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The Saltwater Review - 13 July 1999

Vol. 13, No. 12
by Lewis S. Gillingham
OVERVIEW Chincoteague Wachapreague Cape Charles Onancock
Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel Virginia Middle Bay Virginia Beach Virginia Piers Grandview
Buckroe Beach Harrison Lynnhaven Sandbridge Outer Banks, NC

OVERVIEW

The Mid-Atlantic Council/Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Flounder Plan mandated that all states reduce their recreational flounder catch by 40% for the 1999 season. On March 1, 1999, Virginia modified its season, size and bag limits to achieve a 40% reduction. Anglers are reminded that part of Virginia's 40% reduction in the recreational flounder catch (34.2% was obtained by increasing the size limit from 15 to 16 inches) for the 1999 season requires a one-week closure during July. The flounder closure runs from Sunday, July 25 through Saturday, July 31.

Another "closed period" is fast approaching, this one is for sea bass. Black sea bass will be "off limits" beginning August 1 and through August 15.

Despite the near record setting heat the past week, flounder catches improved at several locations, including the Eastern Shore seaside ports of Chincoteague and Wachapreague, the CBBT complex, located on the lower Bay and buoy 42, located in the mid-Bay region.

Cobia remain available on their normal summer haunts with Bluefish Rock, York Spit and Latimer Shoals the favored locations.

Many anglers are turning at least a portion of their attention to spadefish. Huge aggregations are reported at the Cell, several spots along the CBBT including the Third and Fourth islands and the Tower Reef. Honestly, some fish can be expected at nearly every inshore wreck or structure--sometimes even orientating to buoys.

Prior to the coldfront, bluewater action was especially good for school yellowfin tuna and blue marlin with some of the best reported action between the Cigar and Norfolk Canyon.

As for bluefin tuna, while some fish are being reported from such traditional inshore locations as the Hot Dog and 26 Mile Hill, more consistent bluefin action has occurred at the Parking Lot, located off Chincoteague and the "lumpy bottom," located inshore of the Washington Canyon.

Chincoteague-

Donna from Capt. Bob's said flounder action improved the past week, as some anglers were able to bag their 8-fish limit of flounder weighing up to 5 pounds. Steve Sommerkamp, Jr. boated the week's heaviest flatfish at 7-2. Live minnows drifted in Queen's Sound have produced the best action. Schools of croaker moved into Tom's Cove, where anglers were reeling them in "right and left," according to Donna. Outside the inlet, Dave Thompson, Sr. pulled an 11 1/2 pound tog from a coastal wreck site off Assateague Island. The same trip produced sea bass up to 5 pounds for Robert Persch. Bluefin tuna have been responding greedily to chunks of butterfish at the Parking Lot since mid-week. Chopper blues, a few sharks and even the occasional dolphin were caught at the same location.

Bill Robbins from R & R Boat Rental also spoke of a "resurgence" by flounder and suggested the northside of Black Narrows as a prime location. Weakfish are being caught around the pilings of most major bridges, including the Black Narrows and Assateague Island crossings. Bottom fishermen reported fair to good hauls of croaker in the Main Channel near buoy 25 and decent numbers of sea mullet at the inlet.

Rosaleen at Barnacle Bill's weighed a 91 1/2 pound bluefin tuna for Maryland angler Tom Crosby. He was chunking with frozen butterfish at the Parking Lot aboard the REEL TIME and the catch included several dolphin. The crew fishing with Captain Jim Hauser aboard the ENFORCER boated a limit of bluefin plus several chopper blues while chunking at the Parking Lot. Inside the inlet, flounder action improved and croaker have arrived--though the croaker "aren't quite as big as last year."

Daisey's Dockside also had information suggesting the flounder bite improved last week and recommended fishing Queen's Sound flats on high tide. Several customers indicated that medium sized croaker were biting at the inlet.

