July 20th, 2014 by Mike Halperin
Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Good riddance to Hurricane Arthur! Virginia Beach anglers may now return to what they love best – catching fish! While the storm’s passing seems to have momentarily slowed down tuna fishing, post-storm bill fish action has proved worthwhile with returning boats registering several citation awards with the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. One released white marlin measured 80 inches with most hookups taking place at Norfolk Canyon. Dolphin (or mahi) remain available with many school-sized fish surpassed by the occasional “Who’s Your Daddy?” dolphin in the mix.
A nice catch of Spanish mackerel!
Bluefish and Spanish mackerel are leaving huge smiles on the faces of fishermen on both private and charter boats fishing inshore. This year is quickly turning into a top year class for numbers as well as size of Spanish mackerel. A 6 ½ lb. citation mackerel recently caught off Rudee Inlet highlights the success of our mackerel fishery. Cape Henry is normally a reliable starting point for Spanish mackerel trolling, especially along tide lines. King mackerel could also make an appearance anytime now.
Fishermen plying local saltwater inlets (Little Creek, Lynnhaven and Rudee) may expect mostly small to medium spot, croaker, sea mullet, speckled trout (release for now), puppy drum and bluefish. Flounder, while also in the surf and inlets, are trending larger this year with 16-inch keepers not unusual. Even though the flounder and puppy drum bite has slowed somewhat, it should pick up once waters fully clear from recent storm runoff.
Chesapeake Bay, also recovering from Arthur, continues to offer cobia, sheepshead, spadefish, triggerfish, flounder along with red and black drum. Cobia in the 30 to 40 lb. range are numerous. Trophy fish exceeding 50 lbs., however, remain a challenge. For best cobia results, try cut menhaden at locations like buoys 16, 13 and the “Middle Grounds”.
Black drum by Duane Raver
Black drum, sheepshead, triggerfish and spadefish are holding around structure of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and certain offshore wrecks. In addition to a great fight, sheepshead weighing up to 11 pounds offer distinct “plate appeal” due to a diet of tasty mollusks.
Red drum still patrol bay shoals and will fall for crab baits. Big reds to 57 inches have been reported for citation awards. Black drum are in schools around the four rock islands of the CBBT and can be coaxed to swallow bucktail lures.
Croaker by Duane Raver
A mix of gray trout, croaker, sea trout, bluefish, and flounder is waiting for boaters running to Kiptopeke on the northern side of the bay. Flounder are also well established in the “Ditch” running from Fisherman’s Island to Magothy Bay as well as the 4th island area of the CBBT.
Deep drop fishermen working the Continental Shelf should find a wide variety of fish including black seabass, black bellied rosefish, grouper, barrelfish, wreckfish and tilefish.
The tilefish have averaged around 15 pounds while all of these species are excellent on the dinner plate. Long-range comfortable head boats are ready to take you in comfort to this exciting fishing.
A typical Virginia Beach tilefish
Captain’s Tip: When cobia fishing – keep a live eel rigged on a rod and ready to pitch in case a monster cobia shows up.
Captain’s Tip: First Impressions Matter. Fluorocarbon (invisible) leader is money well spent as it will maximize bites. This is particularly important for fish with keen eye sight such as mackerel or tuna.
Captain’s Log: Visiting trailer boaters should note that the free Owl’s Creek boat ramp near the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center affords easy access to Rudee Inlet fishing as well as a quick entry to the Atlantic and all the bounty it can offer. Go to Owl’s Creek for information.
Spanish mackerel, white marlin, cobia, flounder, and tilefish
Virginia Beach Anglers Club Summer Fishing Tournament:
August 10 and September 14 on Lynnhaven Pier. Open to all with awards for croaker, roundhead, bluefish and spot. For information: 267.994.7423 and
Hope to see you on the water. Tight lines and hard strikes to all!
July 18th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Local blogger and mom Sherry Friel is definitely in tune with all the latest outdoor fun in Virginia Beach. She and son Nathaniel took on our newest attraction and her post gives us all the details – enjoy this fun read!
