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The Saltwater Review - October 8, 2003

Volume 17. No. 19
by Lewis S. Gillingham

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


The Virginia Saltwater Review will not be published the week of October 13 through the 17 due to the observance of Columbus Day.

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

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

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.

Chincoteague -

Barnacle Bill's reported plenty of undersized flounder but only an occasional keeper with some of the best recent action found at Four Mouths. Croaker have moved outside the inlet and schools of these fish are holding about a mile off the beach. Anglers working the local piers and bridges "early and late" in the day are catching some striped bass while surfcasters on Assateague Island claimed several red drum releases the past week. Offshore, "it was just too rough," and nobody fished according to the shop.

Captain Bob's said striped bass are active after dark around the lighted sections of local piers and bridges. Flounder are still being caught by anglers drifting the main channel but most measure less than the 17-1/2-inch minimum size limit and must be released.

Wachapreague -

Wachapreague Marina reported three charter boats, the WHITE HOT, TEASER and ELECTRIC BILL found yellowfin tuna on the south lumps of the Washington Canyon over the weekend. Inside the inlet, fishing continues to be below par since the passage of hurricane Isabel.

Cape Charles

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported the weekend produced decent catches of striped bass up to 20 pounds, despite "really windy" conditions on Saturday. Anglers casting around the Third and Fourth islands seemed to fare best on the stripers. The shop also indicated that flounder were "biting again" at the High Rise section of the CBBT and around the Third and Fourth islands, though no citation flatfish were registered the past week. Schools of big croaker have moved into the Cabbage Patch and many of these fish top 2 pounds. Big red drum are available in the buoy 36A area, at 9-Foot and Latimer shoals and along the Barrier Island surf. Large spot still linger just inside Cape Charles harbor and around the Cement Ships. Decent numbers of speckled trout were caught inside Hungars and Plantation creeks, where most of these beautiful spotted fish weigh 3 pounds or less.

Onancock -

Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported large numbers of sea mullet have moved into the waters off Onancock and "they're hitting anything" plus they are averaging nearly a pound in size. On the downside, spot and croaker numbers are dwindling, though pigfish, blowfish, bluefish, pan trout and porgy still linger in area waters. Open water schools of small schoolie stripers are marked by diving gulls. Nearly all these bass are under 18 inches and most are in the 14 to 16-inch range. Keeper-sized flounder remain scarce since hurricane Isabel "but you can catch all the 12 to 14-inch flounder you want," according to Captain Wil.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel -

Cobbs Marina reported the flounder bite remains disappointingly slow but striped bass have taken-up the slack since the season opened Saturday, October 4. The CBBT has been the top location, especially around the rock islands and over the tunnel tubes. Carl Herring was trolling around the First Island for striped bass on Saturday and hooked, landed and released a 48-inch red drum.

Dr. Jim Wright said the O FOUR released five white marlin near the 350-line on Saturday. The same trip produced several yellowfin tuna. Big croaker were holding around the mouth of Rudee Inlet, where Wayne Seymour landed a 3-pound, 2-ounce croaker. Beach fishermen working the resort strip surf are also catching good-sized croaker. Inside Lynnhaven, the impressive fall run of jumbo spot continued at Long Creek, where many of the fish top 16 ounces.

Wallace's Marina said several groups did well on striped bass opening weekend. The crew aboard the PIRATE LADY wirelined the Third and Fourth island tubes and boated a limit of striped bass to 38-1/2 inches while the crew aboard the DEBRA ANN worked the islands and had a limit of striped bass plus seven grey trout, several keeper flounder and bluefish. Some flounder were also caught at Back River Reef. Waters surrounding the HRBT are still holding jumbo spot, as the crew aboard the A TEAM had a good catch of jumbo spot including five weighing 16 ounces or more.

Debbie at Sunset Marina said waters around the Hampton side of the HRBT produced excellent numbers of jumbo spot and many topped 16 ounces. Jeffery Dail and his party had seven spot of 16 ounces or more and the heaviest weighed 17 ounces. Mike Wade aboard the SPANKUM boated citation spot of 16 and 19 ounces. David Fiedorowicz nailed a 17-1/2-ounce spot, as he and Dennis Lane loaded a cooler with big spot and taylor bluefish. Craige Stallings (19 ounces), Chris Magnussen (18 ounces), Doug Rouper (17 ounces) and Chris Dail (17 ounces) all earned citations for big spot at Hampton Bar. Cornelis King and his crew landed over a hundred big spot in just a few hours at the M & M crossing. Anglers chunking for striped bass at the M & M boated bass to 24 inches while the crew aboard the MATTY J caught plenty of school stripers at the HRBT on fly gear. Rick Meister and his crew fished the High Rise section of the CBBT for stripers and also caught decent numbers of schoolie stripers.

Salt Ponds Marina said anglers looking for striped bass over the weekend did "fair" at the CBBT but "no big ones yet." Some flounder were caught around the Third Island while bottom fishermen fishing the HRBT loaded coolers full of big spot. The shop weighed a pair of spot that topped 16 ounces.

Jimmy Lewis from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said anglers using fresh or frozen peeler crab for bait recorded limit catches of pan trout at the lump (York River) and also boated decent numbers of good-sized spot and croaker. The mouth of Sarah's Creek also produced good catches of spot while a sprinkling of speckled trout were caught inside Mobjack Bay at Ware Point.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club say the fantastic fall run of jumbo spot is still underway. One of the best locations is over the HRBT tube, where Don Forman and his crew boated nine citation-winning spot up to 20 ounces. Craige Stallings and his two fishing partners had a similar experience at the HRBT, filling two five-gallon buckets with jumbo spot in just two-a-half hours. The catch included ten spot of 16 ounces or more and the heaviest weighed 19 ounces. Offshore, trollers are picked up a few yellowfin tuna in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon. Richard Bartlett fished east of the canyon and released a pair of white marlin. The deep offshore wrecks still hold plenty of large black sea bass.

