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Mar 30 2018

2018 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Season Kicking Off – New Fishing Regulations

Virginia 2018 Saltwater Fishing RegulationsThe 2018 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Season is getting ready to kick off. Capt. Ken gives us a preview of new fishing regulations for this season and what we can expect.

Spring has sprung and a new fishing season is upon us. There have been some changes for this year and likely, there will be more to come.

Shark fishing has become even more regulated this year. Anglers fishing for sharks in federal waters must now use non-offset circle hooks. They also have to have a special shark endorsement with their HMS permit. We catch sharks in state waters but if you do have an HMS permit (used to be your tuna permit) for fishing offshore, you have to abide by circle-hook rule even in state waters if you are fishing from an HMS permitted vessel. You can get this endorsement online, while ordering your permit. You watch a video on shark identification which is followed by a quiz.

NOAA has been encouraging anglers to release shortfin makos for some time. Now you will have to release most any that you catch. The possession limit is still one fish per boat but the minimum size has been increased to a 83-inch fork length.

There has been a good run of large bluefin tuna. We are allowed to keep one “trophy” bluefin tuna per vessel per year but what has become the norm, this fishery has been closed early again this year. The current bluefin tuna regulations allows for the retention of one bluefin tuna per vessel per day measuring at least 27 inches but less than 73 inches fork length.

The bluefin tuna have been large this spring. Before the closure of the trophy season boats out of Oregon Inlet, along with some boats making the run south out of Virginia, experienced great action on fish in the 500 plus pound class. On the last day the trophy fishery was open, an 877 pound bluefin was weighed in as the pending North Carolina record. Big tuna continue to be caught but now must be released.

Tautog regulations have been relaxed a bit. The bag limit has been increased to 4 fish. Minimum size is 16 inches. The season length has been greatly increased with a closure from May 16 through June. It is open the rest of the year.

Sea bass is another fishery that has been expanded. We had an open fishery this February for the first time in many years. The regulations for the rest of the year will be set at the April VMRC meeting but are expected to be an opening May 15 with the season open the rest of the year, without the one-month closure in the fall that we have had for a number of years. We also expect to have a January and February sea bass fishery for 2019 but keep following this.

The keeper-size for flounder has been reduced to 16.5 inches. The bag limit is 4-fish per person.

Tilefish regulations are undergoing major changes. We had no regulations from Virginia on north. When this fishery was “discovered”, Virginia enacted regulations while waiting for the federal system to catch up. Virginia cannot set regulations for federal waters but can regulate what is brought into Virginia. We have had a 7 fish tilefish (combined species) and a 1 fish grouper bag limit with a year-round fishery for a number of years. The federal system has caught up with tilefish (no changes with grouper so still just Virginia’s one per person bag limit). We now have an 8-fish golden tilefish bag limit and that fishery is open year-round. Blueline tilefish was closed. It will re-open May 1 and remain open through October under the most bizarre bag-limits I have ever seen. Recreational anglers will have different bag limits based on the type of boat they are fishing from. If you are on an inspected vessel (those licensed to carry more than 6 passengers) your bag limit is 7 fish. Examples of these boats here are the High Hopes and Ocean Pearl. If you are fishing from most charter boats, your bag limit is 5 fish. If you are fishing from non-charter boat, your bag limit is 3 fish. These new blueline tilefish regulations come with new federal reporting requirements. These new requirements are not being applied to those fishing under the 3-fish bag limit this year. We still have Virginia’s mandatory permit and reporting requirements for tilefish and grouper.

Cobia regulations have been very contentious the past couple of years with federal managers using data that is simply unbelievable to many. Virginia did not go along with a federal closure and set very conservative regulations for state waters. This year, the ASMFC is involved with cobia management and we are working to get better data. Based on what data we have, a 3-year rolling soft quota has been set. This gives us a number to aim for but will not require a fishery shut down if we get some crazy spike one year in survey estimates.

Virginia had the option of relaxing cobia regulations this year. We could have increased the boat limit to 4 fish, gotten rid of the “only one over 50 inches”, and gotten rid of the no-gaffing provision. A bit surprisingly, the vast majority of anglers and charter captains who weighed in favored keeping the boat limit at 3 fish and keeping the only one big fish rule. They did want to get rid of the no gaff rule. There were a number of options on the season with the majority favoring a June 1 opening and remaining open through the end of September. The second most popular choice was a May 15 opening and a September 16 closure. Personally, this second option was my favorite and I have not gaffed a cobia in years. What I supported at VMRC was what was most asked for by recreational anglers and that is what passed. I was rather proud of Virginia’s anglers supporting regulations more conservation oriented than we could have done.

