Plans and Statistics Department Staff
NOTE: The Virginia Saltwater Review will not be produced next week on September 7th. The next edition will be published September 14th, 2007.
Labor Day approaches, the weather forecast looks great, and the fishing reports overall have been positive. Inshore, croaker are everywhere, big spot are starting to make an appearance, keeper flounder are on the rise, and puppy drum in the back creeks have staff watching the clock. Offshore, the billfish action is great, with tuna, wahoo and barracuda in the mix. Sounds like a great combination for a successful weekend of family, fun, and fishing as we mark the ‘unofficial' end of the summer fishing season! However, we all know the fishing in Virginia never ends, and the fall run is fast approaching.
The Marine Sportfish Collection Project, part of the Virginia Recreational Assessment Program, and provided for by the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Development Fund, has been an incredible success this year. Many thanks to the numerous dedicated anglers who have participated and the staffs of Chris's Bait and Tackle (Capeville), Long Bay Pointe Marina (Virginia Beach), and Wallace's Bait and Tackle (Hampton). Since July 5, 2007, 234 fish have been donated to VMRC's biological sampling program by 113 different anglers.
The Virginia Recreational Assessment Programs "Saltwater Fisherman's Journal" has 391 anglers signed on, so far. Participants have been providing valuable feedback to the staff about the reporting journal, and we are working with our programmers to set up an improved method for reporting ranges of sizes for released fish to simplify that part of the reporting process. This is a long term project that is intended to provide valuable information about Virginia's recreational fishery to both VMRC and the public in general, as well as specific catch information for use by the Artificial Reef program staff as they monitor productivity at each of their 22 artificial reefs. Go to www.vasaltwaterjournal.com to join and report your catch!
Donna at Captain Bob's Marina reported big croaker (18 to 20 inches) at the Queen's Sound Bridge, both the north and south sides. Smaller croaker (13 to 14 inches) have been seen in the Assateague Channel, and in front of Inlet View at the canal, 19 to 20 inch croaker are being caught near the embankments. A few flounder are also biting in the Assateague Channel in front of Tom's Cove Campground. Offshore, the tuna bite has been poor, but Blackfish Banks (the Subway Cars) is really hot right now. Anglers are maxing out on triggerfish and spadefish, and some are coming in with good sized flounder in the 5 to 7 pound range. There is plenty of action in the Chincoteague inshore waters with small black sea bass and weakfish, but none are large enough to keep. Snapper blues, skates, and dogfish are also being caught. Surf fishing is producing the same catch as inshore, but with a slow bite.
At the Wachapreague Marina, anglers are catching small flounder, and large croaker are being caught in the Wachapreague Inlet. Offshore, the LUCKY DOG had two blue marlin releases, and the WHITE BITE released three white marlin. Captain Bobby Marshal on the CLASS ACT reported a nice catch of 16 dolphin and 1 wahoo.
Randy at Captain Zeds' reported that a few keeper flounder are still being caught in the area. Most were landed at Bradford's Channel and at Millstone Creek. Numerous large croaker are being caught at Cedar Island Cove, specifically at the point of the island, and in Gates Channel. A few spot and kingfish have been landed, and the Spanish mackerel bite has been good outside of the Wachapreage Inlet, a quarter to a half a mile south of the channel. On the 24th, Chris Vann from Newark, Delaware, had a citation white marlin, and, on the 25th, a yellowfin tuna was brought in by Bryan Fisher.
Staff at Chris' Bait and Tackle reported five flounder citations this week; the largest (9 lbs 8 oz) was caught by Mike Bodykin. Four of the citations were caught in the Cape Charles area and one was landed at the high rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Large red drum are beginning to bite near Latimer Shoals, but no keepers were reported (juvenile red drum within the 18 to 26 inch slot limit), and seaside, at Oyster, anglers are still having success with croaker in the mornings.
Fishing has been slow over the past few weeks at Cherrystone Bait and Tackle. No citations were reported. According to Ernie, the water is too warm for the large fish to move around, but he predicts that the fishing will pick up in a few weeks.
