The Virginia Saltwater Review will not be published next week. The next issue will be published the week of July 30 - August 3.
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.
The Virginia Marine Resources has launched a voluntary on-line reporting system called the “Saltwater Fisherman’s Journal,” and can be found at www.vasaltwaterjournal.com. It allows the fishing community to share and learn about other anglers' experiences. Additionally, it will benefit fishery managers by allowing them to assess fish populations by analyzing data provided by you, the recreational fisherman.
Captain Bob’s described the inshore action as "crazy," as good numbers of 10 to 12-inch croaker moved inside the inlet last week, providing steady action for bottom fishermen. Sea mullet remain in good numbers around the mouth of the inlet, where anglers are boating dozens of fish in just a couple of hours fishing. Throwback size flounder (flatfish less than 18-1/2 inches) remain abundant and some keepers, up to 5 pounds were boated the past week. Rounding out the “inside bite,” anglers are catching some spot, surfperch, pan trout and undersized black sea bass (fish must measure at least 12 inches to keep). Outside the inlet, the inshore ocean wrecks hold good numbers of spadefish plus some triggerfish, flounder and black sea bass. Farther offshore, trollers found the occasional tuna or gaffer dolphin on the inshore lumps but the most consistent action was out around the Norfolk and Washington canyons.
Captain Zed’s reported bottom fishermen working inside the inlet are catching a variety of fish and lots of them, as anglers recorded good numbers of sea mullet, croaker, spot and flounder. Most of the flounder measure less than 18-1/2 inches but a group of anglers in one of the rental boats caught 30 flounder and they were able to keep 5 of the flatfish, which measured 18-1/2 inches and more. Best action has been in the waters just across from the Coast Guard Station. Outside the inlet, trollers are managing a scattering of bluefin and yellowfin tuna, dolphin and king mackerel “but it hasn’t been nearly as good as what we expect.” Daniel Knuckols, fishing aboard the FOZY LADY, boated a 144-pound bluefin tuna early last week.
Chris’ Bait and Tackle reported decent numbers of cobia were caught the past week but many were small, some less than the 37-inch minimum size limit. The flounder bite improved around the Cell and the waters surrounding the High Rise section of the CBBT, where Milton Ballentin, III boated the week’s heavyweight, at 8-1/2 pounds. Joshua Marks nailed an 8-pound, 2-ounce flounder on a jig at buoy 13. Fishing action over on the seaside really took a shift for the better, as good numbers of croaker were caught by bottom fishermen out of Oyster. The season’s first reported tarpon catch, and subsequent release, was recorded by Norman Bunting on Sunday. The fish measured 6-feet, 6 inches and hit a croaker. The shop indicated several other tarpon were hooked but threw the hook, as angler shave reported seeing tarpon rolling on the surface "for the past ten days."
Ernie from Cherrystone Bait and Tackle said croaker topping 3 pounds are running off Cherrystone Creek, adding that many of these tasty bottom feeders are running much smaller. Jane Mehring boated the week’s biggest croaker, a fat 3-3/4-pounder at Cherrystone Reef. Flounder continue to draw quite a bit of attention. Bob Warren landed the week’s heavyweight flatfish at 7 pounds, 14 ounces. Ernie indicated the best recent reports of flounder were coming from the Cell area.
Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported decent bottom fishing for a mixture of croaker, medium spot, flounder and the occasional pan trout “not far from the #1 buoy,” located just outside Onancock. Fishing pressure remains extremely light, “and I cancelled several trips because it was just too hot for the people,” for these types of reasons, direct fishing information was sparse for the past week. "The fish are out there but the people aren’t," concluded Captain Wil.
Cobbs Marina reported anglers using live bait are catching some nice-sized flounder around the First and Second islands of the CBBT, where sight casters are working pods of large black drum, as they swim lazily around the two rock structures.
Bubba’s Marina said good-sized flounder were caught around the CBBT and out around the Cape Henry Wreck site over the weekend. Cobia were beginning to orient to the lower Bay buoys and the pilings of the CBBT. Inside Lynnhaven Inlet, anglers were enjoying a summer run of good-sized spot, as some weighed nearly 16 ounces. Puppy drum were also active inside the inlet.
Wallace’s Bait and Tackle said keeper-sized flounder were caught at the CBBT complex and at nearby Back River Reef on live bait but the week’s biggest flatfish, an 8-3/4-pounder, was pulled-in at the Hump by Kyle Balint on squid.
