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Catch and Release

Updated: May 6, 2022

The life and health of the Bay is at stake. I strongly prefer to practice C+R. The days of pictures where docks are filled with fish carcasses are behind us... or they should be.

Did you know that every legal-to-take summer flounder in Virginia is a female? Males rarely grow to more than 14”, and in Virginia the legal minimum size is 15”.

A 20” female speckled sea trout is at least 4 years old and produce as many as 20 million eggs in a year. It’s easy to see how taking even one of these fish out of the mix can influence what our fishery looks like years from now. Trout can be quite sensitive to the cold, and unfortunately, most winters in Virginia will bring at least a small fish-kill to our “speck” population.

At one point in time, Virginia Beach and the Lower Chesapeake Bay may well have had the best Striped Bass (locally referred to as rockfish or striper) fishery in the world. Many have their own opinions about why the striper population is down to unsustainable levels, but most theories revolve around overfishing of large reproducing females and excessive commercial fishing of menhaden (also called bunker), their primary food source. Beyond these two plausible explanations, we’ve seen poor spawning classes year after year in the rivers feeding the bay. Again, many theories are tossed around as to why this is the case. What we do know is that the striper fishery is a shell of what it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Again, taking a large female out of the population is incredibly counterproductive to protecting our fishery.

As a guide and resident of this area, it’s imperative that I act as a steward of my home waters. My preference, every time I go out, is that we practice catch and release in a way that limits fish mortality as much as possible. With that being said, there are some fish that we can take sustainably, and if you’d like to take some meat home, it’s your trip. Let me know in advance that you’d like to harvest, and we can make arrangements that work for both of us. If you are looking to take pictures of docks covered in rows of dead fish – I am not the guide for your trip. Most of our fish don’t freeze well, anyway, so please keep in mind that killing a fish to enjoy fresh while on vacation may make sense but wasting them does not. There are restaurants in the area that will cook your catch, and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction for those, as well, if you’re interested.

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