Virginia Beach gives “adventure” two snaps, a twist and a ZIP!
We did it ! My 11-year-old son Nathaniel and I spent an afternoon and evening at Virginia Beach’s newest attraction-The Adventure Park. There’s been a great deal written in local newspapers and on the city’s tourism web site about this aerial tree park at Virginia Aquarium. I even wrote a column myself in anticipation of what we were about to experience. But truth be told, the park exceeded any expectations I had by such a long shot that I am hesitant to even attempt to describe the fun we had. You just have to go there. I can say that the park was much larger than I expected. It also was more challenging for the mind, body and spirit than I imagined. In addition, experiencing it when the sun was low in the sky until after sunset made the time even more special. The park is open until 11 p.m during the summer so we timed it just right to enjoy the unique appeal of it at night.
When I say The Adventure Park was larger than I expected, I am not only referring to scale, but the varying levels of difficulty it offers to kids and adults. The 170 tree platforms, ziplines, and 13 different color-coded aerial trails were challenging enough for novice as well as advanced climbers. When I first entered the park, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I tried to take in all the options. Fortunately, the staff does a fantastic job at gauging your level and leading you through the courses accordingly.
To say the Adventure Park is a challenging experience for the mind and body is an understatement. After observing people of all ages for several hours, I now believe it to be a phenomenal growth experience for anyone. I watched my son and his friend, in the course of just three hours, go from being timid and unsure about navigating their way through the trails to wanting to tackle harder courses. Their words as we exited the park, “We will be back.” As a parent I am always searching for ways my son can grow and build confidence. Our climbing adventure was definitely time well spent and we look forward to returning really soon.
Summer is a crazy busy time for active families, and there never seems to be enough time during the day to do everything. When I started planning this special birthday outing for my son, I had to work around not only his summer schedule, but his friend’s plans as well. When I realized the park was open until 11 p.m., I was so relieved. Yes, I thought, we will be able to proceed with any plans we had during the day and do the Adventure Park too. But I worried that the kids wouldn’t be able to see the trails very well in the dark. I also was concerned they would be too tired. Of course I worried needlessly. They were able to work through the trails just fine at around 7 p.m., and after it got dark, the entire forest is beautifully illuminated with twinkling lights strung through the trees. It took on a truly magical quality after dark, and only enhanced what was already a wonderful experience. We stayed until 10 p.m. and practically had to drag them out. The boys were just getting started!
I wholeheartedly recommend The Adventure Park for active, outdoors-loving kids and adults. In fact, when a 20-something neighbor asked my advice on an interesting place to take his girlfriend, I told him about this amazing aerial park. After they went, he was excited to tell me it was PERFECT and they had the best time! Do I foresee an Adventure Park wedding theme in their future? Why not!? I can’t think of a more exciting way to start Living the Life together!
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
July 11th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
This week in The Beach Report, blogger Katherine Jackson takes us on a serene trip to one of our natural areas for a look at Virginia Beach from yet another angle: the water.
Virginia Beach’s Scenic Waterway
Kayaking and paddle boarding have skyrocketed in popularity in Virginia Beach, where miles of beaches provide access to the ocean. In addition, the Virginia Beach Scenic Waterway allows paddlers to explore the city’s rivers, creeks and marshlands. Dedicated in 1986, this twenty-eight-mile waterway runs from the north end of the city to the south, and can be entered at nineteen sites, including First Landing State Park and Carolanne Farms Park.
