Lonnie Longtin and his prize catch
What better way to share the story of our world-class fishing than to talk with avid local angling expert Lonnie Longtin about his passion for Virginia Beach fishing. Lonnie has been successfully fishing our waters from beach and boat for twelve years.
A Conversation with Lonnie Longtin
Q: What makes Virginia Beach a premier fishing destination?
A: The wide variety of fishing waters, including inlets, jetties, wrecks, beaches, piers, and inland waters as well as the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This provides year-round fishing as several species are always biting.
Q: What are the best places for visitors to fish?
A: The surf at Sandbridge, the three piers (Lynnhaven, Va. Beach, and Sandbridge), inland back waters by canoe or kayak, First Landing state park, and the Rudee Inlet sea wall. There are also half and full day fishing trips on head and charter boats. Other than the charter trips, most opportunities are at little or no cost.
Q: How would you describe Virginia Beach fishing?
A: Exceptional, ever-changing by season, featuring a wide variety of species. There are normally several species feeding in our waters each season of the year.
Lonnie Longtin & a recent flounder catch
Q: What are your favorite species?
A: Flounder and speckled trout from the beach and mostly striped bass but some cobia and flounder by boat. These fish are available seasonally and offer a good bite.
Q: Can you share why you’re partial to light tackle?
A: I grew up fishing light tackle in fresh water and I decided to adapt the technique to the local fishing.
Q: What was your best or most unique day fishing?
A: One January day I saw flocks of gannets diving just south of the Rudee Inlet jetty. I quickly went and found my son and we launched our boat. Within a few hours we had caught and released 70 to 80 rockfish up to 40 pounds!
On another January day, we were catching stripers off Cape Henry when a group of five humpback whales started feeding all around us. Suddenly one of the whales surfaced just five feet from our boat. As the whale swallowed a mouthful of menhaden, he looked my fishing partner right in the eyes from maybe five feet away and then slowly slid beneath the surface.
Q: What would readers be amazed to know about your fishing?
A: That I catch surprisingly large fish on light tackle and have been known to be out in my open center console boat “On the Rocks” in strong winds, rough seas and below freezing temperatures.
Many thanks to Lonnie for inspiring fishermen to visit Virginia Beach this year. Following is a representative sample of fish available by season.
Blueline Tilfefish by Duane Raver
At the start of the year in February and March, our bottom fish typically include tautog, blueline and golden tilefish, grouper, and yellow bellied rosefish, all top attractions for fishermen. These fish happen to be “all stars” in their own right on the dinner plate. Bluefin tuna approaching 300 pounds or more have also excited anglers in February during recent years.
As area waters begin to warm in April, flounder will join the party from their offshore winter grounds. Chesapeake Bay blue crabs begin to emerge from the mud in May to provide one of our tastiest combos: crab stuffed flounder! By the end of May, sea bass normally arrive on offshore wrecks along with chopper bluefish.
Norfolk Spot by Duane Raver
With the start of summer weather patterns and predictable southwest winds in June, Norfolk spot, cobia, red and black drum, and Spanish mackerel are normally on the scene. All three species are great eating with the drum and cobia providing epic battles from fish that can easily top 50 pounds!
Blue Marlin release - estimated @ 300 lbs.
Once students are out of school, premier game fish including white and blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, swordfish and king mackerel show up. Trigger fish and spadefish are an added bonus during the summer.
Fall brings the added bonus of much larger fish that have fed all summer on Chesapeake Bay fish and crabs. On top of that, many species tend to “school” in large groups just prior to fall migration, thereby offering easy pickings for fishermen. What more could an angler ask for!
In case you think I totally forgot, I have saved the best for last — Striped Bass! This revered game fish, which also manages to delight the palate while appearing in small to extra-jumbo sizes, is pretty much with us year round. Anglers just need to check size and creel limits as well as changing locations that are permitted for catching rockfish. With spring and fall offering the best shot at a trophy bass, and due to year-round striper presence, Virginia Beach enjoys the title of Rockfish Capital of the World. By example, note Corey Wolfe’s 74-pound state record striper that was caught in the month of January. And the size of our state record striped bass just seems to get bigger and bigger every few years.
With beaches, inland waters, fishing piers, boat ramps and charter boat facilities, the many fish species in Virginia Beach waters can be easily accessed in a variety of ways. A trip awaits that should fit almost any vacation budget. So while planning that vacation visit to the Beach, don’t forget to save some time for a family fishing outing. There is much fun to be had and great fishing memories to be made, no matter when you visit!
Captain’s Log: The March fishing blog will summarize catch trends and citation results from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament for 2013. This can help to decide when and where to fish to target specific species as well as trophy fish in 2014.
Captain’s Tip: Now is the perfect time to clean and lubricate reels, make any needed repairs and spool fresh line for the coming season. Then you’ll be ready to battle citation-worthy fish on short notice.
Wishing all tight lines and hard strikes!