The recreational trophy bluefin tuna fishery closed as of April 11. Speckled trout are closed. Striped bass: closed, sea bass: closed, tautog: closes at the end of the month…seeing the pattern? You can keep one gray trout per day but there are no gray trout. It has been a tough winter/spring for everyone who is part of the recreational fishing industry. The water is warming up, breaking the 50 degree barrier at the CBBT. Things will get better. The tautog bite has been non-existent in the bay but that should change this week. We should have almost three good weeks of tog fishing before the season closes. Hopefully, the weather will let us fish some during what remains of April. One of the few inshore bright spots has been a tremendous red drum fishery. Puppy drum are already here and are being caught up in the inlets and rivers. Big reds will begin biting along the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore over the next couple of weeks. There have been some big reds caught along the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke, we will not be far behind. By the end of April, big black drum will also be available. There have been a few flounder caught in shallow, warmer waters. That fishery should pick up now. Offshore, we can still catch bluefin tuna, we just cannot keep the big ones. We can still keep one less than 73 inches per day. Big bluefin are still being caught out of Oregon Inlet along with the occasional yellowfin tuna. Yellowfin tuna should become a more common catch out of the Outer Banks and off of Virginia over the next few weeks. Offshore bottom fishing for tilefish, blackbelly rosefish, and the occasional grouper remains good around the Norfolk Canyon.
Just in time for banging the drum, we have Wally Veal speaking at the April 15 meeting of the PSWSFA. Wally is accomplished at catching both big red and black drum: www.pswsfa.com/meetings.htm .
April 6, after being blown out the past two weekends, we got back out after the tautog. It was still rough, too rough to get to the wrecks that we wanted to fish. We fished a couple of wrecks in close to the beach and we caught tog. There were no big fish this trip. We caught a total of 17 tog. We got DNA samples from each, kept 3 fish, tagged and released the rest. Three fish had already been tagged. In addition to the tog, we caught a cunner, a pollock, and a sea bass. The cunner was one of the larger ones we have caught (still small) and Hunter kept it. He also kept the Pollock as he has not tried either of those fish before and he was hungry. www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=697634790278071&l=9194333920439946084
April 6, Bill Pappas beat his way out to fish for tautog. It was worth the trip as they caught 16 tog up to 11 pounds.
April 3, Wes Blow fished the Triangle Wrecks for tautog. It was slow and they only caught 3 tog plus some sea bass.
April 2-3, Bill Pappas spent two days fishing for tautog. They caught 26 keeper tog up to 10 pounds 2 ounces.
March 21, Bill Pappas fished the Triangle Wrecks. They caught some tautog and a nice pollock. They also came across a dead porpoise that had a rather large piece missing from an apparent bite from a rather large shark.
March 15, Tricia and I attended the Virginia Beach Anglers Club’s banquet. The meal was done “in house” and was excellent. There are some really good cooks in that club. There are good anglers too. Multiple anglers won awards. Beth and Kevin Synowiec were probably the biggest winners. Melanie Bayford, Don Bayford, Jerry Hughes, Bob Stuhlman, and Steve Harding were among those receiving multiple awards. Many others received awards for their outstanding catches or for their service to the club. I was much honored to receive the VBAC’s Dr. James C. Wright Memorial Conservation Award.
March 14, we went back out after tautog. It was a pretty day out there and we had some great bait. We caught zero tautog. We did catch and release some nice sea bass but not a whole lot of those. I dropped the Go Pro down to see what was down there and saw an impressive sea bass population but no tautog in sight of the camera: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=683730828335134&l=5947890744745268810 .
March 11, Zach Hoffman fished for tautog on one of the ocean wrecks. They had an impressive catch of big tautog with the largest weighing in at 22.5 pounds.
March 9, we went back after tautog. No twenty-pounders this time, a bit different from out last trip. We caught a total of 15 tautog. We expected it to be rough and it was a little bumpy at times and we got rained on in the morning. Then it turned much nicer than predicted. I was told that it was blowing inshore but out at the Triangle Wrecks, it was mostly calm.
March 1-2, we went out after tautog Saturday morning. It was rough and cold. The fact that the night before was the PSWSFA Awards Banquet did not help. It was a better morning for sleeping in than for going fishing. We were out there at the crack of dawn, anchored up to a wreck, wind in our faces and a cold saltwater spray coming over the transom. While I was realizing that I was not comfortable, Wes Blow caught a couple of tautog. I asked the guys what they thought about just pretending that we had not gone fishing today and to give it another try on Sunday. Nobody thought that was a bad idea, even Wes. Sunday morning was much calmer and warmer. It did blow up during the afternoon but by that time we did not care. We had a box full of some impressive tautog. We did not do much for the tag-and-release effort this weekend. We did tag some. We did better at the collecting of DNA samples (and dinner). Everyone onboard weighed in at least one fish nine pounds or better. A total of eight fished weighed over nine pounds. The heaviest was a twenty pound tautog caught by Jody Linthicum. Hunter Southall came in second with a sixteen pound fish.
Feb. 22-23, we spent two beautifully calm days on the ocean. We fished for tautog both days. Saturday, we caught a total of 15 tautog. None of them were large with 4 being big enough to keep. 4 fish had previously been tagged. We placed tags in others and collected a fin clipping from each fish. Sunday, we did a lot more moving around and it was even slower than the day before. We had Dr. Hamish Small from VIMS with us displaying a great dedication to his job. On his day off, he was up well before dawn and did not get home until late into the night to conduct on-the-water research. The rest of us were just playing but Hamish was working hard. He should definitely get overtime pay for pulling up that wreck anchor all of those times. We did not catch our first tautog until late in the afternoon. From then until we ran out of daylight, we caught 11 tog. All were nice fish with no shorts caught. 3 fish were large enough to earn citations. Steve Martin caught our largest fish at 17 pounds. Stan Simmerman caught the second largest at 14 pounds 8 ounces. We caught some nice sea bass that were released and we had a tautog-blueline tilefish double hook-up. That was a first, the tilefish was real surprise. I had not heard of one being caught in less than 100 feet of water. It was by itself. Two season ago, we had a good catch of cod while fishing for tautog. Last season, we caught lobster. This may be the year of the tilefish. Wes Blow caught the tile and he was sure that he had a big tog on.