The best (open) fishery that we have going is tautog on the coastal wrecks. Wrecks anywhere from 5 miles to 30 miles off of the beach are producing good catches of tog. Anglers heading further offshore are having good luck catching blueline tilefish in spite of the dogfish and sea bass bycatch. Even deeper, there are some golden tilefish, blackbelly rosefish and other creatures being caught. Big speckled trout continue to be caught in the Elizabeth River along with the occasional puppy drum. The coastal striped bass fishery remains a no-show. There have been some striped bass caught and released by boats searching for bluefin tuna 20-30 miles off of the coast. I have not heard of any bluefin tuna catches yet. Boats keep going out looking for them. We know that big bluefin tuna are being caught off of Cape Lookout. What have not been found are the smaller fish, less than 200 pounds, that should be out there somewhere off of Virginia and North Carolina. When boats get out, the blackfin tuna bite is good out of Hatteras.
We have had an interesting tag return. In the summer of 2007, we took the Healthy Grin on a tuna trip for Dr. John Graves of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. We were targeting less than 27-inch bluefin tuna that I had received some reports of between the Norfolk and Washington Canyons. We had Nelson and Di Ortiz onboard for their first tuna trip. They are fellow members of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association and at the time, Nelson was the President of the Peninsula CCA. We started at the Norfolk Canyon and trolled all the way up to the Washington Canyon where we found the tuna. We did not find the little bluefin we were looking for. We started catching yellowfin tuna in the 40-pound class and then one of the tuna that came over the gunnel was a bluefin tuna. We had a permit to harvest sub-legal bluefin but did not want to keep any more of that size. To make sure we did not mistakenly gaff other bluefin we just opened the tuna door, grabbed the leader, and slid them in. Yellowfin tuna went into the fish box while bluefin tuna were tagged and slid back out the door. Di caught a 45-inch bluefin tuna that we estimated at 40 pounds. The fish was tagged with a Tag-a-Tiny tag from Dr. Molly Lutcavage’s Large Pelagics Research Center. The Billfish Foundation helps collect recapture reports through their tag reporting system and they called me to tell me the Di’s fish had been recaptured. The fish was re-caught about 7 years later, June 2014, in the Mediterranean Sea and was taken to one of the fattening pens off Malta where it was kept until it was harvested in November. The fish was recaptured about 5,000 miles from where we had released it and it weighed 616 pounds when it was harvested.
PSWSFA members need to mark Feb. 27 on their calendars. That is the evening of our Awards Banquet. Adult meals will be $15 while the children’s meal will be free. Look for details and menu selection in the Chum Line.
Jan 25, Wes and I went over and did some boat work. We also went and did some tog fishing close to the beach. We ended up catching 19 togs up to 18.5 inches long. Kept a couple, tagged and released the rest, got DNA samples from each. When we dropped the camera down, we did not see much but the fish were biting.
Jan 23, we went out after tautog. We had a slow bite, catching 5 tautog. We kept 4 between 18 and 20 inches long, tagged and released the 5th. We got DNA samples from each. We also kept a nice hake and we had to release some really nice sea bass. I did drop a camera down to see what was going on down there:
Jan 20, Wes Blow fished for tautog on one of the ocean wrecks. He said that the bite was great and they caught about 25 fish keeping their 2-angler limit. The fish they kept included 4 that weighed over 9 pounds with the largest weighing in at 16 pounds.
Jan 17, we went out in rather blustery conditions for tautog. We stayed close to the beach because it was just too rough to run anywhere else. We managed to catch 15 tautog up to 23.25 inches long. That fish was tagged and released after a DNA sample was taken. We tagged and released all but 3 fish and got DNA samples from each for VIMS. The carcasses of the kept fish were donated to VMRC. We caught one fish that had been tagged previously.
Jan 16, Jody Linthicum fished the Elizabeth River with Wally Veal. They caught 15 speckled trout over 19 inches long. Their catch included fish of 25 inches, 27.5 inches and Jody caught a huge gator, 32 inches long! Hunter Southall was also on the river catching trout. Hunter said that he caught a dozen or so specks including one over 25 inches long. He also caught a nice puppy drum. Hunter's specks averaged in the 20-23 inch range. Both Jody and Hunter caught their fish casting jigs and those fish are still there as they released their fish...even that 32-inch monster!
Jan 11, Wes Blow fished for tautog on one of the ocean wrecks. They kept a 3-man limit of tog, all over 20 inches long, with the largest at 9 pounds. They caught a total of 25 tautog and they also caught some sea bass that were released.