On a recent Saturday morning, we put a canoe into the waterway at the Dozier’s Bridge Canoe Launch on Princess Anne Road, approximately seven miles from the Virginia Beach oceanfront. From that point, the waterway leads south along Patterson Creek to West Neck Creek, the North Landing River and Back Bay. Heading north, the waterway leads into the Lynnhaven River and the Chesapeake Bay. Given enough time, boaters can paddle from the Chesapeake Bay to the North Carolina state line. We weren’t nearly that ambitious. We spent two and a half hours leisurely cruising three miles of the trail as it traverses lush green woods thick with evergreens, hardwoods and bald cypress trees. We saw wildflowers such as Trumpet Creeper with its brilliant red blossoms laced through branches overhanging the water, and we smelled swamp roses even before we saw their pink blooms. We found a blackberry vine, its fruit ripe and sweet this time of year. Red, blue and gray dragonflies flitted everywhere, touching down on the water and crossing the bow of the canoe. Since this is a part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, we weren’t surprised to see a number of species including a swallow, a cardinal, and a woodpecker (along with evidence of a large population of his relatives nearby). I saw a hawk’s reflection in the water before I saw him soaring in the sky. A Great Blue Heron accompanied us down the waterway, landing on dead branches or the creek bank a hundred feet ahead of us, then taking flight each time we got close. We estimated its wingspan at seven feet. We also saw turtles sunning on a log, schools of tiny fish, and a beaver-downed tree. At one point, we came upon a canoe with two people who were fishing. “Whatcha catching?” I asked. “Anything,” the woman replied. “Got one,” she said, and pulled from the water a keeper line attached to their canoe. “Catfish,” she said. It looked about ten inches long. We also watched a snake swim across the waterway. It was too far away to identify, but a good reminder to be careful of poisonous copperheads and cottonmouth moccasins that live in this area. After we tied the canoe to a log on the bank, we ate sandwiches and watermelon while floating in the shade. An adult beverage might have been consumed. It was a peaceful retreat, another example of how easy it is to get away from it all, even in the middle of Virginia’s most populous city. If you don’t have a boat but are interested in exploring Virginia Beach’s water resources, local outfitters provide equipment, instruction and guided tours. Oakum Creek at Munden Point Park might be a good place to start. According to naturalist John Muir, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” That goes for every paddle as well.
Photo credits: Katherine Jackson
July 3rd, 2014 by Mike Halperin
Capt. Mike Halperin is featured this week in The Beach Report – his timely post offers the very latest happenings in the Virginia Beach fishing scene. Happy Independence Day & Happy Fishing!!
Inlets and Beaches: With so many species to choose from, Virginia Beach fishermen will need to select a target fish. Inshore anglers can pick from a nice mix of sea mullet, Norfolk spot, croaker, speckled trout (release only), puppy drum, bluefish and flounder. Bloodworms, Fishbites and squid will all fire up the action.
Spanish mackerel & bluefish catch - typical day's work in VB!
Mack Attack: Looking for some July 4th aquatic fireworks? Try trolling for Spanish mackerel off Virginia Beach. These speedy, torpedo-shaped gamefish provide drag-screaming runs only to top that performance by handily gracing the dinner plate. Best spots for an encounter include the 30-foot Cape Henry ledge, tide lines, channels of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and the entrances to Little Creek and Rudee Inlets. Mackerel will grow in size and number as summer continues.
Captain’s Tip: If catching bluefish rather than mackerel, simply increase trolling speed. Moreover, no leader is too long (30 to 40 feet is optimal) with fluorocarbon leader maximizing catches.
Citation-size red drum are patrolling shoal waters along the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel as well as the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Night fishing has been hot, but these channel bass can be lured in the daytime as well. In addition to chumming, try slow trolling a large silver spoon such as a Hopkins 550 over the shoals. A recent citation release measured 49 inches.
Dr. Julie Ball with her 74 lb. women's 20 lb. line class World Record cobia
Cobia are here in numbers off Hampton (Bluefish Rock area) and in the lower bay with more and bigger fish arriving daily. Many fish have been in the 30 lb. range, however, some behemoths over 80 lbs. have been landed. For a “reel” challenge, toss a bucktail/plastic swimming lure combination to a surface cruising cobia and hope your tackle is up to the task. It will be tested!
Flounder are enjoying a banner year. Good numbers of flatfish are inside Little Creek, Lynnhaven and Rudee Inlets. Keeper fish of 16 inches have not been uncommon, with fish up to 23 inches being landed with increasing frequency. With citation flatfish up to 8 pounds already landed, it looks to be a great flounder season. Flounder are also available around the four rock islands of the CBBT, along channel edges and at offshore wrecks.
