Where do the cobia lurk?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

According to Claude Bain, the epicenter of the cobia fishing so far has been Middle Grounds Shoal, which lies on the bay side on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel about two thirds the way across from the mainland to the Eastern Shore. Last week two whoppers, weighing 97 and 90 pounds were taken there. Normally, one would expect the waters around Bluefish Rock and York Spit to be the early producers. A few have been caught at York Spit, but Blue-ish Rock has been mysteriously quiet. Perhaps the boys just ain’t talking.

There are big bluefish offshore. Big blues in the eight to 12-pound range are being landed around the 26 Mile Hill. Folks are visiting this spot in hopes of catching bluefin tuna, but they are coming home with bluefish. Blues in the same size range are being reported off Ocean City at a famous location known as the Jack Spot. The blue marlin bite, which was very good last week, slowed this week, but some very nice dolphin continue to find their way aboard the charter boats. Good offshore action is reported out of the North Carolina ports with dolphin, yellowfin tuna, white marlin, sailfish and wahoo in the cast of supporting actors.

You can tell that summer is upon us by the numbers of amberjacks on the offshore structure. The wrecks, towers and reefs have their usual summer complement of amberjacks.

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Spadefish have done a flip flop. Last week everyone was raving about how large they were. This week the story is the spadefish numbers are excellent, but, on the average, they are running much smaller.

As we move into the last week of the striped bass season for this spring Ferrell McLain of the BAYFISH CHARTERS says the stripers out of Reedville were not too plentiful. He says persistent chummers caught a few, but limits were rare. He says the bottom fishing was &uot;great!&uot; Ang-lers on the J-Mar caught loads of 15- to 17-inch croakers and a few trout on squid strips and cut bait. Trollers had bluefish up to three pounds and one Spanish mackerel showed up.

The Reedville area will be crowded this coming weekend as the Reedville Bluefish and Rockfish Contest will be fished. This event attracts somewhere between 350 and 500 boats. It was started in the years when big blues were common in the bay. At that time it was simply a bluefish contest, but as the bluefishing faded the rockfish were added. Because of the size and creel limits on stripers this has been an awkward fit, but the fishermen don’t seem to care. The Reedville folks go all out for this weekend and the event with it’s good food and lively music is a gala affair in which the fishing is almost secondary. I say almost, because some very substantial cash prizes are on the line and this holds the fishermen’s attention. One thing for sure, there will be lots of chum on the tides this week and who knows what manner of fish will follow the slicks to the hooks!

I noticed that the number of citation sheepshead took a big jump last week. The numbers jumped from 4 to 17 in the space of a week. I discussed this with Bain and he said that many of these were caught by accident on clam baits aimed at black drum and clam and crab baits aimed at tautogs. Quite a few were caught around Buoy C-13.

Often sheepshead are found around the bridge abutments. Years ago, while fishing the bridges in Florida at night I noticed that anglers carried hoe-like devices on long handles that they used to scrape the barnacles from the abutments. The barnacles served as sort of a chum getting the sheepshead to feed and bite the clam or bait shrimp. Crab and fiddler crabs are good baits. And, in case you are wondering, Oregon Inlet is also a fine spot for sheepshead in the summer.

Spot are slowly moving in, but so far the only real excitement came from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier which is on the ocean. For three days last week they caught big spot, so big that one would think he was fishing in the fall. There has been some spot caught in the York at the mouth of Sarah’s Creek, but nothing like a general run has started.

I think those guys who are saying that the croakers are moving out of the rivers are rushing the season a little. Based upon the reports I see there is nothing to support that opinion. In fact, I continually hear how great the river fishing is, particularly in the Rappahannock.

Eventually many croakers will take on a golden hue and move to the sea to spawn, but that ain’t happening yet. When it does you’ll hear of lots of croakers being caught around Oyster on the Eastern Shore where the flounder fishermen will complain that the croakers are attacking their baits before the flounders can get to them.

Looking At Freshwater

Sometime ago I read a report on the blue catfish in the Rappahannock River. According to the biologists, while the river held plenty of big blue cats, it had an excellent population of pan-size blues. Now, anglers are agreeing. Chris Hick at Hicks’ Landing above Port Royal says downstream from his location anglers are filling coolers with two-pounders. He says these are the best looking, clean catfish he has ever seen. These small blue cats have pure white flesh and are great tablefare.

Sometimes you hear that the introduced blue cats are interfering with the &uot;native&uot; channel cats. The problem with this statement is the channel cats are also an introduced species. They are not native, having been stocked late in the Nineteenth Century.

Down at Buggs Island Lake Hugh Hamby says fishermen are catching large white perch in the lower end of the lake while fishing deep with worms, minnows and curt bait. The striped bass have returned from their spawning runs up the rivers and night fishermen in the lower end of the lake are picking them up trolling and with live bait. The stripers being caught immediately below Kerr Dam are small, but further down that short stretch of the Roanoke River between Kerr Dam and Lake Gaston anglers flipping live bait under the overhanging bushes in the fast water are catching a few stripers weighing over 20 pounds.

The Nottoway River and the Blackwater have been providing good fishing. The top water action for largemouth bass below Route 40 on the Nottoway has been very good, while the Blackwater has had some good shellcracker action.

Field Notes

There are several Bills in the Virginia General Assembly concerning waterfowl hunting. Mainly they are designed to provide more access to the public waters and they are worth watching. They are House Bills 201 and 202. Perhaps of most interest in HB 202 which eliminates the practice of building &uot;dummy&uot; blinds in order to deny others an opportunity to hunt. It proposes to cut by half the fee for floating blinds. The bill also clarifies the fact that a stationary blind must be constructed by Nov. 1. These bills plus a resolution for further study of other waterfowl hunting issues were carried over from last year…Talking with a friend up in Jersey I learned that local governments up there are paying private entrepreneurs thousands of dollars to shoo away resident Canada geese from parks and other public facilities…North Carolina reports that it is experiencing more complaints resulting from encounters between people and bears..Saw a guy shoot a Cape buffalo in Africa with a bow on TV yesterday. He was well guarded by a hunter with a rifle and who knows what armament the camera crew carried! I love to hunt , but having two trips to Africa under my belt this was, to me, less a hunt and more simply a poor portrayal of someone’s concept of hunting. It was terrible TV fare at a time when hunting doesn’t need bad press… The other night I saw an advertisement on TV where someone was releasing a rabbit into the wilds. I remarked to my wife, that the rabbit, a domestic variety, didn’t stand a chance in the wild. Apparently I was not alone in my criticism. The ad was dropped this week.

Jack Randolph is a regular columnist for the Suffolk News-Herald.