So for 2018, our cobia season will begin on June 1 and you can keep fish through September. The daily bag limit remains 1 fish per person up to 3 fish per boat. Only one fish per boat may be over 50 inches. The minimum size is still 40 inches. The prohibition on gaffing is removed but please do not use a gaff unless you are sure it is fish that you are going to keep. The free Cobia Permit along with mandatory reporting is still required for an ongoing effort to get more accurate data.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the Cobia Bowl. The Cobia Bowl was begun as a fun way for anglers to help gather information about Virginia’s cobia fishery and to help raise funds for fisheries research. Due to great sponsorship support and angler participation, this fishing tournament has been a great success. We are pleased to announce that we have even bigger and better plans for 2018. The Cobia Bowl is joining forces with the Old Dominion University Alumni Association for the Monarch Cobia Classic. Our goal is to create the largest cobia tournament on the East Coast. We invite Cobia Bowl sponsors and anglers to join us for what will be a fantastic event with great fishing, bigger parties, and even more fun all while supporting great causes. The Monarch Cobia Classic will raise funds to support scholarship and research. This event will be held July 19-21, during the peak of the cobia season. For more information about the Monarch Cobia Classic and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit .

So, what has been happening out on the water so far in the 2018 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Season? In addition to the great bluefin fishing out of Oregon Inlet, both yellowfin tuna and some bigeye tuna have been caught. Blackfin tuna are being caught out of Hatteras. As early as late January, big red drum were being caught out of the Hatteras surf during that early spring we had. Typically, about 2 weeks after that bite starts, we get them here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It was simply way too early, but there were rumors of both red and black drum encounters on the seaside. Then winter came back and stopped that talk. Now that spring has come back, expect the black and red drum fisheries to begin soon.

We had a winter fish kill that affected speckled trout, juvenile red and black drum, mullet and even striped bass. We will see if this has a significant impact on our fisheries with speckled trout being the greatest concern. The population appeared to be healthy and growing this past fall. Striped bass have made their moved into the bay and rivers and are available for catch and release fishing until May when there are some open seasons. Anglers practicing catch and release in the rivers have also caught some puppy drum with some of those in the keeper-slot range. Boston mackerel have made a showing and some have been caught by gill-netters in the bay. Tautog are the main fishery at the moment with the coastal wrecks being the most productive location. Bay structures have produced some fish during the warm times then shut down after the snow events. The bay will turn back on quickly as water temperatures raise a bit. The fish are there, it is just their activity level that is affected.

Thanks Capt Ken for the 2018 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Preview. You can visit Capt. Ken at his charter business page

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Feb 19 2018


Published by under Fishing News

Atlantic MenhadenCCA Virginia urges support for new legislation(HB 1610) that would ensure Virginia avoids the consequences of falling out of compliance with the latest menhaden fishery management plan. On behalf of Gov. Ralph Northam, Delegate Barry Knight has introduced a bill that would implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s (ASMFC) Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic menhaden.

“The menhaden management plan is a compromise that maintains Virginia’s robust fisheries while ensuring this critical fish continues to play its key role in the Bay’s food chain,” said Chris Moore, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Ecosystem Scientist. “If this modest bill doesn’t pass, Virginia could be banned from catching menhaden completely. Failure to implement the latest menhaden management plan would also undermine Virginia’s good standing with the ASMFC, which helps manage over 20 other fisheries.” 

Menhaden are a small oily fish that make up the biggest commercial fishery by volume on the Atlantic Coast. More than 70 percent of the Atlantic Coast’s menhaden harvest is caught in Virginia waters by Omega Protein, which was recently purchased by Canada-based Cooke Seafood. Menhaden also play a vital role in the Chesapeake Bay’s food chain, making up an important part of the diet of whales, sea birds, and sport fish such as striped bass.

Last November the ASMFC overwhelmingly adopted updates to a menhaden management plan by a 17 to 1 vote. This plan, known as Amendment 3, was backed by the latest science and took into account input from over 150,000 stakeholders. These updates help protect nursery areas for species such as striped bass and menhaden while ensuring the menhaden’s ecological and economic benefits are distributed equitably among various states and fisheries. Virginia’s General Assembly must now implement these changes in order to avoid the consequences of falling out of compliance with the Interstate Fishery Management Plan.

The legislation includes several simple modifications to Virginia’s state code that ensure conformity with the ASMFC’s updates. That includes a higher overall quota for Virginia’s Atlantic Coast menhaden catch, as well as a Chesapeake Bay harvest cap at the average level that has been caught in the Bay over the last five years. Implementing this plan would also provide regulatory certainty for fisheries operating in Virginia waters.


