Fishing activity has pretty much shut down. Even the freshwater
impoundments are frozen over, keeping anglers off of the water.
The only one that I know that has been out over the past week was
us. We managed to sneak out, in between snow storms, into a very
lonely Atlantic Ocean. We did have a navy ship out there to keep
us company. March is here and with it, we should start seeing more
fishing windows in the weather. When we can get out, there should
be some tuna available out of the inlets of North Carolina.
Bluefin, blackfin, and yellowfin tuna should all be in the waters
in reach of boats sailing from Oregon and Hatteras Inlets. Out of
Virginia, we will still be pretty much limited to fishing for
tautog on the coastal wrecks. Tautog inside the bay may not become
active until April.
Boats heading offshore will be able to catch blueline tilefish
and other creatures from the deep. There will likely be new
blueline regulations coming soon that will have the potential of
sustaining this fishery or could go far enough to pretty much shut
the fishery down. The offshore waters south of Virginia have been
managed by the South-Atlantic Council. From Virginia on north,
there really have not been blueline tilefish (or grouper)
regulations. Virginia enacted proactive regulations to sustain
this recreational fishery and to allow for a commercial bycatch
fishery. Maryland soon followed suit. States further north have
not. A directed commercial fishery has developed on these fish in
the area of the Norfolk and Washington Canyons. The fishery cannot
handle this and overall, the stocks of blueline tilefish and
especially snowy grouper are considered greatly depressed. The
regulations, put in place by Virginia and Maryland, are being
bypassed by landing the fish in states to the north where there
are no regulations. The Mid-Atlantic Council is working on
establishing emergency regulations for all of the offshore waters
from Virginia on north. They are looking at regulations similar to
the ones we have in Virginia now. Of course, the commercial
fishermen will think that would be too restrictive. The
South-Atlantic Council is also considering taking the action of
extending their regulations on up the coast. If that happens, we
will see regulations that are very complex and restrictive. There
is a lot of discussion going on at the federal and council levels
right now so stay tuned.
Despite the cold water, striped bass are moving back into the
bay for their spawning runs. It will be possible to intercept some
of these fish in open waters as they move in from offshore. Catch
and release activity will also be possible inside the bay and up
in the rivers over the next month. Anglers do have some choices to
make on striped bass regulations. Inside the bay, the minimum size
will be increasing from 18 to 20 inches during the spring and fall
seasons. The spring trophy season will see the minimum increase
from 32 inches to 36 inches. The decision concerns the coastal
fishery. Currently, we are allowed to keep one striped bass at
least 28 inches long. We can stay at that but there are some
approved options that would allow a 2-fish bag limit: 2 fish at
least 33 inches long, 1 fish 28-36 inches and 1 fish over 36
inches, 1 fish 28-38 inches and one fish over 38 inches. So, we
have 4 options to choose from for out coastal fishery. The
decision will be made at the March VMRC meeting so let your
opinions be known now.
Speckled trout are another fish we are used to catching through
the winter and spring. Last winter, large cold-water kills of
speckled trout in both North Carolina and Virginia led to closures
of the recreational fisheries to allow for a recovery. In
Virginia, bag limits were reduced from 10 fish to 5 fish with only
one fish 24 inches or greater. Changes were also made in the
commercial fishery to make sure that their quota would not be
exceeded. There were requests to the VMRC to increase the
commercial quota and the recreational bag limit. At the February
Commission Meeting, these requests were denied by the Commission.
Currently, there are additional cold-water kills taking place in
both Virginia and North Carolina. So far, they do not seem to be
as severe as what happened last winter and at this time, there are
no plans for closures of the fisheries in either North Carolina or
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
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
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
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
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.
Jan 1, Wes and Amy Blow fished the Elizabeth River. The bite
was slow but they did manage to catch a couple of nice speckled
Ken Neill with fishing news.
Ken Neill with
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