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The Finfish Management Advisory Committees of the Marine Resources Commissions of both North Carolina and Virginia have weighed in on cobia. Both advisory committees voted to not close their state waters when federal waters are closed. This federal closure is currently scheduled for June 20 but can change based on what states do. States had been looking at ways to delay this federal closure and could do so by enacting very strict regulations like greatly increasing minimum size limits and greatly decreasing bag limits but even doing this would delay the closure only by a couple of weeks at most. If Virginia and/or North Carolina do not close their state waters, the federal waters closure will likely occur sooner than June 20. While both advisory committees voted to keep state waters open, they did recommend tighter cobia regulations. In North Carolina, the recommendation is to go to a 2-fish boat limit after June 20 (currently, they are at 1 person limit). Virginia's committee recommended to keep the 1-fish per person limit with a maximum of 3-fish per boat with only 1 fish allowed to be 50 inches or greater. Cobia is a discussion item at the April 26 meeting of the VMRC. It will be at the May meetings of both North Carolina's and Virginia's Marine Resources Commissions when the states' cobia regulations will be set. The VMRC meeting will be on May 24. If you have an interest in this issue, you should be there. Comments can also be emailed to VMRC Fisheries Chief Rob O'Reilly at: rob.o'[email protected] This issue is generating a lot of public comment. Chief O'Reilly says that for your emails to be included in the packet presented to the commissioners prior to the May 24 meeting, they need to be received during the official public comment period which will begin on May 10. So if you have sent comment and want it included in the commission packet, resend it May 10-19 to make sure it gets printed up in the commission packet.

Tilefish regulations will be changing. In what was an unregulated fishery in the offshore waters off of Virginia, VMRC enacted proactive regulations on tilefish and instituted, among other measures, a 7-fish per person recreational bag limit. VMRC cannot establish regulations for federal waters but can and did limit what could be landed in Virginia. This was done to protect this fishery until federal regulations were in place. The VMRC regulations were for all tilefish combined, which for Virginia means golden and blueline tilefish. Federal regulations for recreational golden tilefish were established at 8-fish per person but still no blueline tilefish regulations. Last year, an emergency rule was established in federal waters for blueline tilefish at 7-fish per person. For 2016, this bag limit has been continued. So, in federal waters anglers are allowed to keep 7 blueline tilefish and 8 golden tilefish per person but when you reach state waters, you are allowed only a total of 7 tilefish per person. Virginia's regulations are out of sync with federal regulations. This will become even more so in 2017. The Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council has recommended for 2017, a blueline tilefish season of only May 1-October 31 with the fishery closed for the other 6 months of the year. In a bizarre move, recreational bag limits would be 3, 5, or 7 fish per angler depending on what boat you are on. This last may or may not be approved by NOAA but you can expect a 6-month closure for blueline tilefish with a year-round open fishery for golden tilefish in federal waters. VMRC will need to change our state regulations or just remove state tilefish regulations entirely as this is totally a federal fishery with federal management plans now in place.

We finally got some fishable weather and the fish were waiting. Both big red and black drum are being caught on the seaside of the Eastern Shore. Flounder are being caught inside the seaside inlets. Some nice speckled trout and a lot of bluefish are being caught inside of Rudee Inlet along with some flounder and puppy drum. Speckled trout and flounder have been caught on the western side of the bay and more croaker are being caught now that warm weather has returned and it is calm enough for people to get out on the water some. Tautog fishing is very, very good when the weather has allowed. The CBBT is the prime spot but most structures in the bay and along the coast are producing. The tautog season closes at the end of the month so get out there now. The trophy striped bass season opens May 1. Unlike up in Maryland where the springtime trophy fishery is huge, few Virginia anglers target them during this time of year as most of the "trophy" (36 inches and greater) striped bass are gone by May 1. If you are going to fish for them, a free permit is required and you must submit a catch report…even if your catch is zero. There will be more interest in schoolie striped bass when the bay season opens on May 16 with a minimum size limit of 20 inches. There will be sea bass on the ocean wrecks when that season opens May 15. They won't be as thick as they were all winter when the season was closed. Tilefish are available further offshore and the spiny dogfish will not be as much of a nuisance as they were during the winter.

The April issue of Sport Fishing Magazine has an article on Virginia titled: "An Embarrassment of Riches". It covers inshore and offshore fisheries. The PSWSFA is prominently featured with a number of us in it along with Congressman Rob Wittman. There is the "Special Kate", the "Healthy Grin" and the "Get Anet" in there. VMRC and VIMS programs are also featured. Somewhat ironic is a main section on "Chesapeake's Prevalent Cobia" that talks about this great fishery we have June-September. http://www.sportfishingmag.com/fishing-inshore-and-offshore-virginia-beach

The first PSWSFA Tournament of the year will began on April 1 and run through July 31. It is the "Triple Threat", sponsored by Bishop Fishing Supply. This tournament combines the lengths of Red Drum, Black Drum, and Cobia. The drum bite has begun so make sure you enter before you start fishing for them.

