Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Courtesy Ken Neill
Flounder catches like these taken by Hunter Southall and David Bradbrand have been infrequent this spring.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament enjoyed its best results of the year this past week, as spring fishing shifted into summer fishing patterns. There were new leading entries in six categories, black drum, cobia, gray triggerfish, sea bass, tautog and yellowfin tuna.
Even so, the current citation count is about 700 fewer than for the same time period last year. That's a whopping 40-percent decline, and I don't see much chance for overcoming that deficit as we near the half-way mark of the 2013 tournament.
I traveled to the coast recently and did nothing to enhance the tournament results. In fact, my crew had difficulty even catching small fish, must less citations. The people who publish fishing reports have been putting a good spin on the fishing, and, indeed, a few anglers have been doing well. But overall, I'd classify this year's saltwater fishing as disappointing.
Let's look at the species I went after on the Eastern Shore:
Flounder: Fishing for this popular species was slow getting started in the early spring and is yet to reach the expectations of many anglers. Most of us were excited about a new regulation that lowered the minimum-keeper size to 16 inches, the lowest in a long time. Last year, we caught a bunch of 16-inch flounder which had to be tossed back. This year, well, we are catching 15-inch flounder.
My outdoors writing buddy, Bob Hutchinson, said "splendid numbers of flounder" are being caught from the lighted fishing pier at Cherrystone Campground near Cape Charles, but almost all are under the size limit.
Fishing was so bad at Oyster Bay, one of our favorite spots, that we didn't even try flounder on our recent trip. A fishing friend told me that the action at Wachapreague, once known as the flounder capitol of the world, has been decent, but a barge operation moved in to remove sand from the navigation channels, and that made it difficult to reach the fishing grounds at the spring peak.
Throughout the spring, anglers have had to deal with cool temperatures and lots of rain and wind, which can discolor the water and hamper fishing success. The big problem, in my opinion, isn't the weather; it is the lack of fish.
Only four flounder citations have been registered, including the tournament's leading 8-pound, 15-ounce fish landed off Quinby by John Bell of Maryland. I checked back as far as my records go, and at the same date in 2008, 44 citations had been registered. In 2006, 860 flounder citations were registered for the year.
Opportunities to catch citation flounder will increase during the summer as the bigger fish move into deeper, cooler water often next to a structure, such as the pilings of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Striped bass: The current low citation count of the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament reflects the poor striper fishing of January and February. The count at this point is 186, which compares to 746 for the same time last year.
Anglers said the big fish stayed offshore in water closed to recreational fishing during their winter migration. I don't doubt that, but I also believe the striper population is in decline.
With the flounder fishing tough, we tried casting to stripers holding to the rip-rap of the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. This has been all but a sure thing in the past for landing schooling stripers spring, fall and winter. Not this time. Not a strike.
Red drum: We fished the edge of a barrier island for red drum, without success. Some anglers have enjoyed good action for this species, but the citation count tells a different story. Red drum citations for 2013 stand at 79, compared to 205 for the same period last year. The 2008 count was 267.
Last fall we caught lots of puppy drum-juvenile red drum-and maybe that means this species is on the rebound. Scientists have a theory that unusual weather conditions in 2011 spurred a population boom of red drum or channel bass in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. The upswing has been so dramatic that the number of blue crabs, a favorite food of red drum, has declined.
Black drum: We also bombed on this species, catching instead a bunch of arm-wrenching rays. A look at the citation report is enough to keep you at home. Thus far, only 15 black drum citations have been registered. In 2008 the count was 371.
Fishing pressure for both red and black drum has been way down, according to what I saw.
Weather JournalPossible scrape with snow Tues