March Madness in the Salt

March 3rd, 2015 by Mike Halperin

citation graphicThe 2015 Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, now in its 58th year, promises to be a great one. Several species enjoyed impressive numbers of citation awards last year while others offered additional angling challenges adding variety to this popular tournament. This free tournament, sponsored by the state of Virginia through the Marine Resources Commission, is open to fishermen of all ages.  It includes a special Junior Angler Awards Program for anglers 15 years of age and younger.

The Junior Angler Awards Program is provided to encourage catch-and-release by youngsters while offering unique rewards. Youth anglers who catch and release 6 different species (during a year) earn an award certificate, baseball hat and decal.  In addition to no minimum fish size limits, almost all saltwater fish qualify.  Participants need only obtain a Junior Angler Card, complete the program requirements, and return the card to the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.  For more information or to obtain a Junior Angler Card, go to the download page or contact:

Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament
Virginia Gamefish Tagging Program
Attn: Lewis Gillingham
2600 Washington Ave, 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23606
(757) 491 – 5160
vswft@mrc.virginia.gov

Offshore success with blueline tilefish + a 21 lb. citation bluefish
Offshore success with blueline tilefish + a 21 lb. citation bluefish

Last year’s tournament ended with over 3000 citations for speckled trout, white marlin, red drum, and striped bass. Those four species combined to account for the majority of awards. Blueline tilefish, cobia, and sheepshead also made respectable showings.  Anglers seeking citation awards in 2015 should already be planning fishing trips to Virginia  Beach to target favorite species during peak seasons. Top months for stripers are November through December with the white marlin bite typically running August through September.  Red drum offer a robust fishery spring and fall with speckled trout typically best in the fall. Charter trips are readily available for pursuing all four species.   “Hot” locations to try for an award-worthy catch include Norfolk Canyon, lower Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and Rudee Inlet.

What some species such as bluefish, tautog, flounder, spot, and wahoo did not provide in numbers of citations, they more than made up for in numbers of available fish. Wahoo as large as 77 lbs., tuna to 278 lbs., flounder up to 10 lb. 3 oz., and a tautog weighing 22 lb. 8 oz. were landed.  Many happy anglers hefted coolers filled with spot following a day at Rudee Inlet.

Swordfish by Duane Raver
Swordfish by Duane Raver

Available yet more challenging-to-catch species were tarpon, swordfish,  pompano, jack crevalle, and false albacore. Amberjack, black drum, blue marlin, king mackerel, and sailfish rounded out additional species willing to test angling skills. Other fish for the taking were sea bass, gray triggerfish, snowy grouper, spearfish, black bellied rosefish and tilefish.  To the delight of deep-drop fishermen, golden tilefish have been added  as a new citation-eligible category for 2015.

While predicting seasonal fishing success is not exactly a science, well-respected local angler Beth Synowiec always has a sense of what’s hot and what’s not. As the first recreational woman on the Virginia Marine Resource Finfish Management Advisory Committee, Beth also holds Virginia  Expert Saltwater Angler and Master Angler Level I certifications and is an active tagger. Here are her predictions for 2015:

Expect a great year for red drum and speckled trout both in size and numbers. Cold weather has kept the trout relatively safe through the winter while striped bass will hopefully show a steady increase in numbers and size.”

Flounder appear to be making a comeback which could mean a fantastic year for keeper flatfish as well as more citations. Amberjack fishing will be fair to moderate, but large jacks may be harder to find.  Due to heavy fishing pressure for big fish, larger cobia may become harder to locate unless that fishery receives further limitations.” 

Beth with a beautiful citation sheeeepshead
Beth with a beautiful citation sheepshead

Expect another strong year for sheepshead with the largest fish holding right on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel pilings. A strong spot run of 10- to 12- ounce size fish last year should mean plenty of eating-size spot as well as some potential 1 lb. and over citation fish.”

Question: Why should visitors plan a fishing vacation to Va. Beach?

