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The Saltwater Review - 30 September 2004

Vol. 18, No. 18
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). 

One of the best fall runs of jumbo spot in recent years took place last week.  Hot spots include the Lynnhaven complex the M & M crossing, the HRBT, the mouth of the Elizabeth River, mouth of the Rappahannock River, the Virginia Beach and Sandbridge piers, and Rudee Inlet.  The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament was nearly overrun with spot meeting or exceeding the 16-ounce qualifying weight, as several popular weigh stations ran temporarily out of citation forms.

Offshore, the yellowfin tuna bite in the vicinity of the Fingers and around the Norfolk and Washington canyons was excellent whenever boats could reach the grounds.  Offshore trollers also boated wahoo and dolphin while several white marlin were released.  


Wachapreague Marina reported an excellent offshore bite for yellowfin tuna over the weekend.  The crew aboard the LUCKY DAWG had a limit of yellowfin plus some dolphin, NITA DREAM had a near limit of tuna plus almost a dozen dolphin and the HEAT WAVE had similar results.  The crew aboard the WHITE HOT boated a 54-pound wahoo and Otis Evans nailed a 49-pound, 11-ounce wahoo on the WHITE HOT.  Most of the better hauls were made in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon.  Authur Miles caught a citation, 5-pound, 9-ounce speckled trout at Craddock Creek.  

Captain Zed's said both the Washington and Norfolk canyons produced great weekend catches of yellowfin tuna plus some dolphin and wahoo.  The CANYON LADY and SCORPIO wreck fished and returned with a big haul of black sea bass.  Inside the inlet, both grey and speckled trout were caught in front of the Coast Guard Station and along Wachapreague Channel while a few keeper flounder were pulled from Green and Drawing channels.  William McElwian weighed-in a 10-1/4-pound flounder from the bayside.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle described the flounder bite as "right good" near buoy 18 with the best action on either side of high slack water.  Some spot were caught from the State Park Pier at Kiptopeke and a 46-inch red drum was boated and released by an angler drifting for flounder off the Cement Ships.  Decent numbers of speckled trout, most in the 1 to 3-pound range, are showing in several of the bayside creeks including Hungars and Nassawaddox.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported large flounder still linger off Onancock, as a party on Friday bagged a pair of 6 pounders while long-time friend Bill McElwain nailed a 10-1/4-pound monster on Saturday at Cranny Hack.  Spot as big as 13-1/4 inches and limits of 1 to 3-pound trout were recorded Saturday and Sunday.  The spot preferred bloodworm pieces while the trout hit cut squid drifted along the ledges in 30 to 40 feet of water.  Bottom fishermen are catching a wide variety of "other" fish, including taylor blues, blowfish, sea robins, pigfish, scup, sea mullet, croaker and small black sea bass.  Most of the croaker are mediums, run 8 to 12 inches and were most abundant in 50 to 60 feet of water around the R2 buoy.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported citation sized spot were caught at Hampton Bar and inside Lynnhaven Inlet over the weekend and bloodworms were the top bait.  Anglers seeking flounder met with only marginal success.

Lou at Bubba's Marina told of excellent catches of jumbo spot inside Lynnhaven Inlet with the water running under the Great Neck Bridge and the western portion of the Turning basin the top locations in the Lynnhaven complex.  Large spot were also caught from the beach between the Lynnhaven Fishing Pier and the Lynnhaven Inlet, at Rudee Inlet and down at Sandbridge.  Some big croaker and keeper flounder were pulled from amongst the pilings of the Lesner Bridge while anglers had fair to good success on speckled trout back inside the inlet.

Dr. Jim Wright said huge spot topping 16 ounces and large croaker to nearly 3 pounds still linger back inside Lynnhaven Inlet.  Speckled trout numbers are on the rise.  Many of these spotted fish are less than the 14-inch size limit or barely legal but a few measure 20 inches or more.