Captain’s Tip: Best flounder baits include live minnows, strip baits, and Gulp Alive white swimming minnows. Landing a tagged flounder at Rudee Inlet prompted me to remind readers to check all “shorts” for tags before release. Tagged fish should be reported at Virginia Marine Resource Commission or call 757.491.5160. Anyone turning in tag data receives a reward choice of a pin, hat, T-shirt or tackle pack. Do participate as the data is invaluable for managing the resource.
Spadefish by Duane Raver
Structure Swimmers: Structure dwelling spadefish, triggerfish and sheepshead offer yet another exciting local fishery. Clam strips attract spadefish and triggerfish while crab is best for drawing sheepshead to the hook. Work baits as close to structure such as bridge pilings and wrecks as you can. A sheepshead of 11 pounds is already on record. Chesapeake Light Tower remains a premier spot for spadefish. By live baiting, you may also experience the thrill of fighting a feisty amberjack at the wrecks.
Deep Drop: Anglers bottom fishing the Continental Shelf can expect bites from blueline and golden tilefish, jumbo sea bass, grouper, wreckfish and black bellied rosefish. Most catches are made on large, comfortable long-range head boats leaving from Virginia Beach docks.
Vic Gaspeny (l) with Capt. Justin Wilson w/ a 311 lb. bigeye tuna caught last year on a charter fishing expedition
Bluewater Trolling: Bigeye and yellowfin tuna along with dolphin, also known as “mahi”, dominate the trolling menu. Some bigeye have exceeded 100 pounds with the average yellowfin weighing 45 to 50 pounds. Similarly, a 40 lb. dolphin is one of the larger mahi caught so far. Moreover, the opportunity to hook a marlin along with a chance for a handsome release citation plaque or certificate from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is ever-present during one of these deep water adventures.
As you can see, Virginia Beach offers numerous world class summer angling adventures. So if you’re already here or just planning your visit, there is plenty of reason to join us to wet a line to enjoy some fishing fun!
Captain’s Log: Lynnhaven Inlet beach on the western side of the inlet is closed. The beach is closed for 3 years while being used to stage construction of a new inlet bridge. Boating anglers may continue to launch boats and park trailers.
Best Bets: Flounder, croaker and spot (inlets), cobia and flounder(Chesapeake Bay), yellowfin tuna (offshore)
Military Tournament: A free fishing tournament open to all active-duty military and dependents is set for May 15 through July 20. Participants in this Tidewater Anglers Club sponsored tournament only need a Virginia saltwater fishing license. Prizes include cash awards, youth trophies, and a one-year club membership for each winner. For information: 757.499.1834 or: www.tidewateranglersclub.org
Virginia Beach Anglers Club Summer Fishing Tournament:
July 13, August 10 and September 14 on Lynnhaven Pier. Open to all with awards for croaker, roundhead, bluefish and spot. For information: 267.994.7423 and
Hope to see you on the water. Tight lines and hard strikes to all!
June 27th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
We shoot, we score! Yesterday, reporter Jillian Beck of the The Virginian-Pilot wrote an article that included the following information: “The Natural Resources Defense Council’s report, “Testing the Waters 2014: A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches,” named Virginia Beach’s Little Island Beach North and Back Bay Beach, and the areas around testing sites at 28th and 45th streets in the resort area, in the nation’s top 35 beaches, based on the seashores meeting water-quality standards for the past five years. The Natural Resources Defense Council is an international nonprofit environmental organization.” So it’s very fitting that today in The Beach Report, blogger Sherry Friel shares a post about our three different beaches and their unique vibes. Thank you, Natural Resource Defense Council and great timing, Sherry! Have a great weekend, everyone.