HB 1610 Menhaden; total landings.

Introduced by: Barry D. Knight


Menhaden; total landings. Adjusts the annual total allowable landings for upward from 168,937.75 metric tons to 170,797.17 metric tons and provides that any portion of the coast-wide total allowable catch that is relinquished by a state that is a member of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission shall be redistributed to Virginia and other states according to the Commission’s allocation guidelines. The bill adjusts the annual harvest cap for the purse seine fishery for Atlantic menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay downward from 87,216 metric tons to 51,000 metric tons. The bill also removes a provision that applied the amount by which certain actual Chesapeake Bay harvests fall below the harvest cap as a credit to the following year.



Read Gov. Northam’s office’s press release on the legislation.


Who’s My Legislator? Service

District maps are available from the service.

Need to contact your legislators? The Who’s My Legislator? service is an online tool where the public at-large can determine what legislators represent them. Users can enter their home address or use map based navigation to see their Virginia House and Senate representatives, as well as those in the U.S. House and Senate.


Sep 18 2017

Virginia Fishing Report for Week of Sept 18, 2016

Virginia Chesapeake Bay Fishing Report Cobia TaggingVirginia Fishing Report. Tautog catches have been very good for those targeting sheepshead at the CBBT. They have had to release those fish but that changed as of September 20 when the tautog season re-opens. While tautog opens up, sea bass closes for a month. The sea bass season is closed as of September 22. The other season changes include the closure of cobia…make sure to get your catch reports in….and the opening of the bay striped bass season on October 4.

Virginia fishing for striped bass has not been all that good for big stripers. There are a lot of small striped bass in the bay. Last fall, they were mostly too small to keep. This fall, there will be a lot 20-plus inch available. We are having very good spot run. Nice spot are being caught in all of the rivers and inlets. Speckled trout and puppy drum are on the flats and around anywhere there is grass. Any dock with a light on it is a good location to look for specks, pups, and striped bass. Big red drum are being caught at the CBBT.

Spanish mackerel continue to be caught along the oceanfront along with false albacore. The coastal wrecks are holding sea bass, triggerfish and flounder. Just remember the sea bass closure.

The offshore bite is mixed-bag. Billfish are being caught but it has not been the epic September bite we have become used to. Dolphin, wahoo and some tuna are being caught. It is a good time to try for swordfish. Bottom fishing is producing good catches of tilefish and some grouper.

The next Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association tournament will be the Grafton Fishing Supply Spot Tournament September 23 and 24. It will conclude with a club picnic at Dare Marina on September 24. Bring your spot to the picnic to be weighed-in (and eaten). The awards for July’s Youth and Ladies Tournament will also be presented at the picnic. 

Thanks Capt.Ken Neill for the Virginia fishing report!


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Jul 06 2017

2017 Recreational Rules for Summer Flounder and Scup Approved by NOAA Fisheries

Published by under Fishing News

NOAA Fisheries RegulationsNOAA Fisheries has approved the final 2017 minimum fish size, possession limits, and fishing season regulations for the summer flounder (fluke) and scup (porgies) recreational fisheries. States have already put their rules in place for the season.

We are continuing “conservation equivalency” for the summer flounder fishery. Conservation equivalency means that we have waived the federal recreational bag limit, minimum fish size, and fishing season, and vessel owners are subject only to regulations in their state. Please contact your state for information on summer flounder rules. We are aware that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has found that New Jersey is out of compliance with Addendum XXVIII to the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Interstate Fishery Management Plan. The Commission has requested the Secretary review the non-compliance determination. If the Secretary finds New Jersey out of compliance, a moratorium on summer flounder fishing in New Jersey state waters will be implemented within 6 months. This determination is occurring through a separate process and we will have a final decision on this issue in early July.

We are also maintaining the year-round open season for recreational scup. The minimum fish size is still 9 inches, and the per trip possession limit is still 50 scup per person. Please keep in mind that, if these federal minimum size, possession limit, and/or season differ from the regulations for the state in which you will be landing, you must follow the more restrictive rules.

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Nov 19 2016

Sheepshead Fishermen needed for Fish Tagging Study

Sheepshead Fish Tagging StudyHelp is needed with a genetic population study of sheepshead. The study is being conducted out of the University of South Alabama. They need anglers willing to collect fin clips when they return to the Chesapeake Bay next summer.

If you fish for sheepshead and are willing to help, contact Pearce Cooper at [email protected] and he will get you a sampling kit.

