HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A federal order to stop fishing in June has Virginia anglers on alert. Last month, the group controlling South Atlantic fisheries declared they would end Cobia fishing season on June 20 along the east coast.
According to the commissioner of the VMRC this issue puts the commission between a rock and a hard place. Go through with the closure, it’ll hurt the charter fishing industry; or risk losing cobia fishing altogether,
A little over four years ago, Randy Richardson took over Wallace’s Bait and Tackle shop in Hampton.
“I enjoy fishing I enjoy dealing with the public it has its ups and downs,” Richardson smiled.
Those ups and downs ride on the back of the Cobia. A popular sport fish that Richardson said between bait, gas, and other sales makes up more than 50 percent of his business.
“Last year it was a big part of our business, it got us to carry us through the winter months,” he explained. “I mean we bank what we can and the winter months we set here and watch.”
According to the VMRC, last year, Virginia anglers out fished cobia by more than two times what the entire east coast did.
Now a federal mandate demands that the season close on June 20 everywhere.
“It’s a hard hit, it’s a smack in the face,” Richardson sighed.
Around 10 percent the Cobia fishermen in Virginia usually fish is done by the deadline. Richardson along with charter fisherman like Mike Avery said this latest blow is devastating.
“Many of the charter captains over the years just cumulatively have just gotten out of the business because it’s just hard to make a living at it anymore,” Avery said.
Later this month the VMRC will decide whether or not to follow the mandate. But, the commissioner of the VMRC warned that if they do not comply, the federal government could take over the Cobia fisheries in Virginia and that would mean possibly no Cobia fishing at all next year.
At Wallace’s Bait and Tackle shop the owner fears the worst for his next year.
“We are gonna have to find another avenue of trying income to get us through the slow months,” Richardson said. “We are staying here, we are gonna punch through it.”
The VMRC commissioner said they are trying to negotiate a longer season for Virginia. Whether that means changing the size regulations or limiting the number caught.