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The Saltwater Review - 13 July 2005

Vol. 19, No. 9
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


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 closed season has been eliminated.

For Summer Flounder, the minimum size limit has been reduced and the winter-closed period has been eliminated. The minimum size limit decreased from 17 inches (2004) to 16-1/2 inches for 2005. The winter-closed period from 1 January through 28 March has been eliminated for 2005/2006. 

Small school bluefin tuna continue to make one of their better showings in recent years off Virginia Beach, Wachapreague and Chincoteague. Check the bluefin tuna regulations (and identification chart) to make certain you know what is legal to keep before it goes into the cooler. A federal tuna permit is required for the vessel. Complete information (including ordering a tuna permit) is available by dialing 1-888-USA-TUNA.

This season's school bluefin run has been the best in recent years and the tuna are often located within 20 miles of the shore. Chopper bluefish and king mackerel are holding in the same areas as the bluefin, although the bluefish numbers have begun to dwindle as water temperatures have climbed into the 70's.

Big flounder continue to provide excitement for bay anglers. Most of the better hauls are coming from deepwater structure with the CBBT complex the premier location.

Anglers seeking trophy-sized spadefish are complaining about the influx of smaller spadefish which seem quicker to take a baited hook.

Lower Bay cobia anglers are seeing and catching good numbers of fish, though most are in the 25 to 50-pound range. It takes a 55-pounder for a weight citation or a 50-inch fish for a release award this year. 

Chincoteague -

Donna at Captain Bob's described flounder as "still hanging in there," despite the arrival of much warmer water and good numbers of croaker. Keeper flounder were caught at Four Mouths, Cockle Creek and Assateague Channel last week. Kingfish, also known as sea mullet, were biting along the canal from the CV marker and out to buoy 11. But croaker are the most abundant catch, most range between 14 to 16 inches and a few have measured as much as 20 inches. Donna suggested Chincoteague Channel as one of the top locations for croaker. Several customers caught sheepshead at the Queen Sound Bridge. Offshore, the first mako shark were caught last week (which is nearly a month late) while the Parking Lot and Lumpy Bottom both produced bluefin tuna. Most of the bluefin range from 60 to 70 pounds but at least three of 100 pounds or more have been boated. Chopper bluefish remain abundant in both these areas so chunking is not an option, according to Donna. Yellowfin tuna in the 30 to 40-pound range and bigger bluefin tuna were caught from 30 fathoms out to the canyons, where a billfish was caught Sunday.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported school bluefin tuna were abundant on the inshore hills plus some chopper blues and king mackerel were mixed in with the bluefin. Yellowfin tuna were available at the Lumpy Bottom, the Fingers and Washington Canyon, where gaffer-sized dolphin were also caught over the weekend.