Sunset Marina was inundated with huge spot over the weekend and registered 73 for citations (16-ounce minimum qualifying weight) and the largest went 24 ounces (and there were four).  Top locations for the spot were the HRBT, Hampton Bar and the M & M crossing.   Other catches included keeper-sized flounder along the oceanside of the Third and Fourth islands and around the HRBT.  Dylan Capps boated and released a 50-inch red drum at Nine Foot Shoals.

Wallace's Marina told of a tremendous weekend run of jumbo spot weighing as much as 21 ounces.  The shop registered a total of 36 citation spot and knew of another citation weigh station that weighed over 300 spot of 16 ounces or more!  Top weekend locations included the HRBT, M & M crossing and inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets.  Anglers drifting for flounder around Bluefish Rock caught keeper-sized flatfish plus several red drum up to 50 inches.   Best weekend flounder hauls were made around the Hump, where Tony Roberts boxed a limit on Saturday and Tony Griffith boated the week's only citation flatfish at 7-3/4 pounds. Tautog are becoming more active with the cooler weather and water and several parties recorded limit catches of tog up to 6 pounds.  Grey trout up to 30 inches are holding around the HRBT, though most trout are in the 12 to 18-inch range.

Salt Ponds Marina also told of a weekend rush of jumbo spot, as the marina weighed 15 citation-winning spot Saturday and Sunday.  Most of the trophy spot were caught around the M & M crossing but several were boated at the HRBT.  Weekend flounder fishing was only "so-so," as flounder pounders caught some keeper flatfish but none big enough for a citation (7 pound minimum).

Mark at A & S Feed and Bait Supply said spot were biting at the mouth of Sarah's Creek while anglers fishing from the Gloucester Point Pier had spot plus a few croaker.  Striped bass are becoming more active in the river and should provide good sport once the season opens Monday, October 4.  Inside Mobjack Bay the speckled trout bite was rated "hot" with some of the better catches coming from Ware and North points.

Ken Neill, reporting Secretary for the Peninsula Anglers Club, described last week's spot bite as, "absolutely ridiculous." Good hauls of jumbo spot were recorded inside Rudee Inlet and very good catches inside Lynnhaven Inlet and the Rappahannock River.  And on the lower James River, "it's been on fire," according to Neill.  "It was not unusual to fish for a couple of hours, catch over one-hundred spot and have a dozen or two large enough for citations."  Neill figures this action to last through the first week or two of October.  Other action includes a fair flounder bite along the Baltimore Channel near the CBBT complex, good-sized grey trout at night at the HRBT and a strong showing of 1 to 3-pound speckled trout inside Mobjack Bay, around Goodwin Island, on Poquoson Flats, inside Back River and at Rudee and Lynnhaven inlets.  Inshore ocean wrecks are loaded with black sea bass and some wrecks hold decent numbers of triggerfish plus a few amberjack still linger.  Further offshore, the yellowfin tuna bite is "great" with wahoo and decent numbers of dolphin adding to the fray.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported good numbers of spot still linger in the local rivers and creeks.  Some pan trout are mixed in with the spot but the croaker are "about gone."  Some keeper flounder remain available around the jetty.  Trollers found plenty of taylor bluefish up to 3 pounds while the Spanish mackerel have become scarce.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said the crew aboard the FISH-N-FRENZY had a very productive day off Cape Charles last Saturday.  Grey Thayer and John Hudgins each released big red drum plus Hudgins also released a big tautog, as did fishing partner John Oliver.  The shop's lone citation flounder was also caught off Cape Charles, by Al Newman, and it weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces.  In local waters, speckled trout action was "hot," according to Jerry, around Gwynn Island, the Ware River and inside the Piankatank River, where Steven Clements landed the fall season's first (at Queen's Creek Outfitters) citation trout.  The beautiful fish weighed 6-1/2 pounds and was caught on a grub.  Perhaps the biggest news of the weekend was the continued superb run of jumbo spot.  The shop registered nearly two-dozen citation winning fish the past week, with a 22-ounce spot caught by Deborah Bohannon in the Rappahannock River, the lunker.  Top locations for the bigger spot include the 30-foot contour around the Spike buoy, Butler's Hole and 25 to 30 feet of water off Gwynn Island.  Some pan trout are mixed in with the spot.

