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The Saltwater Review - 15 September 2004

Vol. 18, No. 16
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.

The flounder bite slowed on the lower Bay the past week, likely in response to murky water conditions created by the abundant rainfall.  Still, some anglers managed limit catches, although most areas did witness an influx of smaller flounder.

The spot bite was "on" most of the week and weekend.  Best action was along the Bay from Willoughby Beach to Cape Henry and down along the oceanfront (including Rudee Inlet) to the Sandbridge Pier.  On the Eastern Shore side, spot were biting off Onancock, at Morely's Wharf and around Cape Charles Harbor.

Offshore, white and blue marlin still linger off the Virginia Coast but 40 to 60-pound class yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo drew most of the attention last week. The area just east of the Fingers and out towards the Norfolk Canyon was the most productive location for the tuna.  Trollers are also seeing a scattering of true albacore tuna (longfin) and bigeye tuna.  The inshore wrecks (the Tower Reef area in particular) are holding amberjack and crevalle jack but live bait seems a requirement to entice these fish.  Trollers working these sites are catching loads of false albacore and the occasional king mackerel.

Chincoteague -

Donna from Captain Bob's weighed in a "beautiful" 65-pound wahoo that was caught at the Washington Canyon early in the week. Donna indicated bluefin and yellowfin tuna still linger around the Parking Lot and Lumpy Bottom but the bite was less consistent than in recent weeks. A more consistent tuna bite has been from the 20-fathom line and "out to the deep," where several billfish were also hooked. Inshore, croaker topping 3 pounds, snapper bluefish and a scattering of spot, sea mullet and even sheepshead keep bottom fishermen busy. Best action has been along Chincoteague Channel and the Queen's Sound Bridge.


Wachapreague Marina reported the crew aboard the WHITE BITE "over-nighted" and returned with a big catch of fat yellowfin tuna.  Daytime trollers working between the Norfolk Canyon and Wayne's World also recorded good catches of yellowfin tuna plus a few dolphin.  Inside the inlet, bottom fishermen caught mostly croaker.  

Captain Zed's said several parties had fair success on flounder over the weekend with the most consistent bite around the mouth of the inlet and in the channel that runs in front of the Coast Guard Station.  Offshore reports were limited since rough seas kept most anglers "inside" recently.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported the buoy 18 area produced many of the week's best flounder hauls, including an 8-pound, 2-ouncer caught by Corbet Johnson on a squid and minnow.  The High Level span of the CBBT and to the Fourth Island was another location where anglers caught big flounder, as evidenced by the 9-1/4-pounder boated by M.L. Martin on cut bait.  The shop also heard of fair numbers of speckled trout from the bayside creeks but most of the trout were of the "just legal" variety, measuring slightly over 14 inches.  Several red drum were caught and released off Hungars and Nassawaddox creeks but "nothing off Cape Charles," according to the shop.  Over on the seaside, anglers fishing out of Oyster caught few croaker over the weekend but did manage a fair number of pan trout.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported area waters still harbor good numbers of nice-sized spot and decent numbers of pan trout in the 12 to 16-inch range.  Croaker are either "very large or very small" with the smaller sized fish in the greater abundance.  Flounder are holding along the channel edges and prefer fresh cut bait. Other catches include good numbers of taylor bluefish, some sea mullet that average close to a pound, porgy, hogfish and blowfish.  Water temperatures off Onancock averaged 70 degrees last week.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported most of their customers were fishing for flounder around the CBBT in the past week. The heaviest flatfish of the period was boated at the Second Island by Peter Slater.  The citation catch weighed 8 pounds, 6 ounces and was caught on a minnow.  Phillip Williamson was bottom fishing inside the Lafayette River with squid and caught a 3-pound croaker.  Mike Keltner was trolling a rigged ballyhoo at the Fingers aboard the GOTTA-GO and caught and released a 32-inch false albacore.

Lou at Bubba's Marina described action around the Lesner Bridge as "pretty slow" recently, as a combination of wind and rain was not good for the fish or fishermen.  Still, persistent bottom fishermen managed some flounder, spot and croaker while casters were rewarded with brief blitzes of taylor bluefish.  Anglers fishing back inside Lynnhaven caught some speckled trout and puppy drum in the evenings.

Dr. Jim Wright said the offshore fleet out of Rudee Inlet enjoyed good weekend catches of large yellowfin tuna up to 70 pounds, true albacore (longfin tuna) and gaffer dolphin.  Wright said anglers fishing around the north jetty (at Rudee Inlet) had a blitz of spot-sized pompano.  As for speckled trout, Linkhorn Bay, located inside the Lynnhaven complex, was loaded with 12 to 14-inch trout and a few of the spotted beauties measured up to 22 inches.