Captain Zed's said trollers recorded good catches of school bluefin tuna and chopper bluefish at the 21 and 26-Mile Hills while trollers working Wayne's World and Sam's Hill caught a mixture of dolphin and yellowfin tuna over the weekend. Inside the inlet, croaker were abundant in the channel that runs in front of the Coast Guard Station while flounder remain available at Green and Drawing channels.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported weekend bottom fishermen caught coolers full of croaker out of the seaside port of Oyster and tallied nearly as many croaker on the bayside, off Cape Charles. Robert Savage Jr. had a monster day at buoy 40A, releasing a 55-inch cobia, a pair of trophy red drum (46-3/4 and 47-1/4 inches) and a 20-1/4-inch croaker. Grayson Driskill boated an 8-pound, 3-ounce flounder at buoy 18 and the same trip produced a 9-pound, 5-ounce flounder for Floyd Reese at the High Rise. Chris Martin (9 pounds, 9 ounces) and Willie Cauthorne (26-inch release) also boated trophy-sized flounder at the High Rise. The Josemans family fished the Tower Reef for spadefish and had a banner day, as Dawn Josemans released a 24-1/2-inch spadefish and kept a 10-pound, 13-ouncer; husband Randy released a 23-1/2-inch spadefish and their son, Garrett decked a 10-pound, 11-ounce spadefish. On the way in the group stopped at 9-Foot Shoals and Mike Josemans caught and released a 52-inch red drum. Gale White fished nearby Inner Middle Grounds and boated a 57-pound, 5-ounce cobia. Ronald Bishop used crab to catch a 13-pound, 3-ounce sheepshead at the Fourth Island and Roger Willett landed a 9-1/2-pound sheepshead at the Cell.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported very good bottom fishing the past week. "The croaker are going great," according to Laaksonen. Many of the croaker range from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds and some of the best hauls made right off Onancock in 35 to 45 feet of water. The same group of fish tends to move into shallower water less than 25 feet in the evenings, confided Captain Wil. Flounder remain in above average numbers. "Two days my parties limited-out last week," noted Wil. Many of the flounder are over 20 inches with the best catches made in 35 to 55 feet of water "on the edges." Spot averaging half-a-pound are "real good at times," but not always a dependable catch, as the small schools of fish seem constantly on the move. Bottom fishermen are also catching taylor bluefish, some pan trout, blowfish, sea mullet, porgy and pigfish.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported good catches of flounder, sheepshead and cobia at the CBBT. Bob Hartsell weighed the weekend's biggest flatfish, a 7-pound, 13-ouncer and John Taylor boated a 7-pound, 7-ounce flounder. Both fish measured 26 inches and were caught at the CBBT. Fishing buddies Steve Tyree, III (11 pounds, 13 ounces) and Robert Gibbs (10 pounds, 9 ounces) each registered citation sheepshead while fishing aboard OLE BULL. Shawn Oloh (9 pounds, 9 ounces) and Robert Clarkson (10 pounds, 1 ounce) landed citation-winning sheepshead aboard the PEEWEE.

Bubba's Marina said the flounder bite "slowed a little" out at the CBBT complex but quality fish were still caught the past week. Other action along the CBBT included cobia around the 13 MP, big croaker near the "bend" and black drum around the First and Second islands. The newest news of the week was the arrival of large spot, some weighing as much as 16 ounces, inside Lynnhaven.

Dr. Jim Wright and party fished the South Tower and described the amberjack bite as "sporadic," as these big fish clung to the legs of the tower just off the bottom. Several fish were hooked and a pair landed, tagged and released. The longest was a brute and measured 58 inches. The group then moved to the lumps, trolled briefly and boated a limit of bluefin tuna. A trip earlier in the week to the CBBT produced a good catch of large flounder up to 27 inches.

Wallace's Marina registered fourteen-citation cobia the past week with three fish over 70 pounds. The heaviest cobia weighed 77-1/2 pounds and was caught by Tommy Gilbert. Most of the bigger cobia were caught between Thimble Shoal Light and Back River Reef. The flounder bite remains strong at Back River Reef, Bluefish Rock and along the CBBT complex. Spadefish are also biting around the CBBT islands and out at the Tower Reef. The black and red drum bite has slowed but a few black drum linger around the First and Second islands while the occasional red is caught on the shoals near the High Rise section of the crossing. Bottom fishermen are catching croaker and a few spot back inside the Poquoson and Back rivers.

Sunset Boating Center told of "all you could want" croaker at the Hampton Bar plus some good-sized spot. The weekend flounder bite around the Third and Fourth islands was "so-so" according to the shop but "very good" around buoy 36A. The HRBT continues to hold good numbers of flounder but most are under the 16-1/2-inch minimum size limit, though enough keeper flatfish up to 22 inches were caught to keep anglers interested. Hampton Bar also produced some flounder over the weekend but most bait quickly attracts the more aggressive croaker.

Cindy at Salt Ponds Marina told of good catches of large flounder from the CBBT. On Saturday Preston Marshall boated an 8-1/4-pound flounder at the 8 MP aboard the FREE BYRD. The same trip produced several other flounder of 24 inches or more and some big croaker. Boats running offshore found a mixture of bluefin tuna, chopper bluefish and king mackerel at the Hot Dog and Bluefish Alley. Further offshore, the waters from the Fingers to the Norfolk Canyon and those surrounding the Cigar produced some yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus the occasional wahoo and billfish. 

