Black Sea Bass Season Closed, Tautog Season Continues

Captain Jake “Fishing was slow but any trout in February ain’t bad. A couple of degrees in water temperature can make a big difference”.


Virginia anglers wrapped up another short February black sea bass season. When weather permitted access to the reefs and wrecks, bottom fishing for sea bass and tautog was good. Unfortunately our sea bass season is over …… but the tautog season continues.

There’s been reports of speckled trout. Louis Glaser and Douglas Wilburn posted about a good bite on the Elizabeth River. They caught 10 specks Sunday using MR 27 Mirror Lures and Z man baits on 1\4 oz heads.

It’s time to keep an eye on the water temps as they start rising. Usually when you see 60 degree water at the point in Buxton NC, red drum are a possibly. Bay temperatures in the low 50’s usually supports a good tautog bite at the CBBT.

Water Temps
Cape Henry VA Surf: 45.0 F
Cape Charles VA: 45.0 F
CBBT: 45.7 F
Rudee Inlet: 46.0 F
Lynnhaven Inlet 47.0 F
Duck NC Research Pier: 42.6 F
Duck NC Wave Buoy: 46.6 F
Oregon Inlet NC, Soundside: 44.4 F
Buxton NC, The Point: 60.0 F
Hatteras Inlet Soundside: 47.3 F
Diamond Shoals Light: 73.0 F

Nice tuna, Wanchese NC

North Carolina tuna fishing has been excellent. Bluefin tunas have generated most of the excitement. Boats fishing from Oregon Inlet are finding bluefin tuna in the 400 to 900-pound range. The recreational season is over …. the commercial guys enjoyed a few extra days …. but now that our quote has been reach its all catch and release. Many captains say “just” the strike alone on a hookless bait is worth the price of admission.

During the recreational season, Captain Jake Hiles and Jeff Landis fishing onboard the Toro made a long run from Rudee Inlet to the Tuna Hole in federal water off North Carolina and fished with the Carolina boats. They picked up a fish measuring 109 inches and weighing 708 lbs. By departing from and returning to Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach it qualified their catch as the new Virginia State record. Congratulation to the crew on the Toro. Quite an effort.

Yellowfin, blackfin, school size bluefin and big eye tuna are also available off the OBX. Most of the blackfun are being caught off Hatteras Inlet, jigging.

Some great news on our Menhaden fishery, New legislation has been approved by Virginia House And Senate

The Virginia House and Senate have passed bipartisan legislation to transfer management of Virginia’s menhaden fisheries from the General Assembly to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). This comes after many years of work by the conservation and angling communities to move management of Virginia’s largest fishery to VMRC, where all other marine species in the Commonwealth are managed.

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Rudee Angler Report

Saturday and Sunday, VBSF sponsor the Rudee Angler took advantage of favorable weather and Virginia’s special February black sea bass season.

Anglers caught black sea bass, bluefish and even released a few blueline tilefish!

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Healthy Grin Report


Ken and crew on the Healthy Grin hit some wrecks yesterday.

They kept 56 nice sea bass and released lot of bluefish. They also kept a tautog and a hake and released some impressive conger eels.


Dr. Ken Neill, III
IGFA Representative
Past-President, Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association , Inc.
Associate Commissioner Virginia Marine Resources Commission
Commissioner Potomac River Fisheries Commission Contributor

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NOAA Closes the Bluefin Tuna Angling Category Southern Area Trophy Fishery for 2020

NOAA News Release

The Angling category fishery for trophy bluefin tuna in the southern area will close effective 11:30 p.m., February 20, 2020. The fishery will remain closed through December 31, 2020.

The southern area is the area south of 39°18’N lat. (off Great Egg Inlet, NJ), outside the Gulf of Mexico. Trophy bluefin tuna are those measure 73 inches or greater.

Why is this change being made?

Based on the best available landings information, NOAA Fisheries has determined that the Angling category southern area trophy bluefin tuna subquota of 1.8 mt has been reached and exceeded and, therefore, closure of the fishery is warranted.

Who is affected?

