The Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association held their annual banquet this past week. This event was a kickoff for the 2014 fishing season and a celebration of 2013. Many, many awards were given out. Of these, none are more important than the special youth awards. Youth receiving awards include: Spencer Elford, Hayden Head, Hannah Elford, Lexi Sava, Caleb Sava, Deven Simmerman, Kylie McCormick, Johnathan Bingham, Lillian Linthicum, Caroline Bingham, Hannah Stratton, Ethan Moore, Gaston Shepard, Morgan Cooper, Adelle Hudgins, and Taylor Simmerman. Annual awards were given out for thirty-two different species of saltwater fish. Of note, are five new club records. Rick Wineman set new records with a 117-inch swordfish and a 42-inch albacore tuna. Jeff Dail raised the dolphin record with a 64-inch fish. Clair Hillard caught a 34.5-inch false albacore. A 29-inch blackfin tuna, caught by John Hunt, Jr., is the new club record for that species. Each of these fish was considered for the Fish of the Year Award. Rick’s swordfish won. In addition to setting the club record, his swordfish was the heaviest sword weighed in Virginia in 2013. An honorable mention goes out to one of our youth anglers, Ethan Moore. Ethan caught and released a 65-inch tarpon on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. A Virginia tarpon is an impressive catch. The Masters Golf Tournament has their jacket ceremony. The PSWSFA has its own master jacket tradition. When a member wins the Angler of the Year Award for the second time he earns the title of Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association Master Angler for Life and he receives a special jacket. Three anglers received their Master Jacket: Dave Boyce, Wes Blow, and Rick Wineman. Two tournament trophies were awarded. Charles Southall won the Don Forman Cobia Tournament with an 81.5 pound fish. Ken Neill won the Irv Fenton Rockfish tournament with 43 pound striped bass. Ken Neill won the Critter of the Year Award for a lobster and he won the Dr. Boatwright Annual Rockfish Trophy with a 47-inch rockfish. The Angler of the Year Award is the top “fishing” award given each year. The 2013 PSWSFA Angler of the Year is Jody Linthicum. The most prestigious award presented each year is the George Robertson Memorial Fisherman of the Year Award. This award has nothing to do with catching the most or the largest fish. This award is presented to the individual who has done most for others and who has done the most for recreational fishing. The winner of the George Robertson Trophy is Rachel Nelson. Sponsors of the PSWSFA Banquet include among others: Holland Corp., Guy Harvey, George Poveromo, Sport Fishing Magazine, Multi-Print, Yorktown Transmissions, 1st Advantage Credit Union, The Pizza Shop, Grafton Fishing Supply and Seafood, Appomattox River Co., Olivia’s Restaurant, Bishop Bait and Tackle, Wilcox Bait and Tackle, Dave’s Sinkers, Golden Creation Jewelers, West Marine, Sea Tow Lower Chesapeake, Andrea’s Italian Restaurant, Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.
Tautog are biting on the ocean wrecks. It will take a bit of a warm up to get them active in the bay. That bite should turn on by the end of this month but for now, the coastal wrecks and artificial reefs are the place to be. The offshore wrecks are loaded with big sea bass but that fishery is closed until sometime in May. Even further offshore, good catches of bottom fish are being made in the Norfolk Canyon area including blueline and golden tilefish, blackbelly rosefish, barrel fish, wreckfish, and the occasional grouper. Flounder fishing is a month away. There are some puppy drum being caught in the Elizabeth River and inside Rudee Inlet. Speckled trout are now closed but there is catch and release action to be had in the Elizabeth River. Bluefin tuna are being caught off of the Outer Banks. Most of the fish seem to in the 150-pound range with some 300 plus pound, market-size tuna around. Other
than this, freshwater fishing is an option; catfish, ring perch and crappie are all biting.
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.
Feb. 16, we ran out to the Triangle Wrecks. It was cold and rough early, calming down as the day went on. It was our slowest trip yet. We only caught 7 smallish tog, all tagged and released with DNA sample taken. We had clam, hermit and Jonah crabs for bait. All of the fish were caught on clam.
