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The Saltwater Review - October 1, 2003

Volume 17. No. 18
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


Boaters should continue to exercise extreme caution, as huge amounts of floating debris still linger throughout the lower Bay and Western Shore tributaries.

Since the end of last year, regulations for black sea bass, grey trout and red drum have been modified.  

For black sea bass, the minimum size limit has been increased to 12 inches while the possession limit remains  25 fish.  The summer closed period ran from September 2 through September 15 and the season is now open.  A winter closed period will run from December 1 through December 31.

The minimum size limit for grey trout is 12 inches and the possession limit is 7 fish year round.

For red drum (i.e. puppy drum), the slot limit was reduced to fish within 18 to 26 inches and the possession limit reduced to a 3 fish possession limit.  Fishermen (recreational and commercial) can no longer possess any red drum greater than 26 inches.

The fall portion of the Chesapeake Bay Striped Bass season begins this Saturday, October 4 and will run through December 31.  There is an 18-inch minimum size limit and a two-fish possession limit.   

Overall fishing pressure remained well below its seasonal norm for late September, as many focused on cleaning up after the passage of hurricane Isabel.  I expect this to change this weekend, as the opening of the fall striped bass season occurs Saturday, October 4.

Besides striped bass, spot should provide good sport for anglers using bits of bloodworm for bait.  Recent hot spots have been Hampton Bar and the HRBT on the lower James River,  inside Lynnhaven and Rudee inlets and on the lower portion of the Rappahannock River.  The mussel beds around the First and Second islands of the CBBT complex are typically very productive for these tasty bottom fish during the latter part of the fall run.

Chincoteague -

Captain Bob's reported flounder pounders are catching flounder in the main channel but most are under the 17-1/2-inch minimum size limit.  Most of the croaker appear to have departed the protected waters.  Local anglers are catching some grey trout after dark around the lighted piers and bridges.

Barnacle Bill's told of excellent offshore action in recent days, as boats returned with yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo and even some blackfin tuna.  Best action has been around the Washington Canyon, where crews aboard the TOOLS OF THE TRADE boated over a dozen yellowfin on two consecutive trips.  Inside the inlet, "there's not much," according to the shop.  Some flounder were caught in the main channel but the croaker appear to have all moved outside the inlet and are located "about a mile off the beach."  Several drum were beached on Assateague Island.

Wachapreague -

Captain Zed's reported trollers recorded fair to good catches of yellowfin tuna near the Washington Canyon over the weekend.  Inside the inlet was a different story, as catches seemed uniformly poor.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported good catches of spot inside Cape Charles Harbor, along the Cement Ship breakwater and from the Kiptopeke State Park Pier but the weekend's biggest spot, a huge 21-ounce fish caught by Wayne Turner, was landed at Hungars Creek.  Grey trout are available around the Cement Ships while the bayside creeks hold plenty of school stripers.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters told of decent catches of spot to 16 ounces and mixed sizes of croaker ranging from 8 to 15 inches.  Bottom bouncers are also catching a mixture of sea mullet, pigfish and taylor bluefish but pan trout and flounder have been scarce since the hurricane.  The bayside creeks are producing fair numbers of speckled trout up to about 2-1/2 pounds.  The creeks are also full of school stripers in the 14 to 22-inch range.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina lost 28 boat slips to the storm and still had nearly their entire parking area full of boats on blocks.  Needless to say, not much fishing took place out of Cobbs over the weekend but they did hear of an excellent run of large spot inside Little Creek Inlet.

Lou at Bubba's Marina said the restaurant suffered some flooding but the tackle shop was untouched by flood waters and both were open for business.  Lou said many anglers are waiting for the opening of the fall striped bass season this Saturday, October 4.  Lou heard of an excellent run of big spot inside Lynnhaven, near the Great Neck Bridge, and some large croaker at the Lesner Bridge and CBBT.

Dr. Jim Wright told of an excellent bite of jumbo spot to 20 ounces inside Lynnhaven Inlet along Long Creek.  Offshore, several boats recorded good catches of dolphin and yellowfin tuna near the Washington Canyon early in the week.

