VB Sportfishing Jan. 2018

by Dr. Julie Ball IGFA Representative, Virginia Beach

Happy New Year! As Old Man Winter settles in along the Mid-Atlantic coast for the season, many die-hard anglers will brave the elements this month.

With the bay season now closed for rockfish, anglers are hopeful that the ocean bite will evolve. But since the ocean bite has been non-existent for the past several years, most anglers will either turn to other prospects, or engage in catch-and-release activities within the Chesapeake Bay. A few big rockfish could still come from the Eastern Shore bayside area while slow trolling and drifting with eels.

The inshore bluefin tuna run off Virginia Beach was short-lived due to filled quotas. But several school-sized tuna where boated before the closure. Be sure to review the regulations when targeting these closely regulated fish.

Tautog is always a hot topic for anglers this time of year. As the water temperatures continue to drop, the tog activity around inshore structures and along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel area will slow, while the action on offshore wrecks will continue over the next month. Reaching these bottom dwellers can often be problematic with the gusty winter weather. Blue crabs are the best bait if you can find them, but clams and green crabs will also get the job done. Keep in mind that you can keep up to three tautog per person at a minimum of 16-inches. The black seabass season is now closed, so anglers will need to throw back any by-catch of seabass. Some nice triggerfish and chopper bluefish can also round out catches in these same areas.

With a very good speckled trout season behind us, some specks are still earning attention from skinny water anglers, with some days better than others. These trout are hanging around ledges in deeper water, so a very slow retrieve with a sinking lure is the key. Puppy drum and a few schoolie-sized striped bass are also available in the Elizabeth River.

Deep dropping species are a good bet in January when the weather allows. Blueline tilefish, golden tilefish, blackbellied rosefish, and a variety of grouper are available along the edges of the Norfolk Canyon. Big seabass will certainly provide a by catch here, but remember to release these fish since the season is closed. Big bluefish can also surprise anglers in this same area.