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The Saltwater Review - 12 August 2004

Vol. 18, No. 12
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 decreased the bluefin tuna retention limit from 2 to 1 tuna (27 to less than 73 inches) as of July 22, 2004.  Click here for details. 

Another week of less than ideal fishing conditions failed to halt the catches of big flounder, as dozens of flatfish in excess of the 7-pound minimum qualifying weight were registered in the annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.  Best chance for a trophy, doormat-sized flounder remains the CBBT complex, the edges of the shipping channels off Cape Charles and the Cell/buoy 42 area.

Schools of hungry bluefish are holding around the mouths of the river systems and in the rips created by the CBBT complex.  A few Spanish mackerel are in the same waters.

Sheepshead, many topping the minimum qualifying weight of 7 pounds, continue to provide excellent action around the pilings of the CBBT complex and islands.  Sheepshead will hit clam, sand fleas or cut crab but a whole live fiddler crab is the preferred bait.

Blue water trollers saw improved catches of yellowfin tuna plus a scattered mixture of dolphin, wahoo and billfish last week.  Best concentrations of yellowfin were found between the Fingers and Norfolk Canyon while the best shot for a billfish release was south of the Cigar.  Some bluefin tuna still linger off Wachapreague and Chincoteague but most of the larger fish are caught "on the chunk."

Chincoteague -

Barnacle Bill's described inshore waters as, "dirty," and then added, "Things have been slow."  Offshore, boats making a long run to the canyons found yellowfin tuna in good supply but inshore "hot spots," such as the Lumpy Bottom and Parking Lot, strikes were few and far between.

Donna from Captain Bob's described the anglers that made the long run (55 miles) to Wayne's World as "mad men" but "that's where they needed to go for yellowfin."  Some anglers opted to stay closer to port, fishing the Parking Lot or Lumpy Bottom instead, where they were lucky to land a bluefin or two.  Inside the inlet, fair numbers of flounder were caught in the main channel from the carnival grounds and north, to the drawbridge.  Some croaker still linger in the same area but not in the numbers of a week earlier.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported mid-week action was slow, as the water was still clearing from the passage of Hurricane Alex.  But weekend anglers were treated to some excellent angling.  Boats chunking with butterfish boated as many as half-a-dozen hefty tuna.  Trollers had similar results in numbers of tuna but the fish caught trolling were of smaller average size.  Trollers did have the edge with gaffer dolphin and billfish.  The WHITE HOT was trolling in 20 fathoms and boated and released a white marlin while the crew aboard the CLASS ACT was trolling at the Norfolk Canyon and they released a blue marlin.

Captain Zed's said croaker remain abundant at Green and Drawing channels and inside Cedar Island Cover while decent catches of flounder were made in the sloughs on either side of the inlet and along the channel in front of the Coast Guard Station.  The charter boats FOXY LADY and SCORPIO both recorded large weekend catches of flounder.  Offshore action included a mixture of bluefin and yellowfin tuna, dolphin and a few billfish.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported good weekend catches of croaker weighing as much as 2-3/4 pounds off Cape Charles but on the seaside, "the fishing was dead."  Bayside anglers also found flounder with some of the best hauls coming from the deep-water surroundings buoy 36A and 38A.  Folks fishing from Kiptopeke State Park Pier caught plenty of croaker, but most were less than 10 inches, and bluefish invaded the pier around dusk.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported good bottom fishing for large croaker.  The biggest on a recent outing measured 19-1/2 inches and weighed over 3 pounds.  Bottom fishermen are also catching fair to good numbers of 8 to 12-inch spot, taylor blues, a scattering of keeper pan trout in the 12 to 15-inch range, porgy, a few white perch and "loads of tiny black sea bass and oyster toads."  Grocery store-bought squid has been the best bait for the croaker and pan trout while bloodworm is preferred for the spot.  The flounder bite remains above average.  Many flatfish are holding in with the croaker along the channel edges in 50-plus feet of water but recently, local anglers have found even better numbers of flounder drifting shallow water flats.  Captain Wil prefers fresh cut bluefish strips for the flounder but "cut croaker works nearly as well."

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported seeing "more flounder than anything," the past week and the CBBT complex was the favored location.  John Cevora aboard the SEA OX boated a 26-inch, 7-pound flatfish on squid at the Fourth Island and Charles Wroten nailed a 25-inch, 7-pounder aboard the BLITZ in the Baltimore Channel.  Earlier in the week, Mike Wroten landed an 11-pound, 3-ounce sheepshead at the First Island.

Lou at Bubba's Marina said weekend flounder catches were only fair but the following Monday and Tuesday the bite improved markedly, as several anglers recorded limit catches.  Many of the flounder were in the 4 to 5-pound range.  Top locations included the Lesner Bridge area and the Third and Fourth island areas of the CBBT complex.  Good numbers of 1-1/2 to 2-pound croaker were also biting at the CBBT, where sheepshead topping 7 pounds still linger.

Dr. Jim Wright told of good weekend runs of spot along the Virginia Beach resort strip.  Anglers fishing inside Lynnhaven Inlet, along Long Creek, likewise found good-sized spot up to ¾-of-a-pound and nice croaker up to 2 pounds.  Offshore, HIGH HOPES had a particularly good catch of yellowfin tuna plus a pair of gaffer dolphin on Saturday.

Sunset Boating Center said Tom Mattioli and crew limited out on flounder up to 23 inches mid-week while fishing between the Fourth Island the High Rise section of the CBBT.  Ken DeLoach and crew also boated a limit of flounder in the same area while Steve Clark decked an 8-1/2-pound flounder at the Third Island.  Stan Page caught nearly a dozen spadefish at the Fourth Island, including a 9-pound citation winner.  Jim Wharton and crew caught a limit of spadefish at the same location.  Bobby Ceglarski boated a nice 4-pound speckled trout and two smaller ones at Fort Monroe.

