North and South Carolina are known for their shrimp industry, but many are unaware that Virginia waters also hold the tasty decapod crustaceans. Folks at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center say there has been an increased interest in fishing parties for shrimp. Personnel at the Center say that Virginia has always had some shrimp. For the last few years, however, there have been eating-size shrimp here in very good numbers. They are being caught up in the creeks, rivers, inlets, and in the shallows on both sides of the bay. Fall is the prime time to catch shrimp. Recreationally, so far, it is an unregulated species. It is time to get your cast net out and go catch some. Commercially, there is a very small trial fishery along the oceanfront south of Rudee Inlet. This will be the second year of the experimental fishery. Last fall was very successful with a very close monitoring of by-catch.
Offshore, September is the time for epic marlin catches. Boats come in with riggers full of release flags. It just has not happened this year. Billfish are being caught, but in the 1, 2 or 3 rate, not in the 10s, 20s, or even 30s which we’ve had past Septembers. There are, however, good catches of tuna, dolphin and wahoo. Yellowfin and skipjack tuna are the most common catches but decent numbers of bigeye and even longfin tuna are being caught. A 71-11 longfin was weighed in that, if approved, will replace the long-standing Virginia record 68-pound albacore caught by Irv Fenton, Jr. Fall is the best time to catch swordfish but that fishery has been good all season. Boats dropping around 200 fathoms during the daytime have had consistent success on swordfish along with a bigeye tuna by-catch. Some are using electric reels to do this, but you don’t need to. They make things easier but disqualify you from any record or trophy fish citation awards. Nighttime drifting is also producing swordfish and this resulted in a new state-record this year with a 466-pound swordfish caught on the Rebel.
Closer to shore, the wrecks are holding sea bass, triggerfish, and flounder. King mackerel and false albacore can be caught with trolled spoons over and around wrecks. The Tower Reef area has been good for this tactic. There are still some spadefish hanging around, but they will soon be leaving as we progress into October.
Cobia are still being caught along the oceanfront and in the lower bay, but that season ended September 30 for both recreational and commercial anglers.
Schools of big red drum are being encountered by anglers looking for cobia. Big red drum are also being caught near the islands of the CBBT. Puppy drum have made a good showing this year and can be caught up on the flats. Most are under the keeper slot size. Speckled trout fishing is very good in both numbers of fish and in the sizes being caught. This fishery is very weather dependent. If we can avoid any major winter kill this year, our speckled trout population looks very good. Tautog, sheepshead and triggerfish are being caught at the CBBT. As we move later into October, the sheepshead catch will diminish as the tautog catch increases. Spot are being caught in decent numbers. They are making one of their better showings in the past several years.
The striped bass season opened on October 4 in the bay. The coastal season is already open. Virginia continues to move ahead of and beyond anticipated ASMFC action on this overfished species. The springtime trophy fishery was closed. The fall season bag limit has been reduced from 2 to 1 fish per angler in the bay. It has been a one fish limit for some time along the coast. A new maximum size limit of 36 inches applies to both the bay and coastal fisheries. The minimum sizes have not changed: 20 inches in the bay, 28 inches in the coastal fishery.
The Avon area reported some sea mullet and pompano in the surf this Wednesday. Despite some rough conditions, The Point had some Spanish, and bluefish. Frisco anglers caught bluefish and puppy drum. It was slow overall on the northern beaches, but the weather was beautiful.
The Little Bridge on the Nags Head/Manteo causeway reported small trout and stripers. The piers reported sea mullet, pompano, puppy drum, black drum, spot and small trout.
Nearshore boats continued catching plenty Spanish and bluefish. Stripers and trout were the fish to catch yesterday in the sound.
The Bluewater fleet limited out with Mahi on Wednesday and there were also white and blue Marlin releases.
The rivers are low and navigation can be difficult. Bass in the lakes are going after the schooling shad. Crappie are edging shallow as the weather breaks.
Trout stocking begins this month, though many of the western streams are quite low. You might have to bring your own water.