False Albacore Charters on Cape Cod

Thanks for checking out CapeCodAlbies.com. I'm in the process of building a new website focused solely on albies. Check it out here:

CapeCodAlbies.com

You'll find info on my trips, how I fish, the boat I run and much more. I'm moving albie posts from this blog to the new site as well. Updates, fishing reports, observations on chasing albies will all appear at the new site as I add them.

Capt. Peter Fallon


A Dynamic Environment - Striper Fishing Changes in The Kennebec River

Maine Saltwater Fly Fishing
Kennebec Striped Bass

The end of June and beginning of July marks a transition in fishing conditions in and around the Kennebec River. The frequent and wide-spread surface feeds of the early season taper off. You can still find striped bass busting on top, complete with diving birds, fleeing bait, and all that entertaining mayhem, but it's more limited or concentrated in location and often duration. There are stripers eating every available bait in all types of habitat right now, from big herring in the current to tiny shrimp on the sand flats. Some anglers shift their focus to bumping bottom structure with bait such at eels, live mackerel, or bloodworms or working same areas with jigs rigged with soft plastics and this approach accounts for a lot of the fish taken that fall into the legal slot limit. Others move out of the Kennebec and work the beaches and ledges from the Sheepscot to Small Point, tossing livies into the surf or working big plugs at night and some of the biggest fish taken every early July will come from these waters. For me, it's prime time for bigger fish on the flats. We usually have improved water clarity, more windless mornings when the fish wake in the shallows, but still-hungry stripers willing to chase down a Hollow Fleye in two feet of water or slurp a shrimp fly like one more peanut at a cocktail party. Usually. 

We were setting up for what was looking like a really good early July. June featured lots and lots of fish, feeding with abandon, and hoards of them to be found up in the shallows. Somedays those stripers forced you to change flies 12 times an hour and you never felt like you dialed them in but caught enough to feel good about yourself. Other days the "hero fly" sent you home on top of the world. There was a noticeable drop off in numbers of bass over 26 inches compared to a few years ago, but enough visible in the water or on social media that you knew you had a chance at a bigger fish every trip. One charter last week didn't produce a fish over 25 inches but we sure saw some and had every confidence that with the right opportunity, our crab fly would get hammered, based upon the reaction that it was getting from the fish that presented us with good shots. On Thursday, under bright sun, we had shot after shot after shot at fish up on sand and mud flats and working the edges of the same flats at low water and had some fun eats, but lot's of almosts. The numbers of fish we were seeing had me really excited about the charters I had lined up for the coming days. 7 out of the last 10 years, the biggest fish out of shallow water has come in the first 10 days of July, and while that might be shifted a little later for 2020, things were on track for a hell of a holiday week.

And then it changed. Between June 28 and July 1 we had a lot of rain, especially upriver in the Kennebec and Androscoggin watershed. Stations I checked reported between 5 and 7 inches of rainfall during that period. The river rose and eventually all of the muddy water arrived here in Bath and Phippsburg and Georgetown. We had an excellent bite the morning of July 4 in some cleaner water on the coming tide where stripers were hammering herring in strong current but then when we moved to work the flats with the rising tide, we were hampered by coffee-colored water everywhere. Not only did we have limited spots where we could have a chance at sighting fish, we weren't even bumping or spooking them as we prospected through the shallows. The Humminbird Mega Side Imaging sonar was confirming what our eyes were not seeing. I heard from a buddy of mine that his live mackerel were dying only a few miles upriver from the mouth of the Kennebec. On the incoming tide! That's a lot of freshwater.

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Striped bass are incredibly tolerant of turbid water and suspended sediment. Their gill structure allows them to patrol the surf zone with comfort in that area that deposits sand into the liner of your bathing suit. They can also rapidly adjust to changes in salinity by regulating osmotic transfer across cell walls (bring you back to senior year biology?) at a pace that is impressive. There are still plenty of striped bass in and around the River, but if you notice that things are "off" or different than the last time you were out a few days ago, you have my guess as to why.

The good news is that we've seen these changes in conditions plenty of times in past seasons (most often in June) and with some drier days, will be back at it on the flats with happy fish and good visibility. If you're planning to fish, go fish. There are stripers here to be caught and in some spots at certain tides it will be Game On! But have a change in game plan in your back pocket. If what usually produces for you isn't, mix it up. Try something or somewhere different. Every trip out is a chance to learn and the opportunities to do so are truly unlimited. 

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Hello June, Hello Striper Season

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Stripers are back in all of their usual Maine waters and June is the prime month to find surface feeds, hungry fish, and happy anglers. In what seemed like a May that confused itself for April (we only ate supper on the porch twice all month), the striped bass defied some logic and predictions, and filled into our chilly waters slightly ahead of "schedule". Of course our expectations have no bearing on their behavior, but many anglers were thrilled to find better May fishing in saltwater than expected.

