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Now could be the time to focus on the “Fish of a Lifetime” in Virginia

  • FISH

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (WFXR) — The fish of a lifetime. All of us dream about it. Only a few of us ever get the prospect to expertise it.

In case you ever wished to catch the striped bass of a lifetime, now could be the time to do it, and Virginia’s portion of the decrease Chesapeake Bay is the place.

Yearly from December to February, enormous Atlantic striped bass, or rockfish as they’re additionally identified, make the flip from the ocean into the Chesapeake Bay. They arrive to the bay to winter out and to feed earlier than heading to Chesapeake tributaries within the spring to spawn.

“Striped bass are one of the iconic species of gamefish alongside the Atlantic seaboard,” mentioned Virginia Division of Wildlife Assets (DWR) Aquatic Training Coordinator Alex McCrickard throughout a late December fishing journey out of Cape Charles. “These fish are right here now placing on weight preparing for the spawn.”

As a result of these giant, trophy-sized fish are actively feeding, this makes it the most effective time of yr to focus on them.

“I hear it each journey, each time, undoubtedly the fish of a lifetime,” mentioned Captain Johnny Mathena of Patriot Fishing Charters. “It is catch and launch, however so that you can see that fish, the primary time you see that fish, it simply takes your breath away.”

Mathena guides for stripers on Smith Mountain Lake from March to November, however as soon as the climate turns colder he shifts his base of operations to Cape Charles to benefit from the Atlantic striped bass migration.

“Fifty pounders are widespread, even larger,” mentioned Mathena as he captained his boat on a peaceful late December day on the Chesapeake.

Mathena and First Mate Marty Riddlebarger have been trolling eight rods, every baited with a stay eel.

“The massive rock love the eels,” mentioned Riddlebarger.

Alex McCrickard battles with a trophy striped bass on the decrease Chesapeake Bay (Photograph: George Noleff)

It was not lengthy earlier than the drag on one of many reels was screaming. We have been connected, “tight,” because the captains on the decrease bay wish to name it. McCrickard grabbed the rod. He’d be the primary to take a crack at boating an enormous.

“That is rowdy,” McCrickard exclaimed as the massive fish peeled line off the reel because it went on a long term.

McCrickard and the fish battled forwards and backwards for almost half-hour.

“Are your arms burning, but?” requested Captain Mathena.

“This factor is large, I’ve to let my arm breathe for a second,” replied McCrickard as he briefly let go of the rod together with his left hand, and shook it at his aspect.

After a number of extra drag-testing runs, the fish was lastly close to the boat. Due to its dimension, netting it might show to be a problem, however First Mate Riddlebarger was lastly capable of sweep the large striper into the web.

Alex McCrickard will get recommendation from First Mate Marty Riddlebarger whereas reeling in a trophy striped bass (Photograph: George Noleff)

“Holy smokes!” mentioned an exhausted McCrickard. “I am speechless, simply take a look at the scale of that fish!”

Now, it was time to maneuver quick. This can be a catch and launch fishery. The fish must be dealt with with moist arms to guard the slime layer that truly protects the fish from parasites and infections.

The circle hook, legally required as a result of they do minimal harm to fish, needed to be eliminated.

Then the fish was measured and weighed: “56 kilos,” mentioned Mathena.

The tape confirmed the fish was 53 inches lengthy.

Then it was time for a fast picture, earlier than the fish was tagged so it may be tracked for conservation analysis, after which returned to the water. The striper entered the Chesapeake with a loud splash and shortly swam away.

There are issues about striped bass populations, so catch and launch fishing, and protected fish dealing with practices are important to assist restore the species and to assist it thrive.

“The leisure launch mortality of striped bass is definitely 9%,” mentioned McCrickard, who needs to see that mortality charge drop. “Catch and launch and greatest practices are actually important for anglers to embrace to advertise conservation of the useful resource.”

Here’s what anglers can do to assist:

  • Follow catch and launch
  • Use non-offset, corrodible circle hooks
  • Use sort out applicable to the goal species to attenuate the period of time combating the fish
  • Use a internet giant sufficient to land/boat the fish
  • All the time deal with the fish with moist arms to guard the fish’s slime coating

One other manner striper numbers are being protected is by tagging them to allow them to be tracked and their actions studied. Captain Mathena is certainly one of a number of Virginia captains who’s a part of a program run by Grey Fish Tag Analysis to tag and monitor striped bass.

“It is a non-profit, they work with captains and fishermen everywhere in the world,” Mathena mentioned. “It is a good program to assist the fish.”

A inexperienced tag is positioned in a striped bass by Captain Johnny Mathena

On at the present time, six fish hit and 4 have been boated. The most important went 56 kilos, the smallest weighed in at 35 kilos. All have been launched alive and wholesome.

Mathena summed it up: “It is nice to have the ability to come out right here to catch a 55, 60 pound striper, tag it, launch it, and watch it swim again out for any individual to catch subsequent yr.”

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