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The Saltwater Review - 18 August 2004

Vol. 18, No. 13
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.

Effective August 20, 2004, the bluefin tuna retention limit in the HMS Angling category will increase from 1 to 2 tuna (27 to less than 73 inches) through September 20, 2004. Click here for details.

Thunderstorms during the week and then Hurricane Charley passed through the area Saturday and fishing opportunities were reduced last week. The good news is the large amount of rainfall dropped by Charley was limited to the Tidewater area and not the entire Bay watershed. Lower Bay waters are already clearing and flounder fishing appears to have suffered very little. Top choices for a trophy, doormat-sized flounder remain the CBBT complex, the edges of the shipping channels off Cape Charles and the Cell/buoy 42 area. 

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 can expect the already good yellowfin tuna bite to remain steady with improved catches of billfish likely. Best concentrations of yellowfin tuna for boats heading out of Tidewater were found between the Fingers and Norfolk Canyon. Some bluefin tuna still linger off Wachapreague and Chincoteague but most of the larger fish are caught "on the chunk."

Chincoteague -

Barnacle Bill's reported waters inside the inlet were "dirty" because of the recent rainfall but "whenever the water clears they're catching flounder." Despite the murky water condition bottom fishermen were catching some croaker along Chincoteague Channel and at Black Narrows. Outside the inlet, tuna, mostly yellowfin, were caught in 20 fathoms. A recent trip aboard the TOOLS-OF-THE-TRADE produced over a dozen tuna. Bottom fishing at Winter Quarter Shoals produced a mixture of black sea bass and triggerfish.

Donna from Captain Bob's Marina said decent catches of flounder were recorded along Chincoteague Channel, from the CV buoy to marker #4. Bottom fishermen are also catching some croaker but the bite has slowed from early August. Offshore, the week's best tuna catches were made in the vicinity of Wayne's World, "about a 55 mile run from Chincoteague," according to Donna. Anglers looking for a shorter run managed some yellowfin tuna up to 60 pounds and a scattering of bluefin plus some chopper bluefish at the Lumpy Bottom.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported good catches of yellowfin tuna in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon while the inshore hills held plenty of bluefish and a few bluefin tuna prior to the weekend. Mark Sahanaman released a white marlin at the Norfolk Canyon aboard the JAMES GANG. 

Captain Zed's said the weekend storm dumped plenty of rain but "we didn't have a lot of wind or high tides." Still, fishing activity came to a near standstill for three days, though some flounder and croaker were caught near the inlet. 

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle told of decent catches of flounder off Kiptopeke prior to the weekend, as both Larry Howell (7 pounds) and wife Linda (7 pounds, 2 ounces) boated citation flatfish on separate outings. A few anglers were out on Sunday and caught keeper flounder, croaker and spot near buoy 36A. The late summer run of red drum could get underway anytime; as the trophy-sized drum usually show off Cape Charles sometime around mid-August. Over on the seaside, bottom fishing for croaker was slow before the storm and no new reports have been received.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters concentrated on flounder fishing the past week with good results. Some parties boated over two-dozen keeper flatfish (minimum size limit 17 inches) with several fish topping 6 pounds. Captain Wil said fresh cut bluefish was the top bait for the bigger flounder, followed by cut croaker and then squid. Bottom fishing slowed for croaker and spot but good-sized fish remain. Other catches include taylor bluefish and a few pan trout.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported the rain and storms of last week "didn't help fishing. We didn't have many customers and the fishing was off for those that did fish." Earlier in the week, big, hand-sized spot were biting back inside Little Creek at Pretty Lake but the shop had no recent reports.

Bubba's Marina told of good catches of flounder around the Second and Third islands and Lesner Bridge. Anglers fishing near the Lesner Bridge are also catching lots of taylor bluefish and a scattering of trout while spot of nearly 16 ounces were caught back inside the inlet. Anglers using fiddler crab for bait and working the pilings of the CBBT complex continue to find big sheepshead.

Dr. Jim Wright fished offshore on Tuesday and caught and released a white marlin. The group then moved inshore over rough bottom nearly 200 feet below the surface and had a good catch of 3 to 5-pound blueline tilefish and black sea bass up to 20 inches. Dr. Wright also told of a good offshore bite for yellowfin tuna through Thursday. 

Wallace's Marina said flounder were biting around the Third and Fourth islands and Back River Reef prior to the weekend storm. On Thursday, Dave Boyce (7 pounds, 6 ounces) and Debbi Boyce (7-3/4 pounds) each boated citation flounder aboard the Paige II at the Third/Fourth island tube. On Friday and in the rain, the crew aboard the BRANDY WHINE limited out on flounder up to 7-1/4 pounds at the Fourth Island. Bottom fishermen working off Factory Point reported a mixed bag of pan trout, bluefish and croaker.

