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The Saltwater Review - 23 September 2004

Vol. 18, No. 17
by Lewis S. Gillingham

Chincoteague | Wachapreague | Cape Charles | Onancock | Lower Bay/CBBT | Middle Bay | Virginia Beach Virginia Piers | Outer Banks, NC


The fall portion of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass season begins October 4 and will run through December 31.  The minimum size limit remains 18 inches and the possession limit is two fish but only one fish of the two-fish possession limit may be greater than 28 inches.  

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 September 21, 2004, through the remainder of the fishing year (May 31, 2005), the daily recreational retention limit for bluefin tuna is one tuna (27 to less than 73 inches CFL) per vessel per day/trip.  This recreational limit applies in all areas, for all vessels fishing under the Angling category quota (i.e., both the HMS angling and Charter/Headboat vessels). 

The fall run of jumbo spot was jump started by the latest northeaster.  Hot spots include Lynnhaven, Virginia Beach and Sandbridge piers, Lynnhaven Inlet and Rudee Inlet.  Many of these tasty bottom fish top 16 ounces with one citation weigh station registering nearly 80 citation spot in recent days.

Offshore, following the passage of the remnants of Hurricane Ivan, the yellowfin tuna bite in the vicinity of the Fingers resumed with catches of over two-dozen yellowfin per outing.  Before the weekend, false albacore had invaded this area but the storm may have pushed these fish farther south. 

Black sea bass season re-opened September 22 and early reports suggest fish are available on the inshore reefs, wrecks and other structures.  


Wachapreague Marina reported decent catches of yellowfin tuna plus some wahoo, dolphin, skipjack and false albacore as recently as Friday.  Unfortunately, the fleet has been tied to the dock since Friday, due to rough sea conditions.

Captain Zed's had much the same report, saying the weather was "just too nasty" for fishing over the weekend.  During the week, anglers fishing after dark around the lighted docks and piers caught good-sized sea trout while daytime bottom fishermen caught "plenty of flounder, just not many keepers" around the mouth of the inlet.  Some keeper-sized flatfish were caught, as the shop did weigh-in a fat 5-pound, 10-ouncer for a lucky angler.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported a "very slow week," and added, "we just haven't seen any people," as anglers failed to catch a break from the weather for yet another weekend.  Spot should be biting around Cape Charles Harbor and from the Kiptopeke State Park Pier and flounder surely linger along the channel edges off Kiptopeke.  Prior to the latest round of poor weather, several red drum were caught in the Barrier Island surf while the bayside creeks offered a good opportunity to catch speckled trout.  Trout weighing nearly 5 pounds were caught but many of the spotted fish measured less than 14 inches.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina weighed-in a 16-ounce, 11-1/2-inch spot for Wayne Rogerson.  The citation catch was made at Lynnhaven Inlet.  The marina also indicated decent catches of flounder were made along the small boat channel and Baltimore Channel. 

Bubba's Marina said spot were also biting at the small boat channel of the CBBT while flounder were caught around the Second and Third islands of the CBBT and around the pilings of the Lesner Bridge.  Back inside Lynnhaven, bottom fishermen recorded mixed catches of puppy drum, grey and speckled trout, school-sized striped bass and croaker.

Dr. Jim Wright fished around the Chesapeake Light Tower on Tuesday (September 21), saying, "the water was murky and we didn't even mark a fish."  The crew then moved east to the Gulf Hustler where conditions were still poor but fish were marked on the depth finder.  The only fish caught were black sea bass, which were all released due to the closed season.  To finish the day the group moved into Lynnhaven Inlet and proceeded to catch jumbo spot weighing as much as 21 ounces.  Dr. Jim indicated big spot were also biting inside Rudee Inlet.

Wallace's Marina said flounder fishing slowed the past week and strong winds and heavy rains conspired against anglers.  Still, some flounder of over 6 pounds were landed.  Top locations included the CBBT complex, buoy 40 and Back River Reef.  Early in the week there was an impressive run of cobia-"the best all season," according to shop owners, with catches as high as 10 fish per outing.  The biggest cobia weighed-in was caught by Chris Boyce and it weighed 55-1/2 pounds.

Sunset Boating Center had very little weekend activity to report due to the weather.  George Maddox stayed close to Hampton Creek, found a little shelter from the wind around Fort Monroe and managed three keeper flounder to 20 inches.  Jerome Bethal fished near the M & M crossing and kept a pair of keeper flounder and two large spot.  Tom Mattioli and Pete Speicher fished the Third Island area of the CBBT and boated four keeper flounder.  The shop also indicated that striped bass and bluefish were becoming more active along the CBBT complex.

Cindy from Salt Ponds Marina said several customers fished the CBBT complex for flounder and they caught flounder but "we haven't weighed anything in (for a citation) forever."