Here in the Kennebec, the water has warmed rapidly, to the point where I am exploring the need to calibrate the temperature sensor on my sonar units. Alewife runs are down (as expected given draught that impacted spawning three years ago) but there is still so much bait in the water that the early waves of arriving striped bass don't have to work hard to find food. Yes, the water in the river is still very dirty despite the dry conditions, but these fish are incredibly tolerant of high turbidity, and muddy water shouldn't put you off. Ocean waters well away from the coastal rivers are much clearer, and under the right weather conditions, can afford some sightfishing opportunities.

Here are a couple of early season reminders that may help your fishing, even if they aren't new revelations:

  1. There are a lot more stripers still making their way to Maine, so if you aren't finding fish...move. The ratio of bass to bait, stripers to unit area, are all improving daily but far from where they will be in a couple of weeks. Fish impatiently this time of year. Move around. Cover some water. Burn some fuel. Check your full list of shore spots.
  2. Water temps do influence fish behavior but remember that every striped bass in Maine waters migrated through some really chilly water to get here. Coastal rivers are fish magnets this time of year and early season, flats that warm with the afternoon sun can be good places to target as the light gets lower, but don't write off the ocean spots you love to fish. Plenty of fish out there too.
  3. Speaking of light...yeah, we're more likely to find mid-day surface blitzing fish in June than any other month, but we're more likely to find stripers feeding on top early morning or evening or even at night. These fish still prefer low light conditions. So should you.
  4. Alewives and blueback herring are far from the only bait around, even in the Kennebec. Stripers that have travelled hundreds of miles to get here are hungry but they still get selective. Imitating big bait can pay dividends, tempting a fish much larger than the one you just caught, but bass of all sizes can get keyed into small bait and that axiom is true even in June.
  5. See suggestion #1. Be an active angler. I've been on the water almost every day this past week and found feeding fish, but I've seen a lot more ocean with nothing going on. It's June. It's happening somewhere. Go find "there".

When it does all come together, rejoice. It's been a hell of a March, April, and May. That tug of the first striper of the season will make everything seem right with the world for a period of time. Treasure that fish, even if it is shorter than your foot, and give some consideration to changes in tackle and technique that can help improve the odds that one of us will catch that same striper again. Enjoy! You deserve it.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Who’s got two thumbs and is ready to get you back on the water? THIS GUY!

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We’re cleared to begin guided trips in Maine on May 1 under a comprehensive set of protocols designed to ensure safety for clients, guides, and our community. I can’t begin to adequately explain how much I’m looking forward to having you out on the boat and sharing our heightened appreciation for the incredible experiences we enjoy in coastal Maine. If you’ve fished with me before, you know.

Current safety protocols limit trips to people who have met the governor's 14 day quarantine requirement and are residing in the same household. Additional mandatory guidelines are a work in progress. I’ll share here when we get closer to a final version. I’ve always believed that as a charterboat captain and guide my primary responsibility is the safety of my guests. I’ve spent years managing and mitigating risk as a boarding school dean, a volunteer EMT, and a ski industry executive. The steps I take to ensure safety for all aboard have and will continue to exceed those required by the state and the Coast Guard.

If you have been following news about the Reopening Maine plan and are wondering when you will be able to visit from out of state without quarantining for 14 days, please know that state leaders are working diligently to adapt to changing health metrics here in Maine and in other states and to take advantage of additional public health tools as they become available. Stay tuned and stay optimistic.

Thanks to the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources and Commissioner Keliher, the Maine Association of Charterboat Captains, and the American Saltwater Guides Association, and countless others for all of the effort to get guides across Maine working again.

Hope you, your families, and your friends are all safe and well and I look forward to catching up.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Magical Morning Kennebec Striper Fishing

Here's a favorite moment from last summer. Ben's mom booked a last minute trip for he and his dad on his father's birthday. Their family had been visiting museums and historical sites across New England for two weeks and "the guys needed some fishing time". She told me that Ben often shut down in new situations and not to worry if he didn't engage while out on the boat. When he and his dad arrived at the Phippsburg ramp at 5:00 am, he didn't want to even say "hi" or make any eye contact. I put Ben in the "hot seat", in front of the console on the Maverick, for the ride down the Kennebec in the waning darkness.

We found stripers pushing water and slurping bait in a foot of water at the first flat we checked just as the rising sun broke through the fog. Once Ben figured out what he was seeing, the fish had his full attention. He was incredibly focused during our casting instruction and followed every step I shared with him. In no time, he had the spook dancing perfectly across the still surface. By the time he'd landed his fifth fish, we were carrying on about why fishing captivates us, how much or how little his sister would enjoy it, and how much meaning being outdoors holds in each of our lives. His dad did catch some birthday-fish but spent most of the morning celebrating his son's experience.

As Ben ran the boat back up river at the end of our trip, he was telling his dad in a serious and matter of fact tone that he was going to explore fishing for a living when he got older.

How fortunate am I?