Virginia Middle Bay

Heidi Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported despite windy conditions Saturday (opening day of the fall striper season) many anglers were out on the water. The protected waters around the Smith Point jetties produced decent numbers of striped bass up to 26 inches with a live spot "if you can find them" the preferred bait. Charter boats were better equipped to handle the rough water and they reported good catches of school stripers plus some taylor blues at the Northern Neck Reef site. Most of the fleet set anchor and chummed with ground menhaden.

Dan from Smith Point Marina said "everybody caught striped bass over the weekend," despite windy conditions on Saturday. "They could get their limit (two fish per person) in about 15 minutes at the jetty," and most kept fish were in the 24 to 26-inch range. The biggest striper of the weekend measured 36 inches and was caught by one of the charter fleet, chumming, in the vicinity of buoys 68 to 72. Chummers are still seeing plenty of taylor blues in their slicks.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Outfitters had a good crowd fishing opening day of striper season, as casters, chummers and live bait fishermen all had success. Windmill Point Lighthouse produced a good catch of striped bass for the crew aboard LESS STRESS, who after limiting out on stripers, moved into Butlers Hole and loaded up on big spot. The spike buoy in the Rappahannock and off Gwynn Island also produced good numbers of large spot. Keith Johnson of Richmond (16 ounces) and Gerald Brooks of Sandston (17 ounces) each boated citation spot inside the Piankatank River aboard the PROVIDENCE. The shop also indicated pan trout were schooled up along the drop-offs at Windmill Point and could be "jigged up" on Tsunami soft baits, Deadly Dick jigs, Stingsilvers and bucktails tipped with rubber grubs. Flounder were caught around buoy 36 and 38, where James Stewart of Mathews caught and released a 48-inch red drum.

Jack from Locklies Marina said "no docks are left on the Rappahannock River," and such was the case with Locklies. "The spot fishing is great but my docks are completely destroyed." Many of the spot top 16 ounces and the largest weighed an impressive 24 ounces. Top locations include Carters Creek and just off the old Pickle Factory.

Garretts Marina described the striped bass action as "pretty decent" and buoy 19 (Bowlers Rock) and Russ's Rock were the top locations.

Virginia Beach -

The Virginia Beach Fishing Center reported nearly a dozen white marlin were caught and released near the Norfolk Canyon on Saturday. The same boats also recorded scattered catches of yellowfin tuna and dolphin. On Sunday the FROGPILE ran an inshore ocean wreck fishing trip and returned with a good haul of black sea bass. The headboat fleet also recorded decent catches of black sea bass on their all-day wreckfishing trips.

Paula Owen from Fisherman's Wharf Marina said a good white marlin bite developed Saturday along the 320-line. An overnight trip to the canyon produced a small swordfish (released) and several yellowfin tuna. On Tuesday (October 7) the HIGH HOPES caught and released an estimated 500-pound plus blue marlin and boated a big longfin tuna (true albacore).

Virginia Piers -

Grandview - Badly damaged and still closed.

Buckroe Beach - Badly damaged and still closed.

Harrison - Completely demolished. Closed indefinitely.

Lynnhaven - Lost a significant portion on the end but has re-opened. Decent catches of spot were recorded early in the week but the bite slowed in recent days. Fishermen are catching a mixture of taylor bluefish, croaker, puppy drum, school striper, flounder and speckled trout.

Virginia Beach - Lost a portion of the end of the pier but has re-opened. Spot provided memorable action Wednesday and again on Friday but the bite has tapered off drastically in recent days. An occasional keeper striped bass, several puppy drum, taylor blues and a few flounder were caught over the weekend. Water temperature was 69 degrees on Tuesday (October 7).

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 -

Surf anglers fishing the Nags Head area beaches reported scattered catches of speckled trout, puppy drum, croaker, and snapper bluefish the past week. The Avalon Pier (only area pier currently open) reported a broad mixture of fish species, including croaker, blowfish, puppy drum, speckled trout, bluefish, pompano, sea mullet and Spanish mackerel but only spot were abundant at times. Water temperatures along the surf line run from the upper 60's to low 70's.

South of Oregon Inlet, several jack crevalle and some puppy drum were beached at Cape Point on Buxton Friday. Saturday saw good numbers of puppy drum and taylor blues around ramp 34 during the day while several large red drum were beached at the Point. Bottom fishermen also loaded up on spot at the Point and just south. Puppy drum and taylor blues made a good showing at the Point Sunday morning, Spanish mackerel blitzed late afternoon and two-dozen large red drum were caught after sundown. Monday produced mixed catches of taylor bluefish, puppy drum, Spanish mackerel, spot, flounder and blow toads. Several channel bass were beached after dark.

The fleet returned to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center and fished Friday, though only eight boats fished offshore due to rough sea conditions. Catches were "so-so" with only scattered catches of yellowfin tuna, king mackerel and dolphin. On Saturday the weather and fishing was markedly better, as boats averaged 8 to 9 yellowfin tuna (some had limits) plus decent numbers of dolphin and some wahoo and king mackerel. The good tuna bite continued Sunday and even more boats claimed their limit of yellowfin. The TROPHY HUNTER boated a trio of nice wahoo and the POINT RUNNER decked a 69-pound wahoo. Very few dolphin were caught. Inshore boats recorded catches of false albacore, Spanish mackerel and taylor bluefish. The yellowfin bite was even better on Monday, as catches ranged from a dozen to a limit (18 tuna). Only a scattering of dolphin and wahoo were reported. The TROPHY HUNTER released a white marlin.

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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