Virginia Saltwater Fishing News



By DR Ken Neill III | Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association

Virginia Saltwater Fishing News

Spring has sprung and a new fishing season is upon us. There have been some changes for this year and likely, there will be more to come.

Shark fishing has become even more regulated this year. Anglers fishing for sharks in federal waters must now use non-offset circle hooks. They also have to have a special shark endorsement with their HMS permit. We catch sharks in state waters but if you do have an HMS permit (used to be your tuna permit) for fishing offshore, you have to abide by circle-hook rule even in state waters if you are fishing from an HMS permitted vessel. You can get this endorsement online, while ordering your permit. You watch a video on shark identification which is followed by a quiz.

NOAA has been encouraging anglers to release shortfin makos for some time. Now you will have to release most any that you catch. The possession limit is still one fish per boat but the minimum size has been increased to a 83-inch fork length.

There has been a good run of large bluefin tuna. We are allowed to keep one “trophy” bluefin tuna per vessel per year but what has become the norm, this fishery has been closed early again this year. The current bluefin tuna regulations allows for the retention of one bluefin tuna per vessel per day measuring at least 27 inches but less than 73 inches fork length.

The bluefin tuna have been large this spring. Before the closure of the trophy season boats out of Oregon Inlet, along with some boats making the run south out of Virginia, experienced great action on fish in the 500 plus pound class. On the last day the trophy fishery was open, an 877 pound bluefin was weighed in as the pending North Carolina record. Big tuna continue to be caught but now must be released.

Tautog regulations have been relaxed a bit. The bag limit has been increased to 4 fish. Minimum size is 16 inches. The season length has been greatly increased with a closure from May 16 through June. It is open the rest of the year.

Sea bass is another fishery that has been expanded. We had an open fishery this February for the first time in many years. The regulations for the rest of the year will be set at the April VMRC meeting but are expected to be an opening May 15 with the season open the rest of the year, without the one-month closure in the fall that we have had for a number of years. We also expect to have a January and February sea bass fishery for 2019 but keep following this.

The keeper-size for flounder has been reduced to 16.5 inches. The bag limit is 4-fish per person.

Tilefish regulations are undergoing major changes. We had no regulations from Virginia on north. When this fishery was “discovered”, Virginia enacted regulations while waiting for the federal system to catch up. Virginia cannot set regulations for federal waters but can regulate what is brought into Virginia. We have had a 7 fish tilefish (combined species) and a 1 fish grouper bag limit with a year-round fishery for a number of years. The federal system has caught up with tilefish (no changes with grouper so still just Virginia’s one per person bag limit). We now have an 8-fish golden tilefish bag limit and that fishery is open year-round. Blueline tilefish was closed. It will re-open May 1 and remain open through October under the most bizarre bag-limits I have ever seen. Recreational anglers will have different bag limits based on the type of boat they are fishing from. If you are on an inspected vessel (those licensed to carry more than 6 passengers) your bag limit is 7 fish. Examples of these boats here are the High Hopes and Ocean Pearl. If you are fishing from most charter boats, your bag limit is 5 fish. If you are fishing from non-charter boat, your bag limit is 3 fish. These new blueline tilefish regulations come with new federal reporting requirements. These new requirements are not being applied to those fishing under the 3-fish bag limit this year. We still have Virginia’s mandatory permit and reporting requirements for tilefish and grouper.

Cobia regulations have been very contentious the past couple of years with federal managers using data that is simply unbelievable to many. Virginia did not go along with a federal closure and set very conservative regulations for state waters. This year, the ASMFC is involved with cobia management and we are working to get better data. Based on what data we have, a 3-year rolling soft quota has been set. This gives us a number to aim for but will not require a fishery shut down if we get some crazy spike one year in survey estimates.

Virginia had the option of relaxing cobia regulations this year. We could have increased the boat limit to 4 fish, gotten rid of the “only one over 50 inches”, and gotten rid of the no-gaffing provision. A bit surprisingly, the vast majority of anglers and charter captains who weighed in favored keeping the boat limit at 3 fish and keeping the only one big fish rule. They did want to get rid of the no gaff rule. There were a number of options on the season with the majority favoring a June 1 opening and remaining open through the end of September. The second most popular choice was a May 15 opening and a September 16 closure. Personally, this second option was my favorite and I have not gaffed a cobia in years. What I supported at VMRC was what was most asked for by recreational anglers and that is what passed. I was rather proud of Virginia’s anglers supporting regulations more conservation oriented than we could have done.

