ASMFC NEWS | Atlantic Striped Bass Stock Assessment

Arlington, VA – The 2018 Atlantic Striped Bass Benchmark Stock Assessment indicates the resource is overfished and experiencing overfishing relative to the updated reference points defined in the assessment. Female spawning stock biomass (SSB) was estimated at 151 million pounds, below the SSB threshold of 202 million pounds. Despite recent declines in SSB, the assessment indicated the stock is still significantly above the SSB levels observed during the moratorium in the mid-1980s. Total fishing mortality (F) was estimated at 0.31, above the F threshold of 0.24. The benchmark assessment and its single-stock statistical catch-at-age model was endorsed by the Peer Review Panel and accepted by the Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board (Board) for management use.

Based on these findings and the tripping of Amendment 6’s reference point management triggers relating to F and SSB thresholds (e.g., F in 2017 is above the threshold level and SSB is below the threshold level), the Board initiated the development of a Draft Addendum to consider measures aimed to reduce F to the target level. The Technical Committee estimates it would require roughly a 17% reduction in total removals (commercial and recreational harvest, including dead releases) to reduce F to the target in 2020 relative to 2017 levels. The Draft Addendum will explore a range of management options, including minimum size and slot size limits for the recreational fishery in the Chesapeake Bay and along the coast, as well as a coastwide circle hook requirement when fishing with bait. The Board also provided guidance on how to apply the necessary reductions to both the commercial and recreational sectors. The Draft Addendum will be presented to the Board for its consideration and approval for public comment in August. If approved, it will be released for public comment, with the Board considering its final approval in October for implementation in 2020. Additionally, the Board postponed a motion to initiate the development of an Amendment until its next meeting in August.


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Inshore Fishing Picks Up As Water Warms

Tautog fishing remains good to excellent. Look for them around underwater obstructions like wrecks, reefs, rocks and the pylons of the CBBT. Captain Craig Paige and crew on the Paige II enjoyed good tog action this week (above). The Virginia season closes May 15th, so you need to go ASAP! The taugtog state record was set in 2012, a 24 lbs 3 oz fish caught by Ken Neill.

Flounder, speckled trout and bluefish are starting to bite inside local inlets. There were nice keeper size specks caught in Rudee Inlet this week. The best flounder catches are still coming from Wachapreague, Oyster and Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore. A few flounder have been caught along the CBBT. Numbers will continue to improve as the water warms.

Sheepshead are already being caught in the bay. Their numbers will increase in May and peak in early June. The best baits are fiddler crabs or mole crabs, fished very close to structure.

Red drum are on the shoals at the mouth of the bay, Latimer Shoal and the shallow bar near the north end of the CBBT. Next month as the water warms and the number of fish increases, anglers will begin having success sight casting near the islands of the CBBT.

Black Drum are still along the shallow channel ledge running from Fisherman’s Island to north of Cape Charles. Look for boats anchored close together near Kiptopeake, the Cabbage Patch and the Concrete Ships.

Anglers fishing off the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier are catching some blues, trout, small black drum, roundheads and a few spots and skates.

Virginia offshore anglers are catching  sea bass, blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, snowy grouper, black belly rose fish and dogfish sharks. Make sure to keep up with seasonal regulations for each. In May the Rudee Angler (headboat) starts offering 17-hour deep drop trips on weekends. You need to book early.


Hatteras surf anglers are catching mostly sea mullet, sharks and blow toads. They are still picking up a few citation red drum at The Point in Buxton along with some puppy drum. There have been some very nice pompano caught in the surf to the south, I look for a good pompano season on Hatteras Island this year. Anglers fishing north of Oregon Inlet are catching sea mullet, trout and puppy drum.

The yellow fin tuna bite off Oregon Inlet remains very good and now you can add mahi mahi to the list. Captains are finding a nice class of fish with a few gaffers in the mix.

The charter boat Rock Solid ran across some cobia on the ride in from offshore. They were able to land the first reported cobia at the OI Fishing Center this year.

