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The Saltwater Review - July 12, 2007

Vol. 21, No. 6

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

OVERVIEW

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 15, anglers could possess one-fish, 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 summer flounder have been modified and new restrictions for tilefish, grouper and sheepshead have been adopted.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size limit has been increased, the possession limit has been reduced and a winter and summer closed period has been added. The minimum size limit has increased from 16-1/2 inches (2006) to 18-1/2 inches for 2007. The possession limit has been reduced from 6 to 5 flounder. The winter-closed period runs from 1 January through 31 March and the summer-closed period is from Monday, July 23, through Saturday, July 28. 

Over the past two years, "deep-dropping," a relative term that generally applies to recreational bottom fishing in water greater than 300 feet, has become more popular. Several species of fish, primarily blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, wreckfish and snowy grouper, which had been rarely seen by Virginia recreational fishermen, have become the focus of this new deepwater fishery. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission recently set limits for commercial and recreational fishermen. Recreational possession limits are 7 tilefish in aggregate and 1 grouper of any species per person.

A possession limit of four sheepshead has been established.

The NMFS has adjusted the Angling Category Bluefin Tuna retention limits for the period of June 1 through July 31, 2007. See the attached notice for details.

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's reported good numbers of croaker have arrived inside the inlet. Top locations include Assateague Channel, buoys 11, 13, 15 and 16, the Queen's Sound Bridge and "straight off Captain Bob's." Some nice-sized flounder were weighed-in in the past week but "this is the hardest year for bringing in a keeper flounder that I've seen in 14 years," according to Donna, "it's really been work." A recent bright spot has been the subway car wreck located in the ocean at Blackfish Banks, where anglers recorded big catches of large flounder plus spadefish, triggerfish and even tautog. Farther east, a few bluefin tuna are falling to "the chunk" at the Lumpy Bottom, where trollers score on the occasional king mackerel, gaffer dolphin and yellowfin tuna. One party fished for shark in this area and hooked three makos. More consistent catches of yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin are made in deeper water around the Washington and Norfolk canyons and Jackspot.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported very good offshore action the past several days. James Schavel released a white marlin aboard the POKEM at the south lumps. Jeff Milburn released a white marlin aboard the SEA RANGER, just east of 20 fathoms, at the crotch. The best catches of tuna and dolphin were out in deeper water, around the tip of the Washington Canyon or around the Norfolk Canyon in 500 fathoms. Inside the inlet, bottom fishermen are catching good numbers of flounder, according to the shop but "only about 1 in 10 is a keeper" at 18-1/2 inches or better.

Captain Zed's said anglers fishing inside the inlet are catching plenty of flounder, as high as 60 per boat but "keepers" remain very scarce. Bottom fishermen are also seeing some croaker, spot and sea mullet. Outside the inlet, anglers working the inshore ocean wrecks are returning with decent catches of black sea bass and some triggerfish. Farther offshore, bluefin tuna remain scarce on the hills but trollers finding decent numbers of yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin at the crotch, 30-fathom line and out around the Norfolk and Washington canyons. 

Cape Charles -

Chris' Bait and Tackle described the flounder action as "hit-or-miss" but the shop did weigh three citation flatfish of over 7 pounds. Tommy Johnson boated the biggest, an 8-pound, 11-ounce brute at buoy 42 while fishing buddy Eddie Jones added a 7-pound, 14-ouncer to the cooler. The word on cobia was numerous small fish, many less than the 37-inch minimum size limit. Jim Gordon had the weekend's biggest, a 53-incher, that was landed and then released at buoy 13. Fishing partners Steven Anthony and Gary Bareford, Jr. released twin 46-1/2-inch red drum while fishing off Fishermen's Island. Richard Vanicek was reeling-in a small pan trout at buoy 18 when a 53-inch red drum grabbed the small fish and was hooked, landed and released. Spadefish up to about 4 pounds were caught around the CBBT where a pair of 60-pound class black drum were caught. Anglers searching for spadefish around the Anglo-African wreck site recorded good catches of triggerfish and some small spadefish. Action from the Kiptopeke Park Pier was sporadic and overall results poor over the weekend.

Ernie from Cherrystone Bait and Tackle said bottom fishermen are catching plenty of croaker just off Cherrystone Creek. Most of the fish are running ˝ to 1-1/4 pounds with an occasional fish topping 2 pounds. The shop checked-in several 7-pound plus flounder the past week. Best location for the larger flounder has either been up around the Cell or down around buoy 38A.