Captain Wil reported that fishing has been good this week, but it is taking a lot of time to find clear water from the red tide. Croaker of all sizes are biting from 4 feet to 60 feet of water depending on the time of day. Flounder fishing has picked up, and he has been getting 1 to 3 keepers daily. Grey trout up to 16 inches are biting, as well as some kingfish and spot. Red drum releases have been reported from the flats on either side of Onancock. Speckled trout, bluefish, and porgy were also reported this week.
Only one citation was reported from Cobb's Marina this week. On the 28th, angler Mark Evans caught a 7 lb, (25 in) flounder at the 1st island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Like Mr. Evans, most boats have been heading toward the bridge tunnel this week.
Wallace's Bait and Tackle reports decent flounder catches this week. There were three citations for flounder; the largest was 8 lbs 5 oz (27 ˝ inches). Most of the flounder have been landed around the 4th island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and most anglers are using small spot.
Flounder kept anglers busy this week at Sunset Boating Center. Several anglers reported large catches. On the 25th, Robert Norris had two keeper flounder (20 and 26 inches). The SHADY ONE reportedly caught their limit on flounder (ranging from 19 ˝ to 22 inches), and the FLAT ATTACK caught three keeper flounder. All catches were reported from the Hampton Bar area.
Staff reports a big improvement in the flounder fishing this week at Salt Ponds Marina. Large flounder seem to be biting again, mixed with a few croaker. There were four citations this week. Kenneth King, Jr. of Hampton caught a 9 lb 7 oz flounder at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel using spot, and the FATTY FLATTY had two citation flounder (7 lbs 5 oz caught by Blackie Gordon, and 7 lbs 3 oz caught by Barry Bradley). The fourth citation was an 80 lb sailfish caught by J. R. Houck aboard the LADY BLU'.
The York River Fishing Center reported that while the number of people fishing has decreased, the flounder fishing has picked up. A citation flounder (7 lbs 8 oz) was caught over the past week, and in the York River, anglers are seeing numerous croaker and a few spot. Most are fishing near Gloucester Point.
Dr. Julie Ball, IGFA International Representative for Virginia Beach, contributed the following:
The Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer fun for lots of folks, but not if you are an angler on the Mid-Atlantic coast! This is a great time of year on the fishing front. Most summer species are preparing to migrate out of the area, and the fall residents are making their debut, so choosing which fish to target can be tough. Most are choosing cobia and flounder as they both group in the lower bay, making easy targets. Cobia is a sure deal, as they crowd along bridge pilings and lower bay buoys, with more fish now presenting along the ocean front. Large fish are jumping at live bait or bucktails. Johnny Demetris of Portsmouth landed a 62 lb cobia from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel using live bait this week. Flounder is also a good bet, as anglers continue to entice big flatfish from deep channels, and lower bay structures. Anglers with live bait are having good luck at the 3rd and 4th islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, while drifters are scoring around the Cape Henry wreck this week. Decent fish are also possible drifting strips of cut bait over inshore wrecks.
The debut of scattered speckled trout, and the incredible puppy drum (juvenile red drum) craze, are attracting the most interest in the shallows, especially in Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. Action on the Poquoson Flats, Hungars Creek, and Mobjack Bay should continue to improve. Backwater casters are reporting nice sized puppy drum, which will hit most anything lately. Large red drum and puppy drum have also made a decent showing for surf anglers on the Eastern Shore. Bull reds are still roaming the lower bay shoals, and the 3rd and 4th islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Anglers are scoring with big fish on live bait during this recent full moon cycle. Black drum are beginning to thin around the islands as they prepare to leave.
Decent spot are showing in Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets, and scattered around the lower bay. This trend will only improve over the next few weeks. Decent croaker action is available in the Baltimore and the Thimble Shoal Channels, with schools still hovering around Cape Henry. Ocean's East Two reports catches of keeper sized grey trout near Fort Wool this week.
Triggerfish are maintaining momentum, as anglers find good luck dangling fiddler crabs and blue crabs along the structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and over inshore wrecks. Diehard sheepshead angers are sneaking by with more catches this week, but most have given up on this fishery this year. Spadefish are still around, but they will exit south soon.