Fishing out of Hatteras Inlet, anglers are enjoying excellent mahi mahi and black fin tuna fishing. The wahoo and yellowfin tuna bite was scattered this week. Inshore anglers are finding bluefish and spanish mackerel. Spanish mackerel numbers are on the rise.

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VMRC Meeting Update, Striped Bass, Sea Bass News


By Dr. Ken Neill, III

At yesterday’s VMRC meeting there were a couple of actions directly affecting recreational anglers.

The one that will get all of the attention is the closure through emergency action of Virginia’s Spring Trophy Striped Bass seasons. There actually are 3 though we think of them as one: bay, coastal, tributaries of the Potomac. They are all closed. As they were scheduled to open May 1, Virginia took this action ahead of next week’s ASMFC meeting. Note that this is just for the spring “trophy” seasons.

The other action concerned the recreational sea bass season. An adjustment of the upcoming season was required to account for the February season we had. The initial thought was to just open the season later but several charter captains said that they already had trips booked for the opening and would like the May fishery. So, recreational sea bass will open as scheduled on May 15. It will be closed June 1-21. It will reopen June 22 and remain open for the rest of the year.

More on striped bass. These are just my thoughts. The latest stock assessment shows that striped bass is overfished and overfishing is occurring and has been for sometime. Of particular concern is the spawning stock biomass (big fish). Thus the closure of the spring trophy season which targets these big fish. We have no idea what will come out of ASMFC but expect some fairly drastic measures. Virginia is taking this very seriously and my feeling is that it will be fairly aggressive in pursuing measures to be implemented quickly, especially for big fish. One of the first proposals for Virginia was a complete moratorium on fish over 36 inches, both commercial and recreational. That and just about everything else that you can think of is still on the table. Everyone asks about gillnets. In terms of the larger fish, Virginia has already made a significant change on this when it went from a tag-based system to a poundage based system. When tags were limited, a tag was worth more on a big fish. Now, each commercial angler has an individual poundage quota and gets however many tags he needs. The average size of commercial striped bass has gone down significantly since this change, as was expected. There are still some who will use large-mesh net to target the big fish. This could be addressed by something like the proposed maximum size fish allowed but my guess is that it will end up being a mesh-size restriction (7 inch maximum has been proposed) which will stop the targeting of large fish. The guys who do target large fish will not like this but the overall theme will be to protect the big spawning fish. That could be it commercially if it is just a big fish reduction. If ASMFC comes out with something like a 20% reduction is required in overall catch, the commercial guys would likely see their individual quotas reduced. Recreational options are almost endless. Something like a percent reduction could be fairly easy to meet by increasing the minimum size in the bay from 20 to 21 or 22 inches. But, doing something like this would not help the big fish. A lot depends on what comes out of ASMFC but again, Virginia’s fishery people seem very concerned about the large fish. I fully expect that the recreational big-fish catch to be greatly restricted. Something like a big-fish tag which an angler could get for a single big fish per year is, I think, more likely than not. The one big-fish per day that we are used to is not likely to continue. Virginia splits striped bass between the commercial and recreational sectors. Coastwide, striped bass is mostly a recreational fish. Estimated recreational release mortality is a large part of the overall fishing mortality. The numbers are especially high for Maryland and the New England area. A circle-hook requirement when bait fishing for striped bass is a likely requirement to try and reduce this release mortality. We will soon see how quick and aggressive the ASMFC is but I will not be surprised to see Virginia continue to act ahead of and beyond the ASMFC to preserve the large breeders. That is the feeling I’m getting from the fisheries managers, the Commissioner, and I think it goes on up higher in the food chain. Now, somebody will bring up menhaden. Virginia’s fishery people (VMRC) do not manage menhaden. You will need to go to the General Assembly for that.

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Flounder And Red Drum On The Rise

Red drum averaging 25-50 lbs are showing up on the shoals at the mouth of the bay. Latimer Shoal and the shallow water near the northern section of the CBBT are good spots. Their numbers will continue increasing into May and action will peak in early June. Trolling spoons like 3 1/2 Drones or similar, over and around the shallows or anchoring on top of the shoal and setting out lines are the best methods. When anchored use  7/0 or 8/0 long shank hooks with peeler crabs. Short shank hooks or circle hooks work well with cut baits like fresh spot and menhaden.

