Our cobia regulations for 2016 have been established for the 2016 fishing year effective June 1, 2016. VSSA has been working on cobia since October and the fight is far from over. VSSA has attended many meetings, conducted polls, reached out to members, listened to angler concerns, but at the end of the day it came down to a vote by our VMRC Associate Commissioners. Dr. Ken Neill, one of the Associate Commissioners, was very vocal about keeping our season open and although nobody is completely happy with the results, it is better than a closure. Thanks Dr. Neill for your efforts to influence the other board members.
Here are our new regulations effective June 1st. (note: use the official VMRC site for fishing regulations before heading out).
- 1 cobia per angler 40 inches or greater total length.
- Maximum of 2 cobia per vessel for all vessels, private, charter, and inspected vessels (head boats).
- Only 1 of the 2 fish may be over 50 inches. (note you can have 2 fish between 40 and 50 inches)
- Pier and surf fisherman 1 fish per person 40 inches or better.
- Gaffing of cobia is prohibited.
- Federal waters close June 20 (3 – 200 miles out from shore). The Chesapeake Bay is all State waters, not Federal waters.
- Catch and release remains open and unlimited. Release citation may still be registered all year.
- Season closes August 30.
- Landing permits will be required for everyone that comes with mandatory reporting. If you fail to report or submit did not fish reports you risk not getting a permit the following year. If you don’t have a cobia permit and land a cobia while targeting other species (like flounder) you must obtain one online (for free) before bringing that cobia home.
VSSA will continue to be directly involved in the cobia issue as next up is the amendment for the cobia FMP that will affect our 2017 season. We must pay close attention to this so Virginia is represented.
Here is the article from the Pilot Online.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday voted 5-4 to keep the state’s cobia season open until Aug. 30, but not without several drastic changes in regulation.
After an outcry from anglers over a South Atlantic Marine Fishery Council order to close the fishery from Georgia to New York on June 20, state agencies had sought a compromise that would keep fishing open . Federal fisheries managers had requested that states adopt the closure after catches of the popular species spiked well over the Allowable Catch Limit last year.
North Carolina last week opted to keep its season open until Sept. 30, but with several regulations that angered recreational fishermen – including only being able to keep fish Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. Charter and pier anglers can keep fish seven days a week.
Virginia’s new regulations, which will go into effect June 1, were met with mixed emotions.
In Virginia waters inside of 3 miles from the coast, anglers will have a one-fish-per-person limit, up to a two-fish maximum per boat. Fish must be at least 40 inches long and only one can top 50 inches. Gaffing no longer will be permitted in an effort to lower fish mortality for catch-and-release action. Some form of mandatory reporting will be put in place.
“This is a conservation measure to keep our economy going and give our anglers time and give the feds time to fix their mess,” said Commissioner Ken Neill, Virginia’s representative to the International Game Fish Association. “This is much more restrictive than we’ve ever fished.”
The catching of cobia will not be permitted in federal waters 3 miles and out off either state after June 20.
A closure on June 20 in state waters would have affected the Virginia economy, anglers and several commissioners argued.
“I would have been more satisfied with a three-fish limit,” said Capt. Jorj Head, a teacher who spends the season taking charters out for cobia. “I can live with it for this season, but I wouldn’t use the word happy. It is better than a closure.”
Jonathan French from Northern Virginia put in an extensive research effort to fight the closure in both states, finding information that the SAMFC closure had violated at least two standards in the Magnuson Stevens Act designed to protect fisheries and user groups.
“I have a problem that Virginia chose a shorter season and less limits than North Carolina,” he said. “And I was disgusted that some of the members (of the VRMC) didn’t do any research on this before the meeting even though I provided them with everything. It’s unjust when you acknowledge that federal laws were violated when determining the June 20 closure.
“When you look at the charters that have more than two customers, it’s going to have an impact.”
John Bull, head of the VMRC, said he was nervous about defying the SAMFC call for closure on June 20, but said he believes the commission took a good path.
“I think the commission took prudent and deliberate action after four hours of discussion and information gathering,” Bull said. “This was a very difficult decision for an important fishery. It’s hard to assess what the long-term ramifications will be.
“No one has a crystal ball for stuff like this.”
Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @LeeTolliver on Twitter.