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Looking Forward

In a time of such upheaval and disruption our first focus is appropriately on family and friends and then likely worry about business and finances. Inevitably, we wonder about a return to normalcy and resumption in the pursuit of our passions. When will we again be fishing with friends? Is the wedding celebration we’re invited to at Popham, Sebasco, Boothbay going to happen? How do I plan for summer with so many unknowns? We ask ourselves these and so many more questions while the realities of our daily life shift under our feet like sand swept by a new moon tide.

I know I’m looking forward to being out on the water, running down the Kennebec River before the sun starts to peak over the spruce trees that line the islands, looking for signs of splashing stripers and fleeing bait. Really, really looking forward all of that and sharing it with you. My fly boxes will be full. New lines rigged. Boats polished. Anticipation overflowing.

I’m ready to put your dates to fish on the calendar. No need for a deposit. We can easily make changes as we learn more about what will and will not work. At a time when we are so appropriately hyper-focused on what is right in front of us, taking a break to look ahead can serve us well.

Until we greet each other in the pre-dawn darkness at the Phippsburg launch ramp, keep your family and your self safe. Put your fly rod together and keep it strung up. Take it and your morning coffee out into the backyard and make some casts. Help your daughter or son find the joy this sport brings you. Drop me a line. Let’s check up on each other and let’s spend some time talking about fishing.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Calling All Striped Bass Anglers And Guides - Our Fishery Needs You

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Calling all striped bass anglers and guides: our fishery needs you. Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is considering a proposal to open their commercial striped bass season early this year. In recent summers it has started June 23. They are looking at starting it as early as June 1. The rational behind the proposal is that commercial anglers have not harvested to their quota cap the last two years. In 2018 they only landed 89% of their quota cap. Last year the harvest fell to a startling 67% of the total pounds allowed despite strong markets in both years.

Striped bass are in trouble. The failure of the commercial fleet to catch their full quota is telling. Yes, MA DMF deserves credit for reducing the commercial quota by 18% this year but with so many unknowns about the effectiveness of new regulations in all of the East Coast waters these fish inhabit, now is not the time to be adding additional days to an effort that removes fish 35 inches and greater from the population. 

If you fish for striped bass, you are a stakeholder. Even if you never fish in Massachusetts waters, what happens there to these migratory fish matters to you. If you live in Massachusetts, or travel there to fish, this is especially relevant. If you live or fish in Maine or New Hampshire waters only, where do you think you would find the majority of fish over 35 inches that are bound for us are between June 1 and June 23?

You can influence the decision by MA DMF, but you need to speak up now. MA DMF is holding public hearings and accepting public comment via mail and email through 5:00 pm Monday, March 16. Link for details is below. Your comment can be short and succinct. Tell them that you are concerned about the state of the striped bass fishery and want more conservative management measures, not less. Add whatever details stand out to you. Make it your comment with a line about why this fishery means so much to you. Public input made a difference last year when MA DMF asked us for our opinion on adding an additional day per week to the commercial open season. We need your comments again. 

Speak up and send your comment here: marine.fish@mass.gov

Below the link to the details on the proposal (includes hearing locations and dates and email link to submit comments) you'll find a copy of my letter to the head of the agency, Acting Director Daniel McKiernan. Let me know if you have questions or if I can help you with your comment.

https://www.mass.gov/doc/020720-winter-omnibus-public-hearing/download

 

Acting Director Daniel McKiernan

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 

251 Causeway Street, Suite 400

Boston, MA 02114

 

Dear Director McKiernan,

I’m writing to express my opposition to the proposal to open the Massachusetts commercial striped bass harvest earlier than June 23 and to share my overdue appreciation for your leadership at the February ASMFC meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Board.

I am gravely concerned about the current state of the striped bass fishery and even more afraid of where we will be three years from now. I’m working to become more informed, more involved, and to bring others into this process. I travelled to the February ASMFC meeting at my own expense and I appreciate and applaud your efforts at the striped bass board meeting to promote consistent regulations coastwide, to check some of the more irresponsible CE proposals from New Jersey and Maryland, and to lead the push against the New York proposal to allow their charter/party boat fleet to harvest fish 31” and greater. While I originally advocated for the option that would establish a 35” minimum size, I have supported the need for consistency in regulations coastwide. Thank you for speaking up for responsible management, both at the board meeting and in your letter to your counterpart in Rhode Island.

Now a resident of Maine, I fish frequently in Massachusetts waters, both recreationally and as a for-hire charterboat captain. Growing up on the water in Scituate, I first earned my Coast Guard license in 1986 and ran private and charter boats out of Boston for a number of summers. I started Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC in 2004 in Phippsburg, ME but extend my season and market by traveling south to fish Boston Harbor to Martha’s Vineyard, with the longest stint in the fall when I am on the Cape for September and most of October. 