Individuals aboard vessels permitted in the Atlantic HMS Angling and Atlantic HMS Charter/Headboat permits fishing recreationally in the southern area (defined above) may not retain, possess, or land large medium or giant Atlantic bluefin tuna after 11:30 p.m. on February 20, 2020.

Note that the Angling category fishery for school, large school, or small medium bluefin tuna (27 to <73 inches) remains open in all areas except for the Gulf of Mexico, where NOAA Fisheries does not allow targeted fishing for bluefin tuna because it has been designated as a spawning ground.

Fishermen may also catch and release or tag and release bluefin tuna of all sizes, subject to the requirements of HMS catch-and-release and tag-and-release programs. All bluefin tuna that are released must be handled in a manner that will maximize survivability and without removing the fish from the water.

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Healthy Grin Report

Dr. Ken Neill, III
VBSF Contributor

It was another calm day on the ocean.

The Healthy Grin crew caught sea bass to 5 pounds, but the bite was much slower for us this trip. We hit seven different wrecks and did not keep a limit.

We also caught small bluefish, a big conger eel, and spiny dogfish. Even the dogfish bite seemed slower yesterday.

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New Pending Virginia State Record Bluefin Tuna

A new pending Virginia State Record Bluefin Tuna was landed today. The fish measured 109 inches and weighed in at 708 lbs.

It was caught aboard the Toro, fishing out of Rudee Inlet. Captain Jake Hiles was the angler and Jeff Landis the  mate.

The hook up came at 4:17 am and the fish was gaffed at 5:10 am. The fight lasted 53 minutes on a Anglers Envy custom rod paired with a Penn 130vsx. They were drifting a Stinky Tinky.

The existing record of 606 lbs is held by Chase Robinson on the Ate Up. Captain Jake was a part of Chase’s crew that landed the present record.

More details to come! Congratulation!

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Sea Bass, Tautog and Tuna!

Virginia Beach Sea Bass

Nice Sea Bass on the Rudee Angler

Virginia’s sea bass fishery is open until the end of the month, it’s a special one-month fishery. A special no-cost permit is required by the boat captain, reporting is mandatory, and you must tell VMRC when you are fishing so they have the opportunity to have a biologist meet you when you return.

Regulation: “It shall be unlawful for any person fishing recreationally to take, catch, or possess any black sea bass, from February 1 through February 28, without first having obtained a Recreational Black Sea Bass Permit from the Marine Resources Commission. It shall be unlawful for any black sea bass permittee to fail to contact the Marine Resources Commission Operation Station at (800) 541-4646 before returning to shore at the end of the fishing trip during the February black sea bass season. The permittee shall provide the Operations Station with his name, VMRC ID number, the point of landing, a description of the vessel, and an estimated return to shore time. Permits can be obtained online here or at an MRC Licensing Agent. Reporting can be done online through the Saltwater Journal or using forms provided by the VMRC.”

All this is an effort to collect data on this wintertime fishery that was closed for several years.

Cooler of Virginia Beach Sea Bass

Limits of Big Black Sea Bass being caught!

VBSF sponsor the Rudee Angler (Head boat) enjoyed a successful sea bass trip last week. Fishing was excellent, with everyone catching a limit of sea bass. A few bluefish were caught as well. Weather permitting trips are scheduled on February 16th, 22nd, 23rd, and the 29th. These trips can sellout, so if you want to get in on the action call ASAP.

Dr Ken Neill and crew on the Healthy Grin did some wreck fishing February 9th. It was a beautiful calm day with an easy run in and out. They caught a 6-person limit of sea bass. They also caught a lot of bluefish, one weighed in at 18 pounds. They caught a couple of tautog to 12 pounds and a monkfish.

Anglers are finding tautogs on bay and ocean structure and tile fish at the canyons.

Giant Bluefin Tuna Virginia Beach

Captain Jake Hiles, 90 inch Bluefin, Pretty Work!

Giant bluefin tuna are showing up south of Virginia Beach, down to Morehead City NC. There have been some nice size yellowfin and blackfin tuna caught off the OBX.

OBX, NC surf anglers are catching nice size sharks. Anglers fishing nearby artificial reefs are finding hungry tautogs waiting. On the sound side there continues to be some speckled trout and stripers available.