Beth: “We have so many species to target that can appeal to all skill levels.  With deep-drop, ocean, bay, and surf fishing there are many world-class trophy opportunities.”

Question: Why would you encourage parents to choose recreational fishing as a Virginia Beach family-centered activity?

Beth: Teaching kids to fish is a life-long skill and positive peer activity.  They will learn kindness, compassion and respect for the marine environment, not to mention all the inherent fun.”

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your insights and predictions.   If all anglers will respect our marine resources, future generations will be able to benefit from the same sport fishing enjoyment.

Early Season Hot Spot: Continental Shelf
Best Bite: Tilefish

See you on the water. Tight lines and hard strikes to all!
Capt. Mike

Beth's 15 lb. 11 oz. tautog 2015 - courtesy of Wes Blow

Beth & a 15 lb, 11 oz tautog 2015 - photo courtesy of Wes Blow


Beth's bluefish citation release 2014
Beth’s bluefish citation release 2014


Bookmark and Share

Last Call for Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Boat Adventures

February 27th, 2015 by Teresa Diaz

It’s been an amazing season for whales sightings in Virginia Beach. If you haven’t had the chance to take a Virginia Beach winter wildlife boat excursion yet, the window of opportunity is quickly closing. We’ll soon offer the always fun dolphin tours but if it’s whales you seek, don’t delay, book today!


Photo courtesy of Rudee Tours

Photo courtesy of Rudee Tours

The waters surrounding Virginia Beach are not only home to a variety of exciting species, but are en route for the migration of many animals that are not usually seen in the area, including humpback whales. Also home to dolphins, harbour seals, pelicans, seagulls and much, much more, it’s a great place for nature and wildlife lovers to see and experience the variety of wildlife that will keep everyone on the lookout. The best way to see and interact with these animals is undoubtedly by seeing them how nature intended – from the sea.

Although taking to the sea’s in winter may not seem like the best time to take a boat trip, it is actually ideal for observing many species you may not otherwise see due to their migration patterns. The cooler winter months are the times when many species of whale migrate to warmer seas, and it’s not uncommon to spot the impressive humpback whale during their journey south. Taking a winter wildlife boat trip is sure to be an unforgettable ocean adventure.

Of course it is not possible to guarantee or even predict what wildlife you will see on a boat trip, however, some of the common sightings include harbour seals, pelicans, seagulls, northern gannets and ruddy ducks. You many also encounter dolphins, porpoises, humpback whales, fin whales and other water mammals. Although you cannot predict what you will see, one thing is for sure, you’ll have a great adventure!

There are two operators in Virginia Beach running winter wildlife boat trips, Rudee Tours and the Virginia Aquarium. Both are led by experienced captains and knowledgeable staff to help ensure that you see everything you can and have the best experience possible. On board you’ll find snack bars, restrooms, heated indoor cabins and open air viewing platforms.

Visit the natural habitat of some of the most astonishing animals in the sea in the most interactive way possible, by actually being out on the water withWhale 1 breachthem. With trained professionals on hand to inform and answer all your questions, a winter boat trip is an incredible way to experience Virginia Beach.

Rudee Tours has an awesome photo gallery – click here to check it out and then book your weekend getaway to Virginia Beach, highlighted by a winter wildlife boat adventure!


Bookmark and Share

The Beach Report – February 20, 2015

February 20th, 2015 by Guest Blogger

This week our “For the Love of . . .” series continues with a post from our very own canine blogger, Summer. Stay tuned; while this may be the first post from this high-spirited angel, it definitely won’t be her last!

For the Love of Coastal Pets

Meet the newest member of our blogging team, Summer

Meet the newest member of our blogging team, Summer

With a name like Summer, I guess it’s not all that surprising that I’m happiest surrounded by sand, surf and sunshine, so I’m one lucky pup to live in Virginia Beach year-round! That’s right; I said year-round, because I get to enjoy my most favorite outdoor activities, regardless of whether it’s summer or winter. If that’s not living the life, what is?

