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For Immediate Release
January 9, 2004

Anglers Earn Over 7200 Citations in 2003

Anglers registered 7201 trophy-size fish for Citation awards during the 46th Annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, which ran from January 1st through December 31st last year. This was the second highest total in Tournament history, topped only by the 8299 awards earned in 2001.

The impressive number of awards was earned despite abnormal weather patterns during the course of the year and fisheries that were very inconsistent. The winter was one of the coldest in many years, bringing most fisheries to a standstill. The exception was the development of an excellent offshore fishery for large black sea bass. This pattern continued in the spring with an abundance of cool, wet and windy weather. Water temperatures were slow to rise, many fish were slow to arrive in local waters, and Citation numbers were trailing year-to-year comparisons by a substantial number at the end of May. In June inshore fisheries, especially for red and black drum and spadefish, took off, but offshore fisheries remained poor for most of the year. By September Citation numbers were on a record pace, then Hurricane Isabel unleashed her fury on the Virginia coast and the Chesapeake Bay, and many fisheries did not recover for three to four weeks. Late fall weather and fisheries were excellent, highlighted by a splendid run of big bluefin tuna, which produced two new state records.

Black drum accounted for the largest number of Citations among the 34 eligible species. The 945 Citations represented 13% of all awards and was the second best in tournament history – topped only by the 1370 entries in 1975. The spring run of black drum at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay lasted almost 8 weeks in 2003, approximately double its usual span, which was likely the result of cooler water temperatures during the early summer.

Spadefish Citations reached record levels with 288 captures and 634 releases, for a total of 922 awards.


The cool water temperatures of the early summer produced a banner year for red drum with Citation numbers reaching 806 - the most ever. The fishery from late-May through July at Middle Ground Shoals and off Fisherman’s Island was outstanding.

In spite of a summer flounder fishery most anglers felt was poorer than prior years, Citation awards reached 755 – a 32% increase from 2002. While this was only the seventh best of all time, two factors are important to consider. First, the Citation minimum last year was 7 pounds; in all six years with more Citations the minimum was 6 pounds. Second, the number of truly large fish was astonishing. Sixty-nine fish weighing 10 pounds or more were registered for Citations, which is 9.2% of all awards for the species. The top fish last year weighed 15 lbs., 15 oz., which is the fourth largest flounder ever entered with the program.

Species enjoying their best-ever annual Citation totals included pompano (37), sheepshead (165), and swordfish (5). Other fisheries enjoying a banner year included: black sea bass (277)– 2nd best year ever, topped only by the 376 awards earned in 1977; tarpon (20)– 2nd best year ever; spot (685)– 5th best year ever and third year in a row with a good showing in the Chesapeake Bay; and gray trout (256) – most Citations since 1982.

The poor showing by offshore fisheries is illustrated by the following statistics: the lowest number of white marlin entries (103) since 1967, when only 36 were registered; the lowest number of sailfish entries (1) ever, tying 1981 and 1996; the year-to-year decline in dolphin entries (56) from 506 – a 89% decrease; the decline in yellowfin tuna awards (6) from 298 – a 98% decrease; and the decline in blue marlin entries (23) from 123 – an 81% decrease.

Four new state records were established during 2003. On June 6th Eddie Surratt of Julian, NC captured a 357-pound bluefin tuna off Virginia Beach. This record was topped twice by fish caught at the Fingers off Virginia Beach, first on November 5th by James C. Wright of Virginia Beach with a 393-pound bluefin and again on November 11th by E. K. Morrison of Nags Head, NC with a bluefin weighing 398 lb. 8 oz. On August 11th Melvin Bray of Dumfries set the state record for bigeye tuna with a 285 lb., 12 oz. fish caught at the Norfolk Canyon.

Seventy-five anglers registered at least six different species of fish for Citation awards and qualified as Virginia Expert Saltwater Anglers. This is the largest number to qualify since this program began in 1996, topping the sixty-one qualifiers in 2001. A list of the anglers earning these awards and their catches is attached.

The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is operated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission with funding provided by the Virginia Saltwater Recreational Fishing License. Awards are made to anglers catching fish meeting established weight criteria in 23 species. In addition, awards for the catch and release of fish are available in 18 species.

Citation awards are full color certificates delivered at the recipient’s choice as a plaque or in a plastic album page. Special awards are presented to anglers meeting the eligibility requirements of the Master Angler and Expert Angler programs.

For more information, contact Claude Bain, Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, 968 S. Oriole Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, (757) 491-5160, [email protected].
 

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Thanks Rob, very interesting. It's good to know some folks caught nice fish.
 
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