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The Saltwater Review - July 16, 2003

Volume 17. No. 9
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.

Flounder fishing improved dramatically last week with some of the best hauls coming from the deeper channel edges leading into or out of the Bay, the CBBT structure itself, the buoy 36A to 38A area, located off Kiptopeke and the Cell/buoy 42 area.

Cobia and red drum remain available on the lower Bay with some of the most consistent action coming at the Inner Middle Grounds. Most of the cobia are being caught during daylight hours while the best drum bite is after sundown.

Offshore, a scattering of bluefin tuna were caught on the inshore lumps and hills but chopper bluefish continue to dominate these areas. Boats from the Rudee Inlet fleet looking for yellowfin tuna found decent numbers in 40 to 100 fathoms between the Norfolk Canyon and Triple 0's but better numbers are still "way south."

Chincoteague -

Barnacle Bill's reported good numbers of medium-sized croaker and some keeper flounder were caught by anglers drifting the main channel. Outside the inlet, bluefin tuna up to 69 inches were caught the past week at the lumpy bottom and parking lot but tuna bites are few and far between while chopper bluefish remain in good supply. Out at the canyons, trollers are picking up some school yellowfin and the occasional dolphin.

Donna from Captain Bob's said the inshore lumps were still infested with large bluefish but very few bluefin tuna had been caught in the past week. Donna did say a small mako shark was boated at the lumpy bottom early in the week and the ocean wrecks were still loaded with black sea bass. Inside the inlet, croaker were "all over." Flounder numbers remain decent but few meet the 17-1/2-inch minimum size limit.

Wachapreague -

Croaker provide most of the action inside the inlet, according to Wachapreague Marina, and while flounder are in decent supply, few meet the 17-1/2-inch size limit. Mike Bindas did catch an 8-pound flounder but that catch was made on the bayside, at the Cell. Outside the inlet, the inshore hills are loaded with bluefish but only the occasional bluefin tuna while decent numbers of school-sized yellowfin tuna were boated out at the canyons.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported a strong upswing in flounder catches on the bayside the past week and several groups recorded limit catches at buoy 36A on Sunday. Out of the seaside port of Oyster, Wyatt Mapp caught and released a 72-inch tarpon on cut mullet. The same waters produced plenty of croaker but very few keeper flounder. The weekend bayside cobia bite proved to be "hit or miss" but mostly miss, though Jerry Gray (46-1/2-inch release, Inner Middle Ground), Richard Temple (80 pounds, buoy 18) and John Hoffmann, Jr. (66 pounds, 6 ounces, buoy 42) each registered citation catches. All three cobia were caught on bottom fished bunker. John Miller had the week's biggest croaker, a 3-pound, 1-ounce beauty, boated off Kiptopeke. The Green family fished the Chesapeake Light for spadefish and both Sam Green (23 inches) and Stephen Green (22-1/2 inches) earned release awards.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported better numbers of larger croaker the past week with the best catches coming from the edges of the deeper channels. Flounder up to 24 inches are holding along these same "edges." The croaker are hitting a variety of baits including squid, peeler crab, bloodworm and cut bait but the flounder prefer long strips of cut bait or large, live minnows. Other catches include taylor blues, sea mullet, sea robin, spot and blowfish. Trout remain unusually scarce in local waters.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Jackie at Cobbs Marina reported good recent catches of flounder around the First and Second islands of the CBBT, though the shop did not weigh any citation flounder (7 pounds or more) over the weekend. Some big grey trout are also holding along the CBBT, as James Hamble nailed a 9-pound, 5-ounce trout on a Finn-S jig Monday. Over the weekend, Keith Corbett (47 inches) and Jeff Haynes (44 inches) each earned release awards for red drum at the CBBT while Mike Wroton (51 inches) and Daniel Anderson (53 inches) registered amberjack releases at the Triangle Wrecks.

Dr. Jim Wright told of excellent catches of Spanish mackerel in the rips around Cape Henry and super catches of flounder "all over." Offshore, some yellowfin tuna were boated at the Norfolk Canyon while the occasional 100-pound plus bluefin was hooked at the Fingers, where chopper bluefish remain abundant. Black sea bass to 4 pounds were caught at the 4A buoy Drydock.

