Although the warm Gulf Stream passes Virginia well offshore, the cold water Labrador Current flows in a Southerly direction toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These opposing currents create a mixed ecosystem that marks the Southernmost portion of the range for cold water species and the Northernmost boundary for sub tropical species. Because of these environmental factors, Virginia’s Atlantic Offshore is a haven for pelagic species like marlin, dolphin fish (mahi-mahi), tunas and wahoo.
The Gulf Stream far offshore spins off eddies of warm ‘blue water’ where these prized trophy fish hang out. Sometimes these eddies come within 10 miles of the beach but there are more often found 30 or more nautical miles offshore. In addition to these semi-tropical Gulf Stream eddies, there are offshore deep water wrecks that hold fish. The offshore crown jewel is Norfolk Canyon, a huge underwater structure with steep cliffs, thermoclines and currents that attract and hold prey species the larger fish dine upon.
While the canyon Gulf Stream eddies attract yellowfin and bigeye tuna and marlin, the wrecks a bit closer to shore tempt bluefin tuna like the one pictured below.
Clumps of sargassum from the Sargasso Sea often appear at he edges where water from opposing currents or different temperatures meet. These ‘weed lines’ hold bait that attracts dolphin fish and wahoo as well as the occasional marlin.
Virginia’s offshore waters are truly a miracle of life. Professional captains know these offshore structures and keep track of the current patterns forming the Gulf Stream eddies. They can put you on the fish!