Let’s Get it Started!

April 15th, 2014 by Mike Halperin

Beginning with this blog, from time to time, information will be shared about a seasonal featured fish.

Dr. Ken Neill & his 24.22 lb. state record tautog

Dr. Ken Neill & his 24.3 lb. state record tautog

Featured Fish – TAUTOG - One of the earliest spring species entering Virginia Beach waters is the tautog. Thick-lipped with homely faces, tautog come armed with strong molar teeth for crushing crabs, a staple of their diet.  To the delight of fishermen, these mollusk-eaters have delicious firm, delicate white meat.  Tautog, derived from the Native American term “tautaug”, additionally known as blackfish, oyster-fish, black porgy or tog, are found in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to South Carolina and average 1 to 3 pounds up to a Virginia state record 24-pound, 3-ounce monster caught in 2012 at the Morgan Wreck by Dr. Ken Neill.  The world record stands at 25 pounds and was caught in 1998 off New Jersey.

Virginia’s tog inhabit wrecks and bridge pilings, making them a favorite of boaters using bait fishing methods. Best baits are fresh blue crab, fiddler crab and clams.  It is said in jest that an angler should set the hook “just before a tog bites” as these fish are accomplished bait stealers.  Rods require ample “backbone” to wrestle tautog away from structure where they are sure to head once hooked.

Launch your boat at Lynnhaven or Little Creek Inlet and enjoy immediate access to prime tautog grounds along the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Launch at Owls Creek inside Rudee Inlet and it is just a short run to many offshore wrecks.  Tog have started biting at offshore sites and will follow suit inshore as bay waters warm.

Captain’s tip: Thread the hook through a knuckle of the crab to combat bait stealing by tautog.

Offshore: Impressive numbers of black sea bass are also populating offshore wrecks. Check with local fishing centers for captains holding special pre-season fishing permits for the sea bass.  Sea bass are great fun to catch as well as excellent eating.

Other current offshore offerings include tilefish, grouper, wreckfish, barrelfish and yellow bellied rosefish. Some golden tilefish have been well over 40 pounds.   Much of this action is in 300 foot depths along the 50-fathom curve with most anglers opting to fish for these species in the comfort of a long-range Virginia Beach head boat.

Flounder- a fishing favorite – Word of the first flounder run is due any day now. Typically, flatfish first announce their presence inside lower Chesapeake Bay (try around the 8-mile mark of the CBBT) and inside Rudee and Lynnhaven Inlets as shallower waters warm first.  If your gear is not cleaned up from last season, do it now to catch the early bite!

Flounder by Duane Raver

Flounder by Duane Raver

Puppy drum continue to offer good sport to fishermen inside Lynnhaven, Little Creek and Rudee inlets. Speckled trout are available but only for catch-and-release action in the inlets.  Speckled trout season remains closed until August.

Striped Bass – Here are dates to remember if planning a striper trip:

Spring Trophy season for Chesapeake Bay: May 1 through June 15. Fish must meet a minimum of 32 inches with a 1 fish per person possession limit.

Regular spring striper season overlaps trophy season, running from May 16 through June 15. The keeper slot limit is 18 to 28 inches with a limit of 2 fish per day.  HOWEVER, 1 fish of the 2 fish limit may be larger than 32 inches and that catch must be reported.

Largemouth bass by Duane Raver

Largemouth bass by Duane Raver

Attention Fresh Water Enthusiasts: Back Bay, just south of Virginia Beach, has been enjoying a huge recovery in largemouth bass stocks. This previous premier largemouth bass fishing destination is undergoing restocking with great results. The restock is now in year two of a three-year program.  The bass are thriving as a result of this restocking coupled with the return of aquatic vegetation such as milfoil, pond weed and wild celery.  Two bass over 8 pounds taken last fall bode well for a return to the “glory days” such as 1980 when 240 citation bass exceeding 8 pounds were caught.  Back Bay is just a short drive from the resort area and can accommodate small boat launches.   For more info go to: Back Bay fishing information

Wishing you tight lines, hard strikes and a memorable catch!

Capt. Mike

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The Beach Report – April 11, 2014

April 11th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

cherry blossom 2Editor’s Note:

Blogger Sherry Friel shares a post celebrating this gorgeous time of year in this week’s Beach Report.  Her amazing photography is always an added treat – enjoy!!