I took my first swim just a few months ago in my very own private beach (okay, so it’s known to most as First Landing State Park), but seriously, guys, it’s like my very own piece of paradise! At First Landing, I can explore different habitats and landscapes (the maritime forest is my favorite, but Spanish moss plays a close second in my book). The humans and I enjoy going on long hikes through winding areas, watch the bikers and runners go by, explore new paths and listen to the different species of birds that fly high above us, from branch to branch. Every so often, I meet up with my friend Daisy, a Sandbridge-based pup, to explore together.

Not too far away from First Landing is Chesapeake Bay Beach, which, nestled among some of my humans’ favorite places to dine and wine, is home to another of my favorite spots. There, I can frolic alongside the Chesapeake Bay’s shallow waters to my heart’s content and meet other coastal pets along the way, including Benny, a Chesapeake Bay-based pup, who also loves the water and can fetch like a champ!

Summer & Daisy rule Sandbridge on a recent afternoon

Summer & Daisy rule Sandbridge Beach on a recent sunny afternoon

This summer, I’m most looking forward to morning adventures exploring the Resort area since I’m allowed to walk with my humans on the boardwalk. In the evenings, we’ll take in all of the vibrant sights along the Atlantic Ocean. Now that I’m older and better-behaved, I also plan on joining the ‘rents at the Virginia Beach Town Center, where they like to dine outside and browse the regularly scheduled artisan fairs and live entertainment.

Retrieving is one of Summer's favorite pasttimes

Retrieving is one of Summer's favorite ways to live the Virginia Beach life!

Whether swimming, hiking, fetching or just joining for the ride, Virginia Beach really is a perfect playground for coastal pets like me – and for people like you, who love traveling and exploring with their pets (thank you for letting us come along!).

What are some of your favorite pet-friendly Virginia Beach activities? Why not grab your fur baby’s treats and gear and getaway to Virginia Beach together!

Summer is an eight-month-old Golden Retriever living in Virginia Beach with her human parents and a feisty 14-year-old cat. When she’s not exploring Virginia Beach’s great outdoors, she’s living the life napping, cuddling and eating.


Bookmark and Share

For the Love of Winter Beach Walks

February 18th, 2015 by Katherine Jackson
Katherine Jackson keeps our “For the Love of” series going with a post about a timeless form of exercise – walking!
Croatan Beach courtesy of Katherine Jackson

There's nothing like a peaceful walk on the beach

I’ve lived at a beach most of my life, and I sometimes wonder why people would live anywhere else. I went to high school in Ft. Lauderdale, spent a few years in Nags Head, and have lived in Virginia Beach ever since. One of my earliest memories is of a trip my family took to Virginia Beach when I was about three years old. I remember thinking that the beach was “slippery,” not understanding that the waves were knocking me down. Although I enjoy the mountains, I feel most at home with sand under my feet. As much as I like to walk barefoot on the beach in the summer, I also find winter beach walks to be rewarding in their own way. Even at the height of winter, I bundle up in a hat, gloves, and my old down coat, a hold-over from the ‘70s. By the time I’ve walked a few hundred yards, I start to warm up, or at least I forget about the temperature as I’m swept up by the waves and the sky and the treasures to be found on the strand. The solitude of the beach during the winter months is another bonus.

Katherine Jackson find treasures among the shells on her morning walks at Croatan Beach

Katherine Jackson find treasures among the shells on her morning walks at Croatan Beach

On a recent Saturday morning, I headed out for a beach walk at the time of low tide since that’s when the sand is hardest and when fresh piles of shells are uncovered. I live at the south end of Croatan Beach, a quiet neighborhood beach south of the resort area, so I headed north toward Rudee Inlet. The wind was brisk, and the sun was bright. The thing about beach walking is that no matter how many times I’ve walked this stretch, there’s always something different to see: the pattern of clouds in the sky, boats heading out to sea, shells in the wrack line left behind by the ebbing tide. I always notice a variety of shorebirds, and sometimes a flock of pelicans. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for a pair of eagles that my neighbors report seeing on the beach but so far they’ve eluded me. They nest in the woods nearby and come to the ocean to fish. I often see dolphins, and during the winter, I watch for whales that can sometimes be seen from the beach (and can more often be seen on Winter Wildlife Boat Trips that depart from the Virginia Aquarium).

