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The Saltwater Review - 8 October 1999

Vol. 13, No. 23
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


The Virginia Saltwater Review will not be published the week of October 11 through the 15 due to the observance of Columbus Day.

As a reminder, the Fall Grey Trout (weakfish) season opened August 16, 1999 and will run through April 30, 2000. During this portion of the season, trout must measure at least 14 inches (the minimum size limit was 12 inches from May 1 through August 15, coupled with a 4-fish possession limit) but anglers are allowed to keep up to 14 trout per angler. Again, for the Fall Grey Trout (weakfish) season, August 16, 1999 through April 30, 2000, the minimum size for trout is 14 inches with a 14-fish possession limit.

Virginia's Fall Striped Bass Bay and tributary season (excluding Potomac River tributaries--see enclosure for details) opened October 4. Season length, size and possession limits are unchanged from 1998. The Fall season will run through December 31. The minimum size limit will be 18 inches and there is a two-fish possession limit. No special permit or license is needed, however, an appropriate saltwater fishing license is required. Gaffing or spearing of striped bass is prohibited.

Young-of-the-Year black drum are being reported at various locations and are often either misidentified or kept for later identification. The fish are hand-sized (about as large as a nice spot) and are silver gray with black vertical bars. Their most distinctive character is the presence of chin barbels. As a reminder, the minimum size limit for black drum is 16 inches and the possession limit is one fish. See enclosure for a detailed picture.

The fall portion of Virginia's Striped Bass Season is underway and anglers are not only enjoying good school striper action but a pleasant assortment of other coveted fishes. Grey trout, for one, are showing in excellent numbers at several locations including the CBBT and HRBT. Flounder, which apparently developed a severe case of "lock-jaw" following Dennis, which only worsened with Floyd, are beginning to show interest in squid strips and live minnows. With cooling waters, speckled trout have become more active. Some out-sized croaker still linger but the vast shoals of fish have moved on. Ditto for spot, though another "pulse" of fish could move through on the next northeaster.


Capt. Bob's reported large weakfish are the "catch of the day," as good numbers of the game fish linger inside the protected waters behind Chincoteague. Peeler crab, a difficult commodity to locate at this time of the year, is the prime bait but the fish are also hitting squid and rubber-tailed grubs adorned with a slice of squid. As for flounder, catches are only fair at best.

Barnacle Bill's said a group of senior citizens from Parksley decked several keeper flounder from the shop's pier on a recent outing but the shop had no other reports of flounder for the week. Offshore, over-nighters to the Washington Canyon are producing big hauls of yellowfin and a pair of surprises for the crew aboard the REEL TIME, as both Fred Gilman and Curt Merkle released small swordfish. This is the first report of a recreational catch swordfish this year.


Wachapreague Marina reported excellent catches of yellowfin tuna just east of the lumpy bottom, as many boats went "back to chunking." Wahoo and dolphin remain in area waters and crews aboard the WHITE HOT and FREE LANCE each boated citation-winning wahoo. Inside the inlet, bottom fishermen find a mixture of spot, pan trout and flounder.

Capt. Zed's also reported good action at the lumpy bottom for yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo plus loads of sea bass on the ocean wrecks. Schools of pan trout and croaker are migrating along the beach and are often located within a mile of the beach.

Cape Charles-

Chris' Bait and Tackle reported big croaker still linger at the CBBT, as Philip Key decked a 3 1/2 pounder at the Third Island. Other anglers recorded good catches of weakfish at the Third and Fourth islands. Speckled trout action is on the upswing at several of the bayside creeks but the week's heavyweight trout, a 5-10 fish caught by Jody Matisouskey, was beached at Kiptopeke State Park. Good numbers of flounder are showing off Cape Charles but the majority are under 16 inches. Red drum remain a possibility off Cape Charles and even a more likely catch from one of the southern-most seaside barrier islands.