Onancock
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Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported mixed sizes of croaker remain plentiful off Onancock with some of the better concentrations of larger croaker holding along the channel edge "just a little south of Onancock," according to Captain Wil. More spot are showing in the daily catch, which normally includes some flounder, snapper bluefish and the occasional pan trout. Fishing pressure remains very light—"its way off compared to just last year," noted Laaksonen.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel

The folks at Cobbs Marina saw a lot of nice flounder from the CBBT the past week, including four flatfish of over 7 pounds. Patrick O'Toole had the lunker of the week at 29-1/2 inches and 10-1/2 pounds. The trophy catch was made at the Third Island, where Julie Guest nailed an 8-pounder on a live croaker. At the Fourth Island, John Taylor landed a 7-pound, 2-ounce flounder. A little past the fourth Island, James McGlone pulled-in a 9-pound, 6-ounce flatfish at the High Rise on a live spot. John Ruff was soaking cut bait at the Second Island and landed a 60-pound, 7-ounce cobia that measured 61 inches. Roger McIntosh boated and released a 49-inch black drum at the First Island. 

Bubba's Marina said bottom fishermen working inside the inlet are still catching slot size puppy drum, croaker and the few keeper flounder. Flounder fishermen can improve their odds on keeper-sized flatfish outside the inlet, along the small boat channel near the First Island and the First and Second island tube.

Wallace's Bait and Tackle told of a steady run of cobia the past week, as the shop weighed-in five fish of 55 pounds or more. Heaviest of the week was caught by Eric Forbes at Nine-Foot Shoals. The citation cobia measured 63 inches, weighed 84-1/2 pounds and hit a big chunk of bunker. Brian Wilkins decked a 57-1/2-pound cobia at the same location on bunker. Chris Belcher caught an 81-1/2-pound cobia off Grandview. He too, was using bunker for bait. Jennifer Morgan used a live croaker to catch a 67-pound cobia at the Middle Grounds. John Rumley was using a live croaker for bait when he landed a 64-1/2-pound cobia at Bluefish Rock.

Sunset Boating Center said Dave Johnson landed and weighed several big cobia off Grandview last week and the heaviest went 64 pounds and measured 57-1/2 inches. Lawson Powell checked-in an 8-pound flounder from the Third Island of the CBBT and the shop had other reports of nice-sized flounder from the CBBT complex. One offshore boat weighed-in a pair of yellowfin tuna, at 52 and 60 pounds, not citation weight (70 pound minimum) but good-sized tuna nonetheless.

Salt Ponds Marina sponsored a flounder/cobia tournament on July Fourth. Thirteen boats participated but only flounder were caught. John Perry weighed the winning flatfish, at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. Just to prove it was not a fluke, Perry boated an even bigger flounder, 27 inches and 7 pounds, 7 ounces, over the weekend. The catches were made at the CBBT aboard the private boat WIRE LIE'N.

A & S Feed and Bait Supply said croaker action remains very good despite the heat. Best catches are coming early and late in the day. The Gloucester Point Pier is good for croaker and small flounder. Small to medium spadefish and cobia are still hanging around York Spit.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said Virginia's offshore tournament season is underway with a tuna tournament going on right now. Timing is good, as the offshore bite remains excellent. Yellowfin tuna and dolphin have been the main catches with a few bigeye tuna, wahoo, and billfish also being caught. Bluefin tuna have been scarce but a few giants have been encountered out in the deep and some 50 pound class bluefin are on the inshore humps like 26 Mile Hill. The best yellowfin bite has been around the Norfolk Canyon but the Cigar has turned on this week. Closer to shore, amberjack and some jack crevalle are holding on wrecks such as the Gulf Hustler and the Ricks, as well as at the Chesapeake Light Tower and the nearby Tower Reef. Hoards of amberjack are swarming around the South Tower. Spadefish continue to be caught at the Tower Reef and along the structure of the CBBT. Some big inshore gamefish are available for sight-cast fishermen. Cobia can be seen cruising in the lower bay and along the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Schools of big red drum are being encountered in these same locations and along the barrier islands of the Virginia's Eastern Shore while schools of big black drum are swimming around the islands of the CBBT. If you are fishing the lower bay/oceanfront right now, keep your eyes open and have something ready to cast when these fish give you the opportunity. Spanish mackerel are falling to small spoons trolled along the oceanfront and in the CBBT area. Large flounder are being caught by anglers fishing with live bait along the structure of the CBBT and at wrecks both in the ocean and in the bay. It is looking like we may have some impressive stringers weighed in at next week's Dare Marina/PSWSFA Open Flounder Tournament.

Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:
We are well into July and anglers are still looking for the big cobia run. Although some decent fish are around, to most chummer's dismay, the good numbers and exceptionally large fish of last year's season are not precipitating. Die-hard cobia hunters continue to squat on the lower bay shoals, such as Latimer Shoal, and the Inner Middle Grounds, culling through plenty of shorts awaiting that one big run. Ken Braddy of Yorktown nailed a 57.5-pound whopper on bluefish while working the Nine Foot Shoal area.