Wachapreague-

Wachapreague Marina reported good offshore action the past week--though Sunday was "a blowout." The annual Eastern Shore Marlin Tournament was held over the weekend despite the rough sea conditions. It's participants failed to catch any billfish for the first time in recent years, however, the boats were able to fish the inshore tuna grounds. The heavyweight tuna, a bluefin, was boated by Craige Lipscom aboard CHAPTER 11. It weighed 104 pounds. Charlie Farlow, fishing aboard the JAMES GANG, claimed the heavyweight dolphin at 16 1/2 pounds. Earlier in the week, several other impressive catches were recorded. George Reiger boated a 107-pound bluefin and Tony Turner a 103 pounder while the crew aboard the HOBO registered several releases for bluefin. The tuna hotspot has been an area off Wachapreague known locally as "the lumpy bottom." Lynne Purvis landed one of the largest false albacore of the season at 19-7 and Jack Mason also claimed a citation-winning albert at 18 1/2 pounds.

Capt. Zed's also spoke of good bluefin action over the past week. The biggest weighed at the shop went an even 100 pounds and was boated by John Marsh at the 21 Mile Hill aboard the HOOK'EM. Inside the inlet, croaker have arrived and the flounder bite improved. Ronnie Anderson, Jr. landed the heaviest flatfish of the week--a 7-10 fish "right in front of the old Coast Guard Station."

Cape Charles-

Chris' Bait and Tackle weighed several big cobia the past 10 days, including the heaviest reported thus far this season, a 91-13 fish for Carl Wymer. The huge fish was 64 1/2 inches long and was boated at Latimer Shoals, near the "old" buoy 16 site. Other award winning cobia included a 65-10 fish for Chuck Genslicki, a 60-5 cobia for Terry Taylor and a 55-11 fish for Kevin Herd. Scott Rittenhouse and Dale Smith were fishing out of Oyster for tarpon when each released a 78-inch shark. On other fronts, schools of croaker have moved up along the seaside, as impressive hauls were claimed out of Oyster while steady croaker catches continue to be recorded at and just seaward of the Cement Ships.

Onancock-

Captain Wil Laaksonen at Fish and Finn Charters reported good catches of croaker with the best hauls of the bigger fish coming on the late evening tide. Neither pan trout nor spot were as plentiful as in prior weeks, though the spot remain good-sized with most running 8 to 12 inches. The best concentrations of keeper flounder are found along the channel edges. Cobia sightings off Onancock are commonplace but Captain Wil knew of no rod and reel catches in the past week.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel-

Cobbs Marina weighed a 59 1/2 pound cobia for Mark Jones that was boated at the Third Island and Robert Tye stopped-in to weigh an 8-6 flounder that he caught at the First Island. The marina spokesman said overall flounder catches were on the upswing the past week plus some spot were starting to show.

John at Bubba's Marina told of a good cobia bite at Latimer Shoals prior to the weekend while action had tailed-off at Bluefish Rock. The shop had a stack of black drum release Citations and most were recorded at the Second Island. The past week saw an increase in flounder activity on the lower Bay, especially at Inner Middle Ground Shoals, the Small Boat Channel and around the Cape Henry Wreck. Good numbers of Spanish mackerel have finally arrived in the rips off Cape Henry while spadefish reside above most of the inshore ocean wrecks. Bottom bouncers working the Triangle Wrecks reported big catches of sea bass and tautog.

Dr. Jim Wright said 48-inch plus bluefin tuna were abundant over the lumpy bottom located just inside the Washington Canyon but there was little interest since only one fish per boat could be kept. The Triangle Wrecks continue to produce big tautog and decent-sized sea bass. Inshore, spadefish remain "stacked-up" at the Tower Reef though Dr. Wright described the fish as "skittish" because of all the fishing pressure.

Wallace's Bait and Tackle said the area known locally as the "hump" was the weekend hotspot for cobia, as nearly a dozen citation-winning fish were registered. Good-sized flounder and grey trout continued to be taken at the CBBT complex. Also at the CBBT, spadefish are becoming increasingly abundant at the Third Island, where most anglers choose to anchor, chum with frozen ground clam and drift small bits of fresh clam back into the slick. Several customers who fished offshore reported catching tuna, dolphin and king mackerel at the Hambone.