Wallace's Marina weighed seven citation flounder over the weekend, including two for the crew aboard ROBALO, a 7-pound, 1-ounce flatfish for Timothy Lloyd plus an 8-pound, 9-ounce doormat for Bruce Owens. Most of the large flounder weighed at Wallace's were caught along the northern sections of the CBBT complex but Edward Holdsworth boated a 7-pound, 11-ounce flounder off Cape Charles. Pods of large trout are holding around the Third and Fourth islands. The crew aboard the DEBRA ANN had an excellent catch of two-dozen keeper flounder up to 6 pounds and eight grey trout to 9-1/4 pounds. The citation trout was pulled in by Bruce Breen and was caught on a wire-lined bucktail. The shop also weighed several cobia over the weekend and the heaviest weighed 47 pounds. The best recent cobia bite was off Cape Charles. The shop also indicated a few speckled trout have been caught at Poquoson Flats but taylor bluefish are more plentiful.

Debbie from Sunset Marina said a group fishing with Stan Page caught a dozen keeper flounder up to 22 inches while fishing around Thimble Shoals Lighthouse and another group did nearly as well on flatfish at Hampton Bar. The Lovetts bottom fished around the HRBT using cut bait and squid and nearly filled a cooler with croaker of up to 2 pounds. Stewart Botkin used a live minnow and boated a 5-pound, 6-ounce flounder at the HRBT. Trollers working the rips around Cape Henry reported good catches of Spanish mackerel and snapper bluefish. Scott Fowler boated a 58-pound cobia off Kiptopeke.

Cindy at Salt Ponds Marina said flounder fishermen had "a real good week," and checked-in nearly a dozen flatfish of 7 pounds or more. The list of citation flounder included a 10-pound, 1-ounce, 29-1/2-inch doormat caught by Conley Vic at the CBBT, a 9-pound, 2-ounce fish caught by O.C. Baines, Jr. at the Fourth Island, a 9-pound, 1-ounce flounder by Gibby Gibson and a 7-pound, 2-ounce flatfish caught by Nicki Gibson, both at the CBBT aboard the private boat FATTIE FLATTIE. Others with award winning flatfish included John Perry with a 9-pound flounder at the CBBT, Eugene Hicks (8-1/4 pounds, CBBT), James Gill (8-1/4 pounds, CBBT) Bob Hayden (8 pounds, 2 ounces, CBBT), Mike Lincoln (7 pounds, 3 ounces, Fourth Island), Barry Brammer (7 pounds, 1 ounce, CBBT) and Barry Brady (7 pounds, 1 ounce, CBBT). Joe Criswell boated a 54-1/4-pound cobia off Cape Charles, where Ed Younkin boated a 74-pound cobia and released a large red drum, Max Timberlake landed a 59-pound cobia and Ed Moran released a 56-inch red drum.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply described cobia action as "really slow" at York Spit but last week's flounder bite as "phenomenal, wherever you want to go." Several of the top spots included the buoy 42/Cell area, York Spit and buoy 36A, located off Cape Charles. Decent numbers of flounder were also caught inside the York River at Gloucester Point, though a greater percentage of these flatfish measured under 17-1/2 and had to be released. Bottom fishermen working the waters around Gloucester Point are still catching plenty of croaker but pan trout remain scarce.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say offshore trollers are finding some yellowfin tuna between Triple 0's and Norfolk Canyon in 40 to 100 fathoms of water while a handful of bluefin tuna were caught last week at the 26 Mile Hill and Fingers. Chopper bluefish remain abundant on the inshore bluefin grounds. Amberjack have arrived on the local wrecks and towers while spadefish remain abundant at the Chesapeake Light. Cobia are biting during the daytime at the Inner Middle Grounds and the same waters yield red drum after dark. The flounder bite improved dramatically the past week with the CBBT, the Baltimore Channel, buoy 36A and buoy 42 all producing big flatfish.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported plenty of snapper bluefish and some croaker up to 19 inches in local waters. The best croaker bite has been on the late evening or after sunset. Bottom fishermen are also starting to see a few spot while pan trout remain scarce. Roger heard of some Spanish mackerel caught over the weekend at Windmill Point and expects these fish to be available locally by this weekend.