Black Drum are being caught along the shallow channel ledge running from Fisherman’s Island to north of Cape Charles. Good spots are Kiptopeake, the Cabbage Patch, the Concrete Ships, as well as the highrise and 2nd & 3rd Islands of CBBT. Running tides, late afternoons and evenings and full moons are considered the best time to fish for them. Whole clam, peeler crab, whelk or a combination is the best bait. The average size Virginia black drum is 40 to 60 pounds, but they can easily top 100 pounds.

Flounder numbers are on the rise in seaside inlets. Some nice catches are coming from Wachapreague and Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore. Drift fishing with live minnows, or fresh strip baits fished behind bucktails are a good choice. Live spot or small mullet are best for big fish in deep water around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The average size flounder in Virginia is 1 to 3 pounds, but the state record is a whopping 17 pounds, 8 ounces. It was caught at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

A few speckled trout and bluefish have been reported in Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets. Numbers should increase.

Tautog fishing remains excellent. Look for them around underwater obstructions, wrecks, reefs and rocks. Many anglers like to pylon hop along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Blue crabs or fiddler crabs are the best bait, but some are caught using clam or whelk. The average size tog is 3 to 6 pounds, but in Virginia large ones can top 20 pounds.


There was an impressive red drum bite at the Point in Buxton last week. Many citations were beached and one day the bite lasted all day, with more than 30 citations registered at local tackle shops. Anglers fishing near ramp 43 and 55 caught puppy drum. Bluefish, sharks, and blow toads are everywhere. There have been plenty of sea mullet near ramp 43 and some nice flounder were taken near ramp 55.

Offshore out of Oregon Inlet the tuna bite has been red hot, plenty of yellowfin tuna. Mahi numbers are increasing. Down in Hatteras there has been an excellent wahoo bite and they are still catching lots of nice sized black fin tuna over the rocks.

Inshore boats are catching albacore and bluefish.

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60 Degrees, Drum Roll Please!

Knot Wish’n Charters, Rudee Inlet

The first black drum were landed in the surf on Virginia’s eastern shore last week. Look for good catches to develop bayside near the Cabbage Patch, the Concrete Ships, near Buoy 13, the high rise of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, around 36A and off of Cape Charles. Best baits are clam and crab used separately or together.

Bay water temperature at the CBBT has reached the upper 50’s. Red drum usually show up by the time it hits 60 ….. and big red drum reports are already coming in! Their numbers will peak in May. Look for them around the islands, on the shoals at the mouth of the bay, Latimer Shoal, the shallows and near the northern end of the CBBT.

Flounder are starting to show up inshore. The best early season action usually occurs in the seaside inlets on the Eastern Shore. A few short flatties have been caught inside Rudee Inlet already. Remember large baits catch large flonder.

Some trout have been caught inside Rudee Inlet. Captain Todd and crew on the Knot Wish’n landed a couple this week. Captain Todd said the water temperature inside Rudee is 60F now.

Rudee’s Inlet Station Marina, 17 1/2 pounds!

Tautog fishing remains good. Look for them around structure like the CBBT, Back River Reef, the Cell, Tower Reef, the Concrete Ships, Cape Henry Wreck, the Santore, the Winthrop, and the Triangle Wrecks. Best baits are crab, clam or a combination.


Bluefish, sea mullet and blow toads are scattered along Hatteras Island beaches. A few big drum and large sharks have been caught at the point.

The piers are catching blow toads, shad, trout and bluefish.

Nate Howard and crew from Virginia Beach, with Release Sport Fishing Hatteras, NC

Offshore, captains sailing from Oregon Inlet are finding plenty of hungry yellow fin tuna … and dolphin numbers are on the rise. Down in Hatteras boats are catching LARGE black fin tuna over the offshore rocks. Sharks have been a problem, taking many fish before they can be boxed.

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