Johnny from Sunset Marina weighed a 57-7 cobia for Chris Hearst from Bluefish Rock and a 46 pounder for Jeff Junkelman that was boated at the hump. Darnelle Lenix released cobia of 44 and 45 inches at Bluefish Rock while her dad, Luke, decked an 8-6 spadefish at the Tower Reef. Johnny added that bottom fishermen scored on large croaker and keeper flounder at Hampton Bar while trollers working off Cape Henry claimed Spanish mackerel up to 25 inches.

A.D. from Vanasse Bait and Tackle said several of their customers were complaining about "too many croaker," as baits meant to tempt other fish were gobbled by the aggressive bottom feeders. Other than reports of croaker, flounder were being caught at the Back River Reef site.

Andy Watkins from Back River Market weighed numerous spadefish in the 7 to 9-pound range that were caught around the 4A buoy, located off Fisherman's Island and the Tower Reef. Dave Carpender nailed a monster 13 1/2-pound grey trout at the CBBT. Several 30-pound class cobia were brought in over the weekend and big croaker remain abundant inside Back River.

Salt Ponds Marina told of good catches of bluefin , yellowfin and chopper blues offshore. The bluefin and yellowfin were caught between the Cigar and Norfolk Canyon while the big bluefish were located at the 26 Mile Hill. The marina spokesman also stated good catches of flounder had been made in recent days at the CBBT complex with James Cross, with a 7-2 flatfish, weighing the heaviest.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply said fishing slowed last week, as "the fishermen just didn't want to face the heat." Still, big croaker remain abundant above the Gloucester Bridge, off Cheatham Annex and cobia are available at York Spit Light.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club reported good flounder at the CBBT complex, buoy 42 and Cape Henry Wreck, though club member David Agee boated a limit of flatfish measuring to 23 1/2 inches at York River Channel over the long Fourth of July weekend. Doug Roper and Craige Stallings enjoyed their best flounder action at the First Island, where the pair limited-out one day, returned the next day and nearly came away with another limit of flatfish. Offshore, the 26 Mile Hill harbors mostly bluefish, false albacore and a few dolphin but the crew fishing with Dr. Bob Allen managed to snake-out a 55-pound yellowfin!

Virginia Middle Bay-

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported nice-sized Spanish mackerel have arrived off Smith Point with some of the best hauls coming from just outside the mouth of the Great Wicomico and over Smith Point Bar. Schools of 13 to 17-inch pan trout are suspended at the mouth of the Great Wicomico and the fish will readily hit a slowly jigged spoon or rubber-tailed jig. Bottom fishermen seeking croaker who work the channel edge along buoy 62 are loading up on these bottom feeders. Several cobia were caught in local pound nets but Roger knew of no recent rod and reel catches.

Smith Point Marina said schools of Spanish mackerel had arrived at Blackberry Hang and the Smith Point Light area, as trollers working these spots with small spoons enjoyed their best action of the season on the speedy gamesters. Bottom fishermen continue to make good catches of large croaker--many exceeding 2 pounds while drifting the channel edge east of Smith Point Light. The same area is also producing a few trout in the 4 to 6 pound range. Those anglers with their sights set for striped bass are running into Maryland waters (where the striper season is open), anchoring and chumming. In addition to the striped bass, catches include fair to good numbers of taylor blues.

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Reel and Downrigger Service said flounder action improved the past week at the Cell. Anglers jigging this structure continue to catch sizable trout while those fishing bits of clam for spadefish witnessed an influx of smaller fish. Throughout this mid-Bay area, croaker remain abundant and their size varies "from pinheads to jumbos," according to Jerry. Spanish mackerel made a decent showing off Gwynn Island, as trollers pulling 00 Drone spoons or equally small Clark spoons reported good catches. As for cobia, the bulk of the catches are still being made on the lower Bay. A recent "hotspot" has been Swash Channel, located near York Spit.

Jim Thompson from Locklies Marina said bottom fishermen working the river caught fewer of the jumbo croaker but more spot the past week. Some of the best hauls of spot were made "right out front of the marina," according to Jim. Plenty of jumbo croaker but few spot were reported "across the Bay" between the Cell and Silver Beach.

Garretts Marina said their customers are catching plenty of spot and croaker "right off the marina" at buoy 19, along the power lines and over Morratico Bar.

