Weekly Sportfishing Rundown
24 February 2017
The rare treat of mild temperatures in February has prompted a flurry of activity on the fishing front this past week. Some back water and open water opportunities are rewarding anglers with some decent results, but this could be short-lived with a more typical shot of winter headed this way.
Most interest is still centered around the more predictable tautog fishery. Even with the stingy bag limit of three fish per person at a minimum of 16-inches, a few boats are making the run to both deep water and mid-range wrecks off our coast. Anglers are reporting good catches of decent fish, with several tog ranging to over10-pounds boated this week. Be prepared to weed through a good share of nice seabass, but you must toss them back since they are out of season. But with water temperatures getting a nudge into a more optimal range for inshore activity, folks may not have to travel so far to get in on a tog bite. Many are heading into Bay waters, hoping for an early Spring tog surge on the Bay Bridge Tunnel.
A phenomenon that I do not even recall, since the last good run of Boston mackerel off our coast was over 20 years ago, is inspiring some anglers to give it a try. I asked Captain Steve Wray at Long Bay Bait and Tackle for some advice (since he does remember when this fishery thrived years ago). Boats are marking these large schools of Boston mackerel from Cape Henry, out the Light Tower often near schools of whales or followed by working birds. Dropping a mackerel rig into the school will quickly verify your hunch. These fish are caught using a jigging action, with multiple hook-ups common. These fish are edible, and trying them out in a smoker could be a good move.
On the backwater scene, anglers continue to pick away at some steady speckled trout action in both Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets, with most trout averaging around 18-inches. Puppy drum are also biting in these same locations.
Although the bluefin tuna passed us by for the winter, a few boats are still getting in on the big Bluefin action by making the long run to North Carolina, with some nice hauls reported recently.
Deep dropping is always a good this time of year when the weather allows boats to get to deeper water. Nice blueline tilefish are still the staple species along the 50-fathom curve, with plenty of fish available weighing in over the 10-pound minimum for a state citation. Deeper areas along the Canyon edges are showing more activity with blackbellied rosefish and scattered golden tilefish, but dogfish are making fishing for these deep-water species a challenge. A by-catch of black seabass is almost a given in these areas, but remember they are illegal to keep right now.