“Striped bass fishing has been really good,” reports Captain Kenny Louderback of Fish Freaks Guide Service out of Cape Charles, Virginia. Louderback has been slow trolling live eels for trophy striped bass along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. “Our average fish are between 44 and 52 inches.”
After January 1, striped bass season is closed, but catch and release fishing is allowed.
Louderback says the fishing is getting better as the water temperature drops. “We were running all the way to the Banana Hole,” Louderback says, referring to the striper hotspot near the Maryland and Virginia state line. He expects the striped bass to amass closer to Cape Charles and the mouth of the bay by early January.
Louderback blames the warm water temperature for the late migration. “It took forever for the water to drop below 50 degrees,” he says. As the water drops through the upper ’40s, the fish will move south. The good news is this may extend the striper bite through January. “They’re getting really aggressive, too,” Louerback adds.
To catch striped bass, Louderback slow trolls live eels over deep channels and shallow shoals in the lower Chesapeake Bay. He fishes up to 10 rods with some lines set deep and others fished closer to the surface. To space out his trolling lines, Louderback uses planer boards.
Louderback starts with a seven-foot medium heavy boat rod matched to a 20-pound conventional reel. The reel is spooled with 30 pound monofilament ending in a snap swivel.
Then, he ties an 8/0 inline circle hook to three feet of 50 pound fluorocarbon and adds a snap swivel on the free end.
He clips a trolling sinker between the snap swivels. For the shallow lines, he uses two ounces. The deeper lines he adds six to eight ounces.
“When he’s going downcurrent, he drops the lines back 20 feet and when he trolls into the current he drops the lines back 30 feet.
Louderback slow trolls at two knots over humps, drops and deep channels. He likes to use a zig-zag trolling pattern. “When the boat turns, the inside baits drop and I often get a bite.”
When one of his lines comes tight, Louderback lets the fish run until it steadily pulls drag. “That way I know the fish has the bait in its mouth,” he explains.
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Louderback stresses good release protocols with trophy striped bass. “I can’t stand to see people take the fish out of the water for photos then throw it overboard,” he says. Instead, the captain suggests reviving the fish boatside until it swims on its own. “When I feel the fish biting down on my thumb, I know it’s ready to go,” he says.
On a recent half-day trip, Louderback got six bites and boated five big striped bass. He says he’s been averaging three to five bites per trip. “The fishing is getting better,” he says. Louderback expects the striped bass fishing to continue into the New Year.