Tommy Lewis from Garretts Marina said bottom fishing was real slow with only a scattering of croaker and offered a reason, "we've just had too much rain and the water isn't salty enough." 

Captain Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina said bottom fishing slowed considerably around Windmill Point, as most of the larger croaker departed for parts unknown. Fair numbers of spot are holding off Broad Creek in a location known locally as "the narrow edge." The flounder bite improved significantly the past week, as many boats fishing in the vicinity of the Cell boated a limit of 20 to 24-inch flatfish. Trollers found a scattering of Spanish mackerel at Windmill Point.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the headboat fleet is splitting time between ocean wreckfishing for black sea bass and inshore bay bottom fishing around the CBBT complex for pan trout and croaker. The six-pack charter fleet found some yellowfin tuna and dolphin in the vicinity of the Cigar over weekend but many of the vessels are still making "a real long run" south of the inlet for yellowfin tuna. The inshore hills still hold loads of large bluefish.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said decent catches of yellowfin tuna were made around the Cigar and to the east while waters inshore still held loads of bluefish. A 100-pound class bluefin tuna was boated at the Fingers on Saturday but "that's the only one I saw this week." Some boats continue to run 80-plus miles SSE of Rudee Inlet and take part in the super yellowfin tuna bite off Oregon Inlet.

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - Bottom fishermen reported a mixture of croaker, spot and bluefish. Ronnie Beeler decked a 17-ounce spot for a citation. Some keeper flounder from 17-1/2 to 19 inches were landed and a small, 22-inch "pup" cobia was landed and released.

Buckroe Beach - Spot and croaker provided most of the action but pan trout were available after sundown around the pier lights and shark up to 10 pounds were caught on bottom rigs.

Harrison - Charley said a 40-inch cobia was decked early in the week and fair to good catches of spot and croaker plus increasing numbers of pan trout were made in the evenings. A surprising number of spadefish up to 7 pounds were caught last week, as more anglers target these hard-fighting fish.

Lynnhaven - Spot and sea mullet provided steady action in the late evenings and after sundown. Crabs are becoming more abundant in the waters surrounding the pier.

Virginia Beach - Bottom fishermen enjoyed a steady run of good-sized sea mullet the past several days and speckled trout were caught in the evenings. Other catches include spot, a few keeper flounder, Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish. Water temperature at pierside was 72 degrees.

Sandbridge - Sea mullet, small flounder and the occasional spot provided most of the action in recent days.

Outer Banks, NC -

Weekend anglers along the Nags Head area beaches were treated to strong SW winds which dropped water temperatures and muddied the surf. Bottom fishermen using bloodworm or sand flea for bait had decent success on spot and sea mullet. Surf waters were in the mid-60's Saturday and some bluefish were also caught but by Monday water temperatures had dropped to just 60 degrees and only sea mullet were reported.

South of Oregon Inlet, winds to 30 knots made fishing tough at Cape Point on Friday but a scattering of taylor bluefish, sea mullet and croaker were landed. Winds slowed by mid-day Saturday and croaker "blitzed" the beach. Surf waters began to clear and by Sunday a few pompano were beached but croaker continued to dominate the action. Beach fishermen enjoyed even more variety Monday, as spot, bluefish, Spanish mackerel plus lots of pompano and croaker were caught.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported fair to good catches of yellowfin tuna (5 to 18 per boat) plus a half dozen gaffer dolphin on Friday, despite rough sea conditions that put many parties back to the dock early. The bluewater fleet remained in port on Saturday but half-day boats worked the inlet and recorded limit catches of Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish. Sea conditions improved Sunday and most boats returned to the dock with a limit of yellowfin tuna plus a few dolphin. Several bigeye tuna were also boated. On Monday, the fleet landed 15 bigeye tuna weighing from 83 to 159 pounds and most boats had a limit of yellowfin tuna plus a few dolphin.

The bluewater charter fleet at Hatteras Inlet remained tied to the dock Friday and Saturday due to rough seas but a few boats fished Sunday and returned with light catches of dolphin and yellowfin tuna plus a stray wahoo and king mackerel. Seas calmed by Monday and most of the fleet fished and returned with limit catches of dolphin and some yellowfin tuna, 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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