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The Saltwater Review - 26 July  2006

Vol. 20, No. 9

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


Juvenile bluefin tuna have been implanted with archival tags in a cooperative effort to determine the migration pattern of northwest Atlantic bluefin tuna.  These fish have a green streamer tag near their dorsal fin and a light stalk sticking out of their belly. If you catch one of these fish, it is worth $500 but you must keep the fish. These fish will not count against your daily limit of bluefin tuna and you can keep them even if they are below the current minimum size limit.   To receive your reward you must contact Jon Lucy at the VIMS: (804) 684-7166, .

The Federal restrictions regarding bluefin tuna changed on July 22, 2006.  Anglers in the mid-Atlantic region may no longer keep any bluefin tuna measuring less than 47 inches.  For more details, refer to the enclosed notice. 

Researchers at VIMS are requesting the assistance of the angling public with a study (funded by recreational license monies) designed to determine real-time movement of summer flounder in local waters.  One hundred and twenty flounder have been outfitted with special (and expensive) acoustic tags.  These flounder also carry a special yellow tag.  For more details see the enclosed announcement.

Flounder (2 releases and 52 weight citations) and red drum (28 releases) topped the citation list for inshore species last week while amberjack (15 releases) and white marlin  (11 releases) were tops in the offshore category. 

The two most often mentioned locations for trophy flounder were easily the CBBT complex and the Cell/buoy 42 area.  Red drum were caught in more numerous locations but the shoals on either side of the High Rise section of the CBBT appears the top spot.  Hands down the destination for large amberjack was South Tower, located some 50-plus miles southeast of Rudee Inlet while most of the billfish action occurred near the canyons.  Several billfish tournaments are on tap this weekend, so expect to see another jump in citations for next week.


Donna at Captain Bob’s reported combinations of wind, rough seas and thunder storms kept the offshore crowd in port over the weekend.  Earlier in the week, anglers chunking with butterfish on the Lumpy Bottom had scored several nice bluefin tuna.  Cory Cinque and his family over-nighted and nailed a 168-pound bluefin.  Tom Valek and his crew had a 128.6-pound bluefin, Back Vu and crew a 121.1-pound bluefin and John Tavers and crew brought in a pair of citation winning bluefin at 112.2 and 109 pounds.  Inshore, bottom fishermen are catching a nice mixture of croaker and sea mullet plus a few pan trout and even fewer keeper flounder.


Wachapreague Marina reported several citation bluefin tuna were landed last week but overall, the tuna bite slowed.  The crew aboard the CLASS ACT landed a 108-pound bluefin at the Lumpy Bottom, where Arnie Oliver had a 105-pounder.  The guys aboard the POKEM caught a 107-pound bluefin at the Crotch.  Although fewer tuna were landed the past week, the bluewater fleet did see plenty of dolphin and king mackerel with some of the best numbers at the 21 and 26 Mile hills.  Heaviest dolphin of the week was a 35-pounder landed aboard the SCUBA DOO at the 20-fathom line.   

Debbie from Captain Zed’s said the offshore action was still “really good” with good numbers of school bluefin, dolphin and king mackerel on the inshore lumps.  Unfortunately, most bluefin measured less than the current minimum size limit of 47 inches.  The Lumpy Bottom seemed to offer the best shot at a keeper-sized bluefish while trollers working the 26 Mile Hill and Sam’s Hill caught lots of school bluefin.  King mackerel were holding over the 21 and 26 Mile hills.  “We only saw a few yellowfin tuna last week but I think it was because everyone was staying inshore,” noted Debbie. 

Cape Charles

Chris’ Bait and Tackle reported a strong run of trophy-sized red drum on the shoals near the High Rise section of the CBBT, as W.R. Savage (46 and 49 inches), Wayland Ponds (46-1/2 inches), Holly Shoup (47 inches), Mike Zerdakis (47 and 52 inches), Woo Daves (47 inches), Matthew Deschenes (50 inches) all earned release awards last week.  Jennifer Barfield boated a 9-1/2-pound spadefish near the High Rise section of the bridge.  The shop saw several cobia in the 30 to 40-pound range but none that met the 55-pound minimum to qualify for a citation.  The flounder bite slowed last week but fishing partners Hollis Eagle (8-1/4 pounds) and Randy Lowman (7-1/2 pounds) each boated citation flounder near buoy 36A.  Over on the seaside, Doug Wehner caught and released the season’s second tarpon.  The big fish measured 70 inches.  Bill Peirson (74 inches; Magothy Bay) and Richard Hubbard (78 inches; Smith Island) each released big shark.  Bottom fishermen out of the seaside port of Oyster found croaker in abundance.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters had a “great week” on flounder with fish measuring up to 24-1/2 inches.  The best numbers of the larger flounder are holding along the channel edges.  Mixed sizes of croaker remain abundant.  The biggest croaker seem to be in 25 to 40 feet of water, “any deeper or shallower and you get smaller fish,” noted Captain Wil.  Pods of spot are showing off Onancock.  “We seem to drift in and out of them.  We would probably catch more (spot) if we were using bloodworm.”  Other catches include medium sea mullet, snapper bluefish and pan trout.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel

