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The Saltwater Review - 14 July 2004

Vol. 18, No. 8
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


OVERVIEW

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.

Croaker have become harder to catch during the mid-day period, as water temperatures in the Bay have risen to near 80 degrees.  Anglers fishing early or late in the day and even after dark, report much better success.

Cobia and red drum still linger on the shoals off Cape Charles and Fishermen's Island and should remain available through the month.

Flounder and sheepshead top the list for lower Bay anglers with numerous fish in excess of citation weight (flounder and sheepshead minimum qualifying weight is 7 pounds) were boated around the CBBT complex the past week.
 
Bluefin and yellowfin tuna and gaffer dolphin are available off the Virginia Coast, where water temperatures are rising rapidly.  Both white and blue marlin were boated the past week, several in waters of only 20 fathoms.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported chunkers working the Parking Lot are "maxing out" on bluefin tuna up to 80 pounds while trollers are catching gaffer dolphin and the occasional yellowfin tuna.  Several billfish (blue and white marlin) were hooked at the Parking Lot the past 9 days, according to Donna.  "Can you believe it?"  Most anglers stayed away from the Lumpy Bottom, where numbers of large bluefish still abound.  Inshore, the flounder bite improved last week with buoy 5, Cockle Creek and the main channel the top locations for keeper flatfish.  A live minnow is the preferred bait and incoming tide produces the best action.  Anglers are also catching a mixture of croaker, sea mullet, big sea robins, small black drum and skate.  Crabbing continues to be very productive.  "It's been the best year for crabs in the past ten," noted Donna.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina recorded good catches of flounder the past week, as several 6-pound plus flatfish were weighed at the marina.  Top spot has been the channel in front of the Coast Guard Station.  Bottom fishermen are also catching croaker, snapper bluefish and sea mullet.  Offshore, "chunkers" and trollers scored on tuna.  Chunkers working the 26 Mile Hill recorded good hauls of yellowfin tuna while trollers found a mixture of tuna and large dolphin between the Fingers and Washington Canyon.  Jacob Canda had the week's biggest dolphin, at 32 pounds, 15 ounces while Adams boated the biggest tuna, a 104-pound, 6-ounce bluefin.

Captain Zed's said in addition to the good tuna and dolphin bite off Wachapreague, trollers picked-up king mackerel, false albacore, skipjack tuna and billfish.  Inside the inlet, the channel running in front of the Coast Guard Station produced big numbers of flounder and a hand full of keepers (flatfish 17 inches or greater) while Green and Drawing channels produced the best hauls of croaker.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported big spadefish and large flounder highlighted weekend catches.  Calvin Atkins boated the biggest spadefish, a 10-pound, 12-ounce monster, at the Fourth Island, where wife Michelle caught and released a 49-inch black drum.  James Parlow (9 pounds, 13 ounces) also landed a citation spadefish at the Fourth Island while Gail White decked her "first-ever" citation, a 9-pound, 3-ounce spadefish, at the Tower Reef.  The Cell was the hot spot for big flounder, as William Mizell (7 pounds, 5 ounces), earned a flatfish citation and Eric Craver boated an 8-pound, 1-ounce sheepshead over the weekend. Troy Reynolds caught the biggest flounder of the period, however, a huge 10-pound, 15-ounce fish, at the High Rise section of the CBBT and Larry Shaffer had a 7-1/4-pound flounder on the seaside, at Ship Shoal Inlet.  Bottom fishermen found croaker "hit or miss" on the seaside, with some anglers filling coolers full of the bottom fish while others barely caught enough for a meal.  Folks fishing from the State Park Pier at Kiptopeke enjoyed a nice weekend run of large spot.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported steady catches of nice-sized croaker with the best action coming on a moving tide "early and late" in the day.  Some spot are mixed in with the croaker, as are a few pan trout and snapper bluefish.  Flounder fishing has become very consistent with some flatfish in excess of 6 pounds and many "keepers" in the 19 to 22-inch range.  A moving tide and a drift along one of the shipping channel edges produces the best catches of flounder.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported good catches of large flounder and sheepshead at the CBBT complex the past week.  Chris Mustard landed a 7-pound, 7-ounce flounder at the First Island, Zach Miller nailed an 8-pound, 6-ounce flatfish at the Second Island and Calvin Wills boated an 8-pound doormat at the Fourth Island.  Kenneth Lane had a 9-pound, 13-ounce sheepshead at the Fourth Island and Lynn Hurst decked a 9-pound, 5-ounce fish at the 12 MP.  The marina also indicated the anglers fishing after sunset were catching some trout around the High Rise section of the CBBT. 