Jimmy Lewis from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the past week saw a good cobia bite from the Swash to York Spit but all the cobia were less than 50 pounds. Big flounder remain active in deep water and buoy 42 was one of the better weekend locations, as "nearly all the fish (flounder) are 20 inches or better." Jimmy knew of an 11-pound, 3-ounce flatfish that was caught Sunday at buoy 42. Mark Clements fished the buoy 42 area and stopped by the shop Sunday to weigh a pair of trophy flounder at 9 pounds even and 7 pounds, 5 ounces. Inside the York River, croaker remain abundant and often, very large, as Willis Belvin boated a 3-pound, 6-ouncer off Cheatham Annex last week. Spot have begun to show around the AMACO Pier but pan trout remain scarce. 

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said yellowfin action has been decent but the tuna are scattered and "the fish are being caught all over the place." Most of the tuna are caught by trolling though chunking has accounted for some fish. More marlin are showing off the Virginia Coast. Bluefin tuna can be found from the Fingers and into the Fish Hook. King mackerel can be found in the same areas as the bluefin. Amberjack are at the normal amberjack spots but the southern towers are your best bet. The fleet of boats at the Chesapeake Light Tower is happy, as the spadefish bite is very good. The lower bay is full of chum slicks as anglers target big cobia. The bite has been pretty good this summer. Large sheepshead are being caught off of the pilings of the CBBT. Spanish mackerel are available along the Virginia Beach oceanfront and throughout the lower bay. Cape Henry has also produced good catches of Spanish mackerel. Flounder pounders continue to experience a good season. Lately, the structure of the CBBT has been the place to find doormats. The club will have its next meeting July 19, at the Plumber's Union Hall in Newport News. The night's featured speaker will be Capt. Jim Jenrette of Cape Charles fame.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported trollers are catching plenty of snapper bluefish but very few Spanish mackerel. Bottom fishermen are catching good numbers of croaker plus a few pan trout along the channel edges. Pan trout were also caught around the mouth of Dividing Creek over the weekend. Small spot are in the local creeks and some "eating size" spot were caught at Blackberry Hang. 

Dan from Smith Point Marina said fishing was in the "summer doldrums." Croaker were being caught but these bottom fish were not as plentiful as last month. Dan suggested the deeper "holes" off the Little Wicomico River or Tangier Sound for croaker. Trollers picked up taylor bluefish and some Spanish mackerel over the weekend at Smith Point Light while flounder up to 23 inches were caught around the mouth of the Little Wicomico River.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Marina said flounder "turned-on" at buoy 42 and the Cell last weekend, as several parties recorded limit catches of good-sized flounder. The shop registered four citation flounder last week, as Richmond McDaniel (9 pounds, 7 ounces; buoy 42), John Lamb (8 pounds, 3 ounces; buoy 36A), Anthony Markantonatos (8 pounds; buoy 42) and Jerry Wright (7 pounds, 15 ounces; buoy 42) all weighed trophy flounder. Mixed sizes of spadefish were caught at the Cell and Wolftrap Light. The lone citation fish, an 11-3/4-pounder by Camden Speas, was caught at Wolftrap Light. The shop registered seven cobia citations the past week. Fishing buddies Mike Hurst (74 pounds) and Troy Major (64-1/2 pounds) each scored at Swash Channel on live croaker. Chris Vaughan nailed a 70 pounder at buoy 42 on a live croaker, Travis Thomas caught a 64-1/2-pound cobia at Latimer Shoal on cut bunker and Gregory Thayer earned a release award with a 52-1/2-inch cobia at Wolftrap Light. Spot made a good showing inside the Piankatank River and on the Rappahannock at the spike buoy. Some keeper-sized pan trout are mixed in with the spot.