Wallace's Marina said the cobia "turned-on" the past three days at the Hump.  Anglers caught as many as five per boat on Saturday while one lone angler reportedly landed 10 cobia up to 50 inches and a red drum of 46 inches on Sunday.  Live eel was the premier bait for the cobia.  On Monday at least three different groups caught cobia with the heaviest weighing over 50 pounds.

Sunset Boating Center said Dennis, Deborah and Amber Law all boated citation spot of over a pound at the HRBT on Sunday.  Bill Tice and crew drifted the Baltimore Channel on Saturday and put eleven nice croaker in the cooler.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said Robert Allen and the crew aboard the SHELLY ANN fished the CBBT complex for flounder the past week and caught keeper-sized flatfish but "no citations."  Another party trolled in the vicinity of the Fingers and returned with some yellowfin tuna and bailer dolphin.

Chuck Ash at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said the biggest surprise the past week was the number of 18 to 20-inch speckled trout caught inside Mobjack Bay.  "The fish were hitting live bait, peeler crab, grubs and MirrOlures," according to Ash.  The late season cobia action at York Spit also created a stir, as several fish in the 30 to 40-pound range were boated the past week.  Inside the York River, bottom fishermen had fair success on spot plus some pan trout but "the croaker are all but gone." 

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said the yellowfin tuna bite out in 20 to 35 fathoms was excellent the past week while dolphin remain scattered.  The 100-fathom line held some billfish plus some larger yellowfin tuna, longfin tuna, bigeye tuna and wahoo.  Inshore, amberjack and jack crevalle are holding around the legs of the Chesapeake Light Tower and other nearby structure.  On Monday (September 13), Julie Ball (44.25 inches) and Ken Neill (44 and 46 inches) each released big jack crevalle that hit live spot at the Tower Reef.  Julie Ball also boated and then released a 52.5-inch amberjack on the same trip.  Large false albacore are also cruising the inshore grounds.  The crew aboard the HEALTHY GRIN trolled inshore of the Fingers and found false albacore "everywhere."  John Graves boated and released a 32-inch citation albacore. On Saturday September 11, the club held their annual fall open flounder tournament out of Wallace's Marina.  Most of the larger flatfish were caught along the Baltimore Channel between buoys 38 and 42.  Brian Gross took first place with a 6.60 flounder; Jim Leiffer finished second with a 6.46 flounder; Leonard Leiffer was third with a 6.08 fish and Jeff Roth came in fourth with a 5.96 flounder.

CCA VA hosted it's 14th annual Anglers Club Challenge on Saturday, September 11, where 35 boats representing seven of the best angling clubs in Virginia competed against each other for bragging rights for the year. The Great Bridge Fishing Association won the event and took possession of the tournament's "perpetual trophy" for the next 12 months.  The Tidewater Anglers Club finished in second place and the Lynnhaven Sports Club came in third place while last year's winners, the Portsmouth Anglers Club, came in Fourth.  Other clubs competing in this year's event were the Central Virginia Fishermen, Team Tidal Fish and the Virginia Beach Anglers Club. Fourteen different species of fish were eligible for scoring and points were awarded for the three heaviest fish of each species. The one-day tournament produced eleven fish large enough to qualify for citations, including five sheepshead (over 7 pounds), two flounder (over 7 pounds), two triggerfish (over 4 pounds), one spot (16 ounces or greater) and one roundhead (over 24 ounces).  Rick Williams of Portsmouth Anglers Club had the largest fish, a 36.7 lb. cobia.
CCA Tidewater chapter president Lee Kelly remarked, "The challenge really has turned into the premier inshore fishing event in Virginia. The clubs are serious and competitive in planning for and fishing the event and the catches reflected their skill as 11 citations were weighed in among the scoring fish. CCA is proud to host this tournament to find out who really is the best."

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported good catches of large spot the past week with some of the best hauls coming from the N2 buoy area and off Dividing Creek. Bottom fishermen are also catching some pan trout mixed in with the spot but many of the trout are under the 12-inch minimum size limit. Trollers around the mouth of the Rappahannock River caught plenty of taylor blues plus a few Spanish mackerel.

Dan from Smith Point Marina had much the same report regarding the blues and Spanish-plenty of bluefish up to about 2 pounds but only a sprinkling of the mackerel.  Chummers working the Target Ship located near buoy 62 caught school-sized stripers while anglers drifting around the Little Wicomico Jetty pulled-in some keeper flounder on squid.  The best concentrations of croaker were located outside the river mouth and in the bay, along the eastern side channel.