Bubba's Marina told of decent flounder and sheepshead catches around the Third and Fourth islands, croaker and some spot inside Lynnhaven Inlet.

Dr. Jim Wright said the inshore wrecks were loaded with triggerfish, black sea bass up to 2-1/2 pounds and a few tautog.  The offshore yellowfin tuna bite had slowed for trollers and several captains recorded better success "on the chunk."  Cobia have begun to show on some of the ocean buoys but they can still be finicky bitters.  At the CBBT, flounder are easy touches but sheepshead are frustrating.  Inside Lynnhaven Inlet, Long Creek holds good-sized croaker up to 2 pounds and spot weighing nearly 16 ounces.

Wallace's Marina said big croaker and spot were biting inside Back River and on Hampton Bar.  Flounder are caught in these same areas but most are less than 17 inches.  Bigger flounder, with one topping 10 pounds, were caught around the CBBT complex.  A few speckled trout and occasional puppy drum were caught at Poquoson Flats and the adjoining grass beds.

Folks at Sunset Marina said the crew aboard FOR PLAY boated 14 yellowfin tuna and released a white marlin while trolling rigged ballyhoo on Saturday at the Fingers.  A few spadefish were caught at Thimble Shoals Light over the weekend while the flounder bite was generally slow at Hampton Bar for "keepers."  Better weekend reports of keeper flatfish were received from Back River Reef.

Salt Ponds Marina described the past week as "quiet," adding customers are catching decent numbers of flounder, particularly around the Third Island but "we didn't see any citations."   Other anglers indicated cobia were still biting at Bluefish Rock.

A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen continue to make some of their best hauls of large croaker above the Gloucester Point Bridge, off Cheatham Annex.  A few pan trout and snapper blues are mixed in with the croaker.   Keeper-sized flounder still linger near the bridge pilings of the pier, especially on the Yorktown side of the crossing.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the offshore tuna bite slowed "a little" for trollers the past week but anglers chunking with butterfish were more successful.  The best tuna hauls were from "shallow" waters, 30 fathoms and less.  Gaffer dolphin and increasing numbers of billfish are mixed in with the tuna.  For example, Ken Neill and Bob Manus each released white marlin, Stephen Powell released a blue marlin, Bob Manus boated a 23-pound dolphin and Jorj Head released a 96-inch blue shark.  Inshore, spadefish have decided to start biting again at the Tower Reef and other nearby wrecks, cobia are holding on the Inner Middle Grounds and flounder are biting "throughout the lower Bay."

Virginia Middle Bay

Jetts Hardware reported schools of taylor bluefish are scattered all over the lower Rappahannock River and out in the Bay towards Smith Point Light but Spanish mackerel have yet to make a show.  Anglers chumming for bluefish and striped bass (Maryland and Potomac River seasons for striped bass are open) are also catching good numbers of croaker.  A few large trout were pulled from the Target Ship wreckage the past week.  Best action is after dark and a bucktail tipped with peeler crab is the preferred bait.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said bottom fishermen using pieces of bloodworm caught decent sized spot in the Rappahannock River at the Spike, Butlers Hole and off Gwynn Island.  A few pan trout are mixed in with the spot.  A few large spadefish still linger at the Cell but spadefish less than 2 pounds are far more abundant.  The trophy flounder bite slowed in the Cell/buoy 42 area.  Some anglers are still able to limit-out but a greater proportion of the flatfish are less than 17 inches.  Lester Leverett of Gloucester (9 pounds, 13 ounces), Kenneth Cumberland (7-1/4 pounds) and Ramon Kent (7 pounds) all boated citation flounder at the Cell/buoy 42 area last week.  Speckled trout made a decent showing near Cherry Point, though no citation trout (5 pound minimum qualifying weight) were recorded.  Mike Uliasz of Mechanicsville boated a 3-pound croaker on a small jig inside the Piankatank River.