Locklies Marina told of decent catches of spot with some of the better catches coming from Parrott Rock, the Silos and the mouth of Carters Creek. Croaker still linger in this section of the river but catches were rated as "spotty." Trollers caught the season's first Spanish mackerel at the mouth of the river and the shop saw several flounder, which were caught at the Cell that topped 7 pounds.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I told of good bottom fishing the past week, as mixed sizes of spot have moved into the lower Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers. Butler's Hole and Sturgeon Bar were two of the better spot locations. Pan trout were biting at the spike buoy located off Deltaville while good hauls of croaker were recorded at the Cell. Spadefish still linger around the Cell and Wolftrap Light, where anglers drifting for flounder described the flatfish bite as "light."

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the charter fleet recorded limit catches of 45 to 85-pound bluefin tuna plus some king mackerel, chopper bluefish, yellowfin tuna and dolphin. The bluefin tuna, bluefish and king mackerel are on the inshore lumps while the yellowfin and dolphin are generally found east of the Hot Dog and Fingers.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina told of a good bluefin tuna bite at Wayne's World (the Fingers). The average size bluefin increased the past week and most anglers are coming in with a fish in the 60 to 70-pound but some of the bluefin are considerably larger. Biggest bluefin of the week was a 128 pounds. Yellowfin tuna and some dolphin are available from the Fingers out to the Norfolk Canyon. Billfish sightings in the trolling spread are becoming more common and several were boated and released last week.

Virginia Piers

Harrison - The pier is presently closed but is in the process being rebuilt. Significant progress has been made the past several weeks (due to good weather) and plans call for a portion of the pier to open this season, perhaps as soon as the end of July.

Lynnhaven - Bottom fishermen are catching medium spot and croaker, lots of snapper bluefish, with an occasional blue to nearly 5 pounds, some sea mullet and plenty of skate. Pan trout are available after dark. Folks looking for crabs are having a field day.

Virginia Beach - Keeper-sized striped bass made a surprise showing during the day on Friday but sea mullet provided most of the action. A good-sized cobia was reportedly hooked but was lost. Sea mullet provided most of the excitement Saturday and Sunday. Water temperature at the pier was a seasonal 75 degrees.

Sandbridge - Sea mullet and croaker were caught Friday, along with plenty of skate and a few small shark after sunset. Weekend action was slow with only a handful of sea mullet and the occasional bluefish reported. An 18-1/2-inch flounder was decked Saturday.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen along the Nags Head area reeled-in a mixture of spot, small croaker, snapper bluefish and sea mullet from the summer surf last week. A 38-pound king mackerel was decked at the Avalon Pier on Thursday. Friday saw the pierside water temperatures drop from 79 to 72 degrees, as bottom fishermen recorded a mixture of snapper bluefish, croaker, small flounder and spot. On Saturday, triggerfish moved-in around the pilings plus fair numbers of sea mullet, flounder and Spanish mackerel were decked. Sunday saw more triggerfish, some snapper bluefish and sea mullet but the highlight of the day was a 67-pound cobia!

South of Oregon Inlet, at Cape Point on Buxton, beach fishermen enjoyed good catches of bluefish plus some Spanish mackerel on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday the bluefish bite slowed but a pair of cobia were beached and a handful of Spanish mackerel were caught around dusk. Monday was "a slow day" with only a handful of bluefish and several pompano reported.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported dolphin and billfish dominated the weekend action. On Saturday the fleet released nearly two-dozen white marlin, eight sailfish and two blue marlin and Sunday's white marlin catch (and release) was equally as impressive. Both days yielded big hauls of bailer dolphin. On Monday the billfish numbers were down to "just" four white marlin and three blue marlin but bigger dolphin, up to 39 pounds, plus a scattering of yellowfin tuna to 74 pounds and a few wahoo were boated. 

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a banner day Thursday, as they released thirty-six white marlin, six sailfish and a blue marlin. On Friday the bluewater fleet remained in port due to rough sea conditions. On Saturday the fleet registered over a dozen billfish releases and loaded-up on bailer dolphin plus some king mackerel. On Sunday, thirteen white marlin were released, two sailfish and a blue marlin. In addition to the billfish bite, the dolphin action was excellent and most boats returned with limit catches plus a scattering of 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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