The best news comes from the waters south of us. Boats running out of Oregon Inlet found good numbers of bluefin tuna this week. Most of the fish have been in the 200 to 400 pound range. There are blackfin tuna available out of Hatteras but now that the bluefin tuna have been located, everyone will be bluefin crazy for a while. Boats fishing for bluefin are also picking up some yellowfin tuna and the occasional wahoo.
Off of Virginia, it is pretty quiet. A 90 mile run south will put you in the tuna area. There is some warmer water east of the Cigar but so far, the tuna action has been down around the Point. Right now, we are pretty much limited to bottom fishing with blueline tilefish being the most consistent catch. Golden tilefish, wreckfish, snowy grouper, and blackbelly rosefish are among the other possibilities out there deep-dropping. Sea bass fishing would be excellent but that fishery is closed to recreational fishing. So, it is basically blueline tilefish for us.
Expect new blueline tilefish regulations soon…or not. Blueline tilefish have been unregulated in federal waters off of Virginia on north. Virginia and Maryland enacted state regulations to help sustain this fishery but the states further north did not follow suit allowing for unlimited landings of blueline tilefish. Bluelines have been regulated from North Carolina on south as a commercial and recreational fishery. In the area north of there, they have been mostly a recreational fish. Other bottom fish show this dichotomy in the regions. Wreckfish have been almost totally a recreational fish from Virginia on north. To the south, they have been managed as a commercial fish and until recently, 100% of the wreckfish quota was given to the commercial sector. Currently, recreational anglers are allowed 5% of the wreckfish quota in the southern waters. The increasing popularity in the recreational fishery (driven in large part to the lack of other fish to target), the beginnings of a directed commercial fishery, and a very poor stock assessment has caused the councils to take action. The South Atlantic Council has proposed new blueline tilefish regulations of 100 pound limit per commercial trip and a 1 fish per boat recreational fishery from May through August. The recreational fishery would be closed September through April. The South Atlantic Council is the lead council for blueline tilefish and there is a real possibility of their regulations being extended throughout the range of the species. The Mid-Atlantic Council has taken emergency action to propose blueline tilefish regulations in the federal waters from Virginia on North. These regulations mirror the current Virginia regulations: 300 pound commercial trip limit and a 7-fish per person recreational bag limit with the fishery being open year-round. The NMFS will take action soon. Virginia’s anglers may see no change in the regulations that they are used to or we could see our fishery shut down.
Tautog are available on the coastal wrecks when weathers conditions allow. The water is cold. It is really cold inside the bay. Until it warms up a bit, you will need to fish the ocean wrecks to find active tog. Speckled trout is a fish that should be available right now. Anglers fishing the Elizabeth River are not having much luck and are reporting significant fish kills. Some are saying that it is much worse than the kill last winter. One angler reported that while working the bottom in deeper water, he was snagging a dead trout on almost every cast.
The Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association held their annual awards banquet to celebrate the 2014 fishing season. Many awards were handed out. Of these, some of the most important are the special youth awards. They are the future of our sport. Young anglers receiving awards for their 2014 catches include: Johnny Bingham, Gaston Shepard, Hayden Head, Spencer Elford, McKenna Head, Caleb Sava, Lexi Sava, Madison Hunt, Morgan Cooper, Ethan Moore, Michael Speas, Taylor Simmerman, and Alexa Robb. A number of special awards were presented. Deven Simmerman won the Critter of the Year Award with a barracuda. The Angler of the Year Award is won by catching a large variety of trophy-sized fish. This year’s winner of the top angling award is Wally Veal. The Fish of the Year Award was presented to Stan Simmerman for his 85-pound wahoo. This was the largest wahoo caught in Virginia in 2014. The Dr. Boatwright Rockfish Trophy is presented to the angler catching the largest striped bass for the year. Charles Southall won this trophy with his 50-inch rockfish. Two awards were presented for Outstanding Contribution. These awards are presented to individuals or businesses whose service to the PSWSFA is so outstanding that it has to be recognized. This year’s recipients are Amy Blow and Dawn Agee. Considered the most prestigious of all of the PSWSFA Awards is the George C. Robertson Memorial Fisherman of the Year Trophy. This award has nothing to do with catching fish but rather of service. This award is presented to the individual who has done the most for the sport fishing community. This year the George C. Robertson Trophy was presented to Rick Wineman. The PSWSFA Awards Banquet was supported by very generous donations from: Dr. Guy Harvey, George Poveromo, Sport Fishing Magazine, Multi-Print Inc., Yorktown Transmissions, 1st Advantage Credit Union, The Pizza Shop, Grafton Fishing Supply and Seafood, Reel Fast Tackle, Appomattox River Co., Olivia’s Restaurant, Juan’s Mexican Café, Rustic Eagle, Mountain Breeze Taxidermy, Bishop Bait and Tackle, Wilcox Bait and Tackle, West Marine, Dare Marina, Dave’s Sinkers, Yorktown Pub, Golden Creations Jewelers, Eggheads Diner, Beachcomber Restaurant, Simmerman Wildfowl Sculptures, Sea Tow Lower Chesapeake, Affordable Marine, Wallace’s Marina, Holland Inc., Andrea’s Italian Restaurant, Sal’s Sicillian Pizza, River Walk Restaurant.
March 1, when I got to the boat, Hunter Southall was using a snow shovel. The rest of the guys were beating on the deck with 5 gallon buckets, trying to break up the ice. We left Rudee Inlet in the direction of the Triangle Wrecks. It was too rough running in that direction so we turned south to an inshore wreck. We got anchored up, in the sleet, and proceeded to catch nothing until the anchor broke free. We re-anchored and did more of the same. By the third time the anchor came loose, the seas were settling down. Since we were not catching anything where we were, we headed to a wreck further offshore and re-found the rough seas. It was too rough to try and anchor so we made a few drops while I tried to hold the boat over the wreck with the engines. The guys did catch and release some nice sea bass but no tautog. We gave up on that and were going to head further out to catch some tilefish but the rain picked up and the water-in-the-fuel alarm went off. Enough was enough; we pointed the boat down sea, drained the water from the filters and headed home.
Feb 22, it thawed out enough to allow us to shovel out the remaining snow in the boat, break through the ice, and go fishing. We ran out in thick fog, big swells and when we anchored on the wreck, the current was ripping. We had to break out the heavy sinkers but even 20 ounces was not enough to hold bottom. We did not catch a single tautog. We did catch a few really nice sea bass that we had to let go. Stan Simmerman caught a big striped bass on a jig…also released.
Feb 8, it was too rough. We went fishing anyway. Tagged and released 6 tautog, getting DNA samples from each. Then we decided that we had had enough and went in for lunch.
Feb 7, Hunter Southall and myself went out for a short tog trip. We only caught 7 tautog up to 19 inches long. We collected DNA from each for VIMS.
Feb. 1, Capt. Rick Wineman ran to the Triangle Wrecks where they caught 3 tautog to 23 inches long. They ran through a lot of diving birds between the light tower and the Triangle Wrecks.
Feb. 1, we ran out for tautog before the Super Bowl. We caught 16 tog, up to 23 inches long, before running in early for the Super Bowl parties. We also caught sea bass and a nice hake. We got DNA samples from each tog and placed tags in those we did not keep. I dropped my camera down...only once, after I saw what was down there:
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.