Weekly Sportfishing Rundown
23 January 2015

There’s a lot of grumbling among Virginia anglers right now. I suppose if you are accustomed to the exceptional local winter fishery of years past, that’s understandable. But if you consider the winter options our neighbors to our North experience every year, things could be worse. But for now, the verdict is in. Coastal striped bass are missing in action, again. One local charter captain suggested that perhaps the migration pattern of these fish has changed over the past few years, completely circumventing the inshore Virginia coastline. Regardless of the reason, they are not within reach for legal fishing….at least not yet.

Although some catch and release rockfish opportunities with some sizable fish may be available inside the Chesapeake Bay, not many are interested. And although wreck anglers and deep droppers are intercepting large schools of big stripers meandering 10 to 20-mlies offshore, targeting these fish outside of three-miles of land is illegal. As for bluefin tuna, they are also anyone’s guess. Some bluefin continue to provide some action off Carolina, but the schools of big bluefin tuna are also successfully evading anglers this season.

But the winter fishing action is not a complete bust, as inshore anglers seem somewhat content. Speckled trout have not forsaken us, and although some days are better than others, most folks are experiencing decent catches of keeper specks, mostly from the Elizabeth River. The majority of fish are coming from “the cove” area, with most trout ranging from 21 to 24-inches, with a few fish pushing to around 28-inches recently. The best bites are occurring on live bait floated under bobbers, but casting with Mirrolures or Gulp Shrimp is also worthy of mention. Other lower Bay inlets are also providing some limited trout results, along with some puppy drum action.

Mostly due to limited striped bass availability, tautog are becoming more intriguing to anglers, but the bite is hit and miss. Moving to deeper water is key, with both mid-range and deep water wrecks a good choice. Recently, a few good days of folks experiencing limits of fish averaging up to around 15-pounds at the Triangle Wrecks area are encouraging. Finding suitable bait can be a challenge right now, so plan ahead if you organize a trip. Jumbo seabass are also available on these same wrecks, but the season is closed.

With the non-existent inshore rockfish bite, anglers are also beginning to show more interest in deepwater species. The Canyon and its edges are a good place to look for deepwater bottom dwellers such as blueline and golden tilefish, grouper, and blackbellied rosefish. Dogfish are becoming a nuisance in these deep water areas, which is making these catches more challenging.

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