Sunset Boating Center said several customers turned-in good hauls of flounder before the weekend storm. Bill Tice nailed a 7-1/2-pound flounder at the Fourth Island and the day's bag included other flounder to 23 inches. Tommy Mattioli caught keeper flounder to 22 inches plus some pan trout while fishing the HRBT and along Little Creek Channel. Mike Formal fished Hampton Bar and limited-out on flounder to 21 inches. 
Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said little harm was suffered from the storm but "with all the rain we just haven't had many people fishing." The prior week, Harold Jackson boated a 10-pound citation sheepshead on a bucktail at the CBBT but "that was our only citation in two weeks." Cindy did volunteer that one party of anglers caught six flounder, only two were big enough to keep but "not big enough to weigh."

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the croaker bite above the Gloucester Point Bridge had slowed, and this, coupled with all the weekend rain meant, "We didn't have a lot of fishing." Prior to the weekend, bottom fishermen were catching a decent number of pan trout off Cheatham Annex while fair numbers of speckled trout were caught inside Mobjack Bay. The shop registered a citation flounder that was caught inside the York River, off the Amoco Pier, and heard that spot were biting at Twin Stakes.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the rain deposited by Hurricane Charley did little to slow the lower Bay flounder, as good hauls of flatfish were registered in the vicinity of buoy 36A and the CBBT complex, "as soon as the boats got back out." The hurricane did stir-up some spot and speckled trout in the lower portions of Back and Poquoson rivers. Offshore, the yellowfin tuna bite "from Wayne's World and on out to 30 fathoms" was good prior to the weekend and after. Captain Nolan Agner ran a trip Sunday (August 15), boated eight yellowfin up to 57 pounds and had a wahoo destroy a spreader bar. The same day Ken Neill fished the Chesapeake Light Tower with live croaker. The two largest croaker produced instant strikes, likely husky amberjack, but the remainder of the baits, much smaller fish, went untouched.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported the impact of Charley was minimal. "Highest gust on my wind gauge was only 14.4 MPH. We did get about 2 inches of rain." Anglers fishing the Northwest Middle Grounds caught a mixture of bluefish, striped bass and large croaker in their chum lines on Monday. Trollers working the mouth of the river prior to the storm continued to catch a scattering of Spanish mackerel, "maybe just a few more than last week but not many," volunteered Roger. Schools of taylor blues are found in the same area with better concentrations holding in the vicinity of Smith Point Light. Anglers drifting for flounder near the jetty continue to pick up some keeper-sized flatfish while spot remain available at the Mud Leads.

Locklies Marina reported very good bottom fishing for large spot plus a few croaker and occasional bluefish at Carters Creek and the mouth of Locklies Creek.

Garretts Marina said the weekend storm had very little effect on area waters and bottom fishermen were making nice hauls of spot and catfish plus a few croaker near buoy 19.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said weather concerns kept many captains tied to the dock over the weekend. Pods of spot are moving down the river, "they're number ones or jumbos," according to Captain Thompson but not always easy to locate. Flounder remain active at the mouth of the river and Cell with a better "keeper ration" reported by anglers fishing the mouth of the river. Good-sized croaker still linger along Cut Channel with some of the best hauls made near buoy 57.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the charter fleet was enjoying good to excellent catches of yellowfin tuna "right up until we cancelled everything due to Hurricane Charley." Following the passage of the storm, Hans Hohlrieder and Paul Morris each released a white marlin and inshore boats split time between spadefish at the Tower Reef and inshore trolling for taylor blues.

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said one group (since the hurricane) that fished east of the Fingers boated several yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus a wahoo. The marina also heard of a decent white marlin bite in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon.

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 - Spot and crabs provided the bulk of the action here. The spot preferred pieces of the bloodworm while crabs would eat fish or chicken.

Virginia Beach - Spot provided the best action though bottom fishermen also decked some croaker, sea mullet, snapper blues and crabs.

Sandbridge - The pier produced a good run of taylor bluefish and spot plus a few Spanish mackerel just prior to Hurricane Charley.

Outer Banks, NC -

Anglers fishing the beach and piers in the Nags Head area enjoyed good runs of spot, some sea mullet, bluefish and even a few speckled trout. An excellent run of spot developed on Avalon Pier on Sunday, just about the time the rain stopped. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, flounder, spot and speckled trout were decked on the pier the following day (Monday, August 16).

South of Oregon Inlet, anglers fishing Cape Point on Buxton experienced slow action leading up to the weekend. On Saturday the Park Service closed the beach and then re-opened Sunday. On Sunday several keeper-sized puppy drum plus a scattering of flounder and croaker. 

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported good catches of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin, wahoo and billfish just prior to the weekend. Most of the fleet docked at the Fishing Center left for more protected waters on Friday and then returned Sunday. By Monday the charter fleet was running and recorded good hauls of mixed sizes of dolphin and a scattering of yellowfin tuna.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed a "billfish bonanza" on Thursday, August 12 but remained in port for the next several days due to Bonnie and Charley. After passage of the storms boats returned with limit catches of dolphin plus some wahoo 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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