The primary focus for boaters running out of Lewes, Indian River and Ocean City continues to be tautog, with wrecks and reefs between the 15- and 20-Fathom Lines providing the best catches. Captain Monty Hawkins reported a trip last weekend aboard the Morning Star that produced fair action on blackfish. According to the Ocean City charter captain, the trip provided a mix of fish, ranging from shorts that were tagged and returned to the water all the way up to a 15 pounder for one lucky fisherman. Fishermen targeting tog are reporting success with green crabs, white leggers, frozen fleas and fresh surf clams. With inshore water temperatures in the low to mid-30s off of Delmarva, most of the stripers have moved further south to the coastal waters off of Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks. Captain Perry Romig of the Chincoteague charter Topless passed along reports from boaters who had found an area of 42 degree water about 12 miles off of Quinby, Va. According to the reports, rockfish were working bait in the area but with the season closed beyond the three-mile limit, anglers did not return to the docks with any fish in their coolers.
The best bet for fishermen interested in winter rockfish action continues to be the area between Virginia Beach and Oregon Inlet, where good numbers of trophy fish are being caught. Anglers fishing aboard the Fin Seeker with Captain Bob Robinson enjoyed limits of stripers that averaged around 25 pounds, over the past week, with a few fish weighing in at more than 30 pounds. The Virginia Beach charter captain said he had boater most of the fish just off of the beach about 10 to 12 miles south of Rudee Inlet. Most of the action has been on trolled baits, but he did have one day when fish working bait on the surface responded well to topwater plugs. Several monster rockfish were landed by boaters running out of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center during the past week, including a new state record for 12-year-old Stephen Furlough. According to the report from the center, the 63-pound striper, which topped the previous record by one pound, was landed just out side of Oregon Inlet.