Living the balanced life in Virginia Beach, where families enjoy three different beaches, each with a unique vibe
I consider myself an avid listener. Whether talking intimately with a friend at a restaurant, or gleaning fragments of others’ conversations around me at the beach, I enjoy hearing what people care about, what they worry about, and what makes them happy. I spend a lot of time around families with small children, and one refrain I hear from parents over and over is the fact that everyone seems to worry-a lot-about scheduling just the right mixture and intensity of summertime activities for their children. How much time at the beach is too much? And which beach is best? Should we skip the beach and head for the pool or Ocean Breeze Water Park?
Answers to those questions most certainly vary, as every child is different, but some of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my 11-year-old son Nathaniel have come from intuition rather than the advice of friends. My better decisions come when I actively listen to my son and get a feel for what he wants rather than what I would have wanted to do at his age. This seems like such an easy thing, but for me it’s not, because often what I enjoy is so different from my son’s ideas about which activities and destinations are fun and rewarding.
I’m getting better at anticipating what Nathaniel enjoys though. After reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, I realized that while my son is a true extravert, I am his polar opposite: an introvert. He thrives on the energy of crowds, people, and conversation. I, on the other hand, feel drained by the buzz of too much stimulation and activity. I crave quiet conversation with a friend, solitude, and pastimes such as reading. The sort of dizzying pace he seeks out drains me. Our differences, now that I understand them better, complement rather than conflict with one another. Nathaniel’s influence has me getting out and socializing more, and my influence encourages him to settle down and focus on calming activities. It’s a good balance.
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June 20th, 2014 by Sherry Friel
Editor’s Note; This week in The Beach Report, blogger Sherry Friel shares her take on just one of the joys of being a local. Don’t forget that Sandstock – A Tribute to Rock and Roll – begins tonight at the Oceanfront and the bi-weekly firework shows start next weekend (weather permitting). After a long, hard winter, summer’s here, people………woooooooo hooooooooo!!
Recently I’ve found myself dining in new places, meeting new people, and enjoying more time at the Oceanfront than ever before. The weather in Virginia Beach has been glorious, and this precious time out and about has given me new energy. I am excited about what’s to come in the summer months ahead, and if the past couple weeks are any indication, Living the Life in this unique oceanfront city keeps getting better each season.
If you haven’t visited the resort area lately, one thing you’ll notice is more and more restaurants along Laskin Road now offer patio dining. This makes perfect sense in a beach town such as ours, where no one really wants to go indoors, not even to eat. My family always seeks out restaurants with patios and lately I’ve found myself falling a little in love with more than a few. While I am not a food or restaurant critic by any means, I’d like to offer the top destinations where my family has enjoyed the service, food and atmosphere in equal measures. It was so hard to pick just four because honestly, there are so many wonderful restaurants in our city. You really can’t go wrong, but we’ve found the following offer something special:
Catch 31 Fish House & Bar - Located adjacent to our incredible Boardwalk, my family thinks Catch 31 is the place to enjoy the very best of the beach. Situated on a gorgeous, expansive terrace, the restaurant specializes in offering guests panoramic views of the Boardwalk, the Atlantic Ocean and evening entertainment at Neptune’s Park. My 10-year-old son and I ate lunch there after enjoying the recent Boardwalk Art Show and it was pure bliss. Service was fast and we ate a simple meal of burgers and fries that was tasty and cooked to perfection. Entertainment starts daily at 7 p.m. Check out the 31st Street Stage Schedule and plan a trip soon to this very special restaurant. The highlight for me was the gentleman passing by on bicycle with a small, white terrier in the basket. The dog sported a pair of sunglasses and appeared to be smiling as he breezed by. I attempted to snap a photo of the bicycling duo, but by the time I got the camera out, they were long gone.
Chops - This patio is a people-watcher’s paradise. I took my Dad, a friend, and my son here for dinner and we were delighted at every turn. Chops offers a fabulous bar and patio menu with selections such as burgers, crab cakes, and fish tacos. We enjoyed light acoustic guitar music while marveling at the number of vintage cars passing by. It was the perfect spot to watch visitors and locals enjoying the shops along the newly-developed 31 Ocean complex. And, as a side note, the gentleman with the sunglass-sporting dog in his bike basket made an appearance here too! This time, I had the camera ready and snapped this pretty neat photo.