I am not opposed to the commercial harvest of striped bass. I live in a community that is centered around people who make their living on the water. I’m on the town committee that has just received permission to open a limited commercial river herring harvest in one of our ponds. I paid off my college tuition bills catching lobsters and tuna. I have kept my distance from advocacy organizations that have seemed more interested in resource allocation than overall well-being of the fishery. And while I understand the logic behind the argument that commercial striped bass anglers have an approved quota and thus should be allowed more opportunity to harvest that quota, I don’t believe it would be a prudent management decision. 

You and the Department of Marine Fisheries deserve credit for honoring the guidance of the ASMFC striped bass board and applying equal 18% reductions to the recreational and commercial harvest targets in the state, however, there are so many unknowns about the results of all changes brought about by Addendum VI that a more conservative approach is warranted. The failure of the Massachusetts commercial fleet to reach the harvest quota cap the last two years adds further weight to the argument for an abundance of caution in management decisions. We have yet to hear back from the Technical Committee regarding their calculation of the projected cumulative mortality reduction as a result of Conservation Equivalency approaches from a number of states. Between New Jersey’s bonus tag program and Rhode Island’s potential 30” to 40” CE, we could be harvesting over a much wider slot than originally intended and the TC has been clear that predicting the effect of any slot limit on striped bass is challenging. Slot limits are an untested tool when it comes to management of this species. With no mechanism in place to hold states accountable for their results under CE proposals, we’re at least two and likely three years away from any ASMFC changes to react to changes in the striped bass population. Commercial anglers might argue that what happens on the recreational side shouldn’t in any way impact their portion of the fishery but I would suggest that we need to consider each and every management decision with respect to the overall health of the fishery and we’d be well served to remember that we’ve reached this point in part because Addendum V has failed. 

Massachusetts could support and strengthen the commercial striped bass harvesters who make some significant portion of their income from commercial fishing interests with other regulatory changes. There is support in portions of the recreational and for-hire community for changes to the commercial harvest rules that would serve to limit participation and potentially raise prices, directing use to those fishermen who are most deserving of access to this limited and valuable resource.

Retaining the June 23rd opening of the commercial season sends a signal to all stakeholders that you and the Massachusetts DMF are committed to taking steps in the best interest of rebuilding this fishery. The measurable decrease in commercial harvest landings in 2019 and 2018 are a message that should not ignored. I heard resounding approval of your organization’s 2019 decision to keep the open commercial harvest days at two when it was clear that we wouldn’t reach the quota cap. My understanding is that the decision was based in part upon the volume of public comments opposed to adding the third day. Your organization listened to public input last year and I hope will do the same this year.

Respectfully,

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


ASMFC Striped Bass Board Takeaways - Better Than Our Worst Fears, Worse Than Our Best Hopes

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The current striped bass management system is broken. We should have better fishing, much better fishing – more bass and larger bass. And we would if ASMFC, the governing body for stripers, had been responsibly managing this fishery. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, I was able to travel to Alexandria, VA to attend another meeting of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board. Here are some of my takeaways.

ASMFC Striped Bass Board - We Can Swear at it But Can’t Afford To Swear it Off  

You win some and you lose some and that was true for striped bass and the striper fishery at Tuesday’s winter meeting of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board. Results and discussions were better than our worst fears, and worse than our best hopes. There still isn’t a concerted effort to save the striped bass fishery, but at least there was some progress in imposing some responsibility in the drive to harvest every possible fish by a number of states. ASMFC has a history and habit of delaying overdue and urgently needed action, and that continued at Tuesday’s “chaotic” (as characterized by board Chair David Borden) and contentious meeting of the Striped Bass Board. The fact that this board had never disapproved (by vote or by pressure) Conservation Equivalencies (CEs) prior to this past meeting is stunning news to those of us starting to pay much closer attention. The fact that accountability for CEs that don’t meet goals had never been advanced prior to Tuesday is condemning evidence. This board has been ineffective and irresponsible. There are fundamental flaws to ASMFC’s structure and authority, and the process is dysfunctional, but for now, this is the process we have to live with.

 

CEs – Going Off the Rails & “Proposal” Is a Misnomer

Conservation Equivalency proposal implies an impending decision to approve or disapprove. Historical precedent for this board has been to leave that up to the proposing state, not the board. This process has not worked the way any reasonable person would assume. There hasn’t been any board approval or disapproval. No wonder ASMFC has been largely impotent. What happened Tuesday when the board went state by state was flawed but precedent setting. The New Jersey members were apoplectic that the board would have the audacity to want to vote to approve or not approve the CEs that they wanted to use. Apoplectic. I thought Adam Nowalsky (NJ) was going to have a cardiac event.

Striped bass are overfished and overfishing is occurring (bear with me – I’ll define those terms another day). The board is thus required to take action to reduce overall striped bass mortality. In October, the board adopted Addendum VI to the current management plan (known as Amendment 6, with the goal of reducing overall mortality by 18%. The board voted in favor of enacting a slot limit of 28” to 35” (1 fish per day per angler) for coastal waters and I fish per day greater than 18” in Chesapeake Bay.