Swaths of ice met Katherine on this blustery day at Croatan

Swaths of ice met Katherine on a blustery day at Croatan

On this morning, I was surprised by an unusual sight: swaths of ice on the beach at the high tide line. The thin sheets had frozen earlier when the waves receded. Having seen them, I wasn’t surprised when I got to the inlet to see that the rocks that form the jetty were wearing frosty caps caused by ocean spray. Back at the south end, a chain link fence that demarks the military base was coated in a thick mesh of ice from the blowing spray. I often extol Virginia Beach’s mild winter weather, but cooler days have their benefits, not the least of which is the anticipation of spring, which isn’t far away.

Doesn’t a winter walk on the beach sound amazing?  It’s time for you to get away and Visit Virginia Beach!

Photo credits: Katherine Jackson


Bookmark and Share

For the Love of Winter Wildlife

February 16th, 2015 by Teresa Diaz

Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
Courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
We continue our series with a tribute to four of our winter wildlife friends who enjoying living the life near the CBBT.

Four Wildlife Species of You May Spot at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) measures an impressive 17.6 miles and is often cited as one of the modern engineering wonders of the world. Transporting over 116 million vehicles across the Chesapeake Bay since its opening in 1964, it has saved millions of people from the100+ mile detour that would otherwise be necessary in order to travel to southeast Virginia from the Delmarva Peninsula. Faced with many challenges, including dramatic changes in ocean depth, the bridge was designed as a bridge/tunnel combination, so part of the road is submerged as a tunnel.

Being one of the few bridges using this design, the CBBT attracts thousands of engineering enthusiasts and visitors every year but one of the most astounding things to see is the abundance of wildlife both in and out of the sea. Spanning the Chesapeake Bay, the bridge tunnel is located at the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean and enjoys visits from numerous sea, air and land dwelling species. It’s a perfect place to visit for nature lovers, photographers and wildlife fans alike.

Located at the north end of the bridge tunnel is a small manmade island, now a national wildlife reserve where it’s possible to park, have a bite to eat and stretch your legs while taking in astonishing views and amazing wildlife.  Here are four types of wildlife you may encounter on your visit:

Photo credit: Brian Lockwood
Photo credit: Brian Lockwood

1. Harbour seals – Also known as common seals, these amphibians are most often found in harbors and generally return to the same place each year. Each harbour seal has a distinct pattern of spots on its body; no two of them are the same. The colonies who return to the Chesapeake Bay each fall/winter prefer to stay on the smaller bridge islands that aren’t easily accessible to humans, but sometimes they venture out to the boats nearby to entertain visitors.

2. Dolphins – Travelling in pods, dolphins are highly intelligent, playful and sociable animals. They often venture into the bay to visit land dwellers and can be seen swimming parallel to boats passing through. Dolphin watching has become a favorite past time for many residents and visitors alike.

pelicans dolphins
Photo credit: Brian Lockwood

3. Pelicans – A common sight in the area, the pelican is easily spotted by its characteristic bill pouch which it uses to catch fish. Pelicans live in flocks and can be easily spotted enjoying the open water and a never-ending supply of fish!

Photo courtesy of Virginia Beach Resort & Conference Center
Photo courtesy of Virginia Beach Resort & Conference Center

4. Seagulls – No trip to the coast would be complete without the unmistakable cry of seagulls, and these sea birds are plentiful around the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, a seagull image adorns roadway signs heading to the CBBT and seasoned drivers know to “Follow the Gulls” to reach Virginia Beach. These acrobatic birds make for stunning viewing as they swoop in and out of the waters.

