Thursday, June 10, 2004
Bill Cochran's Field Reports: Blue catfish is a record
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
It’s official! The 75-pound, 4-ounce blue catfish landed from the tidal James River April 30 by Vernon McCann of Chesapeake has been certified a state record by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Caught from the Chippokes Creek area, the fish measured 51-inches and had a 34.25 inch girth. It is the largest of all freshwater fish in the record book, and the only record set so far this year.
The biggest surprise was how long the old record stood, considering that the blue catfish fishery in the James is world class, with numbers and sizes of fish showing no indications of diminishing.
The previous record had held since Nov. 19, 1999 when catfish expert Hugh Self, Jr. landed a 71-pound, 12-ounce James River blue cat.
AN OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE NOT TO MISS
Bristol Motor Speedway will take on a different look this weekend, when the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation transfers the racing facility into a huge outdoor expo called the American Outdoor Experience. It will give outdoorsmen in this region an opportunity to attend what is destined to be a major, well-organized outdoor event Friday through Sunday.
The program is a celebration of the re-introduction of elk into the East. The foundation is marking its 20th year with the unveiling of what it calls a far-reaching habitat enhancement and protection effort called the Appalachian Wildlife Initiative. A bit of irony, the expo is being held on the edge of Virginia, a state that has resisted efforts to re-introduce elk out of concern that the animals may carry diseases harmful to native white-tail deer.
The show will offer a diverse number of attractions, including opportunities to:
- Learn about conservation.
- Shoot bows, rifles, muzzleloaders and shotguns.
- Test drive 4X4s and ATVs.
- View displays of the latest outdoor gear.
- See trophy deer, elk and fish displays.
- Learn from experts, including bass pro Woo Daves of Virginia.
- Attend Kid’s Camp, Dog Camp, Fishing Camp and Hunting Camp.
Details can be found on: bristolmotorspeedway.com/news/speedway/429365.html or americanoutdoorexperience.com
DGIF CLIMBING THE LEVEL LADDER
Budget amendments by Gov. Mark Warner would elevate the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to a Level One agency, which would mean advancing the pay grade of the director. The department was a Level Three agency until April when the reconvened session of the General Assembly boosted it and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to Level Two status. While the governor’s amendment would advanced DGIF still one more level up the ladder, it holds VMRC at Level Two.
Legislators are expected to vote on the governor’s amendments June 16.
An earlier budget amendment that mandated that VMRC spend at least $300,000 in new saltwater fishing license fees for law enforcement is deleted by the governor’s amendments. Anglers have protested that the agency’s board members should determine how the license money is spent.
The 2004 General Assembly gave VMRC and DGIF the authority to raise license fees, something that has been left to legislators in the past.
SNAKEHEAD FISH UPDATE
The catch of snakehead fish in the Potomac River drainage is up to six, with the addition of a 14.5-incher taken last week by biologists who were electrofishing for the species. This is a method that uses electric shock to stun fish so they can be captured and examined.
Efforts to determine if the snakehead is reproducing in Virginia are costing the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries money and fish. In addition to electrofishing, gill nets are being used to search for snakeheads, a sampling method that is resulting in the death of numerous perch, a few catfish and occasional striper. No snakehead has been taken in the gill nets. Biologists from Virginia and Maryland also will be using haul nets to search for snakeheads.
The reports of snakeheads in Virginia have fish officials in West Virginia on the alert. The state’s Division of Natural Resources is requesting anglers to report sightings of this undesirable character. None has been detected in West Virginia waters; however, several snakeheads have been found in a pet shop and home aquarium in West Virginia.
"We are concerned that these and other invasive aquatic species could be established in West Virginia and cause significant harm to our aquatic environments, particularly sport fish population," said DNR Director Ed Hamrick.
There are facts on and photographs of the snakehead on a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website: www.dgif.virginia.gov. Other websites with information include dnr.maryland.gov/dnrnews/infocus/snakehead.asp and http://contaminants.fws.gov/.