Locklies Marina told of good hauls of jumbo spot the past week, saying, "we had 20 to 30 (spot) that were weighed for citations."  Other catches include pan trout, taylor bluefish and even a few keeper flounder.  Best locations include Butlers Hole, Cherry Point, the backside of Parrots Island and off the Silos.

Garretts Marina said the bottom fishing was still very good for spot plus some croaker and catfish.  Bloodworm pieces and squid strips fished near buoy 19 were the ticket.

Captain Jim Thompson, aboard the JIM-AN-I running out of Deltaville, said weather was the problem this week.  "The fishing was good when we could get out," and added that catching a citation-winning spot was "almost a given."  Top location on the Rappahannock was Butlers Hole while Cherry Point, the mudhole and buoy #5, all located inside the Piankatank, were productive spots.  Pan trout staged a strong showing off Gwynn Island and bit "as fast as you could put over the line."

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported good catches of yellowfin tuna on Friday with one boat returning with a limit.  John Whittmore caught and released a blue marlin. The EMPTY WALLET over-nighted at the Norfolk Canyon in hopes of a swordfish on Saturday.  No swordfish was hooked but the crew did return to the dock with a limit of tuna.  Heaviest yellowfin for the period was reeled-in by Geri Houston and the fish weighed 74-3/4 pounds.  Spot fishing was great around the mouth of the inlet.

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said their boats worked the 30-fathom contour and had fair weekend catches of yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo.

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 - Taylor bluefish and spot provided steady weekend action.  At times the spot were "two-at-a-time" and nearly all good-sized.  Anglers working the surf line managed some keeper speckled trout.

Virginia Beach - Spot provided the bulk of the action, besides, that was what everyone had come to catch.  Other catches included taylor bluefish, a few pan trout and croaker.

- The weekend featured strong runs of spot plus some taylor bluefish and red drum of nearly 50 inches!

Outer Banks, NC -

Pier and surf fishermen in the Nags Head area faced rough surf on Friday but the spot run was "on" if they could hold bottom.  Seas calmed and waters cleared for Saturday and Sunday but the spot continued to bite, often "two-at-a-time" in pockets of muddy water near the shoreline.  Avalon Pier reported strong runs of spot plus some taylor bluefish, speckled trout and puppy drum.  A 28-inch striped bass was decked on Saturday.  Surf waters ran 73 to 75 degrees the past three days.

South of Oregon Inlet, beach fishermen at Cape Point caught loads of taylor bluefish and good numbers of pompano on Friday.  A 52-inch red drum was also beached and released.  On Saturday anglers were treated to an all day bite of mixed sizes of red drum plus good numbers of bluefish up to 4 pounds, sea mullet, flounder and speckled trout.  Sunday's catch included more bluefish, a few red drum, pompano and flounder.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center reported good catches of yellowfin tuna plus some blackfin tuna on Friday. False albacore were also abundant and most were released.  Dolphin were scattered but some boats managed to limit-out. On Saturday the fleet recorded decent mixed catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus several large wahoo. Sunday was a blow-day, as boats remained tied to the dock.  Conditions were nearly as rough on Monday and only about half of the fleet fished.  As is often the case when seas are up, fish were hungry and parties enjoyed good catches of 15 to 65-pound yellowfin tuna plus a few dolphin.

The fleet sailing out of Hatteras Inlet reported good numbers of bailer dolphin on Friday.  Other catches included 20-pound class yellowfin tuna and several large wahoo.  On Saturday, the tuna bite improved with good numbers of yellowfin and blackfin plus several wahoo.  Bailer-sized dolphin were abundant.  Offshore conditions were "bumpy" on Sunday and only a handful of boats left the inlet.  Dolphin provided most of the day's catch, as several parties limited-out.  Several wahoo were also boated.   The fleet remained tied to the dock due to Hurricane Jeanne on Monday.

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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