Thank you for your sheepshead fishing 🙂



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May 10 2016

Check out NOAA Fisheries Regional Saltwater Recreational Fishing Implementation Plans

Published by under Fishing News

NOAA Fisheries NewsNOAA Fisheries  announced the availability of the regional saltwater recreational fishing implementation plans for 2016-2017, which include the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) plan.
The plans are available at here .  Please take a moment to read through your region’s plan and let NOAA know what you think.

Each plan outlines a set of shared priorities tied to concrete actions NOAA will take over the next two years. These plans focus attention where it will have the greatest impact – where you live and fish.

These plans were developed by each of NOAA’s regions with input from local leaders in the angling community, the Atlantic HMS Advisory Panel, states and regional fishery management councils. These are living documents which will continue to be shaped by ongoing conversations and through current regulatory and science processes.

NOAA said they welcome the opportunity to talk with you about these plans and how best to implement the actions they contain. Your regional recreational coordinators are knowledgeable and can serve as a local point of contact, or feel free to contact Russell Dunn, National Policy Advisor on Recreational Fisheries directly at (727) 551-5740.

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Jun 05 2014

Why we are Seeing Striped Bass Numbers Decline – It’s not the reasons a lot of people think says Capt. John McMuray.

Striped Bass Fishing Fly Fishing Chesapeake BayCapt. John McMurray recently wrote an article explaining that a lot of people blame commercial fishing for the recent decline in striped bass along the eastern seaboard and Chesapeake bay. Capt. John suggests in the article that the real culprit is actually recreational anglers who account for for much more of the striped bass mortality. It’s an age old debate and while technically Capt. John is correct that rec anglers kill more stripers, I ask is it even worth wasting any time debating?Isn’t that whole discussion really about “allocation”.

Shouldn’t the real focus be on the “total number of stripers killed by both recs and commercials” if we are going to try and save the east coast striped bass population?

And even more important I might suggest is that it is not the recs or the commercials that are responsible, it’s the fisheries managers. Recs and commercials (at least the ones who follow the rules on both sides) follow rules that are made by Fisheries Managers.

If anyone really wants to get something done, I would not waste another word talking or writing about what the recs do or what the commercial guys do or how it is split, that’s allocation. If that is important to you then roll with it, but if you are worried about the overall population, spend the time focused on the total number of striped bass killed and talking about the Fisheries Managers who make the rules. Get the Fisheries Managers to change the rules that recs and commercial anglers follow. Anything short of that is not going to get anything done and is just good water cooler conversation to shoot the sh*t .

Read Capt. John’s article and you decide if my take is right or wrong.

note: Capt. John and I are friends and I respect all his opinions; we’ve had some good debates and in general agree on most things. However, in this case I believe we need to all get focused on the right subject to actually get something done.

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Jul 10 2012

Why Lateral Line Cares about Bristol Bay – Please Join Us in Supporting the Effort to Save this Amazing Place

Published by under Fishing News

Save Bristol Bay AlaskaAs a fishing company we are a natural resource dependent business. It’s pretty simple, not only do each of us truly care about our natural resources, but given our dependency on them it’s in our best interest  to help foster healthy fisheries, clean water, and abundant access.  Without fish we have no fishing, with no fishing there is no Lateral Line or any other fishing company for that matter. While we care deeply about the Chesapeake Bay and all it’s tributaries in our back yard, we’ve also traveled to the far ends of the world to chase fish and have deep appreciation for fisheries and ecosystems world wide.

Bristol Bay in Alaska is one of those far off places that deserve our protection.  I’ve been lucky enough to travel and fish some parts of Alaska and it’s one of the most remarkable places in world. It’s wild, it’s big, it’s full of life, clean water, good people and fishing like nowhere else in the world. It’s worth protecting!

Bristol Bay is currently under threat from an effort to develop one of the largest open pit mines ever conceived.  The Pebble mine would be developed at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers – two world class salmon and trout producing rivers.  An excellent description of the mine and its scale is provided by Trout Unlimited at the following link –

We been involved in supporting the effort to save Bristol Bay for several years and we now find ourselves at another critical juncture in the process.  The EPA recently completed a major watershed assessment of the region and the research came out overwhelmingly supporting the belief that the mine would pose a major threat to the fish and wildlife of the region.  The comment period for the watershed assessment is open until July 23rd and I want to encourage you to take a moment to write to President Obama and your congressional delegation to let them know you support the EPA and its assessment.  Click here to take action –

Thank you from all of us that care about this big amazing wild place.

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