Cobbs Marina had little to report from the weekend due to poor weather conditions but Monday and Tuesday (July 24 and 25) saw some impressive catches of flounder and sheepshead at the CBBT.  John Ruff, aboard the AFTER SIX, boated a 15-pound sheepshead at the Second Island, where Shawn Shapiro had a 10-pounder and Peris McElroy caught a 9-1/4-pounder. John Ruff also had a 53-1/2-inch, 40-pound, 10-ounce cobia at the Second Island.  Daniel Brickhouse caught and released a 26-inch flounder on a live spot and John Meekins, Jr. (8 pounds, 6 ounces; live spot) and Carl Herring, Jr. (7-1/4 pounds; live spot) each weighed-in citation winning flatfish.

Bubba’s Marina told of good catches of flounder, sheepshead and cobia at the CBBT.  Anglers are using either live spot or cut bait for the flounder, fiddler crab for the sheepshead and chumming while at anchor and using a combination of live and dead bait for the cobia.  Inside the inlet, good-sized spot staged several strong runs the past week.  Some of the fish reportedly have already taken on a golden-hue.

Sunset Boating Center said except for a few anglers that stayed “in close” around the HRBT and managed a few spot, Saturday was a total blowout.  On Sunday, Eric Harris landed a 91-pound cobia aboard the SMOKIN GUN at York Spit.  Earlier in the week, Hampton Bar was still holding plenty of croaker and a few keeper-sized flounder. 

Salt Ponds Marina said anglers fishing in the vicinity of the CBBT are catching plenty of flounder and croaker while offshore waters produced some dolphin.  Jeffery Wilson, fishing aboard the FATTY FLATTIE, boated a 28-inch, 8-pound, 3-ounce flounder on a bucktail while wirelining the CBBT.

Jimmy Lewis from A & S Feed and Bait Supply described the flounder action around buoy 42 as “pretty good” the past week.  Buoy 42 was where Allen Hall boated a 7-pound, 15-ounce flatfish.  News of any cobia was sparse, “I’m not hearing much about cobia at all,” noted Jimmy.  Inside the river, there were still plenty of croaker to be caught but “they’re not as thick as they were earlier,” according to Jimmy.  On the other hand, spot numbers are increasing steadily.  Anglers fishing the Gloucester Point public pier recorded mixed catches of spot and croaker plus a few keeper flounder.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said flounder fishing was hit and miss the past week. “When you hit them right, there were some monster flatfish caught,” and Neill knew of flounder of over 7 pounds that were caught by other Club members the past weekend.   The Dare Marina/PSWSFA Open Flounder Tournament that was scheduled for this past weekend was postponed due to wind and is now scheduled for this Saturday, July 29.  The flounder hot spots remain the CBBT and the Cell/Buoy 42 area. Cobia continue to be very active throughout the lower bay and most fish are being caught by chumming on the shoals near the CBBT. Still, some really big cobia remain to be caught off of Grandview. More and more cobia are showing on the buoys and the pilings of the CBBT. The red drum bite just will not stop. Bull reds continue to be caught on the shoals near the CBBT and in the surf along the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore. Sheepshead action remains very good along the CBBT.  Amberjacks are an easy catch at the southern towers but they are also available closer to Rudee Inlet. Neill suggested the Chesapeake Light Tower, Gulf Hustler, Rick’s, and Hanks would all be good locations to try for the hard-fighting amberjack. As a bonus, “all of these places are also holding spadefish and Spanish mackerel.”  Offshore, the tuna bite has really slowed down. There are some yellowfin tuna out there and some keeper bluefin tuna on the Fingers.  Billfish action is good and getting better every day plus there are plenty of dolphin and some wahoo around.

Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:
It’s not hard to determine what’s biting, that would be most everything! But based on the questions I field from anglers, it seems the most interest lies with three species in particular: flounder, sheepshead, and amberjack. Yes, this year’s flourishing flounder fishery is providing plentiful and large fish, with very few boats returning empty-handed. Most of the larger flatfish are resulting from live bait offered along varying bottom structures toward the lower part of the bay. Structure can vary from rubble, to the island tubes of the CBBT, to bridge piling bases, and inshore and near shore wrecks. Rick Williams scored with a nice 8-pound flattie while working a near shore wreck. Sheepshead are gaining incredible accolades since the fishery has developed over the past few years. Anglers are steadily encountering these structure-oriented fish along the entire span of the Bay Bridge Tunnel, as well as some lower bay fishing piers and jetties, where Chip Gallo enticed a 13-pound, 7-ounce sheepshead from the Seagull fishing pier. These tasty fish will hit crab, fiddlers, clam, and even live bait. I have caught sheepshead on live bait while flounder fishing over the tubes! Amberjack are stirring interest, especially for many newcomers. The experience of bracing on the receiving end of a tug-of-war paired off against an irritated AJ is quite the rush. These brutes are ready for action at many local wrecks, but steady hook-ups at the south tower is enough to convince many boats to make that 60-mile run to tangle with the big boys.

Cobia are showing signs of re-grouping towards the entrance of the bay. Although many big fish are still falling for bottom-fished bait on the shoals, expect the casting scene to heat up within a few weeks. The renewed late-summer red drum action is making up for the non-existent black drum summer flop. Barrier Island anglers are picking through both pups and bulls, while the lower bay shoals are holding schools of big reds, where Fred Pratt rounded up a nice 49.5-incher from the Middle Grounds. Large croaker are lurking around the mouth of the bay structures and deeper channels, hitting live bait intended for flounder and jigs. Decent 3 to 4-pound grey trout are taking live bait fished near the 4th island of the Bay Bridge Tunnel. Spadefish are making their late season scuttle around the Northern span of the CBBT and the Chesapeake Light Tower, where several citation fish have been boated recently. Spanish Mackerel are a no-brainer for those trolling along the oceanfront and CBJ buoy line with small spoons on light tackle. The steady tautog bite and triggerfish mix are keeping wreck anglers busy, with a few citation tog claiming some attention. Tarpon action is still on the upswing near Oyster, with more sightings and a boated fish adding to the momentum. Doug Wehner released the catch of a lifetime, a 70-inch silver from the same area. Don’t ask, cause he won’t tell!
Offshore, the billfish scene is gaining the most consideration with white and blue marlin catches on the rise. This is good, since this is the month of the marlin tournaments, with several occurring this week. The largest marlin tournament in the world, the White Marlin Open out of Ocean City, is a big crowd-pleaser occurring about mid-month. Big dolphin and scattered yellowfin tuna are possibilities around the Norfolk Canyon and the Cigar. Chunking for bluefin tuna near 26-Mile Hill has also been popular lately. 

Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported the speckled trout action inside Dameron Marsh is “holding up nicely” despite all the hot weather of the past week.  “They’re not catching a lot of big fish,” cautioned Roger, “but they’re catching good numbers with some keepers (14-inch minimum size limit).”  More spot are showing up in the rivers while the bigger croaker are still holding along the deeper water channel edges.  Some pan trout and snapper bluefish are mixed in with the croaker.  Trollers found decent numbers of Spanish mackerel around Smith Point Bar in about 30 feet of water and off Dividing Creek. 

Smith Point Marina said between the intense heat and a number of thunder storms “fishing was real quiet last week.”  The marina did know some Spanish mackerel were caught by trollers “not far from Smith Point,” and the same area produced some croaker for the bottom fishing crowd.

Jerry Thrash from Queen’s Creek Outfitters reported an influx of smaller flounder into the Cell/buoy 42 area the past week, where surface water temperatures have reached 80 degrees.  Still, enough quality flounder are being caught by anglers to keep them interested, as Jeff Davis (7 pounds, 2 ounces), Paul Cashman (7 pounds, 10 ounces), Lee Mullikin (7 pounds, 11 ounces), Gerald Morgon, Jr. (7 pounds, 11 ounces) and Temple Wilkinson (8 pounds, 3 ounces) all weighed-in citation flounder Saturday.  Bottom fishermen working Butlers Hole and the Spike buoy enjoyed steady action on small to medium spot over the weekend.  Casters working the grass beds around Ware Neck, Hole-in-the-Wall and Cherry Point had decent catches of speckled trout.  Robert Harwood, Jr. boated an 89-pound cobia on a live eel at York Spit.