So for 2018, our cobia season will begin on June 1 and you can keep fish through September. The daily bag limit remains 1 fish per person up to 3 fish per boat. Only one fish per boat may be over 50 inches. The minimum size is still 40 inches. The prohibition on gaffing is removed but please do not use a gaff unless you are sure it is fish that you are going to keep. The free Cobia Permit along with mandatory reporting is still required for an ongoing effort to get more accurate data.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Cobia Bowl. The Cobia Bowl was begun as a fun way for anglers to help gather information about Virginia’s cobia fishery and to help raise funds for fisheries research. Due to great sponsorship support and angler participation, this fishing tournament has been a great success. We are pleased to announce that we have even bigger and better plans for 2018. The Cobia Bowl is joining forces with the Old Dominion University Alumni Association for the Monarch Cobia Classic. Our goal is to create the largest cobia tournament on the East Coast. We invite Cobia Bowl sponsors and anglers to join us for what will be a fantastic event with great fishing, bigger parties, and even more fun all while supporting great causes. The Monarch Cobia Classic will raise funds to support scholarship and research. This event will be held July 19-21, during the peak of the cobia season. For more information about the Monarch Cobia Classic and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit .

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Virginia Beach Saltwater Fishing Report

tautog virginia

By VBSF Staff | TH Spangler | Connie Barbour

Virginia Beach anglers need four or five warm days in a row to kick off the speckled trout, puppy drum seasons inside Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. A few warm days will lure bait into the shallows and the predators will follow.

Cold inshore water is holding up our big red drum bite. But a few warm days will take care of that as well. Then look for reports to start coming in from the Outer Banks of NC and along Virginia’s Sandbridge. The bite will quickly turn on in the shallows of Virginia’s Eastern Shore and in the lower Chesapeake Bay.  Bay anglers will also be targeting large black drum with fresh clams.

Tautog fishing is good on the ocean wrecks when you can find a weather window. Dr. Ken Neil fished a half day recently and caught 8 tautog.

Rockfish are available inside the rivers, but must be released.

On the Outer Banks NC surf anglers reported slow fishing last week. With the water temperature on the beach in the low 50s it’s hard to find a consistent bite. We need water temps in the low 60’s. A few red drum were beached at the Point though, but action is not very consistent. There’s a steadier bite found on the southern beaches of Ocracoke Island.

Anglers fishing Jennette’s Pier are catching a few dogfish on frozen cut bait fished using bottom rigs.

Offshore boats running out of Oregon Inlet are finding plenty of big bluefin tuna. Along with the bluefins are some yellowfin tuna and even some wahoo. Blackfin Tuna are available off Hatteras.  Hatteras boats are doing some bottom fishing as well this time of year.

Water Temps

Cape Charles: 42.4 F
Cape Henry: 42.6 F
Kiptopeke: 43.0 F
Duck NC Pier: 43.9 F
Oregon Inlet Surf: 44.1 F
OI offshore Buoy @ 60 feet: 44.1 F
Hatteras Surf: 52.3 F
Diamond Shoals Tower: 70.0 F

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Excellent Virginia Tautog Fishing


vbsf taugs

By VBSF Staff | TH Spangler | Connie Barbour

Despite three nor’easters in a row, anglers have found small windows of fishable weather.

Tautogs are available on the ocean wrecks and at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Last week Jamal Esfahani and crew had an incredible day. They weighed their largest fish (9 lb 13 oz) at Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle. They tagged and released 27 citation size taugs.

Our local head boats are catching codfish, red hake and pollock.

The speckled trout and puppy drum should start arriving on the shallow flats inside Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets, on the James River and in the Eastern Shore creeks as waters warm.

Down in Hatteras NC puppy drum are being caught on the south side of Cape Point and around Ramp 48. There was a big Red Drum run at the point February 29th and 30th.

