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Afield and afloat: big stripers

Jack Randolph

Fishermen fishing for big catfish in the tidal rivers are reporting encountering more big striped bass than usual. Stripers over 40 and possibly one weighing 50 pounds were reported caught in the James. As recently as this weekend I had reports of big stripers being caught on Sassy shads and other lures immediately below the I-95 Bridge in Richmond.

There are plenty of shad and some herring in the James and I’m inclined to believe that the big rockfish are pursuing them about as much as they are following their spawning urge. I hear there are lots of small stripers in the river too. Of course striped bass season is closed throughout Virginia until May 1 when the trophy season opens. Striper fishing in the designated spawning reaches is closed during the trophy season.

In the event you are not familiar with those spawning reaches, here they are: On the James River the spawning reach extends from a line from Dancing Point at the mouth of the Chickahominy River across to New Sunken Meadow Creek upstream to a line connecting City Point (in Hopewell) to Packs Point on the northern bank of the James. On the Pamunkey River the spawning reach is from the Route 33 Bridge in West Point upstream to a line from Liberty Hall to the opposite shore.

On the Mattaponi River the spawning reach extends from the Route 33 Bridge in West Point upstream to the Route 360 Bridge in Aylett. Finally on the Rappahannock River the spawning reach extends upstream from the Route 360 Bridge in Tappahannock to the Route 1 Bridge in Falmouth.

The trophy striped bass season opens May 1 and, in the ocean, closes May 15. In the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries the trophy season opens May 1 and closes June 15. The limit is one striper 32 inches long or longer each day and each fish taken must be reported on a form available from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission via the Internet or from a VRMC license agent

This spring striper season is further complicated when, on May 16, the Chesapeake Bay Spring Striper Season opens and remains open through June 15.

During this season the daily limit is two over 18 inches, but not larger than 28 inches except one over 34 inches may be kept. (That’s right – 34 inches. If you are not confused, you should be. You can look up these regs at the VMRC site on the Internet.)

Chris Hicks at Hicks Landing at Rappahannock Academy on the Rappahannock River tells me that the herring and hickory shad showed up in strength this week and guess what! The big striped bass are right behind them. Rappahannock River anglers have caught and released quite a few big stripers, up to 26 pounds. Also, in Fredericksburg herring and shad anglers are using up Sabiki Rigs like they are going out of style.

I hear that the Appomattox River in Petersburg is loaded with hickory shad and some herring. I also hear that there is a heavy netting operation in the river after dark where netters are reputedly taking hundreds of hickory shad.

I have also had word that at least two big walleyes were caught from the tidal portion of the Appomattox. One went eight pounds and the other five pounds.

Jack Randolph is a syndicated outdoors columnist, he can be reached at fishfindjack@aol.com