my fishing cape cod logo

Top 10 Live Eel Tips

A lot goes into catching big striped bass with live eels.  From handling eels to setting the hook, there is plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong.  Check out this list for helpful live eel fishing tips that may help you put more big bass in the boat or onto the sand during 2012.

striped bass fishing techniques

This 25 pound striper engulfed two eels fished by two anglers during the 2011 season.

1.  It's possible to keep over 5 pounds of eels alive for weeks in a circular bait tank filled with 1 inch of fresh water.  1 inch of fresh water keeps the eels wet and slimy, while allowing them to easily take gulps of air.  Change the water every other day or so to keep it clean.


2.  Dry rags work best for gripping eels but dry sand works just as well if you leave the rag back in the truck.


3.  When trolling or casting eels, try hooking the eel directly through the skull as opposed to through the eye.  A hook through the skull will be less likely to tear through the eel.


4.  Bass will leave sandpaper marks with their teeth on an eel's body when they chomp down.  If you think you may have gotten a hit or bump, check the eel for sandpaper scratches to verify that it was indeed a hit from a striper.


5.  Finicky bass will often times drop an eel if they feel the weight of a sinker.  Try to not use weight unless you have to.  In windy conditions use the biggest, strongest eel in the bucket to reach bass that are holding deep instead of adding weight to the line.


6.  Leadcore line works well when trolling live or dead eels.  However you'll be in for a frustrating experience if you don't add a stinger hook.


7.  A lot of pressure is exerted on a stinger hook while fighting a bass.  Therefore replace the mono stinger hook connection often and whenever it develops fray.


8.  When fighting a bass caught on an eel, always be aware that the hook could pop out of the bass and come flying back towards your face.  During the end game, try to not exert much pressure on the bass to minimize the chances of taking a hook to the face.


9.  Keeping eel's on ice is a great way to make the bait easier to handle.  If you leave the eels on ice for an extended period of time they may appear to have died.  Don't be fooled, they'll often thaw out after a few minutes and return to life.


10.  Small eels usually work better for trolling, as it's more likely that the bass will find either the head hook or the stinger hook.

by Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins grew up on the beach, and has been fishing since he was 5. Ryan has great family, friends and fishing experiences to be grateful for. Just being there is enough...catching a few fish is always a bonus!

  1. Ryan,
    Thanks for the tips!

    The cooler I’ve used is probably a 50gal. and I have two or three aerators in there. I think that I’m overloading the system because there may be as many as 150 eels in there at the start of a trip. What would you think the max. is for that setup?

    For a quick trip I want to try this with a 5 gal. bucket and an aerator. How may snakes do you think will be comfortable in there?


    1. Hi Matt,

      No problem. I do think you may be overloading your system with too many eels. I would try cutting that number in half. You definitely need super good aeration to keep that many eels happy and healthy.

      For quick trips with up to 50 eels I will use my live well, but just fill it with .5 inch to 1 inch of water. The eels slide around in the live well, nice and moist, but gulp air. This way I don’t have to worry about keeping the water oxygenated.

      When I get home I deposit any eels I did not use into my large 55 gallon (could actually be a bit more than that) tank. I keep 2 aerators running on this tank at all times, and change the water every few days. Max capacity is 100 eels, however I like to keep it well under that.

      Hope that helps and gluck!


  2. I’ve never heard you can store eels in an inch of water for weeks. Can you give some more details on this? Does it have to be cool, how big of a circular bait container do you use? etc.

    I’ve been storing them in an aerated cooler full of water and changing the water 3-4 times a day. Even doing this, the eels seem to last a week at best.


    1. Hi Matt,

      I think to be safe (like if you were going to leave for vacation) keeping the eels in a large aerated tank would be best. I kept around 8 pounds of eels alive last fall for well over one month in a large aerated tank – had to change the water at least once per week. I’d say the tank holds around 55 gallons of water.

      When I used to store the eels in an inch of water, I would also include aeration. So I’d have the bubbles going 24/7, but only fill the tank with a half inch to an inch of water – just to keep them wet. The eels would take a gulp of air while also hanging out around the bubbles – they seemed happy.

      I’d still change the water every day or so, depending on how many eels are in the tank. They seemed to last pretty well using this method.

      Something worth trying at the least. It seems like you are putting in a lot of energy to keep your snakes alive and kicking.

      How big is the cooler you are using, and how many eels do you normally have in there?


  3. Thanks Dave!

    Sounds like you had a pretty good end to your 2012 season. Those are some nice fish. 7/0 circle hooks is usually what I go with. If we are into real big fish I’ll toss on an 8/0.

    I usually let the bass run for 3 or 4 seconds and then just tighten up on him using the circles. I more or less let the bass set the hook himself. The rubber cores you are using sound right to me.

    I think in the Canal 65# power pro and 80 lb leader is not out of the question. It’s heavier than what I use but hey, if you hook a 60 pounder with the current running full steam you’ll be happy to have it.