Addendum VI fell apart when the board also approved New Jersey’s motion at the October meeting to ignore the plan’s goal of an 18% mortality reduction across the entire geographic range of striped bass and allow each state to cap their own mortality reduction efforts at 18%.

This led to 49 CE “proposals,” a number that was concerning to many members and to the Technical Committee (TC). In their report, the TC stated that there were too many CE proposals to even attempt to calculate if the potential mishmash of regulations would meet the goal of reducing striped bass mortality by 18%. Emerson Hasbrouck (NY) asked of the entire board at the start of the meeting if the TC has no guidance for us on coastwide mortality reduction – how are we to proceed?

It was as Ritchie White (NH) who described, “CEs going off the rails.” He went on to say that CEs had historically offered states the ability to make minor tweaks, that he was getting “tons of emails” about their misuse. He lamented that they were completed without public input up and down the coast, which is not how ASMFC does business. I like his concern, but beg to differ – it is how ASMFC does business and is one of the reasons the majority of the public has lost confidence in this organization.

Dennis  Abbott (NH) lamented that even though everyone voted for a 28” to 35” slot in October they were “sitting in back with their pencils out, calculating what they could propose through CEs.” He stated that isn’t fair to the public, and wondered why did ASMFC go out to the public when the majority of the states are not abiding by the decision of the board? He even raised the obvious concern that CEs only benefit the individual states enacting them – implying that they have no benefit for the species nor the fishery as a whole. (Please note that I originally incorrectly attributed these comments to Dennis Seviakis (DE). I've corrected my mistake here.)

The TC has been directed to calculate the overall mortality reduction once all states have decided upon what regulations they will use. They will issue this report at the May meeting, but by the TC’s very clear admission, they will be guessing, given the number of variables and unknowns involved with changing angler effort, seasonal closures, slot limits, and variations in size and bag limits.

 

Accountability – A Novel Concept

The accountability conversation is finally on the table and figures to be a contentious topic when the board begins Amendment 7 discussions at it’s next meeting in May. It’s unbelievable that this idea of holding states accountable for regulatory results is new. Truth is stranger than fiction.

ME, NY, RI were the only members to vote in favor of the motion to require accountability for CE results initiated by Pat Keliher (ME). Pat did bring up paybacks when he first introduced the need for accountability. It’s clear that the board can require accountability and Max Appelman (ASMFC Staff) reported there is opportunity to do so, following the Fisheries Management Plan assessment after year one. The board has required accounting for commercial overharvest, so this isn’t a completely novel approach. Multiple members spoke about the need for accountability picking up steam in feedback via emails and meetings. We are beginning to be heard.

It was encouraging to hear support from John Clark (DE) and others to make accountability a part of the Amendment 7 discussions, but disheartening to watch NJ and MD look for any opportunity to delay such logical action. Mike Luisi (MD) was pretty subtle and suave with his play. Adam Nowalsky (NJ), not so much. See reference to near cardiac event above.

Accountability can’t wait for the lengthy process of implementing Amendment 7, which could take up to two years. The accountability motion that failed at Tuesday’s meeting would have evaluated the 2020 harvest but wouldn’t have required any changes in regulations if a state was overharvesting until the 2022 season and did not include any provision for paybacks.

 

18% Leaves No Room for Error

The board could and should direct a more conservative approach by requiring a greater than 50% likelihood to achieve desired mortality reduction. The 18% target for overall mortality reduction should have included some kind of buffer, bringing it to something like 20% or 22% or 25% given all of the uncertainties that the Technical Committee has identified and the failure of recent conservation measures. Chris Batsavage (NC) spoke in favor of a buffer discussion at future meetings and I know from post-meeting conversations that other board members would welcome that approach. This too could be a significant change to the way the board has operated, and one of the rays of hope going forward.

 

Inaction & Pace of Change

Too little, too late. Kicking the can down the road. Half measures (that’s being generous). All describe the history and habit of this board and ASMFC as a whole.

 

In the Middle

Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, North Carolina, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries all seem to fall into the middle, muddied waters between the states that are pushing for more responsible management and the states that just want to maximize their own harvest. Each member has an equal vote, so winning their support will be critical.

 

MRIP Data – The Be All & End All and Wait… The Excuse

If you’re the TC calculating mortality reduction goals you have to rely on MRIP data for harvest estimates. It’s what you have. If you’re a state crafting a CE designed to bring home the largest possible harvest, the MRIP data is gospel in the most fundamental sense – no room for argument, interpretation, or uncertainty. (See MD and NJ.) If you’re a state (not just MD and NJ, but they led the charge) arguing against accountability you lament all of the flaws and doubts surrounding MRIP data. At ASMFC you can have it both ways.

