Slow down for stripers on the Albemarle Sound

Capt. Scooter Lilley likes how aggressive stripers are during December in the Albemarle Sound.

December’s stripers are aggressive

The 2022 fall striped bass season on the Albemarle Sound opened Nov. 1 and will run through Dec. 31, or when the quota has been reached. And that’s not bad considering the NCDMF announced earlier this fall that the fishery would not open at all.

One thing that won’t change for Capt. Scooter Lilley of CWW Charters (252-799-9536) is how he will fish for stripers here this time of year.

“We use 3/8-ounce HeadlockZ jigheads, made by Z-Man, with a 6-inch Z-Man SwimmerZ soft plastic. We’ll fish the break lines in a little bit deeper water in the sound, using our electronics to find schools of bait and stripers,” he said.

He’ll start off fan casting his lures, letting the lures sink for several seconds before beginning to work them back to the boat. And he does that very slowly.

“You just want to slow wind it back. That bait’s got a lot of action, it just moves back and forth. And you want to let it sink to the bottom, then just slowly work it back,” he said.

If the fishing is slow, Lilley uses his Lowrance electronics in conjunction with his Panoptix unit, which shows whatever is present in real time.

“When I pull up to a point, I’ll drop that Panoptix down. And it, along with my Lowrance, the fish just can’t hide from that. And usually, when you find them, you can catch them,” he said.

And when you find them, Lilley said the action can be fast and furious.

These stripers are coming in from the open ocean, preparing to make their annual runs up the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. They’ll stage up in the sound until their biological clocks tell them its time to head upriver. Over his many years of guiding, Lilley has identified numerous spots the fish feed during this trek.

When one school stops biting, Lilley moves on, watching his electronics closely.

“I’ll watch my screen and see the fish when they’re 40 or 50 feet ahead of us. Then I’ll just ease into casting range. Make a good cast, let it sink, because these fish are all along the bottom. Sometimes they’ll hit it before you even turn the reel handle once,” he said.

These fish are aggressive this time of year, so when they hit, you’ll know it, said Lilley. He catches a lot of them in the 18- to 25-inch range.

“They’ll really thump it. They’ll hit it so hard you’ll forget how cold it is,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2359 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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