Live eels are very effective live baits for catching striped bass (rockfish). Eels are usually hooked thru the lips or eye sockets and fished on a Carolina style leader, with a no weight or with an egg sinker above the leader. Circle hooks are the preferred hook style as eels tend to be swallowed by striped bass.
Detecting a bite takes a little time to learn as fish sometimes inhale eels without moving much. When movement is felt on the line, a firm steady retrieve may be all that’s needed. Hard snatching is likely to result in lost fish as circle hooks require that line pressure be applied at a steady rate in order to hook set to occur.
Live eels are usually allowed to drift along bridge pilings, wrecks, jetty rocks, rips, drop offs or channel edges where large fish tend to congregate. Most full service tackle shops in Virginia offer live eels during the fall and early winter. Eels remain will remain live for long periods of time if kept cold and wet, but not submerged in water. Do not allow eels to directly contact ice as it may kill them. A good setup is to add ice to a cardboard box and then cover it with damp newspapers. Eels are then laid on top. When properly stored in a bait cooler, chilled eels may live for several days. A rag or handful of sand will help control live eels while rigging them.