Locklies Marina told of strong runs of jumbo spot, with many of the deeply yellow-hued fish topping 16 ounces.  Heaviest of the week weighed an impressive 23 ounces.  The fish were spread out between Towles Point and down to Butlers Hole with some of the better hauls made off Cherry Point and Mosquito Point.  Good numbers of pan trout and taylor bluefish are mixed in with the spot.

Garretts Marina said bottom fishermen had good hauls of large spot, croaker and catfish around buoy 19 "when they could get out there," as poor weather prevailed much of the week.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said bottom fishermen had plenty of opportunities to fill coolers full of large spot last week.  Some of the best hauls were made in the Piankatank River at Stove Point, the number 5 buoy and the Mudhole.  Cherry Point, located off Gwynn Island also produced good catches.  In the Rappahannock River, Butlers Hole and the Spike buoy were the top locations. Pan trout and snapper blues were mixed in with the spot with bloodworm the premier bait.  Windmill Bar produced some keeper flounder, as well as spot.  Trollers working along the channel edge off Windmill Point had good success on Spanish mackerel and taylor blues.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported the bluewater fleet enjoyed good weekend catches of yellowfin tuna, many in the 50-pound class, and some dolphin, after saying tied to the dock for several days.  On Saturday the FROG PILE came in with seven yellowfin tuna plus several dolphin and other boats recorded similar catches.  Mary Coleman and Jenna Curott each released a white marlin.   Inshore boats enjoyed good mixed catches of Spanish mackerel and bluefish.  On Sunday the bluewater fleet had mixed catches of yellowfin tuna (many in the 50-pound range) and some dolphin plus a few skipjack tuna and false albacore.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said anglers trolling just northeast of the Fingers caught good-sized yellowfin tuna plus some longfin tuna.  On Saturday, the crew aboard the FIN SEEKER weighed-in a 103-pound wahoo.  The huge fish was caught trolling near 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 - The weekend produced a decent run of spot that lasted through Monday.  Other catches included a few pan trout, taylor bluefish and small flounder.

Virginia Beach - A combination of spot, snapper bluefish and pompano provided fairly steady action over the weekend.  Spot made a strong showing Monday on the morning tide.

Sandbridge - Bottom fishermen caught a mixture of spot, puppy drum, croaker, snapper bluefish and pompano.  On Monday a pair of citation-sized red drum were decked and then released at the end of the pier.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen in the Nags Head area recorded mixed catches of bluefish, spot, sea mullet, small pompano and flounder.  Area piers produced a slightly broader mixture, adding croaker, speckled trout, puppy drum and striped bass to the list.
South of Oregon Inlet, beach fishermen at Cape Point caught loads of 2 to 4-pound bluefish throughout the day.  Several red drum ranging from 33 to 41 inches were beached and released.  A few keeper flounder were also reported.  On Saturday, a "token" 42-inch red drum was caught and released early in the day but that was it for the drum, as flounder and bluefish provided the remainder of the day's action.  Only bluefish were reported on Sunday.  Monday, several large flounder were caught on live finger mullet.  Other catches included a scattering of bluefish, puppy drum, pompano and spot.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported excellent catches of "meat fish" on Friday, as several boats came in with limits of dolphin, wahoo up to 62 pounds and some blackfin and yellowfin tuna.  Saturday also produced good hauls of dolphin for the bluewater fleet and more yellowfin tuna and several bigeye tuna weighing as much as 144 pounds.  Bottom fishermen aboard the headboats caught lots of croaker while inshore boats trolled-up a mixture of taylor bluefish, false albacore and Spanish mackerel.  Only about half the fleet fished Sunday due to rough seas.  Those that did fish reported excellent catches of dolphin, several bigeye tuna up to 163 pounds and a scattering of billfish, wahoo and blackfin tuna.  The results on Monday were similar to Sunday but no bigeye tuna were landed.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet enjoyed good to excellent catches of dolphin plus a few wahoo and a scattering of blackfin and yellowfin tuna on Friday.  The dolphin bite slowed but wahoo were more active on Saturday.  Blackfin and yellowfin tuna remained scattered.  The fleet remained in port on Sunday due to rough seas.   Boats were back out on Monday and returned decent catches of dolphin, including several 60-fish limits, and a scattering of wahoo and yellowfin tuna.  Jason Wilde of Alexandria released a sailfish aboard the FLATLINE and the same trip produced a 72-pound citation yellowfin for another crew member.

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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