On the ocean front, anglers are scoring with some decent king mackerel from Cape Henry down to False Cape. Captain Jake Hiles aboard the MATADOR is having good luck with Spanish mackerel and bluefish trolling in about 20 feet of water and near the spoils buoys about 3 miles off the beach. False albacore have also made a showing along the coast, offering a great fight on light tackle. Surf and pier action will escalate this month with decent hauls spot, croaker, snapper blues, puppy drum, pompano, sea mullet, and flounder.
Amberjack are still available at the Southern towers and nearby wrecks, along with big barracuda, and a few jack crevelle. Offshore wrecks are also giving up decent hauls of 4 to 5 pound black sea bass, with a chance at some big flounder.
Although tarpon sightings are still occurring on the Eastern Shore, hookups and landings remain low. Tarpon experts predict the cold front this weekend may snuff out the silver king action, prompting them to start heading into deeper water.
Offshore, billfish are still at the top of the list, with wahoo and scattered yellowfin tuna a good consolation prize. Marlin and sailfish have been congregating from the Triple 0's to the 200 line, in 500 fathoms or deeper. Big yellowfin tuna are hanging close to pods of two-tone dolphin, while big wahoo are becoming more plentiful in 20 fathoms, with the Cigar a favorite location. False albacore are now showing on the Fingers.
Ken Neill, reporting secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, contributed the following:
The billfish bite is hot right now. Get out there now if you want to get in on the best billfish action of the year. The Triple 0's has been the best location. The tuna bite is scattered in the hot water but anglers searching for billfish out in the deep are finding schools of busting yellowfin tuna averaging 70 pounds each. The occasional bigeye is also being hooked out there. Good numbers of wahoo and dolphin are available. The Cigar has been a good wahoo location. Anglers willing to spend the night drifting in the ocean have a decent chance of catching a swordfish. Closer to home, amberjack, jack crevalle, and spadefish can be found on wrecks like the Hanks, Ricks, and Gulf Hustler and all of the other wrecks in the area. Nice king mackerel continue to be available along the oceanfront. Keep an eye out for cobia as they pod up in preparation for their migration to the south. Anglers are having success looking for cobia around the buoys and in the open water at the mouth of the bay and off of Sandbridge. Some big red drum are being caught along the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore and on Nine-Foot-Shoal. Large flounder are being caught by the fleet near buoy 42 and by anglers fishing with live bait at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Spanish mackerel are available along the ocean front and in the lower bay. York Spit Light has been a good spot lately.
The week-long Don Forman Cobia Tournament sponsored by Bishop Bait and Tackle has concluded. First place was won by Jorj Head with a 66 lb cobia. Alan Meetze came in 2nd with a 47 pounder. A 36 lb cobia earned Chris Boyce 3rd place.
At the Virginia Beach Billfish Tournament, 73 boats competed and fishing was good. Boats fished 2 out of a possible 3 days. A total of 190 billfish were caught by the fleet: 13 blue marlin, 7 sailfish, 4 spearfish, and 166 white marlin. All of the billfish were released. No big blue marlin were weighed in but the possibility of catching that one "lottery" fish kept everyone in contention through the last day. Released billfish were worth 70 points each regardless of species. The top boat was the HUNTER with 12 billfish releases. Five boats tied with 8 releases each. By tie-breaker they came in: SCA PINK, SPECIAL D, JUST RIGHT, BLUEWATER, and SOUTHERN EXPOSURE.
Roger Wilkins of Jett's Hardware reports that many people have been able to catch their limits of Spanish mackerel, and bluefish are prevalent as well. Some flounder are being caught around Smith Point, and spot can be found, although their size is still a bit on the small side.
Dan from Smith Point Marina reports that schools of bluefish have been working around Smith Point up into the Potomac River with Spanish mackerel mixed in as well. The flounder fishing has been very good just outside the Little Wicomico River with decent numbers of keepers being seen. The croaker bite has been steady with the best results occurring in the morning. Rockfish are also being hooked.
According to staff at Locklies Marina, larger spot are being caught around Cherry Point. Best times are still the morning and the best bait has been bloodworms.