    Spring will be here soon.

  4. Great info about live eeling! I ended the season last year live eeling and it paid off big time. 24,25 and 28 lb ditch hippo 3 days in a row! I was using 7/0 circle hooks with great success but people I was fishing kept pulling hook right of the mouth. Is it true to just keep a steady retrieve once they are hooked and not “set the hook”? I also was using 1/2 oz and 3/4 rubber cores to get on bottom… Does that sound right? 65# pp with a 80lb mono leader.. Any insight would be great! Thanks, Dave

    Can’t wait to catch me some 12″ baby hippos! Warm me up for their mommas 🙂

  5. Hi Ryan,

    Lots of great information on your website. Thank you.
    I have two questions:
    I am using a Garmin 441S GPS/Fishfinder to mark fish. Unfortunately, it displays fish symbols rather than actual blue/orange lines on the screen for under water objects. It does display the depth of the fish also when diplaying a fish. I have it set to display only larger fish, but I am not convinced that what it shows is actually larger fish. It is a user friendly display, and certainly exiting for the kids, but maybe I woul be better off with a “real sonar”. What do you think?
    My other question is that I have been bottom fishing for sea bass few miles south of Dowses Beach on Nantucket Sound, but alwasy catch only the smaller ones or small scup. Using a larger hook would prevent the small ones to hook up, correct? How about putting squid on the hook. Should it hang off like eels do or rather fold it onto the hook, so it is more of a sphere shaped bait.
    Thank you very much for your help.


    1. Hi Gabor,

      Thanks for the compliments, I really appreciate it. Thank you for signing up!

      I would recommend first switching the settings off of “fish display mode.” Your unit is a color sonar unit correct? I believe it is but just making sure.

      Once you have the fish symbols turned off, any fish that is marked will display as a certain shape and color. This will take some getting used to, but in the long run you can distinguish the species of fish you are marking based solely on the color and shape of the mark.

      If you are not confident in your unit I would recommend upgrading to a new Lowrance, Garmin, Humminbird, Furuno or Raymarine unit. They really are basically all the same – question is what unit fits into your budget.

      Let me get back to you with regards to the sea bass question. I’ll email my buddy who is a sea bass pro.

      Thanks Gabor!


    2. Hello again Gabor,

      I asked my good friend John Silva to chime in with an answer to your sea bass question. I hope the below helps!

      From John:

      The questioner has to ask themselves a few more questions…

      Are big seabass known for holding in this specific area? What time of year is it? Bait or lures?

      The spring (late May, early June) is the best time to catch big black seabass in shallow waters. The big males congregate in certain areas year after year and grow that big shiny blue hump on their heads. They are very aggressive in spring and will hit tins (Zingamajig, crippled herring, etc., 1-2-3 ozs) and soft plastics (3-4″) jigged on the bottom.

      I’ll jig a 3-4 oz tin and tie a teaser (soft plastic) above it when verticle jigging from a boat. That also keeps the lil ones at bay, mostly, by not using bait.You can also catch huge scup this way, and big fluke as well. If the bite is tough, it never hurts to add a strip of squid to the hook.

      Later in the year it gets harder and harder to find the big ones. They go deep and the little ones are everywhere. But I know a charter captain that can catch huge seabass even in mid to late summer, up to 4-5 lbs (they caught a 25″” black seabass last week!), even when the fish ignore jigs tossed right in front of them. He uses a chum pot filled with sea clams (which can be purchased at a baitshop), and he anchors up on certain rockpiles in Buzz Bay that he has found through exprience and using his sonar.

      Using clams for bait, some small ones will be caught, mixed in with larger ones up to 4-5 lbs. If he ever wants to experience this and learn a few things to boot, I’d highly recommend Capt Jason Colby. He charges $100 for seabass trips, plus they usually manage a few bass and blues (and triggerfish!) on the same trip. He can tell Jason that I sent him and he’ll be treated well.

      Take care Gabor and I hope that helps,


  6. I do a lot of eel fishing, and have experimented with all sorts of eel-grabbing materials — Scotchbrite pads, rags of every kind and material, bits of old beach towel, sand — you name it, I’ve tried it. Everything (except maybe the sand) gets covered in slime sooner rather than later. Then I found the ultimate solution: those blue Scott shop paper towels you can find at any auto parts supplier. They tear off in single sheets and grip an eel better than anything I’ve ever used. You can usually use one sheet on at least a couple of eels, and after that toss it in the trash and grab a new one. They’re cheap, easy to find and won’t end up in the washing machine along with your wife’s nicest sweater — not that that’s ever happened to me… Eel slime has finally met its match.

    1. Great tip David!

      I will grab a few of those blue towels and give it a try. I second your caution on throwing slimy eel rags in with the rest of the laundry-not a good move for most of us.

      1. Could you show how to do a ell hook up with a stinger hook?

        1. Hey Mike,

          Here’s a blog post I wrote about just that

          Gluck – it’s messy!


Leave a Comment