A Virginia Beach winter wildlife boat excursion is a unique opportunity to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitats. This year, there are two excursion options: the Virginia Aquarium offers tours guided by trained aquarium educators on a boat fully equipped with a snack bar, restrooms, a heated indoor area and an outdoor viewing platform. Vessels run by Rudee Tours also offer a snack bar, restrooms, a heated indoor cabin and an open air viewing platform; these tours are led by an experienced captain with a knowledgeable staff. Want more info? Click here to book your tour now and plan a winter wildlife getaway to Virginia Beach!


Bookmark and Share

The Beach Report – February 13, 2015

February 13th, 2015 by Teresa Diaz

For The Love of LOVE

It’s Valentine’s Day Eve and we are excited to feature a local love story. Dianna and Allan Davis are Virginia Beach residents who love living the life. They have traveled the State of Virginia in pursuit of capturing all of the Virginia is for Lovers LOVEworks. They’ve hit 35 so far and will visit another this weekend in honor of our national holiday celebrating love, Valentine’s Day. Here is their story, in Dianna’s words as told to Teresa Diaz, Shorelines Editor.

LOVE Photos Collage for Teresa

#LOVEVA

Dianna &  Allan Davis in front of their LOVE work wall
Virginia Beach residents Dianna & Allan Davis have visited 35 of the Virginia is for Lovers LOVEworks signs

Tell us your love story.

I’m Dianna Pena Davis and my hometown is Victoria, Texas. Before moving to Virginia, I spent the previous 25 years living in San Antonio, Texas. My husband, Allan Davis, was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas.

Allan and I met at work and became best friends. After three years we realized that we wanted to be more than friends. He was a gentleman and asked my Dad for my hand in marriage first. He then proposed on one knee at a beautiful restaurant in a vineyard in San Antonio. We decided we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

Unlike most couples our love story had just begun as we took our vows. We both had the same goals and dreams. He joined the Navy and we moved to Virginia Beach in 2011 as he was stationed in Norfolk. I was then diagnosed with cervical cancer. He was there by my side through through it all and I am in remission.  He then was deployed for nine months aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. He was having some health issues and he was then diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Of course I stood by his side and he is now also in remission. We know that our Faith has kept us healthy.

Allan is now stationed at Oceana in Virginia Beach and we plan to live life to the fullest!  We will be married eight years this August and we fall in love more each year.  I always say, “Marry your best friend.”

What intrigued you about the LOVEworks signs?

After a year of living in Virginia Beach I wanted to explore the state since we would be here for another two years.  Allan was underway (at sea) and I wanted to stay busy.  I did some research on Virginia and came across the LOVEworks sign map!  We decided it was a great way to get to know the state of Virginia and started planning our trips to all the LOVEworks on the map.

What was the first LOVEwork you visited?

I decided to go to the one in New Kent at the Visitors Center so I could also get some guide books to continue my exploration.  I enjoyed the drive as I was still trying to get used the tunnels, bridges and the Virginia highway system. I set up my tripod and camera and took a picture. I wanted to share my trip with Allan when he arrived home from deployment and he was excited to join me. We went again to New Kent and took another picture together.

The Davis' wall of 35 LOVE photos

The Davis' LOVEworks wall

How many LOVEworks have you visited to date? How far have you traveled to see one?

We have been to 35 wonderful LOVE signs. We went to the one in Gate City, Virginia,  454 miles from Virginia Beach.

Is there one that is a particular favorite yours and why?

Each LOVEworks sign is very special to us, so it’s hard to pick just one. We enjoy the work of art of each one and what it symbolizes for each town/city.

Share an interesting story about one of the trips you took to visit one of the LOVEworks.

