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December in Tidewater means it is prime time to target Striped Bass.  Striped Bass this time of year range from small schoolies that are usually between 18 and 26 inches all the way up to monster cows over 40 lbs.  The last two weekends my Dad and I have targeted schoolies at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.  This is a night fishery where the fish will often be in or near the light line created by the lights from the bridge.  Tide and current are critical as the stripers are targeting baitfish caught in the current. I have caught fish on both the incoming and outgoing tide, but this year the incoming is definitely better.
This fishery is awesome for light tackle and fly fishing.  For conventional tackle I use my Curado 200 or my Saros 1000, both are on light action Teramar rods.  Jigs and plugs both work, but so far this year I have had my best luck with soft swim baits in both dark and light colors (one night they want dark, the next they only hit white.)  Last week the hot lure was a Zoom Super Fluke that glows.  Just charge the bait with your headlamp and it glows for a few minutes.
Cast the bait up current and jig it back.  Last night the fish were eating small
menhaden and the trick was just matching the lure to the bait.  You can see how the swim baits resemble a bait fish we pulled out of a fish we were cleaning. 

Swim Baits Compared to Actual Baitfish

Jigging the bait with the current the fish usually hit on the fall and they hit like a freight train.  My Dad and I picked up about 30 fish last night using this method.  The fish were all between 18-25 inches.  We kept our 2 fish per person limit for a fresh fish dinner. For fly tackle I use my 8wt with a sinking line.  Stripers don’t seem to care about leaders, so I use a strait piece on fluorocarbon anywhere from 15-20lb.  For flies I use clousers, deceivers or any baitfish pattern that looks like the local baitfish.

This fishing is a blast, but you are fishing at night in cold weather so you have to be very careful.  Good lights and proper clothing are mandatory and we keep a very close watch on the weather.    Make sure you always fish with a partner and leave a float plan with someone.  My Dad has a free app for his iphone (Float Plan) that generates a float plan e-mail. The current runs strong at its peak and you need to be a pretty good paddler to work around the bridge and fight the current.  My Cuda got some battle scars last night as fish drug me through the bridge and I bashed off a couple pilings.

Striper season in the Chesapeake Bay closes on January 1st, but you can still have a great night of catch and release fishing until the fish leave.  The fish tend to stay in the area as long as the water temperature stays in the 40’s.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and great fishing in the New Year.