Captain Wil Laaksonen from Fish and Finn Charters reported steady catches of large spot off Onancock. Some croaker still linger in area waters. Grey trout to 5 pounds, porgy, sea mullet and yearling black drum are part of a typical days catch. School stripers are holding along the shoreline, where speckled trout of nearly 8 pounds were caught over the weekend. Small red drum (puppy drum) and adult fish to nearly 30 pounds remain available, as well as a few keeper flounder.

Lower Bay/Bridge Tunnel-

Cobbs Marina told of good numbers of school stripers around the CBBT complex since the season opened Monday, October 4. Other good news from the CBBT, the flounder bite has shown a slight improvement recently. Good-sized trout and taylor blues are also holding around the rock islands of the CBBT.

John from Bubba's Marina said a 54-inch striper was brought in but he was unable to weigh the huge fish on the shop's scales. The fish was estimated in the 40-pound range and was reportedly boated at the First Island. John added that school stripers and grey trout to 6 pounds were available "all along the CBBT." Inside Lynnhaven, speckled trout action is on the upswing while puppy drum provide dependable action.

Dr. Jim Wright also spoke highly of puppy drum "way back inside Lynnhaven," adding that an impressive bite of speckled trout developed Saturday in the turning basin. Offshore, good catches of school yellowfin and wahoo of over 30 pounds combined for memorable fishing.

Donnie Wallace from Wallace's Marina said the CBBT was loaded with school-sized stripers and decent numbers of grey trout in the 4 to 7-pound range. Scott Hall and his two buddies wire-lined the Third and Fourth islands on Wednesday and returned with nearly cooler full of grey trout. They also had a limit of stripers. Some jumbo croaker still linger along the crossing, as Ernest Higgins decked a 3-14 croaker near the Fourth Island. Waters surrounding the Fourth Island also yielded a 6-11 flounder to Rod Collins. Fishing action was not limited to the CBBT complex, as decent catches of speckled trout, puppy drum and school stripers were made at Poquoson Flats.

Johnny from Sunset Marina weighed an 8-pound tautog for George Hudgins and reports indicate good-sized flounder and grey trout were boated at the Fourth Island and a mixed bag of jumbo croaker, sea bass, spot, pan trout and small flounder were caught at the HRBT.

Chuck Ash from A & S Feed and Bait Supply described the speckled trout bite as "real good" inside Mobjack Bay--especially at the mouths of the East, North, Severn and Ware rivers. On the York River, bottom fishing has slowed with only sporadic catches of pan trout and medium croaker reported. Chuck added that school stripers were holding around the pilings of the Gloucester Point Bridge and any private pier that was lighted.

Members of the Peninsula Anglers Club reported good catches of school stripers around all the area bridges. Flounder fishing has finally begun to improve, especially around the Fourth Island. Several Club members boated large grey trout at the CBBT complex with waters from the Fourth Island to the High Rise the prime location. A mixture of speckled trout, puppy drum and striped bass are holding on Poquoson Flats while Back River Reef yielded tautog to 6 1/2 pounds, trout and even sheepshead. Offshore, the waters of the Cigar down to Triple 0's held yellowfin tuna, dolphin, wahoo and even an occasional white marlin.

Virginia Middle Bay-

Roger Wilkins from Jetts Hardware reported schools of pan trout "suddenly appeared" south of buoy 62 and small to medium-sized croaker are mixed in with the trout. Trollers are finding fair numbers of snapper blues and school rockfish but the Spanish mackerel appear to have departed. Spot remain available at Dividing Creek and the Great Wicomico River.

Don from Smith Point Marina said school-sized striped bass were "everywhere" as anglers returned with quick limits of 20 to 25-inch fish. Many of the bass were caught between the marina and Smith Point Light. Trollers also boated some taylor blues and a few Spanish mackerel. As for bottom fishing, "the croaker are about gone," according to Don but puppy drum were caught "right at the jetty."