Virginia Beach: Where a glorious wildness grows unchecked and celebrated!

For years I’ve tried to control myself at springtime. My husband, a former roommate, and family are very well acquainted with my flower addiction and have ceased asking me to temper it. Oh no. They know better than to suggest I pare down my floral fantasy fulfillment because honestly, it’d be a wasted effort. Best to let wild things grow unchecked.

And besides, from what I learned this past winter while researching ancestors, my obsession with flora and fauna is entirely in keeping with the natural evolution of my family tree. From as many generations back as I could find, most of my people dedicated their lives to nurturing growth of all kinds. They grew everything from tobacco to vegetables and cotton. But their joy, their passion, was evoked by the miraculous beauty of flowers.

Magnolia MagnificenceHow do I know this? Well, my research came to a complete halt when I came upon my great grandmother’s name. It was Minnie Magnolia. That’s correct, Magnolia. It was as if every question I ever had about myself had been confirmed. Of course I would have a family member with the name Magnolia. But wait, the story gets even better. My Dad shared with me recently that this same great-grandmother had turned her entire front yard into a blooming floral masterpiece. We’re not talking about tight, neat flowerbeds and borders flanking the front porch and yard edges. The flowers practically overflowed beyond the edges, making the yard a stopping point and destination for neighborhood walkers.

Oh goodness, this explains so much. So much. Without even knowing the story of Minnie Magnolia’s Magnificent Flower Garden, I had been carrying forth her divine mission everywhere I’ve lived. Sure, I’ve caught some flack for my extravagant floral leanings-a former roommate once asked if someone had died when she arrived home from work greeted by one of my over-the-top floral displays. Obviously, she had no respect for my mission! And my dear patient husband has all but given up rhetorically asking me each season, “More flowers?” Yes, husband dear. More flowers. You can’t stop this train so don’t even bother! And as if I needed to relay further evidence of this kinship I feel with a grandmother I never knew, there is that photo album of hundreds, yes hundreds of macro magnolia portraits I have taken over the years. I hesitate to even share that one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time is straight from – you guessed it – the movie “Magnolia.”

So, in honor of Minnie Magnolia, whose spirit I instinctively knew without even realizing it, I will go forth this Spring and partake in all that honors our special kinship. In particular, the destinations I plan to visit include the Hampton Roads Agriculture Research Center, which is home to some of the most gorgeous magnolia trees I have ever laid eyes on. Additionally, I want to stroll through the cherry blossoms at Redwing Park and bask in the glorious sights, sounds and smells of this magnificent season. Will you join me?

Photo credits: Sherry Friel

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Brilliant Virginia Beach. Just Zipping Brilliant!

April 4th, 2014 by Sherry Friel

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…-John Lennon, from Imagine

Adventure Park 3

Courtesy of The Adventure Park

From the time my 10-year-old son Nathaniel was a kindergartener in Virginia Beach Schools, his teachers discovered early on that he is a bit of a dreamer. “You know,” they’d tell me, “he has a tendency to daydream.” And then I would inwardly cringe, nod that I understood­-oh boy did I understand-and assure them Skip and I would discuss the importance of focus while he is in school. But he truly was focusing-just not on the alphabet or his handwriting. He was scheming and dreaming of ziplines, tree houses and inventions in a way that excited his mind and spurred him into real action.

Case in point: At the age of 5, Nathaniel wanted to know why he could not have cable TV in his room. I brushed the request off, saying he was too young and we did not want to run a TV cable to his room. Completely dismissing me, he proceeded to analyze the cable hookups on my other TVs. In a matter of minutes, while I was shifting laundry from washer to dryer, he had assembled every spare coaxial cable he could find to run a line from the kitchen outlet to the one in his upstairs bedroom. What I am getting at here is this kid does not seem to see any barriers to his goals. His mission is always to figure out how to actualize his dreams. When he decides to tell me his plans, he’s not asking permission or if it can be done. In his mind, it’s just a matter of conversation at that point. He’s already figured out the “how.” As much as I admire this quality in him, and fully see its potential as he matures, there are times when his schemes have been the source of many heart palpitations over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Angling For Exciting Fishing?

