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Hurricane Bertha Should Make for Good Surfing

July 13, 2008

By Lee Tolliver, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jul. 13–While many Mid-Atlantic residents are thankful Hurricane Bertha veered away from the U.S. coast, surfers are doubly so.

Surfers have been swarming the Outer Banks, hoping to ride the hurricane season’s first big swells.

Bertha’s passing east of Bermuda diminished the chances of huge surf, but it has and will for the next few days continue to push in a better-than-average ground swell.

“For early July, we’ll take it,” said Wes Laine, a Virginia Beach surfing company sales representative, who at one time was one of the top 10 surfers in the world. “It’s been looking formidable.”

Laine is at the Outer Banks getting in on the action.

Bertha strengthened slightly and her forward progress slowed late last week. That added to the possibility that good surf could be around for several days.

“It’s best when a storm passes between the coast and Bermuda, but we’ll definitely take it,” Laine said Thursday. “Surfers are on the same page as boaters, fishermen and home owners. It’s best for everybody that it doesn’t ever come ashore.

“But, as surfers, it’s best when it comes as close as possible without causing any damage.”

Laine said Bertha also is helping this weekend’s Reef Pro Am at Wrightsville Beach. A contest being held away from the Outer Banks also helps reduce what can be an enormous crowd around Hatteras.

Laine said surfers will be migrating to an area called Ferry Signs just south of the Bonner Bridge leading onto Hatteras Island. Good breaks continue south, Laine said, all the way to Buxton.

Virginia Beach surfers not willing to travel south also can expect larger-than-normal swells at the First Street Jetty.

“Oh yeah, it’s going to be fun everywhere,” Laine said. “Summer typically isn’t great because of southwest winds. So when a storm is off the coast and pumping in some energy, it’s always good.”

Kayak fishing

There appears to be no end to what anglers fishing from kayaks are willing to do.

Virginia Beach kayakers Ric Burnley, Matt Shepard and Mike Basnite each recently fought amberjack at the South Tower — which sits off the coast of North Carolina some 60 miles southeast of Virginia Beach’s Rudee Inlet.

The three didn’t paddle all the way there and back. They used a mother ship in the form of Ken Neill’s boat to cart the three kayaks to the tower.

There, the anglers dumped their vessels, got in and began casting for one of angling’s toughest-fighting species.

“We didn’t catch any real giants, but it sure was fun,” Burnley said.

Burnley said the trio picked a perfect day to try for amberjack. The tower has been swarming with them, and on this particular day, seas were calm and the fish were away from the tower as much as 200 yards.

Trouble is, the anglers were almost powerless to keep fish from going where they wanted. Anglers in a powered boat stand a much better chance of keeping fish out of structure.

“We became part of the drag,” Burnley said. “These fish would turn and drag us back to the tower, then for some reason turn away and head away from the tower. They get you in the tower and you don’t have a chance.

“But the way it worked out, we were able to fight the fish with lighter tackle and we actually were able to kick their rear ends a little faster because the drag on the reels and us acting like more drag, I think, confused them.”

Burnley said he was flipped out of his vessel when an amberjack nailed a bucktail jig he had dangling in the water.

“He came up and slammed my jig,” Burnley said. “And my boat was a little less stable because I had a hole in it that had allowed about five gallons of water to get in. I’m just glad I didn’t lose the rod and reel.”

Burnley said he and his friends are planning a more adventurous trip.

“Dolphin, marlin and tuna,” Burnley said. “We’re hoping to do it this year and we’re working on the plans.

“We won’t be able to troll for them, so it will have to be live-baiting. But it can be done.”

Important meeting

The NOAA Fisheries Service is seeking to create in 2009 a national database of anglers that would meet federal requirements to improve the quality and accuracy of recreational angling data.

To do so, NOAA is seeking to require that all recreational anglers register with the organization. In the future, it will cost to be registered.

Anglers in states like Virginia and North Carolina that have saltwater fishing licenses can be exempt from registering if their state’s license program meets certain guidelines.

For Virginia’s program to qualify, it appears that several changes like eliminating blanket licenses for piers and boats might have to be made.

So the Virginia Recreational Fishing Advisory Board will discuss possible changes and how they would come about at a special workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s fourth floor board room at 2600 Washington Ave., in Newport News. The meeting is closed to the public, except for groups and anglers who pre-registered.

The advisory board will follow with its regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting to discuss disbursements from the Virginia Saltwater Recreational Fishing Development Fund.

For more information, contact Sonya Davis by e-mail at: sonya.davis@mrc.virginia.gov

Record approved

A 46-pound, 2-ounce yellowedge grouper caught March 12 by Norfolk angler Heath Cataulin has been approved as the International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record.

Cataulin was fishing aboard the Rudee Angler headboat captained by Skip Feller. The boat was fishing along the edge of the Norfolk Canyon when the fish hit a piece of squid bait. The ensuing fight took approximately 15 minutes.

Upcoming

– The Norfolk Angler’s Club will hold its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Martin’s Family Restaurant, 331 East Bayview Blvd., in Norfolk. NOAA weather warning coordinator Bill Sammler will speak. Information:

www.norfolkanglersclub.com.

– The 5th annual Dare County Boat Builders Challenge offshore tournament will be held Thursday through Sunday out of Pirate’s Cove Marina in Manteo on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Last year teams from Dare County, Virginia Beach, Morehead City and Ocean City competed for more than $57,000 in cast prize. In addition, nearly $30,000 was raised for the Dare County Boat Builders Foundation. Basic registration is $2,000. To register in all division levels, the cost is $5,000. Information: (252) 473-1015.

– Cobb’s Marina and the Tidewater Angler’s Club will hold their annual flounder tournament from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 out of Cobb’s Marina inside Little Creek Inlet and Long Bay Pointe Marina inside Lynnhaven. Registration is $40 per team and the event is limited to 50 boats. The team with the heaviest five-fish stringer will win $300, with second place taking $200 and third $100. An additional $10 per angler will enter competitors in the big fish contest. Last year’s biggest fish was worth $830. Food and drinks will be provided during weigh-ins. Information: Cobb’s Marina (757) 588-5401 or Long Bay Pointe Marina (757) 481-7517.

– The Fishing for a Cure flounder tournament will be held Aug. 8 and 9 out of Little Creek Marina inside Little Creek Inlet and Long Bay Pointe Marina inside Lynnhaven. Registration is $100 for a team of up to four anglers. There is an optional $50 Calcutta division. The team with the heaviest combined three flatfish will win $1,000, with $600 going to second and $400 to third. Information: www.hamptonroadsregatta.org

Lee Tolliver, (757) 222-5844 or lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

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