Jan 11, Capt Rick Wineman fished the Norfolk Canyon area. They caught 15 blueline tilefish, with 7 weighing over 10 pounds, and a golden tilefish. They caught a few large sea bass while jigging for bluefish. They caught several bluefish and hooked up with a mako shark on a jig that they eventually broke off.
Jan 2, we started late, to let the wind calm, and quit about 2 in the afternoon so I could make a family party. Despite the short day, we caught 19 tog to about 24 inches long at the Triangle Wrecks. We got fin clips from all of the fish, caught one with a tag, tagged and released others. The carcasses of the ones we kept were donated to VMRC. On the way out, we did see some bird activity and slicks about 6 miles east of the Chesapeake Light Tower.
Jan 2, Capt. Rick Wineman did some catch-and-release fishing inside of the bay. Drifting eels, they had 6 bites and caught 2 big rockfish, 47 and 49 inches long.
Jan 1, Wes and Amy Blow fished the Elizabeth River. The bite was slow but they did manage to catch a couple of nice speckled trout.
Dec 31, Capt. Rick Wineman eeled for rockfish. They caught a nice 46.5 inch fish early in the morning that turned out to be their only fish of the day.
Dec 31, Hamish Small fished a wreck inside of the bay. They caught a few tautog and some schoolie stripers.
Dec 27, Richie and Dylan Moore went after rockfish and caught a pair of big ones. Their fish weighed in at 40 and 42 pounds.
Dec 27, Capt. Rick Wineman eeled for rockfish. Right at the end of the day, Wally Veal caught their on fish of the day and it was a nice one. The 48-inch striper weighed in at 48.1 pounds.
Dec 27, Stan Simmerman went striper fishing, caught one, and then had to come in with engine trouble.
Dec 27, Martin Freed and Ruta Vaskys fished a coastal wreck. They stopped counting at 50 tautog. They said that the wreck was loaded with small tog.
Dec 27, John Hunt, Charles Southall, and Phillip Neill each fished out of Oregon Inlet on private boats. The water that the fleet had been fishing had broken up and between the 3 boats, they only caught 2 yellowfin tuna.
Dec 26, Martin Freed and Ruta Vaskys went tautog fishing. The bite was slow but they did come in with a pair of 20-inch fish.
Dec 24, Gabe Sava fished the Elizabeth River in the rain. He caught 2 speckled trout to 23 inches long.
Dec 21, Wes Blow and Chris Boyce went eeling for rockfish. They hooked up 2 right away. They lost one of them and Chris caught the other, a 41-pound fish.
Dec 21, I fished with Charles and Hunter Southall. We drifted eels all day without a bite until the end of the day. Charles caught a 50-inch rockfish and we ran in. It was a thin fish, weighing in at 43.5 pounds.
Dec 20, we went wreck fishing while keeping an eye out for bluefin tuna. We never saw any sign of tuna but we caught plenty of other stuff. We kept a 7-man limit of big sea bass with three citations up to 5 pounds 8 ounces. We only caught two tautog but both weighed in at 12 pounds 8 ounces. We caught blueline tilefish including 3 citations up to 16 pounds. We weighed in a total of 8 citations of 3 different species. Charles Southall was the top angler with citation tilefish, tautog, and sea bass. Wes Blow got the other tautog. Stan Simmerman caught the largest sea bass and the largest tilefish. Hamish Small caught the 3rd citation tilefish and Nino Sava caught the 3rd citation sea bass. Gabe Sava caught a nice triggerfish that just missed citation weight. Other fish included bluefish and too many spiny dogfish.
Dec 20, Deven Simmerman eeled for rockfish catching 45 and 46 inch fish. The one he kept weighed 40 pounds.
Dec 20, Hunter Southall went fishing for rockfish. They caught a pair of nice fish (their big fish limit) right off the bat and came in. Both fish weighed just under 40 pounds each.
Dec 19, I ran over to the Eastern side of the bay and drifted eels for rockfish. Caught one (my one big fish limit) and ran back in. There was a decent bite over there going on. My fish weighed in at 43.5 pounds.
Dec 19, Phillip Neill fished out of Oregon Inlet. They caught 5 yellowfin and 8 blackfin tuna.
Dec 17, Wes Blow and Hunter Southall fished off of Cape Charles. They caught two big rockfish that weighed in at 49 and 43 pounds. Wes caught the larger fish giving him the early lead in the Irv Fenton Memorial Rockfish Tournament.