April 1st, 2014 by Mike Halperin

fishingLooking to break out from winter cabin fever and the past cold weather? Why not take a 17-hour Virginia Beach deep-drop fishing trip to the edge of the Continental Shelf.   Fish likely to be caught include grouper, wreckfish, barrelfish, and yellow bellied rosefish along with blueline tilefish.  The tilefish provide the added bonus of offering a great opportunity to start the season with a fish of 10 pounds or more and earn a handsome angling award from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.   Blueline tilefish citation awards have not been uncommon with one recent tilefish weighing 19 lb. 12 oz!

Closer inshore tautog, also known as blackfish or simply “tog”, offer yet another citation opportunity. Togs as large as 22 pounds have come from many wrecks in Virginia Beach waters with the Triangle Wreck producing some of the absolute best fishing.   With crab season finally open, fresh crab bait (versus frozen crabs and clams) should improve chances for tautog success, particularly at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and inshore wrecks. Tautog provide a tasty dining choice whether baked, broiled, fried or used in fish stew or chowder.

Blueline tilefish by Duane Raverf

Blueline tilefish by Duane Raverf

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The Beach Report – March 28, 2014

March 28th, 2014 by Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger Luke Hartman of the Virginia Arts Festival gives us a peek at what is in store for us during the 2014 season.  Once again, the folks at VAF have outdone themselves with a variety of top-notch performers and performances. Insider’s tip:  - While there are many free events, for those that are ticketed, don’t wait too long to buy yours; if history repeats itself they will go very quickly!

Spring into the Arts by Luke Hartman

Cirque Mechanics thrills the crowds

Cirque Mechanics thrills the crowds

We all know that with spring comes warmer weather, blooming flowers and more time spent outdoors, but what you may not know is that spring time (specifically in Virginia Beach) means world-class music and arts. One of the best examples of this certain affect of spring is the 18th annual Virginia Arts Festival, which kicks off April 2nd at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra!

This “passionate and assured” (The New York Times) orchestra is one of the leading symphony orchestras in the world and is a must-see event for classical music fans.

Some other notable Virginia Arts Festival events this spring are…

-Joshua Bell (violin) with JoAnn Falletta (conductor) – May 2 – Sandler Center

-The Music of Led Zeppelin: A Rock Symphony – May 9 – Sandler Center

-Panorama Caribbean Music Fest – May 9 and May 10 – 24th street Oceanfront Park – FREE

-Cirque Mechanics: Gantry Show – May 8-11 – Town Center (outdoors) – FREE

I’m personally excited to check out Cirque Mechanics because it’s basically going to be a free circus on wheels! Get this…acrobats will perform aerial and ground acts (contortion, Chinese poles and trapeze) on a pedal driven 22’ high stage-like mechanical apparatus. How cool is that!?

As you can see, spring is a great time for music and arts in Virginia Beach. So get out there, celebrate sunnier skies and open your minds to the arts!

If you’d like more information on the Virginia Arts Festival or to buy tickets, click here.

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Nimmo Trail and Greenway Provides Peaceful Place to Walk

March 24th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson

nimmo 2There’s a secret spot at the end of Nimmo Parkway where it intersects with Albuquerque Road: the entrance to the Nimmo Trail and Greenway. Okay, maybe it’s not a secret for people who live nearby, but for me, it was a new natural place to explore. I’ve seen people using the paved portion of the trail adjacent to Nimmo Parkway, but at the end of the paved section, an unpaved trail continues to the east for approximately a mile. At first, it runs along a city right-of-way between two neighborhoods. Residents have spruced up the path with daffodils that are in bloom this time of year and other plants that will flower soon. After half a mile, the trail enters Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and passes through a wooded wetland ending at Hell Point Creek, a broad waterway that empties into Back Bay. Even though we went walking on a sunny Saturday with the temperature soaring to seventy-five degrees, we passed only a handful of people on the trail: two girls carrying fishing poles, a couple of boys on bikes, and a pair of walkers. We saw lots of robins, a few squirrels and ducks, a number of turtles slipping down the bank into a stream, and evidence of woodpeckers, though not the birds themselves. In addition to the main trail, smaller trails loop through the woods and along narrow trenches that intersect the creek. By exploring some of the side trails, we extended our walk to three miles. One point of interest is a grave site, where headstones mark the graves of three boys – Peter, Thomas and Simon Stone – who died around 1800.

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