- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

Julie Ball, the International Game Fish Association representative in Virginia Beach and no slouch in the record fish-catching department herself, verified a pending world record striped bass caught in Virginia waters Sunday.

“I photographed a 50-pound-plus striped bass, proudly displayed by its captor, Jim Sheffield of Richmond,” Ball said. “Jim, who is a member of the Virginia Anglers Club, is no stranger to light line angling. He had this trip all planned. He headed to Kiptopeke [on the Eastern Shore side of the Chesapeake] intending to break the existing IGFA men”s 2-pound line class record of 21 pounds, 7 ounces. Instead, he blew it out of the water. The official weight of his fish was a whopping 50 pounds, 9 ounces.”

The events unfolded when Sheffield, fishing by himself, started to drift live eels off Kiptopeke in less than 30 feet of water.

“When the fish took the eel at 9 a.m., he knew it was the one he was looking for,” Ball said.

However, as any sport angler knows, when you use 2-pound test line you can’t afford to “horse” in a fish. You must be gentle and for a while go wherever the catch wants to go. Sheffield did just that. He followed the striper around for an hour until it became exhausted.

“The rockfish finally came in belly up,” Ball recounted. “Jim made his move. He pulled the brute into the boat with no assistance.”

Meanwhile, the rockfish keeper season has ended in the Chesapeake Bay, although catch-and-release fishing draws some bay boaters in Maryland and Virginia. It is legal to keep stripers in the ocean, and Virginians from Chincoteague Island down to the North Carolina state line are out looking for Atlantic stripers.

Some of the ocean boats also find bluefish at the Chesapeake Light Tower, 11 miles east of Virginia Beach.

Ken Neill of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association says: “You have a chance to encounter a bluefin tuna in the Light Tower area. The Hot Dog and South East Lumps are good areas to hit if the bluefish are not home around the Tower. Big sea bass are concentrated on the offshore wrecks. The Ocean Venture and the 44 Fathom Wreck are good places to load up with large sea bass this time of year. Boats running out of Oregon Inlet, N.C., are finding yellowfin and school bluefin tunas offshore.”

Neill said the North Carolina offshore boats are latching on to stripers and bluefish close to land, but out in the blue water the Hatteras Island crowd catches yellowfin and bluefin tunas. On the way home they hook king mackerel in the inshore waters.

Local action is OK — In answer to some calls and e-mails, no, I didn’t visit Spoils Cove near the Wilson Bridge for our traditional New Year’s Day outing. See Sunday’s edition of The Washington Times and read about our first fish catches of 2008. However, some friends have been at the Spoils, and they report fair to good crappie, bass and perch hookups.

Elsewhere, the tidal Patuxent River’s Western Branch has turned up a smattering of crappies and small yellow perch — usually caught on live minnows — but little tubes, grubs and jigs also will do the job.

Shenandoah slowed down — Front Royal’s Richard Fox reported, “It was a little tougher this week. We only caught seven smallmouths, but one did measure 19 inches long. Water temperature has been 38 degrees.”

Slowly dragged tube lures dabbed with fish attractant work well.

Lake Gaston fish cooperate — At Virginia’s Lake Gaston, Marty Magone told us about his friend Dez Rubesh, who caught a 6-pound, 11-ounce largemouth bass and during one day’s outing ended up with 32 bass and one 19-inch striper. The fish were released.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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