Add Bluefish and Spanish To The Lineup

Spanish off Virginia Beach, Knot Wish’n Charters

Bluefish and spanish mackerel numbers are on the rise along the Virginia Beach oceanfront; Virginia Beach Pier anglers caught both this week …. Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle says bluefish have also entered Lynnhaven inlet …. Try trolling or casting to schools near inlets, along tide lines and over coastal wrecks in the lower Bay. So far the fish are averaging between 1 and 5 pounds. The VA state record bluefish is 25 pounds, 4 ounces and was caught at Bluefish Rock in the Bay in 1986 by Gayle E. Cozzens. And the record spanish is 9 pounds, 13 ounces and was landed off the Virginia Beach oceanfront in 1993 by Everett Cameron.

Large schools of red drum continue to migrate along the coast on their way to the Chesapeake Bay. Another large school was reported off the Virginia coast this week, anglers were able to sight-cast them. But your best chance at landing one of these beast is to anchor up near the shoals at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Black drum are still a good possibility in the same area. Released red or black drum measuring 46 inches or more qualify you for a Virginia State citation award.

Our upcoming cobia season should be a very good one. Large schools are migrating along the OBX on their way to the Bay right now. Anglers to our south have been sight-casting cobia and drum swimming together.

Now that our nighttime air temperatures are remaining above 60 degrees the inshore flounder bite is starting … it’s off to a good start with most of the big fish coming from the inlets and tidal marshes on the Eastern Shore barrier islands. Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle is reporting flounder catches inside Lynnhaven Inlet and Knot Wish’n charters have picked up a few flounder inside Rudee Inlet as well. Generally large baits catch larger fish. The Virginia state record flatfish is 17 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in 1971 by C.E. Cross.

Sheepsheads are arriving the Bridge Tunnel daily. Their numbers will peak in June and they will hang around until September. They love fiddler crabs, sand fleas or clams fished up against the pylons. Most fish are in the 3 to 8 pound class, but the state record is 20 pounds, 12 ounces. It was caught under the Seagull Fishing Pier, on the CBBT by Arun Nhek in 2005. The Sea Gull Fishing Pier was closed for bridge construction. The last I heard, they plan to reopen it around 2023.

Speckled trout are scattered along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, ocean and soundside  … and in the marshes along the lower Chesapeake Bay and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Look for them in the surf and inside inlets near marshes.

Spadefish should start showing anytime now. The good bite will occur in June. They will be available all summer.

The tautog season closes the 15th. Better hurry!

Deep dropping on the Rudee Angler

The sea bass season reopens from May 15th to the 31st. Then it reopens again June 22nd and runs through the end of the year. Deep-droppers are finding plenty of tilefish and a few snowy grouper along with other bottom dwellers. The Rudee Angler is advertising 17-hour offshore deep dropping trips May 18th, 23rd and 30th.

Boats running offshore to the south are finding some yellow fin tuna and dolphin.


Sea mullet, bluefish, spanish, blow toads and a few trout are being caught in the OBX surf. Anglers fishing the Little Bridge on the Nags Head/Manteo causway are catching trout. The OBX pier rundown goes like this; Avalon: bluefish. Nags Head: bluefish and a couple of spanish. Jennette’s: bluefish. Outer Banks: bluefish.

Inshore boats fishing around Oregon Inlet are finding bluefish and sheepshead. Sound side fishing for trout is good.

Offshore bluewater anglers are catching yellow fin tuna, dolphin (mahi mahi) and some king mackerel. Billfish are starting to show up.

Book your charter as ASAP …… the good dates go fast ….  CHARTERS




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Nice Trout, More Drum and Cobia On The Way

Some nice speckled trout have been caught between Virginia Beach and Oregon Inlet NC this week. Scott Horton caught this nice one in Rudee inlet a couple of days ago.

The first red and black drum of the season arrived on the Virginia shoals a couple of weeks ago, and there’s more on the way. Massive schools of drum and cobia are migrating together along North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Most of these fish will enter the Chesapeake Bay… soon! If you would like a chance at encountering one of these schools and get in on some world-class fishing, now might be the time.  No boat? … You need to contact a charter captain ASAP and pick a date.

Bluefish are feeding up and down OBX beaches … and are now in Virginia Beach waters. Some really nice sized fish, to 35 inches were landed in the Carolina surf. Spanish mackerel can’t be far behind! The tidal rips east of the CBBT should soon be a great place to hook up with both.

Flounder catches continue improving as our water temps warm, especially around Wachapreague and Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore. Flounder are also showing up in our local inlets (Rudee, Lynnhaven, Little Creek) and along the CBBT.

Sheepshead to 10 pounds have already been caught in the bay.

Tautog action continues to be good, especially on ocean wrecks. Catches along the CBBT and on Bay structure are improving. There are only a few more days left in the Virginia season, it closes May 15th.

The Virginia Beach pier has been catching some spot, roundheads, gray trout and small blues.

The Rudee Angler is advertising 17-hour offshore deep dropping trips for May 11th, 18th, 23rd and 30th. These trips usually catch black sea bass, blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, snowy grouper, black belly rose fish and spiny dogfish. You need to call their booking desk to confirm these dates.


Surf anglers are catching sea mullet near ramps 48 and 38. At the Point anglers are catching blues on metal spoons. South on the Point anglers have caught blues, spanish, citation drum, citation black drum and pompano.

Anglers on the northern beaches are finding croaker, spot, sea mullet and bluefish.

Those fishing from the Little Bridge on the Nags Head/Manteo causeway are doing very well with trout.

The OBX pier rundown sounds like this. Avalon pier, bluefish, sea mullet and skate. Nags Head pier, mullet, bluefish, and trout. Jennette’s pier, bluefish, croaker, sea mullet and spot. Outer Banks pier, bluefish and spot.

Inshore boats are catching loads of bluefish and May 1st they encountered large schools of black drum, red drum and cobia.

Offshore boats are catching dolphin, yellowfin tuna, big eye tuna, black fin tuna and wahoo.

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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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