Jimmy Lewis from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said bottom fishermen were catching a mixture of good-sized spot and some pan trout around the mouth of Sarah's Creek while anglers seeking flounder had the most success around buoy 40 and the Hump.  Jimmy added that speckled trout, most in the 1 to 3-pound range, were biting inside Mobjack Bay around Ware Point.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, said anglers that were able to make the offshore run around the blow enjoyed excellent yellowfin tuna action and hooked some dolphin, wahoo and billfish.  Because of the weather, more anglers sought out protected inshore waters the past week.  Neill described the spot bite as "red hot" in the James River and inside Lynnhaven Inlet, where many fish have met or exceeded 16 ounces.  The HRBT was another good location for jumbo spot plus large croaker and nice-sized grey trout in the same waters.  All the wind and rain the past week did not make for the best flounder fishing conditions but Neill expects the flounder bite to resume once the water clears.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported strong winds and rain slowed the fishing most of last week but bottom fishermen were still catching some spot and croaker around the mouth of the Rappahannock River, where trout remain scarce. "Maybe we'll see more (of the trout) once the water cools," reasoned Roger. Trollers are still catching plenty of taylor bluefish but very few Spanish mackerel.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said few boats left the marina the past week due to poor weather and many of those did not run very far.  Surprise catch of last week was a 9-pound flounder caught around the jetty.  Bottom fishermen also recorded decent hauls of croaker between the jetty and Blackberry Hang.  Several of the larger boats fished up in Maryland waters and caught school stripers of up to 28 inches and plenty of taylor bluefish.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters described the past week as "wind, wind and rain and more of the same," noting that few anglers fished the weekend because of the poor weather.  Prior to the weekend, some of the best flounder hauls were made in the vicinity of buoy 40, where Jason Perry and party put 14 keeper flatfish in the boat and the biggest went 24 inches.  Good-sized spot have arrived in numbers with some of the best hauls coming from the Spike, Butler's Hole and off Gwynn Island.  Pan trout up to 15 inches are mixed in with the spot in the Piankatank and Rappahannock rivers.  Winfield Taylor of Hopewell checked-in the biggest spot of the period, a fat 18-ounce fish that was caught at the Spike.

Locklies Marina said spot, "really big jumbos" were being caught in the river "from Towles Point and down to Butler's Hole."  Mixed in with the spot were some trout and bluefish.  Recent citation spot were caught by Kylor Reed (19 ounces), James Jennings (20 ounces) and Melvin Burrell (18 ounces).

Garretts Marina said the bottom fishing "could not be any better at buoy 19," as anglers loaded coolers full of spot, catfish and croaker.  "The parking lot has been crowded with boats trailers the past several days, except Saturday, when we didn't have a customer due to poor weather."

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said despite some "really lousy weather" the fishing was great whenever you could get out, as jumbo spot, many of which top 16 ounces, have arrived en masse.  Top locations include Stove Point and the #5 buoy in the Piankatank, and the Spike, Butlers Hole, the Silos and Taylor's Rock in the Rappahannock.  Trout topping 18 inches were caught mixed in with the spot.  Taylor bluefish remain available but were not as abundant as in prior weeks.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported good catches of large yellowfin tuna on Friday (September 17), as Rannet Moran (72 pounds), John Fry (72 pounds) and Gary Warzeecha (72 pounds) all earned citations awards for trophy-sized tuna.  Seas were already rough on Friday and the spot bite inside the inlet was heating up, as Sheppard Baxter nailed a 16-ouncer.  Boats were scheduled to fish Saturday but the seas were too rough.  The fleet remained tied to port Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to weather.  

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said Wednesday (September 22) was the first day since the middle of the prior week that any of their boats fished offshore and the tuna bite was excellent.  At least two boats landed in excess of two dozen tuna.  Some were caught trolling but most were caught chunking in the vicinity of the Fingers.

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 goers enjoyed an excellent run of jumbo spot, many topping 16 ounces, over the weekend.  Other catches included large croaker, taylor blues, flounder, puppy drum and lots of school-sized stripers (the season opens October 4).

Virginia Beach - Jumbo spot seemed to be biting whenever the tide was moving the past several days with some of the best hauls coming Monday, September 20.

Sandbridge - Large red drum, measuring up to 48 inches were caught and released from the end of the pier the past week.  Shark as long as 4-foot were also decked.  Closer to the pier house, bottom fishermen loaded-up on spot plus some puppy drum, taylor bluefish and occasional croaker.

Outer Banks, NC -

Along the Nags Head area beaches, surf and pier fishermen enjoyed a nice mixture of spot, bluefish, sea mullet, pompano and puppy drum early in the week.  Pier anglers also recorded catches of speckled trout and Spanish mackerel.  The seas were so rough over the weekend even pier anglers struck-out but expect some super runs of jumbo spot as the waters begin to calm.

At Oregon Inlet, the catwalk remained closed for repairs but anglers fishing from shore just east of the bridge caught lots of taylor bluefish on bait while bottom fishermen on the sound side rocks caught spot and pigfish plus flounder up to 4 pounds.

South of Oregon Inlet, anglers fishing from the beach at Cape Point caught taylor blues on lures and bait, small pompano and a few flounder on Friday.  Everything on the beach took a "sand blasting" on Saturday and the only reports of fish came from Avon Pier, where a few pompano and spot were decked.  Sunday was nearly as breezy but beach fishermen pulled-in a few bluefish on cut mullet at the Point.  Winds were just short of a gale Monday morning but did moderate as the day went on.  Surf fishermen caught some blues and puppy drum and weather for the remainder of the week looked promising.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported outstanding catches of yellowfin tuna on Friday, with many of the tuna in the 50-pound class.  Bluewater trollers also scored on fair numbers of dolphin and wahoo.  Inshore boats reported taylor bluefish, Spanish mackerel, false albacore and a pair of cobia.  Saturday, Sunday and Monday were all "no-sail" days, as strong northeast winds and pounding surf kept the fleet tied to the dock.

The fleet sailing from Hatteras Inlet recorded good hauls of dolphin and king mackerel plus a few wahoo and yellowfin tuna on Friday.  Saturday was Hurricane Isabel's one-year anniversary and boats were again tied to the docks.  Sunday and Monday were also "no-sail" days due to rough seas.

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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