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Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament
968 S. Oriole Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
(757) 491-5160
[email protected]

For Immediate Release
January 14, 2009

Anglers Earn Over 5750 Citations in 2008

Anglers registered 5,752 trophy-size fish for Citation awards during the 51st Annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, which ran from January 1st through December 31st. This was the eighth highest total since the Tournament began in 1958. Eight of the top ten years in Tournament history occurred from 2000-2008.

Few anglers that fish in Virginia waters on a regular basis should be surprised that striped bass accounted for the largest number of Citations among the 35 eligible species. A total of 1298 striped bass awards were issued in 2008 and represented 23% of all Citations for the year. Of the total number of qualifying striped bass, twenty-nine percent (372) were for released fish, meeting or exceeding the 44-inch requirement, and seventy-one percent (926) were for kept fish, meeting or exceeding the 40-pound weight requirement. The total was the second highest in the program's history, exceeded only in 2007 when 1400 Citation stripers registered. Anglers registered eight striped bass weighing 60 pounds or more, topped by a new state record fish of 73 pounds! Forty striped bass weighing 55 pounds or more were recorded and 102 stripers weighing 50 pounds or more were registered. This compares with thirty-five striped bass of 55 pounds or more and 121 striped bass weighing 50 pounds or more registered in 2007.

As good a year as 2008 was for striped bass anglers, the year will be remembered by many faithful anglers as the year of the speckled trout. Anglers registered an unprecedented 1,053 specks for Citation awards or 18 % of the year's total. Twenty-nine percent of the total (309) was for released trout, which met or exceeded the 24-inch minimum qualifying length and seventy-one percent (744) were for kept fish, which met or exceeded the 5-pound minimum qualifying weight. The 2008 tally more than doubled the next highest total of 476 Citations, set in 2007. Eight trout topped the ten-pound mark and sixty weighed eight pounds or better!

Red drum accounted for 10% of the year's total number of Citations. The 551 Citation red drum was the seventh highest number of Citations issued for the species in the program's history and nine of the ten highest Citation numbers of red drum have occurred in the past ten years.

Anglers registered 475 summer flounder for Citation awards, or 8% of the year's total, in 2008. The 2008 total was above the Tournament's long-term average for summer flounder but represented a significant decrease from the 2007 level of 667 Citations. In particular, the early portion of the flounder season saw very few flounder registered, possibly a result of cooler than normal water temperatures, and the catches never recovered.

Rounding out the top five in number of awards, anglers registered 448 black drum for Citation awards for the year. Ninety-eight percent of the black drum registered were for releases. The 448 Citations was the third highest recorded since 1975 but did represent a significant drop in number from the 633 Citations registered in 2007.

As the tide rose for several species in 2008, others saw their numbers ebb. The number of spadefish registered in 2008 was the lowest total since this species was added to the Citation program in 1995, as just 70 Citations were received. Sheepshead fell for the third straight year since 2006, when the Citation minimums were increased from 9 pounds to 10 pounds and from 22 inches to 24 inches for releases, with just 49 entries in 2008. Spot Citation numbers took an inexplicable nose-dive in 2007, and remained low in 2008, as only 5 Citation fish were registered throughout the year. Only two gray trout Citations were recorded, as these once abundant fish continue their recent, but steep decline and their wake puzzles both scientists and fishermen alike.

Three new State records were established in 2008. The most notable was for perhaps the most sought after species that swims in saltwater-the striped bass. On January 23, 2008, Fred Barnes landed a 73-pound striper while trolling near the 4A buoy, located off Fishermen's Island on the Eastern Shore aboard the Country Girl. Barnes' catch ousted a 68-pound, 1-ounce striper caught in 2006 by Clay Armstrong as the State record holder. In researching the significance of Barnes' catch it appears to be one of only a half-a-dozen or less striped bass weighing 70 pounds or more ever documented landed on recreational rod and reel along the entire Atlantic Coast.

New State record marks were also set for two of the three new species added to the list for State record consideration in November 2006. In June 2008, Aaron Sledd landed a 56-1/2-pound golden tilefish "deep-dropping" in approximately 600 feet at the Norfolk Canyon while fishing aboard the Ocean Pearl. The catch bested a 53-1/2-pound golden tilefish caught by Charles Maresh in September 2007 in the same general area. In August of 2008 Jere Humphrey landed a 68-pound snowy grouper "deep-dropping" in the vicinity of the Norfolk Canyon. Humphrey's record catch replaced a 66-pound snowy grouper caught by Chris Boyce in the same general area in December 2007.

The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is operated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission with funding provided by the Virginia Saltwater Recreational Fishing License. Awards are made to anglers catching fish meeting established weight criteria in 25 species while an additional 10 species meeting established length criteria are only available for release awards for a total of 35 species eligible for Citation recognition.

Citation awards are full color certificates delivered at the recipient's choice as a plaque or in a plastic album page. Special awards are presented to anglers meeting the eligibility requirements of the Master Angler and Expert Angler programs. The Program also administers the very popular Virginia Junior Angler award program, where any angler 15 years of age and younger can earn a special Virginia Junior Angler Award certificate by catching and releasing 6 different species of saltwater fish in Virginia during a calendar year.

For more information, contact Lewis Gillingham, Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, 968 S. Oriole Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, (757) 491-5160, [email protected]
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