Well we would break up the LOVEworks visits in day trips, weekend trips or longer four day getaways when they (the signs) were deep in the mountains. On one of these trips we planned to visit a few towns and visit the LOVEworks that were in the general area. We ended up at this small country store in Whitetop, Virginia that you can barely see on the map. I came back out of the store because I forgot something in the truck and it just so happened that an older gentleman sitting on the store front porch noticed our Texas license plate.  He asked, ” How did you get all the way up here!?”  I laughed and said my husband was in the Navy and we were exploring.  Just made me feel that yes, we were very far from home but it was so much fun!

We just love the mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, the small hotels that give you an awesome view of the mountains, The Creeper Trail where we rode our bikes,  the quaint towns, the colorful characters, the great homemade food especially the pinto beans and cornbread in the Meadows of the Dan and getting lost on gravel roads leading up steep mountains.  We also have been to big cities and seaside towns and love each adventure.

What is the next LOVE sign you plan to visit?

We have eight new ones on our list to visit.  I think we will go to Cape Charles, Virginia as a day trip for Valentine’s Day!

If Virginia Beach were to get its own LOVE sign, what would it be made of?

We both agreed it would be perfect if it was made out of sand for the beautiful beaches of Virginia Beach. Well at least to look like sand so that it would last, of course.  There are so many great local artists I’m sure they can make something beautiful.

Where would it be displayed?

On the boardwalk, of course! Somewhere prominent to be appreciated by visitors.

What is your favorite thing about living in Virginia Beach?

We love watching the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and how the beaches are kept so clean.  Walking or biking on the boardwalk is one of our favorite places because of its relaxed atmosphere and quality restaurants with fresh seafood and refreshing drinks.  We love that we never run out of interesting places to explore.

Davislovema


Bookmark and Share

For the Love of Oysters

February 11th, 2015 by Guest Blogger

We continue our February “For The Love of . . .” series today with a post about one of the gems in our coastal cuisine offerings, the oyster. Enjoy!!

3 Ways to Eat an Oyster

by Megan Shearin

oysters

My colleague and Live the Life blogger, Teresa Diaz, recently wrote about the three distinct beach experiences Virginia Beach offers. The coveted Lynnhaven Oyster, found exclusively in the waters off Chesapeake Bay Beach, have been treasured by travelers dating all the way back to John Smith circa 1607.

So while you’re visiting one – or maybe all three – of our beaches, here are three different ways to experience our delicious oysters:

1.  Hop Aboard

Enjoying a succulent, fresh Lynnhaven Oyster doesn’t get any better than this. This two-or-four-hour dining experience includes a sampling of bivalves pulled straight from the water beneath you. As you stand knee-deep in water, you’ll shuck oysters, learn about the waterways and the legendary Lynnhaven Oyster. The best part about this hands-on dining experience is that you not only get to taste oysters, but see how they’re harvested.

2.  DIY Oyster Concoction

There’s no better way to unwind than to spend the afternoon with friends and family at your oceanfront beach rental home. Purchase a bushel of oysters (added bonus, you’ll get to meet a local!) and create your own oyster concoction as you gaze upon pristine beach dunes. For this recipe, break out a charcoal grill or fire pit. Once the shells have cracked open, delicately remove the oyster and place over a saltine cracker. Top with your favorite type of cheese. Extra sharp cheddar, like the kind your grandma uses in your favorite holiday mac and cheese, is yum under the sun.

3.  Drink to the better half

Our three-mile boardwalk will be your bestie during your stay in Virginia Beach. Grab a beach cruiser and swing by a variety of dining destinations to try a beer pairing that complements and enhances the briny oyster meat. It’s the perfect way to end a day at the beach.  You can also pull up a barstool and sample some coastal flavors at a local brewer. Oyster stouts are popular with the locals!


Isn’t it time for a Virginia Beach getaway?

You know you deserve it!

Megan Shearin is a Public Relations Specialist with the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family at the beach, fishing and being active outdoors.


Bookmark and Share