 

Heros And Zeros – Who Stood Up for Striped Bass

Pat Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources and the incoming Chair of ASMFC, is deserving of thanks from all of us, regardless of where we live and where we fish. He pushed the board to review CEs state by state (something the board had never done) and proposed a motion to require accountability if regulations enacted under CEs resulted in harvest over targets. This too was groundbreaking, even though it didn't gain enough votes to pass. Multiple times, Pat relayed concerns of Maine stakeholders. He reported tremendous opposition to the way CEs are being used. And, he shot down an attack from NJ in their lament that they were being asked to give up too much when he relayed discussions in Maine about being more conservative than the board mandate (using that term loosely – it is ASMFC, so a mandate isn’t really a mandate). Pat was clear that the conversation at a recent meeting in Maine regarding the failures of this body really hit home. (Stephen Train also from Maine, supported Pat’s positions at every turn.)

Dr. Justin Davis from CT and Ritchie White from NH spoke up in support of every appropriate measure, motion, and CE and against every irresponsible move. They both highlighted significant concerns with public faith in the board. These guys were superstars.

MA DMF’s Dan McKiernan was a strong voice in the effort for achieving consistency in regulations coastwide and led the pushback against NY in their play to try to allow charter/party boats to take a fish of any size larger than 31”, stressing the need to protect the integrity of the MRIP data.

Rhode Island was one of the surprises for me – a real disappointment. They gave cover to NJ and MD with their CE proposal to take fish between 30” and 40” and they almost enabled NY to add to the mess with a provision for NY charter/party boats to harvest fish greater than 31”. If RI had only advanced the board recommended slot limit, NJ would now likely have the same slot (not including their "bonus fishery"). Instead we’re facing what is effectively an expansion of the “coastwide slot,” as anglers will be harvesting fish between 28” and 40”. RI did however cast one of the three votes to support accountability measures.

New York earns mixed marks. John McMurray continues to lead the charge for more responsible management of this fishery, faster and more decisive action, limits on the runaway use of CEs, and implementation of accountability measures. The rest of the NY crew made some excellent points, seemed to favor consistency in regulation, but then added to the chaos as they made an unsuccessful push for their charter/party boats to be able to take fish 31” and larger. Yikes. The CT rep wasn’t buying them a beer after the meeting. On the plus side, NY did join ME and RI in favor of finally and immediately adding some kind of accountability for the CEs.

New Jersey and Maryland continue to effectively advocate for their states to be able to harvest as many fish as possible without regard to the health of the stock. Had they been left unchecked, NJ could have been harvesting fish from 24” on up with no upper size limit through their recreational fishery and their “Bonus Program” (don’t get me started – need to save that beauty for another day). Maryland was forced into limiting recreational anglers to 1 fish at 19” but the charter/party boat fleet will take 2 fish a day per person and their spring Trophy Fishery for bass  greater than 35” continues. So much for the board decision in October to limit the Chesapeake Bay fishery to 1 fish at 18”.

 

Next Steps

While it does provide momentary satisfaction to hurl vitriolic abuse at NJ and MD, it doesn’t do us much good. Telling our own board members that we expect them to hold NJ and MD accountable is different. We also need to ask our representatives to find ways to bring states that are on the fence – DE, DC, PA – onboard to urgently implement responsible management and a more conservative approach to harvests. I applaud steps that the board has taken and support measures that some members have tried to advance but this is still too little, too late. Our overwhelming voice needs to make clear that we are gravely concerned about this fishery as it currently stands and more distressed about where it will be in three years.

Enough (too much) for now. More on next steps in my next post. Thanks for caring and being involved.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Maine Meeting on Upcoming Striped Bass Regulatory Decisions

Fly Fishing Charters Phippsburg Maine

On Thursday night, the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources held a rule-making hearing in Yarmouth to collect public comment on proposed changes to striped bass regulations in Maine. The Dept. is required to collect input because they are changing the regulation in Maine to adopt the max. size of under 35" but the draw to attend wasn't only about what they are proposing to do here. Striped bass are managed collectively by all of the states where there is a fishable population through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission or ASMFC. Many of the 38 people in attendance turned out to also speak about what some of the other states are proposing to do with their own striper rules. Maine has an equal vote with other states on the ASMFC Striped Bass Board, which meets next Tuesday, Feb. 4 to approve or disapprove of each of these proposals.

Here is the comment that I read into the public record on Thursday night. You'll find a recap of the Thursday meeting below along with a link to a helpful article from the American Saltwater Guides Association with more info.

My name is Peter Fallon. I’m here representing my charter business and the American Saltwater Guides Association. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I hope others here in the room tonight will also comment on our fishery and our expectations.

While I had advocated for 1 fish greater than 35 inches, I am pleased to see Maine supporting the decision of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board to move to a coastwide slot limit of 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches and not submitting a Conservation Equivalency proposal.

The current striped bass management system is broken. We should have better fishing, much better fishing – more bass and larger bass -- and we would if ASMFC had been responsibly managing this fishery.