FRIENDS OF THE NRA
The Roanoke Valley Friends of the NRA Banquet has been set for Oct. 16, and that leaves time for some crowing. The banquets, held across the country, provide millions of dollars in grants for shooting programs, firearm’s safety, conservation work, and kid’s programs. In 2003, nearly $11 million was awarded for such work, said Mike Smith, an advocate of the program who lives in the Roanoke Valley.
“Since inception of the grant program in 1990, nearly $60 million has been awarded,” Smith said.
Youth programs benefit most from the grants, followed by construction and maintenance of shooting ranges, then hunter training and education, all important factors if shooting sports are to grow.
TAKING A LOOK AT MENHADEN
What is the most important fish species in the Chesapeake Bay? Quick now: striped bass, trout, drum?
A good answer would be menhaden, a smelly, oily, forage fish that provides food for most sport fishing species.
Recreational anglers are rejoicing over a promise from the 15-state Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that declining stocks of menhaden will be looked into.
“Menhaden stocks already are at near historic low level, and that may be responsible for a variety of problems in the Chesapeake estuary, including low-weight striped bass and the appearance of skin sores on some fish,” said the Coastal Conservation Association in a news release.
Menhaden are heavily sought by commercial fishermen. About 60 percent of the coast-wide harvest of the species occurs in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, CCA stated.
SMITH RIVER TROUT REPORT
The daily shot of cold water coming out of Philpott Dam into the Smith River makes the river very productive all summer, even after most trout streams have become too warm for fishing. On Sunday, a companion and I caught about 50 trout. Half of them came from downstream of the Stanleytown Bridge and the rest were from the lower end of the Special Regulations section.
The following day, we fished in the morning behind the Mirror Factory and only managed to catch 15 trout. We spent about an hour during mid-afternoon near U.S. 220 Bridge and added a few more to our tally.
That evening we swapped stories with others at the Smith River Trout Unlimited picnic. Some TU members reported good luck with dry flies, other were slaying them with sparse-hackled wet flies. All ours were fooled by my signature nymph called the Allieworm.
The bottom line is that every one who has fished recently confirmed that the river is fishing well.
Al’s Smith River Guide Service
SALTWATER FISHING HIGHLIGHTS
>>Anglers fishing the Norfolk Canyon off Virginia beach have encountered yellowfin tuna and some large dolphin, giving hope that this season’s blue-water fishing will be an improvement over last year’s poor results.
>>Just how tough are the spadefish that gather at the Cell in the Chesapeake Bay off Cape Charles? Well, Capt. Jim Jenrette of the Buccaneer, is using “drum tackle” to keep 10-pound spadefish out of the structure at the Cell. Reels are spooled with 50-pound PowerPro line and 60-pound fluorcarbon leaders.
>>Chummers are catching stripers at the Northern Neck Reef on the east side of the shipping channel and at the Asphalt Pile on the west side of the channel. Croaker are being caught in the lumps in 28 to 32 feet of water west of Tangier Island and in the deeper water around the RP Buoy east of Windmill Point, according to Capt. Ferrell of BAYFISH Sport Fishing Charters, www/bayfish.net.
FRESHWATER FISHING HIGHLIGHTS
>>Blue catfish catches have picked back up in the tidal James River near Richmond, an indication that these fish are returning to their feed following spawning activities that slowed their bite. Mike Wells of Richmond landed cats that weighed 35 and 39.5 pounds apiece. Mike Cole of Chesterfield had one that weighed 40.8-pounds.
>>Leesville Lake is thick with white perch, according to Brian Holland of Franklin County, whose party landed 50 that weighed up to one-pound apiece.
>>Bass fishing in the James, New and Shenandoah rivers is poor. Some of that has to do with recent high water, but could it be that a string of poor reproduction years due to dry weather are having an adverse impact? An exception, top-water action for bass in the tidal Potomac River has been excellent.
>>Big bluegills are being caught at Flannagan Reservoir in far-Southwest Virginia.
>>A couple of 6-pound-plus largemouth bass were caught from Lake Chesdin when a rain slowed the boat traffic giving anglers an opportunity to do some serious fishing.