The PSWSFA's big tournament, the "Flounder Bowl" will be back this summer with a new "weather rule". Last year, the weather forecasts moved the tournament to the following (July 4) weekend. This created difficulties for many anglers and tied up Dare Marina for two weekends. To avoid that happening again, the Flounder Bowl will be held June 25-26 with a captains meeting on Friday, June 24. Anglers will still just fish one day but they will get to choose to fish Saturday or, those that declare Saturday a lay day, can fish Sunday. The party and awards presentation will be held after the weigh in on Sunday. It will now be the teams' choice as to which weather day is best for them. This event is only possible through sponsor support. Sponsors for this year's tournament are being signed up now. If you are interested in sponsoring the Flounder Bowl, you can contact the tournament director at: [email protected]

April 18, Martin Freed fished inside the barrier islands of the Eastern Shore for an hour. He caught 3 flounder then he went clamming and loaded up a bucket.

April 16, Jody Linthicum fished his kayak inside of Rudee Inlet. He had a nice catch of bluefish.

April 11, Bernie Sparrer fished out of Oregon Inlet for bluefin tuna. They caught 3 mako sharks to 64 inches fork length. Boats near them caught some yellowin tuna and dolphin. They did not hear of any bluefin tuna.

March 30, Wes Blow fished for tautog. They caught togs up to 12 pounds.

March 16, Wes Blow went back out after tautog. They caught fish to 12 pounds 9 ounces.

March 13, we stayed close to the beach and fished about half a day. We caught a total of 27 tautog with the largest being about 22 inches long. DNA samples were collected from each fish. Tags were placed in released fish. We caught one fish that already had a tag in it.

March 13, Wes Blow fished for tautog and caught fish to 18 pounds 3 ounces.

March 13, Hunter Southall fished out of Oregon Inlet. They caught a 130 pound bluefin tuna.

March 9, Wes Blow went after tautog and caught a couple of big ones up to almost 17 pounds.

March 7, Hunter Southall fished an inshore wreck and caught tautog up to about 20 inches.

Feb 28, we ran out to the tilefish grounds. It was a bit sporty out there. We had Congressman Rob Wittman with us again. It always seems to a bit sporty when the Congressman fishes with us. We had to weed through the dogfish but we ended up with a nice catch of tilefish to 12 pounds. We also caught a lot of really nice sea bass that we pointed out that we would be able to keep if the federal government would give us back our wintertime sea bass season.

Feb 21, we went back after tautog. We caught some big ones. The largest one we kept weighed in at 21.5 pounds. Stan Simmerman caught that fish. It was the same length as the current state record but did not have the girth of that fish. The largest that we released was about 15 pounds. Wes Blow had a release device that he had gotten from the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program to try out. It releases the fish at a set depth. It seemed to work well. He also released one about 13 pounds so there are some big togs out there with tags in them. DNA samples were collected from each fish and tags were placed in the released fish.

Feb 21, Capt. Rick Wineman fished two wrecks catching tautog to around 15 pounds. They also caught some big sea bass. They then ran offshore to fish for blueline tilefish. They caught a couple of them and a whole bunch of dogfish.

Feb 19, we fished for tautog at the Triangle Wrecks. We caught tog up to 14 pounds 8 ounces. We got a DNA sample from each fish. We caught one tautog that we had previously tagged. We caught more sea bass than tautog, released, and a couple of spiny dogfish.

Feb 17, Wes Blow ran out for tautog. They weighed in 4 citation sized fish up to 18.6 pounds.

Feb 17, Richie Moore went up the James for big blue catfish. They caught six up to 40 pounds.

Feb 6, we clobbered big tautog all January long. For our first trip in February, for some reason, we decided to leave the wrecks that we have been fishing and try somewhere else. We caught a single tautog on our first wreck. There were some big swells out there and we were never able to get anchored up on our second wreck. We gave up on that and ran offshore. We caught a nice class of blueline tilefish up to 15.5 pounds. We weighed in four fish in the teens. The dogfish were out there but we were able to move around to get out of them. We were not able to get out of the sea bass. Those things are everywhere and we caught some very pretty bass that became "regulatory discards". We also got into 32-33 inch bluefish, catching 15-20 of those. Wes Blow got out his diamond jig to work on the bluefish and ended up catching one of the largest bluelines of the day. Wes also caught our one snowy grouper of the day.

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