Jack at Locklies Marina said the bottom fishing had slowed and anglers were now catching more spot than croaker.  "Some are getting coolers full but others are coming back with nothing."  Perhaps the most consistent action was found amongst the pilings of the White Stone Bridge, where, in addition to croaker, spot, snapper blues and school stripers, anglers boated flounder up to 23 inches.

Garretts Marina said, "nothing's biting," and blamed the recent rain deluges and run-off of freshwater.  "We lost the croaker but they'll be back once we get some saltwater back."

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said flounder fishing was in its prime in the Bay at the Cell, where spadefish have all but disappeared.  Good-sized spot are biting inside the Rappahannock River with the Spike, Butlers Hole and Sturgeon Bar the favored locations.  A few pan trout are mixed in with the spot.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported mixed catches of yellowfin tuna, gaffer dolphin and billfish over the weekend.  On Friday, offshore boats had as many as 8 yellowfin tuna and a couple of gaffer dolphin.  Jack Walters and Jerry Davis each released a white marlin.  Jeffery Sherman weighed in a 77-pound cobia.  The offshore boats had fair numbers of yellowfin tuna and a few dolphin on Saturday.  One mako was boated and Allan Lawe released a blue marlin and Anita Curry released a white marlin.  Sunday's action was similar and Kurt Tochlke released a white marlin.  On Monday, the crew aboard the EMPTY WALLET returned with 8 big yellowfin tuna and a pair of dolphin.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the tuna bite slowed over the weekend, especially for the "trollers."  The crew aboard the TOP NOTCH tried chunking on Saturday, and returned to the dock with over a dozen big yellowfin tuna.  On Sunday the crew returned to the same area and chunked but the results were disappointing.  Inshore, spadefish are biting at the Tower Reef and taylor blues and a few Spanish mackerel are holding off Cape Henry and Sandbridge.

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 - Crabbing remains fast-paced while bottom fishing was a little slow-especially during the mid-day period.  Bottom fishermen did catch some smallish flounder (most under the 17-inch minimum size limit), snapper blues, sea mullet, spot and a few croaker.

Virginia Beach - Bottom fishermen managed some small flounder, croaker, bluefish and sea mullet during the day and pan trout around the pier lights after sundown.  Casters working the end of the pier had some good periods on taylor blues and Spanish mackerel.

Sandbridge - The water temperature in the nearby surf reached 80 degrees last week!  Bottom fishermen recorded mixed catches of spot, bluefish, croaker, keeper flounder, pompano and spadefish while casters working the end of the pier enjoyed flurries of Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish.

Outer Banks, NC -

Surf fishing was generally slow along the Nags Head area beaches last week, though persistent anglers did catch a mixture of pan trout, small flounder, sea mullet and snapper bluefish.  Catches from area piers were more diverse with triggerfish, pompano, puppy drum, Spanish mackerel and even cobia added to the mix.  Water temperatures ranged from the mid to upper 70's.

The fleet sailing from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center recorded good catches of yellowfin tuna and a few gaffer dolphin on Friday.  Inshore boats had triggerfish and snapper blues but very few Spanish mackerel.  On Saturday, mixed sizes of dolphin dominated the bluewater scene.  The fleet also released four white marlin on the day.  On Sunday, dolphin up to 52 pounds were boated plus a scattering of yellowfin tuna 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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