>>Kenny Glenn of Richmond fished Chickahominy Lake one day and landed 35 pickerel and four bass. He returned with Aubrey Walsh of Richmond and the two landed 17 bass to 5.5 pounds and 35 pickerel.
>>Gerald Custer had a way of making everyone feel like a hero when bringing big game to be checked at is store in the Mason’s Cove section of Roanoke County. Even the kid with an 8-pound turkey. Custer died Monday at the age of 98. He was known for his often-repeated stories, his friendliness and his cooperation. He was the subject of a feature in Virginia Wildlife Magazine on big game stations and his name was mentioned often in the outdoor column of The Roanoke Times.
>>Logging was shut down in the northern spotted owl’s habitat in the West, but the bird still isn’t out of the woods. Spotted owl numbers are reported to be crashing in parts of Oregon and Washington due to competition from barred owls.
>>Department of Game and Inland Fisheries biologists released two young, rare falcons from a cage atop a downtown Richmond high-rise. Both flew strongly, but one was killed within an hour when it crashed into the window of a skyscraper.
>> U.S. Sen. John Breaux, D-LA, won the Norvile Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award and Tom Bedell, chairman of Pure Fishing, Inc., of Spirit Lake, Iowa, received the Future of Fishing Award during celebration in Washington sponsored by the American Sportsfishing Association.
>>ForeWord Magazine, a major independent publishing trade journal, has awarded Stoeger Publishing’s book, Mr. Whitetail’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon, with a Gold Book of the Year Award.
VIRGINIA SALTWATER FISHING TOURNAMENT
The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament has its first sheephead of the season and new entries in the flounder and spadefish categories. Here are the standings:
BLACK DRUM: 95 pounds, Joseph Roub, Baltimore, Md., Hog Island Bay.
CROAKER: 4 pounds, 7 ounces, Frankie Martin, Hudgins, upper-western Chesapeake Bay.
FLOUNDER: 12 pounds, 10 ounces, Leah Hunger, Virginia Beach, lower-eastern Chesapeake Bay.
GRAY TROUT: 12 pounds, 12 ounces, Greg Thayer, Gloucester, upper-eastern Chesapeake Bay.
KINGFISH: 1 pound, 14 ounce, Bobby Smith, Portsmouth, lower-western Chesapeake Bay.
SEA BASS: 6 pounds, 14 ounces, Mark Fueller, Rio Grande, N.J., off Virginia Beach.
SHEEPHEAD: 13 pounds, 2 ounces, Gary Reese, Pasksley, lower-eastern Chesapeake Bay.
SPADEFISH: 12 pounds, 14 ounces, Bill Hall, Bloxom, upper-eastern Chesapeake Bay.
SPECKLED TROUT: 12 pounds, 14 ounces, Ivan Hutton, Virginia Beach, Elizabeth River.
SPOT: 1 pound, 2 ounces, Charles Wade, Highland Springs, lower Rappahannock River.
STRIPED BASS: 63 pound state record, Carolyn Brown, Virginia Beach, off the Virginia Coast.
TAUTOG: 22 pounds, 9 ounces, Julie Ball, Virginia Beach, off Virginia Beach.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation American Outdoor Experience, June 11-13, Bristol Motor Speedway.
Virginia Trappers Association’s Convention and Sportsman’s Show, July 23-25, Luray, $5 admission, primitive camping available, information from Bryan Nelson, email@example.com.
Bassmaster Classic, July 30-Aug. 1, Lake Wylie/Charlotte, N.C.
Mother-Daughter Outdoors Event, Aug. 20-22, Appomattox, opportunity for women 9 and up to learn outdoor skills. Information from dgif.state.va.us/events/.
Virginia Outdoors Weekend, Sept. 17-19, for families, Westmoreland State Park, information from dgif.state.va.us/events
Smith Mountain Striper Club fall tournament, Oct. 9., information from Rex Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CITGO Bassmaster Open tournament, Oct. 14-16, Smith Mountain Lake.
Got an event? Let us know: email@example.com