Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Tourney 2014 Virginia Beach Virginia.

We, like thousands of enthusiastic sportsman around the country enjoy our history of rich rockfishing in our Mid-Atlantic waters. Years past have proved that the Chesapeake Bay and our offshore waters off Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks provide arguably the best rockfish in the world. Where else do you hear of regularly caught rocks in excess of 50 pounds?

What I have seen over the last 25 years of producing Jim Baugh Outdoors TV our rock fishing shoots have been simply amazing. One year we boated over 200 pounds of bluefish and limited out on huge rockfish all in the same location in just a matter of a couple hours. The location was only about 50 yards away from the rock jetties at Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Fishing Heaven was here on that day, one of the rare fishing tales that needs no embellishment.

For many angling sportsmen there seems to be a blemish on the ever-changing horizon of successful rock fishing. Understandable when the recent Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Tournament saw not one fish caught during the three-day tourney. This with over 100 well seasoned experienced boaters out fishing their heart out for not just the big bite –but A BITE! Now combine that with the fact that last year’s tourney yielded one fish, and two years prior was also pretty awful, and well you can see where this is going.

Keep in mind that poor fishing does not represent a poor tournament. The Mid-Atlantic Rock Fish Tournament is one of the best run and most respected fishing events on the East Coast. Nothing but praise can be said for the tournament directors and staff.
All participants in the event have to abide by the rules and regs –the biggie being fishing in legal waters. That means staying on the beach inside of the demarcation line. If you pass the three-mile limit, you are fishing illegally and will be thrown out of the tournament. The event staff makes sure everyone plays by the rules and has all the latest technology to monitor vessel locations. It is all a good thing and most sportsmen by nature honor the rules that are in place to protect the species.

As we anglers do, many of us have thrown in our two cents as to why the rockfish are not swimming within the three-mile line of the beach. Many accuse the menhaden fleet of taking too much bait out of the local waters sending the rockfish elsewhere to fatten-up. This has been a topic of discussion for years along with allowing commercial boats too much harvest. There are regulations in place and authorities monitor these things.

Whether or not commercial overfishing or menhaden boats affect the recreational supply of fish, I don’t have the answers. All I can say is I have not met many recreational fishermen that love menhaden operations or commercial fishing boats.

From my own personal experience, I once had the opportunity to film on board a menhaden boat in the Chesapeake Bay. I admit I was surprised at the lack of bycatch. True, their nets were full of baitfish, but nothing else that I saw. 

Expenditures to clean up the Chesapeake Bay over the last 30 years have been in excess of $15 billion yet we still have big problems with water quality in the Bay and Tidal rivers.

Rockfish migrate to the tidal shallows to spawn however, the 2012-2013 Chesapeake Bay Barometer found 71 percent of Chesapeake streams and rivers fail to meet standards for oxygen, algae, water clarity, and marine grasses. Also according to the Bay Barometer, the population of female adult rockfish has decreased nearly one-quarter in the past ten years and now is threatening to fall below the threshold for a healthy rockfish population.

While this is of concern, other reports state that the rockfish are rebounding strong and eating a large diet of delicious Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab.

One thing is for sure from the sportsman’s perspective –we want more rockfish! So, can a possible decline in the rockfish population, commercial fishing harvest and menhaden fleets be the reason there were no fish caught within the three-mile demarcation line during the past tournament?

Well, it is possible, but having fished local waters for the last 40 years, I see it differently

Rockfish don't know what a demarcation line is. 

Rockfish don't know what a demarcation line is. Couple that with a simple fact: fish swim.

We humans prefer hanging out in a nice temperature with plenty of food around. For me, an all inclusive beach resort in Cancun is preferable. Fish, including rockfish are no different; they too are driven by prime temperature and food conditions. Unfortunately, during this rockfish tournament that was around 10 miles offshore.
Rockfish prefer to stay in their comfort does Jim !
If the bait is offshore, the water temperature is right, and the migratory pattern puts fish wintering 10 to 13 miles offshore  then that is where they will be. All fine and dandy, unless you are holding a fishing tournament where one can only fish up to the three-mile line. 

I have been fishing many times when thousands and thousands of rockfish where just busting up the water like pop crackers, but three and a half to four miles out. So close, but yet so far –these were illegal waters.

As of yet no one has invented a technique to make a rockfish swim to the beach. I don’t care how nicely you talk to them, or drag your baits to shore, I know of nothing that can make a fish swim to where we want them.

 That’s the sport –that’s why they call it fishing!

I still contend if you are going to hold a rockfish tournament there is no place better than Virginia Beach, Virginia. Rather than point to a few skunked years we need to look at this popular tournament in its totality. Starting in 2004 the Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout has an impressive track record that has made it the biggest rockfish tournament in the country. 

Along with the area’s long history of excellent rock fishing, let’s not forget the other species that make Virginia Beach a fishing mecca.

Many people may not realize but Virginia Beach is a fantastic year round destination. It is resort central with every amenity imaginable. It is also my favorite place to fish for multiple species. 

Fishing for dolphin is always a treat and let me at those spadefish waiting offshore in Virginia Beach. Topping my list are monster sea bass deep in the Atlantic that hang off the wrecks. Now THAT is a fun trip!
Dolphin offshore Virginia Beach. JBO TV

Spade fish 10 miles of Virginia Beach, CLT. JBO TV
If you have not yet enjoyed the wonderful springtime Spade fishing or sea bass offshore action, book your trips now to the beach and get ready to hold on!

For the most part Virginia Beach is an all season fishery and a totally awesome resort town. Next time you visit be sure to bring your better half or the family and discover all the area has to offer.
 Sea Bass offshore VA Beach. JBO TV

So, while this year the rockfish were enjoying their “Cancun-Esk” vacation some 10 miles offshore, we will be planning on participating in next year’s tournament. Meanwhile catching a lot of spadefish, sea bass, flounder, trout, drum, tuna, dolphin and of course…Croaker!

Donna and I are also looking forward to checking out some of the new restaurants at the beach. Tautog’s Restaurant and Yama Sushi Bar are at the top of the list.
I can see a lot more seafood recipes in our future!

Tight Lines and Chow

Jim Baugh

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