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The Saltwater Review - 28 July 2004

Vol. 18, No. 10
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 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 increased the bluefin tuna retention limit from 1 to 2 tuna (27 to less than 73 inches) as of June 21, 2004 but the possession limit is set to return to 1 tuna on July 22.  See the attached announcement for details.  
New State Record Sheepshead Certified

The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament has certified a 19-pound, 3-ounce sheepshead; caught by Jeff Hutton on July 25, 2004, as the new Virginia state record.  The huge fish, which measured 28 inches long, was caught while anchored over the "tube" at the Second Island of the CBBT.  The fish hit a piece of hard crab and was weighed at Long Bay Pointe Marina.

Despite less than ideal fishing conditions for most of last week, the trophy flounder bite remained steady, as dozens of flatfish in excess of the 7-pound minimum qualifying weight were registered and several fish exceeded 10 pounds.  Best chance for a trophy, doormat-sized flounder remains the CBBT complex and the Cell/buoy 42 area.   Anglers dead-set on a big flounder are using various "tricks," including drifting large live bait, slow trolling with wire or braided line or vertical jigging with a heavy jig tipped with a large strip of fresh fish over the CBBT tubes.

Offshore, spadefish are obliging on the inshore wrecks, which also hold some amberjack, black sea bass and some big tautog.  Bluewater trollers report a scattered mixture of tuna, dolphin, wahoo and billfish.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's reported decent catches of flounder between the CV buoy and marker 14.  Good numbers of croaker are found in the same area, as well as Queen's Sound.  Anglers bottom fishing with bloodworms around the Queen's Sound Bridge and the Hook are catching nice-sized sea mullet.  Offshore, the biggest bluefin tuna of the week weighed 118.8 pounds and was caught at the Lumpy Bottom.  Some bluefin are available at the Parking Lot but bluefish are extremely abundant.  Further east, trollers are catching a mixture of mostly yellowfin tuna and gaffer plus a few billfish and occasional wahoo.

Wachapreague -

Randy Lewis from Wachapreague Marina told of good flounder action in the sloughs located on either side of the mouth of the inlet.  Bottom fishermen caught lots of croaker inside the inlet with some of the best hauls coming from Bullshead Creek and the mouth of Seals Creek.  Offshore, chunkers working the Lumpy Bottom recorded mixed catches of tuna and gaffer dolphin while trollers fared best inshore, on the 21 Mile Hill.  Robert Keenin released a white marlin at the canyon and J.T. Swineford boated a fat, 10-1/2-pound, 26-1/2-inch long tautog on an inshore wreck.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported decent weekend catches of flounder (considering the weather) on the bayside and big hauls of croaker on the seaside.  Biggest flounder of the weekend was an 8-pound, 7-ounce flatfish, boated at the Cell by Clay Wheeler.  Richard Gleason (8 pounds, 3 ounces) and Dennis Cline (7 pounds, 5 ounces on 2-pound test line and submitted to the IGFA for as a line class record) also decked citation flounder at the Cell.  Ronald Hoover boated a 7-pound flounder at buoy 36A.  Several anglers landed large sheepshead at the CBBT, including James Dayton, III (7-1/4 and 7 pounds, 1 ounce) and Ronnie Bishop (8-1/4 pounds).  Live fiddler crab was the preferred bait.  Several anglers seeking the elusive tarpon in Virginia found their reward out of the seaside port of Oyster last week, as Timothy Brown (72 and 45 inches), James C. Wright (70 inches) and Charles Carlson (68 inches) all earned release awards for the silver king.   The shop mentioned a few speckled trout have begun to appear inside the bayside creeks while cobia remain scarce off Cape Charles.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fishing Finn Charters reported outstanding bottom fishing off Onancock the past week, as "everything was biting," even though the weather was less than ideal.  Bottom fishermen caught "as many croaker as they wanted" plus good numbers of white perch, spot, pan trout (but only 1-in-10 was a keeper), snapper bluefish and sea mullet, adding "this was while we were anchored."  Flounder were a rare catch at anchor "but once we started drifting the channel edges we caught plenty of flounder and over half were 17 inches or better."