Locklies Marina said the lower portion of the river is “full of medium spot, almost #2’s.”  Some of the best hauls are coming from the Parrots Island area and from off the Silos, where bottom fishermen are seeing some croaker and the occasional flounder.

Tommy Lewis from Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen were catching good-sized spot in the Moratico Bar area while croaker were biting around buoy 12.

Fishing out of Deltaville, Captain Jim Thompson aboard the JIM-AN-I described last week as a “no brainer,” with a superb flounder bite in the buoy 42 area.  “Our charter on Monday had nearly two dozen flounder and only kept fish 20 inches and longer.”  The prime bait was good-sized stripes from large croaker, which are abundant and full of roe in the same area, according to Captain Thompson.  Cobia sightings are routine but most are not interested in offerings tossed their way.  Around the mouth of the Rappahannock River, “the spot seem on a mission to grow as fast as possible,” and filling a cooler full of two-to-the-spot in a few hours was no problem.  Pan trout, many under the 12-inch minimum size limit, and snapper bluefish are mixed in with the schools of spot. 

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported a number of billfish releases for the week including a white marlin release aboard the O FOUR by Kitty Faulk.  The BACKLASH ran several offshore trips last week and returned with mixed catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin.  Several of the yellowfin were pushing the 70-pound citation weight.  Inshore, trollers found plenty of Spanish mackerel and some snapper bluefish.  Trips to the Southern Towers produced lots of hook-ups with hard-fighting amberjack.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said the tuna action was “kinda slow” the past week but there were some nice gaffer dolphin caught and many boats saw and hooked-up billfish.  Billfish numbers seem to be increasing with the best numbers found out near the Norfolk and Washington canyons.  Inshore, trollers found good numbers of taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Virginia Piers -

Ocean View – Daytime anglers are seeing little activity but small croaker, medium spot, surfperch and skate are biting in the late evenings.  

– Early mornings and after sundown saw the best action with a mixture of spot, croaker, sea mullet and occasional keeper flounder.

Virginia Beach
– Bluefish and spot provided most of the action.  Some Spanish mackerel were caught from the end of the pier.

– Whenever the water has been clear, caster working the end of the pier usually caught bluefish and Spanish mackerel at times.  Medium sized spot were available on most tides.  Skates were always biting.

Outer Banks, NC -

For surf and pier anglers along the Nags Head area beaches it was a slow week.  Small croaker and sea mullet dominated the catches of surf fishermen.  Anglers working the Avalon Pier did not fare much better, although they did see several strong runs of snapper bluefish and spot.  Following the strong southwest winds on Saturday, water temperatures plummeted from 78 to 68 degrees and were down to just 62 degrees by Sunday at Avalon. 

South of Oregon Inlet at Cape Point on Buxton, casters enjoyed a good run of Spanish mackerel on Friday while bait fishermen working the nearby jetties caught spadefish and some black drum.  Bluefish hit the Point Saturday morning and bottom fishermen had mixed catches of croaker, spot and sea mullet throughout the day.  Sunday was a washout due to frequent thunder storms most of the day.  Some bluefish and puppy drum were caught in the evening.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported boats fishing Friday had either limit catches of dolphin or as many as seven billfish releases depending on which direction they fished.  Inshore trollers caught plenty of snapper bluefish and decent numbers of Spanish mackerel while the headboat recorded mixed catches of croaker, flounder and pan trout.  Saturday and Sunday saw similar results—good hauls of dolphin and impressive numbers of billfish flags flying.  On Monday, several boats located bigeye tuna and as many as five per boat were landed.  Dolphin remained in good supply, as some billfish and a few yellowfin tuna rounded out the day’s catch.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet had a super billfish day on Friday, as they recorded 37 releases including three Grand Slams.  On Saturday the seas were very rough and many boats stayed in port.  The boats that did fish returned with good catches of dolphin and a few wahoo and king mackerel plus recorded a good number of billfish releases.  The entire fleet was weathered-in on Sunday.  On Monday the fleet recorded 18 white marlin releases and 8 sailfish releases.  The dolphin bite cooled but some yellowfin tuna and wahoo were boated.

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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