Feb. 9, we ran back out after tautog. The action was slower than a couple of days earlier but the average size of the fish was better. We did not match out 14 pound 8 ounce fish of the previous trip but the ratio of keepers to throw-backs was better. We caught 18 tautog. I caught our two largest at about 8.5 pounds each. Danny Forehand and I each lost a “real” one. We know where they are living and will try to do better next time.
Feb. 9, Bill Pappas fished a couple of wrecks for tautog. They caught about 40 tautog.
Feb. 9, Capt. Rick Wineman ran out to try for tautog. On the way, they stopped and jigged on some working birds looking for a tuna bite. They caught several rockfish and moved on. They did not have any luck with the tautog, catching only sea bass and dogfish.
Feb. 7, we made a short tautog run. We had Dr. Hamish Small, from VIMS, with us for some on-the-water research. We caught nearly 30 tautog. Lee Williams caught our two largest tog with his largest weighing in at 14 pounds 8 ounces. Good quick trip. Dr. Small collected a DNA sample from each tautog we caught.
Feb. 1-2, Wes Blow fished a coastal wreck for tautog on Saturday and then he fished the Elizabeth River Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, they caught 25 tautog. He was fishing a wreck where we had tagged a lot of tautog previously and he caught a number with tags in them. He placed tags in the fish that had not been tagged and he collected a DNA sample from each fish for VIMS. Several fish had significant wounds that had healed. On Sunday, Wes caught speckled trout. Wes tags and releases almost every speckled trout he catches but he kept a 10 plus pound gator.
Feb. 1-2, Hunter Southall fished the Elizabeth River Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning having great success catching both speckled trout and puppy drum. On Sunday, he had William Goldsmith with him. Willy is one of the newer grad students at VIMS who has been fishing with us. He got his undergrad degree at Harvard and he is a passionate New England angler learning to fish Virginia. He was on the James catching blue cats the day before. Over the two days, they caught speckled trout to about 27 inches and puppy drum to 33 inches. They caught fish on both live bait and artificials.
Jan. 31, Tricia and I flew down to south Florida to attend the 30th Annual Banquet of the IGFA where I received a Conservation Award. It was held at the IGFA Hall of Fame & Museum. It was a very nice event and the museum is a place all recreational anglers should visit, especially if you find the history and development of sport fishing, fishery conservation and fishery science interesting: www.igfa.org . I got to visit with a number of people that I have not fished with in a while. Guy Harvey was there (IGFA Trustee and the featured artist of the banquet) so I was able to thank him personally for his fabulous donation to the upcoming banquet of our fishing club. The next day, I went fishing. George Poveromo told me that we were right near his home inlet and that I should fish with Capt. Skip Dana, “If there was a sailfish around, he will find it”. Skip owns a pair of “drift boats”. We would call them head boats. Skip said that was how he earns a living, sailfish are more of a passion: www.bluewatermovements.com/captain_skip_dana.php . I met Skip in the morning. He said that the sailfish bite was on fire last week but was really slow this week, it was too calm. He said they needed a stiff NE blow to turn them back on. Sounds like some cobia fishermen I know. We gave them a try and Skip made a “long” run to where he thought the bite would be better to the north. We were putting lines in after a 10 minute run. He had just got the first kite up when the first sailfish was on. It was a nice one and mean. About 30 minutes into the fight, another sailfish ate a kite bait. It was a smaller fish and close to the boat. I put the first rod in the holder and went and fought the second sail. We released that one in about 10 minutes and it was back to the first one. That fish just did not want to behave but I eventually got it to the boat for the release. We had a couple of other encounters, caught some bonito, and had some king bite offs but those were the only sailfish hook ups of the day. We were right off of the beach on a sunny, 83 degree day.