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries’ Artificial Reef Program, in partnership with the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee, sank the first of three tugboats off the coast of Pea Island recently.

The towing vessel American is the first addition to AR-165, a new reef site, about 7 miles south of the Oregon Inlet sea buoy off Dare County. This tug is part a project to place three vessels and 7,000 tons of concrete pipe on the reef that was organized by the Oregon Inlet Artificial Reef Committee. Funded by a Coastal Recreational Fishing License grant and a large donation by TW’s Bait and Tackle of Nags Head, the project will be ongoing through early spring.

The American is an 88-foot tugboat built in 1951 by the Chesapeake Marine Railway Company of Baltimore for the Consolidated Gas and Electric Company of Baltimore. Originally named G&E #3, the tug has since gone through several owners and name changes and was retired from service in 2012.

The tug was cleaned of environmental pollutants in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations prior to reefing. Its placement leaves a navigational clearance of approximately 30 feet.

The division plans to sink remaining tugboats, America (104 feet) and Valley Forge (110 feet) later this winter. Concrete pipe deployments will occur in early spring.

GPS coordinates for AR-165 are: 35° 41.672’ N, 75° 26.313’ W.

NEXT REPORT: February 29th

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Rudee Angler Report

The winds finally cooperated and the experts aboard the Rudee Angler headed out to fish for black sea bass. Fishing was excellent, with each guest catching their limit.  A few bluefish made their way on board also!

The sea bass season is open for the rest of the month, so don’t miss out on a chance to fish with the Anglers skilled crew.


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Healthy Grin Report

Dr. Ken Neill, III
VBSF Contributor

The Healthy Grin and crew did some wreck fishing February 9th. It was a beautiful calm day with an easy run in and out.

We caught a 6-person limit of sea bass. We also caught a lot of small bluefish, one weighed in at 18 pounds. We caught a couple of tautog to 12 pounds. The weird fish of the day was a monkfish.

About 50 miles out, we did see some fish busting the surface that were probably bluefin but did not get close enough to know for sure.

Came in early. Nice February fishing. We did have our special February sea bass permit, called VMRC operations on the way out and in and filed our catch report online. We were not met at the dock on this trip.

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Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council News

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council will meet next week, February 11-13, in Duck, North Carolina.

The Council will begin scoping hearings for two amendments that will consider potential changes to the management of summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, and bluefish. For more information visit the link below.

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Virginia’s February Sea Bass Season Opens The 1st

The February recreational black sea bass fishing season is back. It opened February 1st and closes February 29th, 2020. A recreational black sea bass permit is required ONLY for the captain or operator of the vessel and it is their responsibility to report all trips taken and black sea bass caught or released during the February season.  Below is a link to more information.

Tautog are a possibility along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, around wrecks and artificial reefs. Surface water temperatures are around 45 degrees.

Big striped bass are available in the bay from Cape Charles north, but the action is strictly catch-and-release.

Offshore deep-droppers are catching golden tile fish and sea bass.

Humpback whales are feeding off the Virginia Beach shoreline. Captains are reminded to be on the lookout and use caution while running. Several VBSF sponsors are offering whale watching trips. They offer an unforgettable day watching the world’s largest and most beautiful marine mammal. VBSF sponsor Rudee Tours is running educational trips in search of whales, dolphins, seals, and several species of birds.


Captains are catching giant blue fin tuna off Oregon  Inlet. Along with bluefin they’re picking up big eye tuna, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna and nice swordfish.

Down at Hatteras captains report a good yellowfin and blackfin tuna bite.

Surf fishing is slow. There’s been a few puppy drum, and black drum caught near Buxton.

Next Report 15 February. 

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Knot Wish’n Fishing Reports Coming This Spring

Coming right here in 2020, reports, updates and specials from VBSF sponsor Knot Wish’n Charters.

Captains Todd and Jake Beck have fished the Atlantic ocean and Chesapeake Bays for over 25 years. Check back this spring to find out what biting!