Salt Ponds Marina registered several citation flounder and one big sheepshead from the CBBT complex in recent days.  "That's what most people have been doing, going to the CBBT and fishing for flounder," according to the marina.  Anglers that chose to stay closer to port, "usually went to Hampton Bar," where they generally caught a mixture of croaker and spot.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen found decent numbers of croaker and a scattering of pan trout inside the York River.  Spot were still holding around the mouth of Sarah's Creek and hitting bloodworms.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the tuna bite around Wayne's World "just won't stop" while blue and white marlin are available in 100-plus fathoms.  Amberjack remain "hit or miss" at best on the inshore wrecks and towers, even with live bait while many of the same inshore wrecks hold decent numbers of willing spadefish.  Inside the Bay, the hump, buoy 36A and the CBBT complex produced good-sized flounder while nice-sized croaker are holding at Back River Reef and around the CBJ buoy.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported the biggest change in the past week's fishing action was the arrival of nice-sized spot at the Mudleads.   Trollers continued to record scattered catches of Spanish mackerel around the mouth of the river while anglers drifting for flounder at the jetty are catching the occasional keeper flatfish.  Bottom fishermen working the channel edges in the main stem of the Bay are still catching plenty of croaker, where schools of surface feeding taylor blues are becoming more common.  Roger also heard of a few grey trout that were caught just south of Tangier Island.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said fishing pressure was light the past week but anglers drifting for flounder around the mouth of the Little Wicomico had good catches of flounder.  Boats running over to buoy 68 and 72 and either trolling or chumming recorded limit catches of striped bass and a good number of bluefish up to 4 pounds.  Few anglers tried bottom fishing but those who did found plenty of hungry croaker at Blackberry Hang.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said Lewis A. Headrick of Hopewell boated a 13-inch, 16-ounce spot at Butlers Hole.  Good-sized spot were also caught around the spike buoy and Gwynn Island over the weekend.  Flounder are still holding in the buoy42/Cell area and the Hump.  A Flounder Tournament held Saturday out of Gwynn Island Boatel to benefit the Mathews Boys and Girls Club drew a field of 92 boats.  The first place flounder weighed an impressive 10 pounds, 9 ounces and was caught by Steve Barefoot.  The second place fish was caught by John Sibley and weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces.  Lance Pittman finished third with a 7-pound, 12-ounce flatfish and Neil Insley came in fourth with a 7-pound flounder.

Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen enjoyed good catches of spot, plus a scattering of trout to 2-1/2 pounds and the occasional flounder, at Butlers Hole and off Parrot Rock.

Garretts Marina said waters surrounding buoy 19 are producing good numbers of spot and catfish plus a scattering of croaker.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said the flounder bite at the Cell slowed considerably the past week and more flatfish were now being caught around the mouth of the Rappahannock River, at Windmill Point and the Spike buoy.  Pods of jumbo spot are holding in the same area but cautioned, "one day you catch the spot and the next day you won't."  Trollers pulling small spoons in this same area are catching some Spanish mackerel and plenty of taylor bluefish.

Virginia Beach -

Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported rough sea conditions kept the fleet in port on Friday but on Saturday the whole fleet went out and recorded excellent catches of yellowfin tuna plus some gaffer dolphin.  John Aragona boated and released a blue marlin.  Inshore boats caught spadefish, taylor bluefish and Spanish mackerel.

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said waters south of the Cigar produced blue and white marlin releases the past week while waters just east of the Fingers held the best numbers of tuna.

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 - The new owner of the property where Harrison's Pier was located (prior to Hurricane Isabel) has announced plans to build a new pier at the same location.  The estimated cost is 1.8 million dollars and the pier could be ready to open in early 2005.

Lynnhaven - The murky waters left behind by Hurricane Alex provided the perfect cover for one of the bottom fishing fraternities favorite fish—the spot.  Good hauls of spot, often "two-at-a-time" were made over the weekend.  Bloodworm was by far the preferred bait but the tasty bottom fish were hungry enough to hit a variety of other baits including cut fish and squid.

Virginia Beach - Casters working the end of the pier scored on taylor bluefish and a scattering of Spanish mackerel while bottom fishermen enjoyed a good weekend run of spot plus some croaker.

Sandbridge - Saturday's water conditions, barely 70 degrees and muddy, were fine for spot, as bottom fishermen rigged with a simple double-hooked bottom rig baited with small pieces of bloodworm literally filled coolers full of the tasty bottom fish.  By Monday, the ocean waters had cleared and the spot had "vanished" but bluefish, Spanish mackerel and even a few pompano were caught in their place.

Outer Banks, NC -

Surf and pier fishermen along the Nags Head area beaches caught a variety of fish but only spot were in abundance.  Other catches included bluefish, speckled trout, flounder, croaker, Spanish mackerel and pompano.

At Cape Point on Buxton, casters managed a handful of bluefish, Spanish mackerel and trout on Friday.  By Saturday the weather had improved markedly and bottom fishermen pulled-in croaker, big spot, sea mullet and bluefish.  On Sunday a 42-inch red drum was beached at the Point and other catches included bluefish, pompano, sea mullet and flounder.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center recorded fair catches of yellowfin tuna and a scattering of dolphin on Friday.  Inshore boats caught bluefish and Spanish mackerel while the headboat had a mixture of pigfish, sea bass and sea mullet.  The offshore fleet fared better on Saturday, returning to the dock with nice hauls of dolphin topping 40 pounds, fair numbers of yellowfin tuna up to 60 pounds and a few wahoo.  The big story for Sunday was that one boat jumped four sailfish and eventually landed and then released three of them.  The fleet returned with a mixture of dolphin, blackfin tuna, 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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