Garrett's Marina reports slow fishing for the past week as water temps may be keeping the fish hunkered down in deeper water. The best time to catch some spot has been in the mornings before the heat kicks in.
Captain Jim Thompson reports the best time to catch spot is early in the mornings, because after 10 am the fish are looking for a cool hole. The best places to fish were the Piankatank River on Number 5 or Cherry Point in the early morning. After that, anglers must hunt for them in the Rappahannock River in Butler Hole or off Gwynns Island at Deep Rock. Blood worms are needed to attract the fish to your boat. The blues are active at all locations, and cut bait has been successful. Mullet and grey trout are everywhere. Spanish are still at the mouth of the Piankatank and Rappahannock Rivers. Not much going on with flounder; however, a few were caught in the rivers.
The yellowfin tuna fishing was fantastic this week, according to Mary at Virginia Beach Fishing Center. It seems to pick up daily, and they are expecting a big yellowfin tuna run in September. Citations have been coming in almost daily, the largest was a 78 lb 6 oz yellowfin tuna caught by Sutton White aboard the BACKLASH. There are reports of numerous other large tuna, just under citation size, and yellowfin tuna has been brought, with none weighing less than 55 lbs over the past week. Most of the tuna catch has been from Norfolk Canyon. Dolphin are also making a come back (most in the 5 to 12 lb range), and last week there was a dolphin weighing 44 lbs. Marlin are large offshore, and many large blue and white marlin were reported in this weekend's tournament. Inshore, there have been numerous bluefish, cobia, and amberjack by the South Tower. In Rudee Inlet, spot and flounder (in the 4 to 6 lb range) were plentiful. Taylor bluefish are also biting, there were reports of puppy drum in the inlet. Everyone is primarily bait-fishing in the inlet, but soon, everyone is going to return to lures with the return of the puppy drum.
Spot are biting at Ocean View Pier throughout the day. Most are being caught with bloodworms. Small flounder are also being hooked, but only a few have been keepers.
Large puppy drum (juvenile red drum) were caught with mullet at Lynnhaven pier this week. There are also numerous spot when the tide is moving, and a few small croaker. Staff reported quite a few spadefish were also landed with bloodworms.
At Sandbridge, fishing was slow this week. Anglers were primarily catching spot with a few bluefish mixed in. Staff expects the red drum to arrive in a few weeks.
Fishing along the beaches and piers around the Nags Head area has improved compared to last week. Large spot and croaker have been plentiful, and mullet, red drum, and flounder are also being caught. Spanish mackerel have been hit or miss, and the cobia bite has slowed down. People have had success looking for spotted seatrout in the inlet and around the marsh islands, and flounder keeper ratios have been improving.
South of Oregon Inlet, the bluefish and Spanish mackerel are the catch of the day. Anglers have been landing puppy drum at the Hatteras Point and Hatteras Inlet with good regularity. Some sea mullet are still being found in the surf with some weighing over two pounds. Flounder catches are improving, however, with some good size to boot. The Pamlico Sound has been producing speckled trout for determined anglers.
The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported increasing catches of billfish. Over the past week, 8 blue marlin, 44 white marlin, and 11 sailfish were caught and released. Although the dolphin and yellowfin tuna have been scattered, several large wahoo and bigeye tuna have been caught. Inshore fishing trips have been producing bluefish and Spanish mackerel trolling while the bottom fishing has seen sea mullet, spot, sheepshead, flounder and tautog. People working the sound have been able to find grey trout, and catch and release some stripers.
Hatteras Inlet reported slow offshore fishing due to weather. When boats were able to get out, they were able to find scattered king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo, and numerous of sailfish. Inshore fishing has seen a mix of puppy drum, bluefish, speckled trout and grey trout.
UPDATE: The new state record croaker, caught by Norman T. Jenkins on August 17th, is currently being processed by a local taxidermist, who is creating an exact replica mold mount of the fish. Once the molding process is completed, VMRC staff will then collect the record sized croaker, record various measures and the sex of the fish, and remove the otolith for ageing. The fisheries ageing lab at ODU's Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology, along with VMRC's biological staff, will work toward providing the information on the age of the croaker within weeks of receiving the fish, so stay tuned!
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