Trophy Stripers, an Outline for Success

Introduction:
1) Big Stripers: big is a relative term, for us it means citation size, 42 inches released or 40 pounds and larger.
2) You must decide whether to just catch fish and hope for a big one or to target big fish and accept that you will catch fewer fish.

When:
1) The optimum temperature for striped bass is supposed to be 55-68 degrees. Not for us, for big fish in our area: 40-55 degrees, 44-50 degrees is best.
2) We have a small window of opportunity to target big fish in our area.

  1. Late October through January, February if you run south far enough. Best late November through mid-January. If I had to pick one week it would be the Christmas through New Year’s time period.
  1. End of February-early March stripers start to move towards the spawning grounds. You have a brief shot before they get into the bay or head up the coast.

Where:
1) Early (Oct.-mid-Nov.): Best bet is the CBBT at night.
2) Middle (mid-Nov.-Dec.)
a) CBBT at night.
b) Eastern shore of the bay: deep water from the Concrete Ships up to the Cell, Baltimore Channel on up the bay, Cut Channel, R2.
c) Don’t forget the ocean: 4A Buoy, up and down the coast.
3) Late (Jan.-Feb.): Ocean out 3nm, think further south as the water gets colder.
4) Look for bait: Think big bait for big stripers. Diving gannets are better than gulls. Use your fish finder.

How:
1) CBBT at night.

  1. Live eels.
  2. Rigged eels.

2) Open Water

  1. a) Most of the time big fish will be deeper.
  1. Striped Bass feed on everything but at times can lock in on one type of bait.
  2. Stripers have great vision, day or night, but they are near sighted.
  3. They have a great sense of smell: chumming/chunking and live bait are effective.
  1. Lure Colors: You can “match the hatch” or go for more visible colors.
  2. Red is least visible, fluorescent chartreuse is the most visible.
  3. Troll a variety of baits, colors, and depths to find what works best.
  4. We want big fish so we troll big baits: spoons, plugs (Stretch 30&50), jigs, and eels.

End Game:

1) Be prepared for big fish: have a plan.
2) Have a BIG net, gaffing stripers is illegal.
3) In general, we will leave the boat in gear but with a really big fish you may have to put the boat in neutral.

How to Rig an Eel:

1) Freeze eel to kill it.
2) Thaw eel.
3) Choose hook based on eel size.
4) Crimp hook to leader.
5) Crimp a swivel to the other end of the leader; adjust leader length so the end of the swivel will just stick out the eel’s mouth.
6) Run rigging needle from anal opening out through the eel’s mouth.
7) Sew mouth shut around swivel.
8) Run hook of tin squid head up through the lower jaw and out the upper.
9) Attach swivel to tin squid head with leader material.

General Tips:

1) Join your local fishing club, it is a great source of information.
2) Listen to the VHF: channel 68, scan others.
3) Use the Internet.

  • Tidalfish.com
  • www.pswsfa.com : Most of this material along with a pictorial on rigging eels.

4) Support the resource: join groups like the CCA and the RFA.

About us

Dr. Kennedy Neill is a dentist practicing in Yorktown, Va. He has earned Virginia’s Expert and Master Angler Awards in both fresh and salt water. He is also a Master Angler of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. He has won many fishing awards including awards for catching the most citation striped bass in the state in 1999 and in 2000.

Captain Richard Bartlett is a full-time charter boat captain who fishes the inshore and offshore waters of Virginia and North Carolina. He has earned Virginia’s saltwater Expert and Master Angler Awards. In 2000, he won the Angler of the Year Award of the Peninsula Salt Water Sport Fisherman’s Association. He can be reached at (757) 876-5376.

Both are avid trophy fish hunters and they have won thousands of dollars fishing various striped bass tournaments including wins at the 250 boat, CCA-Deltaville Tournament in 1998 and 1999.

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