braved the winds recorded good catches of dolphin plus a few wahoo and king mackerel.

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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