Wallace's Marina is open  and has power but "nobody's been fishing."  Tides were running well above normal during the week and floating debris remains a real concern.  The shop did know of one party that fished over the HRBT tube and loaded-up on nice spot using bloodworm for bait.

Sunset Marina said weekend bottom fishermen caught coolers full of spot at the M & M crossing on pieces of bloodworm while anglers drifting around the First Island recorded fair catches of croaker to 1-1/2 pounds on squid.  A few anglers boated across the Bay to buoy 36A but reported only fair success on flounder.  Waters surrounding Fort Wool yielded decent numbers of taylor bluefish and school stripers (catch and release).

Cindy at Salt Ponds Marina had no fishing activity to report, saying local waters are still loaded with floating debris and very few people are fishing.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the spot bite at Hampton Bar is red hot while yellowfin tuna and dolphin combine for the best offshore action of the season.  The ocean wrecks still hold some amberjack jack and plenty of black sea bass.

Virginia Middle Bay

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware had little fishing activity to report, as most folks are still in a "clean-up" mode following hurricane Isabel.  Roger did say that chummers are catching (and releasing until Saturday, October 4) lots of striped bass in the 20 to 25-inch range and taylor blues to nearly 3 pounds.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said the marina suffered no real damage and no boat damage to hurricane Isabel but not much fishing took place the past week.  Many boats are just now being returned to the water.  The most notable recent catch was a 7-pound, 9-ounce Spanish mackerel caught by Patrick Lewes of Heathsville.  The catch was made while trolling on the lower Potomac River.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters said not many of the locals fished due to storm clean-up but "the fish are here."  The shop lost its supply of live and frozen bait due to power outage but was back in operation on September 30.  A few of the charter boats did fish over the weekend and they loaded-up on big spot at Butlers Hole and at the Spike, "if they could get bloodworms."  Gray trout have begun to "school-up" and are found mixed in with the spot.

Garretts Marina had no fishing information as very few boats had been out in the past week.  The marina survived the hurricane without any serious damage but had "lots of clean-up."  The power was out for over a week but all the boats were fine.

Captain Jim Thompson from Windmill Point Marina said the Spike, Bubba's Hole (located just off Windmill Marina in 36 feet of water) and Butler's Hole all produced good catches of large spot with some of the fish topping 16 ounces.  More pan trout are showing at the same locations but croaker have all but vanished.  Captain Thompson cautioned boaters to keep a sharp eye on the water for floating debris, as plenty remains in the local area.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported excellent catches of dolphin and fair catches of yellowfin tuna.  Best action has been in about 50 fathoms of water near the tips of the Norfolk and Washington canyons.  The headboats recorded excellent catches of black sea bass up to 4 pounds on the ocean wrecks.

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said yellowfin tuna and dolphin are spread thin from the Washington Canyon to south of the Cigar.  A few white marlin still linger in this area.  Inside the inlet, spot provide the most consistent action.

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - Badly damaged and still closed.

Buckroe Beach - Badly damaged and still closed.

Harrison - Completely demolished.

Lynnhaven - Lost a significant portion on the end but has re-opened.  The spot run has slowed in recent days but fishermen are seeing a few more keeper flounder and speckled trout.

Virginia Beach - Lost a portion of the end of the pier but has re-opened.  Spot provided memorable action early in the week but have tapered off drastically in recent days.  A handful of under-sized striped bass and flounder were reported.

Sandbridge - The pier survived but the newly re-built access ramp was destroyed. The pier is closed--possibly for the remainder of the year.

Outer Banks, NC -

Beach fishermen recorded mixed catches of speckled trout, puppy drum, croaker, spot and taylor bluefish from Kitty Hawk to Oregon Inlet.  Only the Avalon Pier has re-opened and they reported several good runs of spot, a few speckled trout, some taylor bluefish and even a pompano or two.

The Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has been closed since the hurricane but re-opened Monday, September 29.  Boats normally running from the Center have operated from Pirates Cove Marina.  On Friday, this fleet recorded good catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin plus several wahoo in the vicinity of the Point.  The PELICAN released a pair of sailfish.  On Saturday, the tuna/dolphin bite slowed but Sunday saw many limit catches of yellowfin plus a few dolphin and wahoo.

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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