El Taco Loco - If you’re looking for a quieter patio dining experience, right off the bat I’d recommend El Taco Loco. This Mexican restaurant is just two miles from the resort area and nestled among the Shops at Hilltop-Hilltop East to be precise. My family has eaten here a number of times and the food, service, and atmosphere have been consistently good.
Aldo’s Ristorante - Gorgeous, gorgeous fine Italian dining at Aldo’s Ristorante is a sweet indulgence we reserve for special occasions. This is one restaurant where we are just as happy eating indoors as out on the patio because it is just so beautiful! Just a few miles from the resort area, this local’s favorite is in La Promenade Shoppes at 1860 Laskin Rd.
I could honestly write pages regarding my favorite patio restaurants in Virginia Beach. They are becoming more commonplace and that is a good thing. I have yet to try them all, but next on my growing list of restaurants offering waterfront/patio dining is Buoy 44. I recently saw an article about it that described a laid back, casual atmosphere catering to families and many locals. I can’t wait to give it a try. Its precise location is 4536 Ocean View Ave. That’s just off of Shore Drive, where the beach on the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay also has a laid back vibe. Sounds like the perfect place for our family, or one of them anyway! It’s going to be a long summer but I suspect we will not run out of fun places to eat, especially outdoors or along the water.
Photo credits: Sherry Friel
June 19th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
On a cool and breezy Saturday morning, I joined Audubon birder Steve Coari and a group of seven bird enthusiasts for a walk at Pleasure House Point, a 118-acre preserve on the banks of the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach.
I have walked the Beach Trail at Pleasure House Point before, but walking it again with this group gave me a new appreciation of the preserve’s value as a habitat for songbirds and wading birds. Not only was Steve constantly calling out bird species – Green Heron, Blue Grosbeak, Mallard, Chickadee, Pine Warbler, Least Tern – but so were the other participants: “Up top! Up top! Cormorant, Chimney Swift, Red-winged Blackbird!” Everyone would swing around to look and the camera shutters would start clicking.
As we walked through the pine woods and beside the ponds, the creek and the river, I noted twenty-two different birds, and heard people call out a few others that I didn’t see. Along the way, Steve provided information about the birds’ activities. “Hear that? Sounds like a squeaky toy? Chimney Swift,” he said. On the creek bank, he pointed to a pile of oyster shells: “Someone’s been feeding.”
The Yellow-Crowned Night Herons were the stars of the show for me. Fellow participant Jane Scott Norris captured this gorgeous photograph of a Night Heron reflected in the pond and generously shared it with ShoreLines. We also saw Night Herons flying, landing, ducking into the water for food, and sitting as a pair in a tree. I got close enough to get a good look at their markings so next time I’ll be able to identify them myself.
A Great Egret – white as a sheet and easy to spot against dark green foliage across the creek – was a highlight, as was a Cormorant, afloat on the river and eating a fish. We saw an osprey on its nest, feeding its young, and we heard Mocking Birds doing what they do best. When birding, Steve says he listens for the calls, looks for movement, and looks for “snags” – dead trees or branches near the water where birds perch. He visits Pleasure House Point frequently so he knows where birds like to hang out. He advised that low tide is a good time to go birding because when the water recedes, exposed food attracts birds. In addition to providing habitat for many resident birds, Pleasure House Point is a stopover for migratory birds. That makes it an ideal place for bird watching in every season, which is a reason to return often.
On the absence of an avid birder, the field guide to the Chesapeake Bay is helpful for identifying birds and their calls. The guided walk was free and sponsored by Lynnhaven River Now, an organization that educates folks about the river and contributes to its health via advocacy, restoration projects and events. All they ask is that participants pick up any trash they spot during the walk. It’s a small price to pay for a two-hour living lesson on birds and their behavior. Special thanks to Steve Coari and Trista Imrich of Lynnhaven River Now for this chance to walk in the winged world.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron photo courtesy of Jane Scott Norris