Sunset Boating Center rated flounder action as “slow” on Sunday but catches were better Friday and Saturday, as boats averaged 5 to 7 flatfish an outing around Cape Henry and along the CBBT. A 7-pound flounder was boated off Cape Henry on Saturday by Mike Salmon. Croaker remain abundant inside Hampton Roads but the intense heat is taking a toll on anglers, as many opt for more seasonal weather and remain in port.
Salt Ponds Marina said the crew aboard the SEDUCTION had a banner “overnighter” outing the past week. Greg Allen released a 120-inch hammerhead shark, James Eisenhower released a 144-inch dusky shark, Mike Avery released a 50-inch swordfish and James Eisenhower decked an 11-pound, 3-ounce blueline tilefish. All the action took place in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon.
A & S Feed and Bait Supply told of loads of croaker plus a few pan trout inside the York River and from the Gloucester Point Pier. The shop severed as headquarters for a flounder tournament last week and checked-in a total of 11 flounder in excess of 7 pounds, with the top flatfish going 9 pounds. Nearly all the bigger flounder were caught around the Third and Fourth islands of the CBBT or the Cell/buoy 42 area.
Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said it is time to go flounder fishing. The Dare Marina/PSWSFA Open Flounder Tournament is this weekend and the doormats are cooperating. The best bets for big flounder have been along the structure of the CBBT and while anchored on the structure of Back River Reef. Live spot has been the bait of choice. Remember that there is a closure coming up so get your flounder pounding in now. The flounder season will be closed from July 23-28. Cobia continue to be caught by the chumming fleet. More sight casting opportunities will develop over the next few weeks. Some sheepshead are being caught off of the pilings of the CBBT but the catches are not as good as last year which were not as good as the year before. Schools of black drum continue to pop up around the islands of the CBBT. Good catches of Spanish mackerel have been made up around the Windmill Point area while catches along Virginia Beach have been scattered. Some big king mackerel are available along the beach. A 63-pound king was caught by Susan Smith and it is a pending state record. If you are up for a challenge, the tarpon bite is on inside the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. Amberjack are plentiful at the South Tower and they are available over wrecks like the Gulf Hustler and the Ricks. Offshore, a nice class of yellowfin continue to be caught with many fish in the 60-pound range. An occasional bigeye also enters the mix. The Norfolk Canyon remains the best area for the tuna. Dolphin, wahoo, and billfish are also being caught and with the water temps getting hot everywhere, it is about time to get serious about marlin fishing. Some swordfish have been seen sunning themselves in the canyon area. Bluefin tuna in the 45-inch range are available on 26 Mile Hill.
Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following: It is difficult to decide what to fish for right now since so much is available. But a lot of interest is turning toward the new kid on the block, the king mackerel. Several large fish have already been boated, and Susan Smith of Virginia Beach landed the catch of a lifetime this weekend with a 63 -pound, 1-ounce smoker that earned her State Record status. Although considered mostly as an inshore fall fishery, back in the day when the kings were more plentiful in this area, folks targeted smokers from late June through the fall. Could the king fishery be making a come back? If so, it could be difficult to break that code since many old timers and successful king hunters are tight-lipped when it comes to divulging their tactics. Many methods work, but live-baiting is an efficient technique for this time of year.
The summer’s sluggish flounder start has turned around, with more and larger flatfish becoming the norm. Few boats are returning empty-handed. The big fish are resulting from live bait offered along varying bottom structures toward the lower part of the bay. The Cell, Back River Reef, the CBBT structure, and inshore wrecks are just a few of the best flounder hot spots lately. Be mindful of the flounder closure from July 23rd to the 28th. Reports of scattered grey trout up to 20-inches indicate these fish are holding near the Fourth Island and the 12-mile marker along the CBBT. Sheepshead are lagging behind last year’s season, with most fish successfully eluding anglers. A handful of these structure-oriented fish are coming from the Bay Bridge Tunnel structure. Triggerfish are very numerous this year, and some anglers are beginning to target these fish, which are normally a by-catch. These aggressive little fish will hit most any bait.
Spadefish are always a favorite, and although it is a little harder to pin down the bigger fish, plenty of 2 to 5-pounders are ganging up on suspended clam near the Bay Bridge Tunnel islands and the Cell. The Chesapeake Light Tower and the Tower Reef area are still providing action, but not as predictable as earlier this season. Although cobia are falling for bait fished on the shoals, the scene is still less than expected for most angers, with many smaller fish in the mix. Latimer Shoal, the Nine-Foot Shoal, and the York Spit area are decent locations for cobia lately.
