Anglers registered 5,040 trophy-size fish for citation awards during the 57th Annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament that ran from January 1st through December 31st 2014.
This was slightly below the 10-year average (2004-2013) of 5,219 citations and represents an 18% reduction in citation numbers from 2013.
Speckled trout accounted for the greatest number of citations among the 35 eligible species in 2014 with a total of 1,476 awards with 1,034 (70%) releases and 441 (30%) kills.
The 2014 fishing season accounted for the Tournament’s second highest total for speckled trout; the 2013 total was the highest in Tournament history at 1,874.
In 2014, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission closed the recreational speckled trout fishery from March 1 through July 31 following concerns raised by recreational anglers as a result of a winter cold stun event of large speckled trout in late January and early February 2013.
Offshore anglers registered 928 white marlin releases in 2014, the fourth highest total in Tournament history. However, following the record-setting year in 2013, when 1,339 white marlin releases registered, 2014 represented a reduction of 21%.
Overall in 2014, white marlin accounted for the second most Citations and just over 18% of all Citations registered for the year. This continued a trend of well above average numbers of white marlin that began in 2008. White marlin are only eligible for release.
Red drum accounted for the third highest number of citations in 2014 and represented 18% of the year’s total number.
The 925 red drum Citations in 2014 was a moderate reduction from the record setting year of 2013, when 995 trophy reds were registered, but still ranks as the second most productive year in the Program’s history. Red drum Citations became “release only” in 2000.
Shark citation numbers topped 100 for the first time since 1989, even though only releases are offered.
Cobia citation numbers were up again in 2014, as anglers report fish in the 30 to 45-pound range were reasonably abundant.
Low numbers of striped bass citations reflected poor fishing in Virginia’s coastal waters during the months of December, January and February.
Flounder citation numbers remain at a historically low level although anglers did report more “keepers” were available in 2014.
Spot meeting the minimum qualifying weight of 16 ounces have been very rare since 2006 and this trend continued in 2014.
One gray trout citation was registered in 2014. A depressed trend in trophy-sized trout has been evident since 2007.
Spadefish and croaker citations were scarce in 2014.
The Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament is operated by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission with funding provided by the Virginia Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Fund.
Awards are made to anglers catching fish meeting established weight criteria in 26 species while an additional 10 species meeting established length criteria are only available for release awards for a total of 36 species eligible for Citation recognition.
For more information, visit www.mrc.virginia.gov.
source: Virginia Marine Resources Commission