Jan. 26, the boat was full of snow and the forecast did not sound promising. Hunter Southall got some nice bait and he shoveled out the boat so we had to give it a try. The sea conditions were surprisingly nice: sunny and calm early, breezing up a bit in the afternoon. We had Willy Goldsmith with us. He is a graduate student at VIMS who earned his undergraduate degree at Harvard. He is a New England native with a lot of togging experience up there. This was his first Virginia tog trip. I had told him that this might not be the trip to go on (cold, wet, rough) and that we were going just because we do stuff like that. He just laughed and said it sounds like home. We caught 21 tautog. Our day ended when we lost our wreck anchor. Our largest tog weighed 9.25 pounds. We got fin samples from all of the fish for DNA research. Some tautog carcasses are also on their way to VIMS for something to do with that same project. Tautog skin is being sent to Harvard. I have no idea why. We kept the filets. We used both clam and “white leggers” for bait. The clam got the most bites. The largest tog was caught on crab.
Jan 19, Hunter Southall fished the Elizabeth River. They caught and released speckled trout to 24 inches long.
Jan. 18, Charles and Hunter Southall fished the Elizabeth River. They caught 9 speckled trout including 3 large enough to earn citations. Their largest was 28 inches long.
Jan. 15, Eric Wynings and Lee Martin fished the Elizabeth River. They caught 11 speckled trout up to 30 inches long.
Jan. 15, Wes Blow and Beth Synowiec fished the Elizabeth River catching 9 speckled trout up to 24.5 inches long.
Jan. 12, Wes Blow and I started the day tolling for bluefin tuna. We found thick bait, birds, and whales from 2 miles to 6 miles off of the beach. No tuna bites but Wes did catch a gannet on a pink Ilander. We anchored up on a wreck and caught 14 tautog plus some sea bass. One of the sea bass and three of the tautog had already been tagged. We tagged others, collecting DNA samples from each tog. Wes caught our largest tog of the day. It weighed in at 10 pounds 8 ounces. We were using clam, shrimp, and frozen green crab. We caught fish on all of it with the clam being the best bait.
Jan. 12, Charles and Hunter Southall fished the Elizabeth River. They caught 5 speckled trout to 23.5 inches long.
Jan. 4 and 5, we trolled for bluefin tuna. We fished from 2 miles off the beach on out to the Hot Dog. We spent some time on the SE Lumps, where we had one hooked up last week. We had a toothy critter bite us off at the Hot Dog. We had more bait and whales in closer to the beach. We had not caught any rockfish while trolling around out there this winter until the 5th. We had all of our ballyhoo whammed. We got them back out and it was a full spread hook-up of rockfish again. Enough of that, those horse ballyhoo are not cheap and we had not brought enough of them with us to feed them to rockfish. We did not put out anymore ballyhoo until we stopped getting rockfish bites. They liked cedar plugs also. We had guys cranking in rockfish on 80-wides from the fighting chair. We had plenty of gaffs with us for tuna but had left the landing net on the dock as we were not expecting rockfish. Most, we were able to just unhook at boat side but some we brought into the boat to unhook and release them. We did not have a net but we did have a tuna door. We used that with some of the larger fish rather than dragging them over the side. Once we got out of that little flurry, we got the ballyhoo back out and did not have any more bites. We did hear of a few other boats getting hit by the rockfish but did not hear of any tuna encounters over the two days of fishing.
Jan. 4, Hunter Southall fished the Elizabeth River at night (in-between two bluefin tuna trips). They caught and released about 15 speckled trout in a few hours of casting artificial lures. The largest was 24.5 inches long.
Jan. 2, Capt. Rick Wineman started in the Triangle Wrecks area for bluefin tuna. They did not have any luck with that so they ran on out to the Norfolk Canyon where they caught blueline tilefish to 12 pounds, blackbelly rosefish, wreck fish and a snowy grouper. They also saw a swordfish on the surface. They did not see any signs of bluefin or rockfish on their ride back in.
Jan. 1, we trolled the SE Lumps area. At first light, we had a tuna explode on a ballyhoo/blue-white Ilander. Hunter fought the fish for almost an hour before the hook pulled with the fish near the boat. Shortly after getting the spread back out, we had another blow up on a cedar plug daisy chain. That bite did not come tight. Those were our only bites of the day. We did see a few groups of birds and saw some tuna working below them but did not get a bite out of them.