The current use of Conservation Equivalencies, or CEs, is one fatal flaw. ASMFC has repeatedly stated that they want consistent regulations on the Atlantic coast and in Chesapeake Bay and yet they continue to approve Conservation Equivalencies that result in a mishmash of regulations and overfishing. States get to do what they want and there are zero consequences when they overfish. And they do overfish. No payback. No required adjustments to size, bag, or season limits. No constraints on future CE proposals from those states.

Recreational anglers in New Jersey harvested almost five and a half million pounds of fish in 2016. To put that into perspective, the recreational harvest in Massachusetts that year was just over two million pounds and here in Maine, about 125,000 pounds. New Jersey has a huge impact on this fishery and now they want to target fish 24 to 29 inches (which includes the 2015 year class) and fish over 42 inches through their trophy bonus tag program.

Have we forgotten what happened to the once robust 2011 year class as the result of an ill-conceived Conservation Equivalency from Maryland, a habitual offender of overfishing? Now New Jersey is about to decimate the 2015 year class if they are allowed to set their slot limit to take fish starting at 24 inches. Is Maine ok with that?

Maryland is also pushing a proposal that includes a continuation of their trophy fishery for bass over 35 inches and a 2 fish a day allowance for charter and party boat anglers – both of which go against the decision at the October ASMFC meeting to move to 1 fish a day at 18 inches for all of Chesapeake Bay, which was supported by 84% of the public comment.

Some Conservation Equivalency proposals look good on paper but fall short in meeting the desired results. All of these CEs have met the requirements of the Striped Bass Technical Committee but so have all of the past proposals and many have been a disaster. The Technical Committee has said that there is a high degree of uncertainty that these measures will meet mortality reduction goals. They say clearly that they have no idea how much overall striped bass mortality will be reduced by such disparate regulations.

This entire plan to reduce overall striped bass mortality by 18% was built with the assumption that the new regulations would be effective coastwide and baywide. It was presented to the public in the same way. It was supported by a huge percentage of the public input and approved by the ASMFC Striped Bass Board this fall. It’s no wonder that so many people have lost confidence in ASMFC.

Maine has often been a leader in striped bass management and conservation. Our adoption of mandatory circle hook use ahead of any ASMFC requirement is but one example of such forward thinking. I hope the Maine board members and ASMFC Chair, Commissioner Pat Keliher, will continue to lead by holding New Jersey and Maryland to the decision of the board and the expectations of the overwhelming majority of the stakeholders.

At next Tuesday’s ASMFC meeting I urge that Maine vote to approve only those CEs that would give us all one consistent slot limit coastwide and one consistent slot for all of Chesapeake Bay.

 

Here's my recap of the Thursday meeting:

To all of the passionate striped bass anglers, guides, and tackle shop owners who showed up in Yarmouth for the DMR hearing on Thursday - thank you. I've heard from a couple of you that the crowd was decidedly larger than the group that gathered this fall to provide public input into the proposed Addendum VI options. It's encouraging to see rising involvement as the challenges to responsible management grow.

Having Commissioner Pat Keliher present to hear discussion, questions, and on the record comments was incredibly important for our objectives. When Pat joined in, providing context, history, explanations and a patient ear it served to make our investment of time even more worthwhile. What was scheduled to be a routine rule-making hearing quickly evolved into an hour plus question and answer session. The questions and comments were excellent, across the board. And Pat's statements about the cascade of Conservation Equivalencies precipitated by the decision of the striped bass board to allow each state to target an 18% reduction in mortality were telling. The ASMFC meeting next Tuesday will be interesting for sure.

One thing that is not in doubt is that the Maine delegation heard us, loudly and clearly. Our expectations of them can not be misconstrued and they know that we will be following up with them after the meeting.

The number of people who stepped forward to comment on the record was impactful. It's not an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially the first couple of times, but it is critically important and needs to become our habit for future public hearings. I've spoken with a number of people in attendance who submitted their comments in writing prior to the event. This too becomes easier and more comfortable over time. I know of other folks who wanted to attend the meeting but couldn't make it fit into the schedule of life. They have or will comment via email and hope to join in person at the next go-round. And there will be a next-go round, and one after that, with more to follow.

I suspect that the results of the meeting on Feb. 4 will be mixed, with some news to cheer and other decisions to fight. We can't afford to wait until the next round of rule-making hearings to express our concerns, offer our suggestions, learn more about the process and hold our fisheries managers accountable. I don't know what form or forum that will be, but the need and interest is clear.

 

And here's the link to the article with more info on CE's and what lies ahead:

https://saltwaterguidesassociation.com/striped-bass-at-the-asmfc-2020-winter-meeting/

It's not too late to participate in this process. The article above gives good guidance on what you can write and how to get your view point to the people who are deciding the fate of this fishery.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Fishing A Floating Line For False Albacore

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In this season of sipping albies, one of the most effective tools we've employed has been a floating fly line. Read articles about fly fishing for false albacore and you'll find recommendations to use an integrated sinking shooting head, mostly for the advantage of minimizing false casts to these fast moving fish. Check out an experienced albie angler's quiver and you're likely to find at least one rod rigged with an intermediate line (slow sinking), probably featuring a clear tip or fully clear line. There are lot's of instances when one of these two line choices makes the most sense, however, when the fish are cruising and "ram feeding" on micro bait, the ability to quickly pick up your cast and reposition your fly can be a game changer. 

