Virginia Beach Sportfishing Rundown Jan.’17

By Dr. Julie Ball, Jan. 2017

IGFA Representative, Virginia Beach

With the New Year upon us, many anglers are reflecting on the previous year with fond memories. Every year presents challenges, and the past season’s battle of regulations put a new twist on the success of some of the popular fisheries. Let’s hope for a smoother fisheries management trend for the 2017 fishing year.

The big rockfish made a showing in Chesapeake Bay waters in late November, but no matter how good the striped bass fishing becomes, there are always disgruntled anglers. Most will say it was a good winter rockfish season, and daily limits of big fish exceeding 40 and 50-pounds made for some very successful local rockfish tournaments. It’s no surprise the season’s largest fish came from the popular, effective method of suspending live eels at varying depths in deeper water using large bobbers and planer boards on the Eastern side of the bay, from the middle bay area off Exmore and the Range Tower, down to Cape Charles. You can still enjoy targeting these massive sportfish into the New Year, as long as you don’t mind releasing your catch since the Chesapeake Bay season is now closed. Boats will begin turning to coastal ocean waters to search for keeper fish off Virginia. This year, the coastal limit for striped bass is one fish per person at 28-inches or larger. Remember to stay within the 3-mile demarcation for legal fish.

Boats are still finding some good catches of tautog on lower Bay structures and along the Bridge Tunnel proper. Tog fishing is also heating up on many offshore locations, but water temperatures should drop more before this becomes angler’s primary choice. With the season now closed, anglers need to throw back any by-catches of seabass. Some nice triggerfish and chopper bluefish, along with scattered flounder can also round out catches in these same areas.

Speckled trout are still around, just not in the size and numbers of seasons past. Reports indicate that day trips are resulting in sparse catches, but some night-time trips seem more productive lately in the Elizabeth River. Rudee, Little Creek and Lynnhaven Inlets are hosting some fish to around 24-inches, but most are smaller. Some puppy drum are also around, taking bait intended for trout mostly in Rudee Inlet.

Deep dropping species are a good bet when the weather allows. Blueline 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.

Hopes are high for encounters with a big bluefin tuna this time of year. Have your Highly Migratory Species permit and review the guidelines for these highly-regulated fish before you go. The penalties for breaking Bluefin tuna rules are no joke. Yellowfin tuna are also a possibility when boats can get out.