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported good catches of large flounder, as the shop weighed nearly a dozen citation flatfish over the weekend.  Chip Kinnoch weighed-in the biggest, at 30-1/2 inches, 10 pounds, 6 ounces but Joseph Millard decked a flatfish just as long, at 30-1/2 inches, but it weighed a few ounces less, at 10 pounds, 3 ounces.  Nearly all the bigger flounder were caught at or near the CBBT complex.   Other citation fish included a pair of qualifying sheepshead, at 10 pounds, 5 ounces by John Zyzak and a 7-1/4-pound sheepshead by Stephen Williams.  Both of these fish were also boated at the CBBT.  Justin Morgan registered a white marlin release that was hooked on a trolled ballyhoo out on the Fingers.

Bubba's Marina said big flounder were caught over the weekend despite the poor weather conditions.   The CBBT complex remains the top location for flounder and medium-sized live spot have been the hot bait for the bigger flatfish.   Sheepshead and spadefish remain available around the CBBT.  Around the mouth of the inlet, anglers are catching plenty of snapper bluefish, some small flounder, decent-sized croaker and spot.

Dr. Jim Wright tried for billfish on a mid-week trip.  The party scored several gaffer dolphin and a tuna or two but "it just wasn't great fishing," as no billfish were hooked or seen.  Inside Lynnhaven Inlet, good-sized spot, bluefish, a few puppy drum and even a speckled trout or two are holding in Long Creek, according to Wright.

Wallace's Bait and Tackle said weekend catches included a 69-pound cobia, boated by Jay Wall on a live eel at the Inner Middle Grounds.  Only one other cobia was weighed, as the bite remains very slow.  Flounder and spadefish provide the most consistent action, as Back River Reef, the Hump and the CBBT produced the best flatfish hauls.  Biggest flounder of the week was a 9-pounder pulled in at the First Island of the CBBT.  Bottom fishermen are catching some large croaker and good-sized spot around the mouth of Back River and over Hampton Bar.  A few speckled trout were reportedly caught over the grass beds surrounding Back River while puppy drum remain unseasonably scarce.

Sunset Marina told of decent flounder action over the weekend despite less than ideal conditions.  The crew aboard the Mattie-J fished the Third Island area of the CBBT and boated several nice flounder of 20 inches or more, including a 7-pound, 3-ounce flatfish by Pete Spicer.  Scott Agee decked several keeper flounder up to 23 inches around the Thimble Shoals Light.  On the downside, "flounder pounders" working the Hampton Bar reported mostly under-sized flatfish but did catch some nice-sized croaker.  The shop also heard of steady catches of spadefish in the ocean at the Tower Reef.
Salt Ponds Marina described the weekend as very slow adding, "it's been really ugly all week and nobody's been fishing."

A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen are still catching some fair-sized croaker and a few flounder from the Gloucester Point Pier while the waters off the Amoco Pier are still producing some spot.  A few speckled trout were caught inside Mobjack Bay on the lower portion of the Severn River and at Four Point Marsh.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the offshore tuna bite improved the past week while billfish remain in seasonally good numbers plus wahoo have arrived.  Fishing out of Rudee Inlet, captain Richard Bartlett found good numbers of yellowfin Saturday, Sunday and Monday plus the parties hooked three blue marlin.  Moving inshore, large amberjack are holding around the legs of the Chesapeake Light but even live bait fished during times when few other boats are in the area do not guarantee hook-ups.  Spadefish are abundant around this structure and nearly every other inshore wreck.  Trollers seeking Spanish mackerel find the rips off Cape Henry loaded with snapper blues and fare better working the rips along the CBBT.   Jorj Head and Gene Hunsecker fished the CBBT for flounder mid-week.  The pair only managed to boat three keeper flatfish but all three were good-sized and the heaviest weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported bottom fishermen found plenty of croaker in the deeper water north of buoy 62 and over the Northern Neck Reef.  Bottom fishermen are also catching a scattering of pan trout, lots of snapper blues and some small to medium spot.  A few larger spot were pulled in just outside Dividing Creek and a decent number of keeper flounder, including a 25-inch flatfish, were caught around the jetty.   "I did hear of one Spanish mackerel caught" and a few more were taken in local pound nets.  

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said weather kept fishing activities to a minimum over the weekend, as the shop failed to register a citation catch for the first time this summer, I believe.  The few boats that ventured across the Bay to Cell/buoy 42 area found flounder but fish less than 17 inches were more abundant that in recent weeks.  Cathy Rowe weighed-in the biggest flounder of the period, a 25-inch, 5-pound, 11-ouncer, caught on cut bait at buoy 42.  Closer to port, bottom fishermen found mixed sizes of spot at the spike buoy, Butler's Hole and off Gwynn Island.  David Shields landed a cobia at York Spit and another party caught and released a smaller cobia inside buoy 42.

Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen are catching spot and some croaker off Parrots Rock, at Mosquito Point and at Butlers Hole.

Garretts Marina said the few anglers that fished recently (due to weather) recorded decent hauls of croaker and catfish on the river, from Tappahannock to Moratico.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said a strong run of flounder at the Cell was the highlight of last week's action, as one trip produced a limit for the nine passengers on board.  Small schools of spot were found on Sturgeon Bar, the "spike" buoy and Butlers Hole.  Flood tide produced the best action and bloodworm was "the" bait.  The Corn House off Gwynn Island also produced some spot and small croaker.  Spanish mackerel finally made a decent showing at the mouth of the river last week and fish up to 24 inches were boated.  Best action was from Windmill Bar to Dymers Creek.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center said their inshore boats caught a mixture of snapper bluefish, Spanish mackerel and spadefish while the bluewater fleet returned with yellowfin tuna, skipjack, dolphin and wahoo.  Dalton Wood, Jr. and Harold Beazley each released a blue marlin over the weekend while Mark Stephenson boated a pair of citation wahoo (42 and 47 pounds) at the Norfolk Canyon.

Boats fishing from Fisherman's Wharf Marina found a scattering of gaffer dolphin and yellowfin tuna plus the occasional billfish east of the Cigar.  Inshore, loads of snapper bluefish are holding just outside the surf zone along much of the resort strip beaches.  Spanish mackerel are also available but expect to catch a lot of bluefish for every mackerel boated.

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 - Crabs remain the "catch of the day," though daytime bottom fishermen are managing to catch some snapper bluefish and small croaker.  When evening arrives anglers see more bluefish plus some spot, croaker and sea mullet with pan trout showing on the edges of the pier light's shadow.

Virginia Beach - Here too, crabs made a strong showing over the weekend-to the delight of some and dismay of others.  Between the crabs, bottom fishermen scored on spot, sea mullet and croaker (and plenty of skate) while casters enjoyed fast but sporadic action on snapper bluefish and the occasional Spanish mackerel

Sandbridge - Believe it or not, water temperatures around the pier dropped below 60 degrees on Saturday, as west winds pushed the warmer surface waters offshore.  Skate were the most active feeders in the resulting chocolate colored waters but persistent anglers did manage a few sea mullet and spot.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach and pier fishermen in the Nags Head area saw water temperatures plunge from the mid-70's (Friday) to nearly 60 degrees (Sunday) over the weekend.  Overall fishing action was noticeably slowed but some snapper bluefish, small to medium flounder, spot and sea mullet were caught.

South of Oregon Inlet at Cape Point, casters working the beach caught a mixture of snapper blues and Spanish mackerel "early and late" in the day on Friday.  Anglers bottom with bait pulled-in some sea mullet, flounder and bluefish at the hook during the day.  Overall action was slow on Saturday with a scattering of bluefish and Spanish mackerel and a few pompano reported.  Sunday's results were even less exciting, as a few small sharks were beached and one or two sea mullet and small flounder.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported a mixture of good-sized yellowfin tuna (30 to 50 pounds), several blackfin tuna, a scattering of dolphin and numerous "cut-offs" due to wahoo.  The yellowfin bite was strong on Saturday plus a scattering of dolphin and wahoo.  One boat recorded a Grand Slam (a blue, a white and a sailfish release).  On Sunday two boats recorded "Slams" and most boats returned with decent numbers of dolphin and a few yellowfin tuna.  The headboat recorded mixed catches of flounder, pigfish and croaker.

The fleet sailing form Hatteras Inlet reported wahoo were the "catch of the day" on Friday but king mackerel, dolphin and blackfin tuna were also boated plus several anglers scored white marlin releases.  On Saturday "meat fishing" was slow with scattered catches of dolphin and wahoo but that was in part because anglers were hooked-up with billfish.  The BITE ME registered a pair of billfish releases, as Chad Boyette of Norfolk released a blue marlin and Kellie Boyette of Norfolk released a white.  On Sunday anglers were greeted to slick calm ocean waters and schools of hungry dolphin, as several parties recorded limit catches.  Other catches included a few wahoo, king mackerel and yellowfin tuna.

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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