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A Lot Of Catch and Release Now

striper picture

There are still a few big stripers hanging around the bay, but it’s all catch and release now. The capture season closed midnight Dec 31st. Most of the big fish … a few over 50 pounds … are falling for live eels fished by those launching out of the Cape Charles, Kiptopeke VA area. The best action has been between buoys 38 and 42. That’s about a 25 mile run up the bay from Lynnhaven Inlet.

bay map

The IGFA has a “release world record category for stripers”. It will be interesting to see how many anglers get involved. This could be a boost for local sport fishing businesses. With striper numbers down and new regulations in place it might popularize catch and release fishing and keep anglers busy during the closed season. Qualifying for the release world record is labor-intensive. Along with an IGFA fee, anglers must fill out a two-page form; take pictures of the rod, reel and net; and supply a line sample, the hook used and information from witnesses. The fish’s length has to be photographed on an official IGFA measuring board and everything has to be notarized. For more information you can visit the IGFA website.

There have been some nice trout landed recently by those fishing their secret spots. But good luck getting them to tell you where that is!!

Tautog fishing has been good on the ocean wrecks. And there are plenty of seabass there also, but unfortunately the sea bass season is closed as well.

When fishing offshore be on the lookout for big bluefins. Watch for working birds and signs of bait fish.

If you are without a boat and interested in whale watching, several sponsor boats offer whale watching trips throughout the winter.


Around OI there have been some puppy drum and black drum caught. Angers fishing around the bridges for stripers reported little action.

A few nice trout have been landed in Buxton at the jetty.

The big news is the arrival of big bluefins off Hatteras.


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Winter Fishing Action In Virginia

Hope everyone is enjoying a great holiday season!

Local angling is officially entering the winter season. We still have a few days available in our sea bass and bay striper season. Both close midnight December 31st. After that it’s all catch and release.

This time of year hearty anglers turn their attention to wreck fishing. Tautogs will be the main focus, but look for some flounder and bluefish to be caught as well. Dr Ken Neill and crew fished the wrecks recently. Action was good. They caught limits of jumbo sea bass, bluefish, tautog, almaco jack, triggerfish and some red snapper. Snapper in Virginia at Christmas are unusual.

Depending on how harsh our winter gets speckled trout will continue being a possibly. On warmer sunny days I’ve seen them warming themselves over boat ramp concrete. While they are still hungry they move very slow in the cold water. So slow your retrieve to a crawl.

Offshore deep droppers will continue catching tilefish at the Norfolk Canyon. Swordfish are still available to those targeting them. Look for tuna in any warm eddies you run across. On the ride out and in watch for bird activity, this time of year giant bluefins can show up anywhere there’s schools of bait fish.


Boats fishing out of Oregon Inlet are catching yellowfin. One boat limited recently.

Surf anglers on Hatteras Island are catching some trout, black drum and puppy.

Next Report January 15th

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It’s Striper Season! Specks Still Around

rock fish

Large rockfish are moving out of bay tributaries and into the Bay. Look for them on the Eastern side of the Bay. Anglers are drifting or slow trolling eels near Plantation Light and along Cape Charles. Mann’s Stretch 25’s and tandem rigs are also effective. School-sized rockfish are available for anglers casting along the bridge pilings and the artificial islands of the CBBT.

Tautog are still available on structure, but the bay water temperature has dropped to 49 degrees. Ocean wrecks will probably produce best now. Fiddler crabs and quartered blue crabs are the preferred baits.


Speckled trout reports are still coming in from Long Creek. Mirr-O-Lures and swim baits are working well.

Jumbo sea bass are available on many ocean wrecks. Seabass become off limits at the end of the year, when the season closes. Some big bluefish could show near the same structures. Flounder can also be found around offshore structures. Fresh strip baits are best flounder. This is the time of year boats are on the lookout for bluefin tuna rolling. They have been off the Morehead City North Carolina coast for several weeks.

When boats can make it out to deep drop they are finding good numbers of tilefish and sea bass.


small rock fish

Surf anglers are catching big red drum, black drum, puppy drum and sea mullet. School sized rockfish are being caught trolling soundside along the Manns Harbor Bridge.

Offshore, when weather permits the tuna and king mackerel fishing has been excellent. Look for giant bluefins to start showing up off Hatteras any time.


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