Right on schedule, big flounder are the main attraction again this week with super-sized doormats lunging at live baits and well-presented strip baits. Whoppers up to 12-pounds are amazing spectators at tackle shop scales, with the Bay Bridge Tunnel pilings, and the 1st island, and the 3rd island tube emerging as the top flattie hot spots. Live bait ranging from 3 to 6-inches, worked over rubble, rocks, and wrecks, is your best bet for the big one.

Spadefish are playing hide and seek with anglers at the Chesapeake Light Tower and the Cell. As the spadefish bite outside of the bay has slowed, more boats are targeting these mighty fighters at the CBBT, with limits of decent fish to show for this new strategy. The 4th island is still the top spadefish location within the bay where anglers are also bailing nice triggerfish ranging from 2 to 3-pounds. Sheepshead are still eluding most anglers along the Bridge Tunnel, but if you put in your time you should find a few fish willing to cooperate. Try fiddler crab, blue crab, or clam suspended near structure for a sheep nibble, and you may get lucky.

Black drum sightings and a scattering of hook-ups, are coming from the 2nd and 4th islands, with some drum pushing 80-pounds. These are slow growing fish, reaching enormous sizes, so reviving these docile swimmers will boost their chances of survival. Red drum are still taking baits along the Eastern Shore shoals, and sightings of schooling reds near the CBBT and off Sandbridge are providing exciting moments.

King mackerel are showing in moderate numbers along the ocean front, with a few nice fish boated, and even more lost. A "king size" 40.5-pound king for Christopher Henry of Virginia Beach took the lead in the state. The best method for targeting smokers right now is with live bait. Trollers can also find some Spanish mackerel with and a mix of taylor bluefish in the same areas.

Large croaker pushing 2 to 3-pounds are lurking around the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel, and Ocean View, while the hard head hunters in Oyster are filling multiple coolers with nice fish. Decent spot are available inside Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets, where some fish are pushing a pound. A few nice speckled trout are also a possibility within the inlets, with plenty of hungry puppy drum also ready and waiting to crash your lure. 

Tarpon sightings are on the rise on the Eastern Shore, especially on the seaside but no landings reported as of yet. Amberjack are enticing many anglers to make the long run to the Southern Towers, where many pups are willing to take your live bait, with a few big fish in the mix. Jigging is an effective method for jacks when your live well runs dry.

The tuna bite off Virginia is quite the mixed bag; anglers don't know which species of tuna they may hook into. You won't hear much complaining though, since boats are finding good numbers of fat 60-pound class yellowfin tuna, scattered 100-pound big eyes, and a few bluefin tuna to provide pullage. One boat fought a giant bluefin for almost 10-hours after finally losing the fish beside the boat. Most boats seeking tuna are working the Norfolk Canyon, with the Fingers, and the area east of the Cigar, also offering some action. A few nice wahoo are beginning to bite-off trollers, while gaffer and bailer dolphin are also plentiful. A white or blue marlin cruising through your spread is also a possibility.

Virginia Middle Bay -

Heidi Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported bottom fishermen are catching plenty of croaker along the edges of the shipping channels off Smith Point. Anglers recorded decent catches of hand-sized spot off Dameron Marsh while the grass beds inside the marsh produced a few speckled trout. The crew aboard the ROCKIN ROBIN cobia fished on Monday (July 9) on the lower portion of Cut Channel and caught three cobia. "That's the first word of cobia we'd had this year from here," noted Heidi.

Smith Point Marina said folks have been returning with nice catches of croaker and bluefish. The shop had good reports of nice-sized striped bass from up inside the Potomac River, where the season remains open.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the flounder bite continued to improve through the week, as the bigger flatfish have begun to "settle into" their deepwater mid-summer haunts. Best location seemed to be the waters stretching from buoy 42 to the Cell and off Cape Charles. The ratio of keepers to under-sized fish remains high but the numbers of fish is still disappointing for July. The shop registered a pair of citation flounder over the weekend, as Jared Inge boated a 9-1/2-pounder on a minnow at the Cell while fishing aboard the SEA HORSE with his dad. The same location produced a 7-pound, 2-ounce flounder for Danny Walden. The citation fish also was fooled by a live minnow on the hook. Spadefish weighing up to 7 pounds remain available around the Cell and Wolftrap Light but schools of smaller spadefish are mixed in with the bigger ones. Bottom fishermen are having no problem loading coolers with croaker up to 16 inches while fishing the channel edge running between buoy 40 and 42 in 37 to 43 feet of water. Spot are cooperating at the mouth of the Piankatank and at the Spike. Citation speckled trout were caught inside Mobjack Bay by 9-year-old Marshall Barrack (6 pounds, 6 ounces; peeler crab) and Ed Lawrence (24-inch release; Gulp! Jerk Bait). Jerry Morgon decked a 68-pound cobia at York Spit. Wayne Painter checked-in a 209-pound, 72-1/2-inch bigeye tuna. Easily a citation, the catch was made on a rigged ballyhoo aboard the MARLIN MANIAC at the Norfolk Canyon.