Virginia Beach -

The charter and headboat fleet that sails from the Virginia Beach Fishing Center was idled due to sea conditions the past several days but prior to the weekend bluewater action was excellent. The yellowfin tuna bite was especially good--for numbers of fish though not size. Many of the yellowfin were below the 27-inch minimum size limit. Billfish, especially blue marlin, were in seasonably good abundance. Inshore boats reported fair to good catches of Spanish mackerel and cobia. The headboat fleet continues to work the mouth of the Bay, returning with good hauls of croaker and trout.

"The last time any of our boats went out was Friday," according to Paula Owen at Fisherman's Wharf Marina, "and then they had really good tuna and blue marlin fishing." The best of the action was located between the Cigar and Norfolk Canyon from the 250 and 350 line in 30 to 50 fathoms of water.

Virginia Piers-

Grandview

Big croaker moved into casting distance since the "coldfront" arrived, as some anglers filled coolers with the tasty bottom fish. Decent catches of speckled trout were also recorded Sunday and Monday. Prior to the weekend, flounder were hitting live minnows and squid while Spanish mackerel were caught on small spoons. The pier's most recent cobia was decked Friday, July 9.

Buckroe Beach-  

Cobia weighing up to 40 pounds were decked over the weekend. Prior to the weekend, Spanish mackerel provided good sport at the end of the pier. Croaker and spot "really turned-on" since the weekend coldfront.

Harrison-

Kenny Simpson decked a 79-pound cobia on Saturday. Croaker moved into the pier Monday (July 12) and were still biting Tuesday.

Lynnhaven-

"We've had a real good run of nice spot the past two days" (Monday and Tuesday), noted the pier spokesman, "and folks are really loading up." In addition, some pan trout, flounder and taylor blues were reported.

Virginia Beach-

Spot provided steady action over the weekend and bottom fishermen also scored on sea mullet, grey and speckled trout. Casters working the end of the pier "were killing the Spanish mackerel," according to the pier spokesman. The ocean waters had cooled to 70 degrees around the pier pilings by Tuesday.

Sandbridge-

Action was remarkably slow the past week, according to the pier spokesman, though fair numbers of Spanish mackerel and taylor blues were caught mid-week, early and late in the day. Following the weekend coldfront, croaker started biting on Tuesday.

Outer Banks, NC-

The hot and steamy weather along the Outer Banks of last week seemed to slow the anglers more than the fish. In the surf and from the Nags Head area piers, "the fish were biting," according to Bill MaCaskill at Whalebone Tackle, as surf and pier anglers both reported good numbers of small to medium croaker plus some taylor blues and trout, "we just didn't have many folks fishing." Casters working the ends of the piers also recorded good catches of Spanish mackerel at times--especially early and late in the day. Several cobia were decked the past week but the best of the cobia run appears over. Back inside the sound, spot continue to provide steady action, though the bite of speckled trout has slowed. South of Oregon Inlet, ramp 38 features decent numbers of sea mullet and plenty of croaker. Pompano are reported in the 80-degree surf from Cape Point to Hatteras Inlet. Heaviest the past week weighed an impressive 4 pounds but most weigh less than a pound.

The bluewater fleet fishing from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center has suffered from rough seas recently and catches of yellowfin and dolphin were rated just "fair," though catches of blue marlin and sailfish were above average. The past week saw good to excellent hauls of Spanish mackerel and taylor blues aboard the half-day boats trolling at or near the mouth of Oregon Inlet. Slightly further offshore, school kings and amberjack were reported.

Out of Hatteras, the BIG EASY released a pair of blue marlin and the SEA CREATURE a single blue on Saturday, as winds blew a steady 20 knots from the southeast. Sunday, winds shifted to the northeast but continued to blow 20 knots or more but the CAP'N B, GAMBLER and HATTERAS BLUE each released a pair of billfish. Monday the wind calmed but the rain came and the HATTERAS FEVER released three sailfish. For the three-day period, catches of dolphin and yellowfin was rated as "fair."

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.

Click on Newsletter link to get to the index of previous Saltwater Reviews


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