Jerry Thrash from Queen's Creek Reel and Downrigger Service said speckled trout were biting in the Piankatank and inside Mobjack Bay at Ware Point. Anglers working the Piankatank also caught nice-sized grey trout and some snapper blues. Bottom fishermen working the rocks around Wolf Trap Light with peeler crab also claimed grey trout while the Cell provided decent action on trout and tautog. Jerry added that spot still linger at Butlers Hole and the Hole-in-the-Wall.

Big spot are found at Parrots Island, according to Beth Thompson, as several citation-winning fish were checked-in the past week. Judy Melvin and Debbie Morgon each boated twin 1-pound and 1-ounce fish and Doug Malony a 1-2 spot. Doug Mitchell nailed a 1-pound spot at Windmill Point.

Capt. Jim Thompson at Windmill Point Marina reported decent catches of jumbo spot the past week, "their size is holding but their numbers are beginning to drop-off," he conceded. Butlers Hole is also holding some pan trout to 18 inches and medium croaker. Anglers trolling bucktails found stripers holding over the rockpile located off Deltaville.

Virginia Beach-

Headboats sailing from the Virginia Beach Fishing Center returned with excellent catches of sea bass plus an occasional flounder. The bluewater fleet continues to find yellowfin tuna, dolphin and wahoo with many of the better catches coming from south of the Cigar down to Triple 0's

Fisherman's Wharf Marina said boats working between the Norfolk Canyon and Cigar recorded mixed catches of yellowfin, dolphin, wahoo and king mackerel. Most of the action took place in 30 to 50 fathoms of water. There is an abundance of Sargasso weed but not every patch holds fish.

Virginia Piers-


A recording indicated the pier was operating on a weekend only schedule.

Buckroe Beach-

Bottom fishermen are catching some large croaker (James Thornsberry decked a 3 1/4 pounder) plus a few puppy drum, pan trout and striped bass. Best time for the stripers and trout has been after dark, when the pier lights are on.


Daytime action is sporadic with puppy drum providing the best sport. After dark, school stripers swarm around the pier lights. Several runs of jumbo spot have occurred the past few nights.


Spot, puppy drum and school stripers have been hitting on the incoming tide in the late evening and after dark.

Virginia Beach-

Puppy drum to nearly 7 pounds, keeper stripers (they must be at least 28 inches in the ocean) and brief runs of jumbo croaker and yellow-bellied spot provided entertainment in recent days. Water temperature at pierside was a seasonal 68 degrees on Thursday, October 7.


Taylor blues, speckled trout and spot have all provided brief flurries of action in the past week but overall action is slow. Several large red drum were decked Wednesday night (October 6).

Outer Banks, NC-

Variety best describes the pier and beach catches along the Nags Head area the past week. When clear water and calm seas prevailed flounder, sea mullet, speckled trout, black drum, croaker, snapper blues and Spanish mackerel provided the best opportunities. Beach fishermen had the edge over pier anglers when it came to speckled trout, as the better sloughs generally located north of the piers from Kitty Hawk to Nags Head. As winds and seas increased, jumbo yellow-bellied spot and puppy drum to 26 inches moved into casting range. South of Oregon Inlet, Spanish mackerel made strong showings at Buxton around Cape Point. Several large channel bass were beached and impressive numbers of puppy drum. Water temperatures remain in the low 70's.

Back in the sounds, striped bass are becoming more active, though the sound season remains closed. All the major bridges and holding school stripers of up to about 25 inches. Speckled trout and puppy drum continue to provide steady action around the deeper holes.

For the bluewater fleets the yellowfin bite out of Oregon Inlet was excellent, as many boats returned with limit catches of tuna. Many of the better hauls were made well north of the Point and included fish in excess of 50 pounds. Boats working from the Point and southward found dolphin and a scattering of wahoo and king mackerel. Bill fishing was slow.

The Hatteras fleet enjoyed decent action on sailfish, large king mackerel, dolphin, wahoo and blackfin tuna but very few yellowfin. Some of the blackfins topped 30 pounds!

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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