The summer-time red drum action is changing shape as these scavengers form big schools just under the surface all around the lower bay. Most recent red catches are coming from casters following the schools. One boat reported landing more than 30 bulls this week. Black drum are continuing to offer angling opportunities to casters targeting these massive fish around all four islands of the CBBT. A few fly anglers are also getting in on the action. Speckled trout and tons of puppy drum are taking baits within both Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. Spot action is also on the upswing in these same areas, with the Fishing Center reporting that nicer fish are becoming more consistent. James Beal of Virginia Beach weighed in a 1-pound, 1-ounce spot for a citation he hooked in Rudee Inlet this week.
Although not yet in full swing, the undercover tarpon scene is heating up on the Eastern Shore, with more sightings and a landed fish adding to the momentum. Nice croaker are also providing hardhead hunters with good catches in the deeper holes and channels in the backwater areas of Oyster.
Offshore, the billfish are gaining more consideration with white and blue marlin catches on the rise. This is good, since this is the time for marlin tournaments and several are scheduled within the next month. The great catches of big yellowfin, bigeye, and bluefin tuna the past week has backed off a bit. More boats are returning with fewer tuna, but more dolphin, which is still a great day offshore. Wahoo are also making their presence known. Most catches are still coming from the Norfolk Canyon. Amberjack are peaking curiosity from all over since they are readily available and seem cooperative lately. These brutes are ready for action at local wrecks, but steady hook-ups at the South Tower are convincing many to make that 60-mile run for a sure thing.
Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported Spanish mackerel arrived in good numbers, as trollers scored on the speedy gamesters around Smith Point Light, the mouth of the Great Wicomico and just off Dividing Creek. Bottom fishermen working the 40 to 50 foot contour along the shipping channel are still catching plenty of croaker while small to medium spot are available in the local creeks. Roger added that persistent anglers are still catching a few speckled trout inside Dameron Marsh.
Dan from Smith Point Marina felt the price of gas had scared many fishermen away from the sport and many of those who did fish stayed closer to port than usual. Dan told of good hauls of croaker from the Smith Point Light area, a few keeper-sized flounder from the waters surrounding the jetty and “I’ve heard of a few mackerel (Spanish) but haven’t seen any.” Larger boats running up to the Middle Grounds and chumming are reporting catches of school-sized striped bass and bluefish weighing nearly 6 pounds.
Jerry Thrash from Queen’s Creek Outfitters described the flounder action as “red hot’ on Saturday, as many anglers returned with limit catches of flatfish. The buoy 42/Cell area and the channel edge leading down towards Cape Charles were the most productive areas for the larger flatfish. Spadefish remain available at the Cell and around Wolftrap Light but small fish dominate the action. Bottom fishermen continue to load up on croaker, working the edges of the shipping channel running from buoys 40 and 42. Anglers are enjoying good catches of spot at the Spike buoy and at the mouth of the Piankatank River. Local anglers are catching an occasional speckled trout around the thicker grass beds inside the Piankatank River. James D. Dean of Sandston boated a 7-pound, 3-ounce, 26-inch flounder at the Cell. The citation flatfish hit a strip of on squid. Tony Wilson of Toano landed a fat, 8-pound, 5-ounce, 27-1/2-inch flounder at Buoy 42 on cut croaker. Timothy Rivera of Gloucester nailed the week’s heavyweight flatfish, a 9-3/4-pound beauty that measured 27 inches, at the Cell on a live minnow.
Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen working the waters off the Silos and around Parrots Rock are catching a mixture of medium spot and some croaker. A group of anglers from Charlottesville boated a 35-pound cobia on squid out at Windmill Point on Sunday.
Tommy Lewis from Garretts Marina said the heat and humidity had slowed the fishermen but those braving the temperatures were returning with nice hauls of medium to large spot plus some croaker. Top location was the area around Morratico Bar. “Start in about 10 feet of water and work your way out deeper until you find the fish,” coached Tommy. And one more piece of advice, “bring plenty of water (to drink).”
Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I said good numbers of small to medium croaker were available around the range light but the larger fish have become harder to locate. Bottom bouncers are seeing a nice influx of sea mullet along the edges of Cut Channel while flounder fishermen enjoyed a nice surge of 20 to 26-inch flatfish in the vicinity of buoy 42 the past week. Good numbers of unusually large spot are keeping bottom fishermen busy just off Gywnn Island and just inside the Piankatank River. Good numbers of spot were also holding inside the Rappahannock River, near the Spike buoy and just off Stingray Point. Trollers are seeing plenty of taylor blues with just a few Spanish mackerel mixed in around Windmill Point.
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.”
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.
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