Locklies Marina said good numbers of medium spot arrived 10 days ago, to the delight of bottom fishermen. Croaker remain available but "everyone's more interested in the spot." Besides the spot and croaker, bottom bouncers are pulling up a few pan trout and flounder plus decent numbers of bluefish weighing as much as 3 pounds. Top locations for the spot include the Silos, Butlers Hole, the mooring buoy area and Carters Creek. "Basically, anywhere around the bridge and just below the bridge." 

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said bottom fishermen are catching loads of croaker on the upper end of Cut Channel and around the Cell while flounder are biting around buoy 42. Good numbers of hand-sized spot were caught inside the Piankatank River while some pan trout were mixed in with the spot at the Spike buoy and on Sturgeon Bar.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported excellent catches of gaffer dolphin, buffalo-sized yellowfin and a sprinkling of even larger bigeye and bluefin tuna. On Friday the SEA WITCH had a nice catch of yellowfin and several dolphin, the BACKLASH hit double figures on yellowfin and boated several dolphin while the WATERMAN, VIRGINIAN and FROGPILE all came in with nice mixed catches of tuna and dolphin. Saturday was the day for the MEGABITE with some really large tuna. Back out on Sunday, the MEGABITE came in with a pair of nice tuna plus a load of dolphin, as the WATERMAN and BACKLASH each boated a good catch of tuna.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina told of "really good tuna fishing, mainly for yellowfin in the 45 to 65-pound range with a few topping 70 pounds. On Saturday the fleet registered a pair of white marlin releases, a sailfish release and an estimated 700-pound blue marlin release. "On top of that, we're seeing a lot of nice dolphin and we weighed bigeye tuna of 130 and 135 pounds." Many of the better catches have been made in 30 to 40-fathoms of water from the 350-line and north to Wayne's World but "they're also catching at the Triple 0's and around the Cigar."

Virginia Piers -

Ocean View - Bottom bouncers are seeing a mixture of panfish including small to medium spot and croaker, snapper bluefish, small flounder with some flatfish meeting the 18-1/2-inch size limit plus good numbers of skate and rays.

Lynnhaven - There seems to be enough keeper sized flounder around the pier pilings to keep many anglers interested, as flatfish to 23 inches were decked the past week. Still the throwback ratio of under-size flounder to legal-sized remains very high. In addition to the flounder, bottom fishermen are catching some croaker, sea mullet and occasional spadefish while those seeking hard shell blue crabs are doing quite well.

Virginia Beach - The crew at the end of the pier had decent numbers of taylor bluefish and a smattering of Spadefish on Jerk-jiggers. Bottom fishermen recorded an assortment of panfish including spot, sea mullet, trout and croaker.

Sandbridge - The weekend saw a good run of sea mullet plus some spot, small spadefish, pan trout, bluefish and even a few Spanish mackerel.

Outer Banks, NC -

Fishing was tough for beach and pier fishermen along the Nags Head area, as west winds kept inshore waters seasonably cool and dirty. Piers anglers had the best success, recording mixed catches of taylor bluefish, croaker, sea mullet, spot and skate but nothing was really abundant. Anglers fishing around the pilings of the Oregon Inlet Bridge caught sheepshead and medium black drum while anglers working near Pea Island managed some speckled trout.

South of Oregon Inlet at Cape Point on Buxton, beach fishermen enjoyed mixed catches of bluefish up to 7 pounds, sea mullet topping 16 ounces and a few spot on Friday. Saturday several "biter sharks" were landed at the Point while the best panfish action was around the jetty, where bottom fishermen pulled-in sea mullet, croaker and some spot. Sunday saw some nice pompano up to 3 pounds but not much else.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported excellent catches of gaffer dolphin, nice sized yellowfin tuna and several bigeye tuna on Friday. Saturday saw good hauls of yellowfin tuna and limit catches of dolphin. One charter vessel had a "Grand Slam," as the party released a white marlin, sailfish and a blue marlin. On Sunday the tuna bite slowed but dolphin remained plentiful.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed excellent catches of dolphin on Friday with several boats returning with limit catches plus a scattering of wahoo and several sailfish releases. The dolphin bite ranged from good to excellent on Saturday plus several wahoo were boated. Scott Linthicum of Manassas released a sailfish aboard the BIG EYE while Douglas Daniels of Richmond released a blue marlin aboard the RUNAWAY. Dolphin dominated the catches on Sunday. Gordon Wood of Richmond released a blue marlin aboard the RELEASE and James Maddox of Richmond released a sailfish the same outing. 

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.

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.

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