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Doug Olander, Editor-in-Chief of Sport Fishing Magazine contacted me about coming to Virginia to do a story. Sure, what are you interested in catching? Well, they were not interested in tautog (better article for their sister publication, Salt Water Sportsman) but were interested in our other wintertime fish: big sea bass, the deep-drop creatures, striped bass, bluefish, bluefin, and those big wintertime speckled trout we catch (though they had heard that fishery might be done). Doug said that he just could not get away but would send his editor Sam Hudson to fish with us. I think that Doug is just too smart to leave Florida in the dead of winter to come up here.

Sam contacted me and scheduled to fish Friday-Monday over the Super Bowl weekend. They wanted to know if they could invite U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman and a tackle manufacturer or two. Sure, invite whomever you want but just make sure that they know what they are getting into. It is going to be cold and miserable but we'll catch something.

I sent out an "all-call" to my fishing buddies asking for help. Charles Southall, Gabe Sava, Wes Blow and Stan Simmerman said that they would take off work too crew for the extended weekend. I said we were going to take them tautog fishing, the one fish they don't want. They just don't know how impressive the tautog we are catching really are and besides, they can take photos of all the big sea bass bycatch that we will have to release. We would take them deep-dropping sometime and we should be able to find at least one striped bass somewhere.

Sam then contacted me and he had talked to someone who had told him that the fishing was bad and that March would be better with tuna fishing starting. I told him that March was just more of February. Tuna fishing should be very good then out of the Outer Banks and if they wanted to do a tuna article, he should talk to Ric Burnley who knows a lot of the captains down there and he could help him get in on some great fishing down there. Sam said they definitely wanted Virginia. I told him that we can do the deep-drop stuff year-round and if he wanted pelagics in the mix, to come in May. Tuna should be here and we will have a very special drum fishery going on with the possibility of cobia also. So the trip was postponed until May 29-June 1. We went fishing the weekend that they were originally going to come. It was cold and miserable. We caught fish including what is now the All-Tackle World Record Carolina hake.

Sam contacted me again, saying that the trip was shortened to 3 days and that he would be flying in on May 29 to fish May 30-June 1. I told him that when he got here, check into his hotel and come to the boat because we were going fishing. He was up for that so we were back to 4 days of fishing.

I called Cason Barco at Inlet Station Marina, (757) 422-2999 and told him what was going on and asked him if it was OK if we put another boat in a slip for the weekend and parked a boat trailer in his sister's yard like we did for George Poveromo's visits. He said sure and Charles brought his boat to Rudee. When Sam got there Friday, we left my boat in the slip and ran Charles' boat to the drum grounds (in case we wanted to fish in the breakers in the inlet). On the way over I asked Sam why he was here. He said to do a feature. OK, a feature on what? What did he want to fish for? He said the article is a feature about Virginia as a fishing destination. They had seen the photos of all of the big fish we are catching here and all the records set in Virginia. What he wanted was not a story about catching a particular type of fish but more of one about the variety of great fisheries that we have in Virginia. OK, we are going to start with red drum.

We got over to buoy 8 and there was boat there fighting a fish. We anchored up and caught a couple nice eagle rays. The other boat put away their net and got out a gaff to land a nice cobia. We moved closer to buoy 10 and I hooked up to a big red drum before the second bait was in the water. Get them out, they are right behind the boat! We caught 8 large red drum in short order including as many as 3 hooked up at a time. Well that was a good start. We left them biting and headed in as we were leaving the dock very early in the morning.

Day 2, we headed out dark and very early to the Norfolk Canyon. We were going to bottom fish but I wanted to try for a bigeye tuna first. The canyon was full of pilot whales and porpoise. There were a few bigeye caught but we did not get a big bite. We caught a dolphin and went bottom fishing catching trophy-sized blueline and golden tilefish. It was hard to get Sam to fish as he wanted to get the shot and was taking a lot of photos and video. We did get him hooked up to a big golden but his hook pulled on the way up. I talked with Sam about our other possibilities and he said that if we could catch a cobia and a yellowfin tuna the story would almost write itself. I told him that we could do that.

Day 3, started a little later. Congressman Rob Wittman was fishing with us. He was going to fish with us for 2 days but the Magnuson-Stevens Act had been called up and he had to be back in Washington for the vote Monday, so he just had the one day. I stopped by Grafton Fishing Supply on my way to the boat and asked them for their best cobia jig. As the owner is also a partner in Reel Fast Tackle, it was no surprise that I walked out with a 2-oz Reel Fast Tackle jig with a 5-inch Reel Fast Tackle grub trailer. On the way to the boat, I called the best cobia angler I know, Capt. Jorj Head, (757) 262-9004. I told him that I had a United States Congressman and an Editor of Sport Fishing Magazine fishing with me and that I needed to catch a cobia, where should I go? He told me where to go and what to look for. Congressman Wittman drove into the parking lot with his personalized license plates "COBIA". I met him and said that I knew he liked to cobia fish and asked if he had done much sight-fishing for them. He said, "Man, that's my thing. I love doing that more than anything". He then brought out his phone to show me photos of a pair of 90-plus pound cobia he had caught out of Hatteras a week prior. We saw our first cobia right when we stopped…before we were ready for it. We saw about 15 cobia, catching 6. Rob was spot-on with his casting and caught the most fish. Wes Blow was tagging and releasing everything. After the first cobia, about 45 pounds, was released, Gabe and Charles said that was our dinner! Wes just said that it makes for a good photo for our Congressman to be tagging and releasing fish. I did catch one from the bridge, on my Reel Fast Tackle jig. While everyone else was working on a smaller fish to the portside, a larger cobia popped up on the starboard. I was hooked up before anyone else saw it. That cobia, I slipped into the fish box before Wes got to it.

Day 4, we were joined by Charles' son, Hunter. Hunter is home from college and is working this summer as a mate for Capt. Joe DelCampo out of the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. The great charter captains at the Fishing Center were more than helpful in sharing what was going on with the offshore bite. Tuna fishing is very good right now. Hunter showed up with some numbers written down and said this is where we need to start. We stopped and caught some dolphin off of the weather buoy and then ran out to where the tuna were. They were really there. Most of the boats caught their limits and ran in early. There were schools of skipjack and yellowfin mixed together and you just trolled in front of them and hooked up. Other schools were all tuna, you could just see them swimming. Boats would call each other over to keep on them. You would see numerous boats stopped near each other, all fighting fish. We caught 11 and could have caught more but we were running out of room and ice plus the guys, including Sam, thought it was a good idea to cast to them so instead of trolling baits in front of the school, I'd drive to the school so someone could cast from the bow. We caught one on a spinning rod and called it a day…a very good day. If you want to get in on this bite while it is hot, the Virginia Beach Fishing Center can be reached at: (757) 491-8000.

The article will appear in Sport Fishing about this time next year.

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