Bluefin tuna are still around. Last week the boat Seawolf caught a 116-inch, 835 lb, new NC State Record monster bluefin tuna while fishing off the Outer Banks NC.

Water Temps

Cape Charles: 43.3 F
Cape Henry: 43.0 F
Kiptopeke: 43.7 F
Duck NC Pier: 43.3 F
Oregon Inlet Surf: 47.1 F
OI offshore Buoy @ 60 feet: 55.8 F
Hatteras Surf: 51.1 F
Diamond Shoals Tower: 73.6 F

Be cautious while running offshore. The endangered right whales are active off the Virginia North Carolina coast from November to April.

Also be on the lookout for floating objects. The Coast Guard has received reports from cargo ships about lost shipping containers in recent rough seas.

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Virginia Tautogs and North Carolina Tunas

virginia beach fishing

By VBSF Staff | TH Spangler | Connie Barbour

Virginia’s bottom fishing for sea bass and tautogs is still good when weather permits. Unfortunately our short sea bass season closes tomorrow.

North Carolina tuna fishing is excellent when boats can get out. Blue fin tunas have generated most of the excitement. Boats fishing out of Oregon Inlet are finding a few blue fin tuna in the 250 to 600 pound range. Yellow fin tuna are also available. Black fin tuna can be jigged up off Hatteras Inlet.

There has been some puppy drum reported along Hatteras beaches. UPDATE 3/1/2018 – Big Red Drum blitz took place February 29th and 30th at Cape Point, Hatteras.

Water Temps
Cape Charles Water Temperature: 45.5 F
Cape Henry Water Temperature: 47.1 F
Kiptopeke Water Temperature: 47.3 F
Duck NC Pier Water Temperature: 48.7 F
Oregon Inlet Surf Water Temperature: 50.7 F
Hatteras Inlet surf Water Temperature: 58.6 F

Be cautious while running offshore. The endangered right whales are active off the Virginia North Carolina coast from November to April. You can read more:

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Sea Bass and Tautog Fishing Excellent

By VBSF Staff | TH Spangler | Connie Barbour

Our mild February temperatures allowed anglers to hit the water again and they were rewarded with some excellent sea bass and tautog catches. Yesterday, Connie at Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle weighed in these nice tautogs (above), ranging from 9 to 12 pounds.

Captains running offshore to bottom fish are seeing large schools of stripers 30 to 50 miles out, well beyond the 3 mile limit.

A few local head boats have been anchoring and chumming over wrecks, and are catching codfish and pollock.

Dr. Ken Neill checked in after his last trip. He said at about 20 fathoms his crew saw porpoise, whales and some bird activity. They did not stop, but he told his crew to have their tuna jigs ready on the ride home. He has found bluefin tuna in those conditions. When he got to his wreck it was loaded with sea bass. Conger eels were also prevalent. They did not catch a single dogfish. They caught a limit of sea bass with fish to over 5 pounds. On the way in, they did not see the same activity they spotted on the way out, but there were some birds, and slicks. When he slowed down, they saw some big bunker floating on the surface. They had just missed something. They cruised around and saw some fish marks. They dropped their jigs and hooked up. No tuna or bluefish, but a lot of big rockfish. They moved around a bit to see if they could find a tuna or bluefish. After a few tries with only rockfish to show, they left them alone and headed in.

Remember the Virginia black sea bass season only runs through Feb 28. A no-cost recreational species permit along with your regular saltwater fishing license is required to catch the sea bass.

Down on the outer banks of North Carolina, surf anglers have found drum between Frisco and Hatteras. The bluefin tuna are off the outer banks right now and some very impressive fish have been weighed. Commercial crews are catching lots of yellow fin tuna.

Water Temperatures
Cape Charles: 42.6 F
Cape Henry: 42.8 F
Kiptopeke: 42.8 F
Duck NC Pier: 44.4 F
Oregon Inlet Surf: 48,0 F
Hatteras Inlet Surf: 56.1 F

The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament announced there will be no changes to citation requirement in 2018.

Be cautious while running offshore. The endangered right whales are active off the Virginia North Carolina coast from November to April. You can read more:

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