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This September and October around the Cape and Islands, the majority of albies we found were in small groups and focused on tiny bait. They've often been out in deep water, working rips and other, more subtle structure, or even just featureless bottom with some kind of moving water. The fish cruise just below the surface, breaking the surface as they travel, often with open mouths sucking in the micro bait. If you've ever seen bluefin tuna ram feeding on krill, you know just what this looks like. The albies will circle briefly, what I refer to as "going around the rotary once or twice", before selecting their exit direction, and continuing on down the road. Being albies, they don't stay on the same course for very long even if their general direction of travel is constant for a period of time. This is effectively very different from a big pod of false albacore crashing bait and herding it down a beach or rocky shoreline or groups churning in a constant direction in open water. In those instances you have the opportunity to position the boat well ahead of the fish (usually up-current or up-wind or both) and wait for them to come to you. If you don't get a good shot or don't have a fish eat, you're likely to have an other opportunity momentarily. Plus you know that the majority of the albies in the school aren't showing on the surface and your fly is often inhaled by a fish not seen. Not so in this game. Everything is moving: fish, boat, water, position relative to wind and current. We still work for a position ahead of the fish and ideally with the wind in casting-favor, but the caster is likely to get one or two (maybe three) shots at the small school before you have to reposition the boat. Everyone strives to make their first cast count, but even the perfect presentation becomes futile when the small pack of funny fish alters course while your line is shooting out to it's intended destination. In this instance, being able to quickly pick up and re-present your fly can double (or triple) you chances to get your offering into a pretty limited strike zone.

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The advantage of being able to quickly pick up a lengthy line has often been offset or outweighed by the time delay from cast initiation to fly presentation when using a floating line. So often in the fall, the wind is blowing, and the smaller diameter sinking lines offers less wind resistance. The trade-offs have fallen in favor of the shooting head line that sinks either quickly or slowly, but no more. The game changer is a "tropical" floating line that functions well in a temperate environment. I started fishing Scientific Angler's Amplitude Grand Slam line on the flats for striped bass this June and instantly fell in love with it. I had been fishing an all around floating line that was new as of late May and the difference in the way the Grand Slam line shoots was stunning. It's designed to excel at both long casts and quick, shorter shots on tropical flats and has a fairly stiff core, but, is also rated to perform well in warm water. SciAngler uses the following designations for fly lines: Hot, Warm, Cold. I suspected from past experimentation that a line rated for Hot climates would be a hot mess in Maine even in mid-summer. But what about this Warm rating? I was curious to see if I could find a line that "feels like" my favorite bonefish line in a setting where long casts do matter. A stiffer core that is less likely to tangle in the wind would really be a plus.

Whoa. This line was stunning from the first time I cast it. It boomed out there with minimal false casts, noticeably fewer than any other floating line I had in my bag. It made the "oh shit, fish!" cast, the one that we should practice more, where a shallow water target seems to appear next to the boat out of nowhere. It could handle a clunky crab pattern but was subtle enough to use in 18 inches of water on a clear flat on a windless day.

An added benefit that I hadn't anticipated was how comfortable some of my anglers were with a floating line but not a sinking one. These were good casters with lots of fishing experience, but just not familiar with how a 350 grain shooting head behaves. In the heat of the albie moment, they could react and feel confident with their casting ability, and that led to more hook ups.

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Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Striper Thoughts

One of my goals for this off-season is to reread some of the books that helped me become a better saltwater fly angler and tyer. I've amassed quite a collection over the past 30 years. Throughout the '90's I could count on finding a couple of new titles under the Christmas tree. My wife and I used to spend more time wandering through bookstores whenever we travelled or needed an escape at family gatherings, and having a new fishing book in hand provided refuge when going fishing (again) wasn't possible or acceptable. In the boom days of northeast saltwater fly fishing - aka the striper recovery - before the internet was the oracle, there seemed to be a hot new title out every couple of months. Not only did these authors help me learn more about catching striped bass, but they helped fuel my passion for chasing this fish and becoming a more proficient angler.

My wife and I both like the feeling of having books around, although too many are stacked in plastic tubs in various storage spaces, and we clearly need to get better at culling them. I suppose we could investigate the possible reasons for our behavior, and the ideal of rereading would be but one motivation. As I sift through stacks and boxes and shelves, the titles that I have read a second and third time tend to either be collections of essays on bird hunting that have been my company on longer trips out West or How To titles on saltwater fly fishing and fly tying. I recognize that my desire to revisit the best books is driven in part by gaining more insight and understanding, becoming a better angler and guide. Lessons now are different than they were in my third summer of chasing stripers with a fly rod. I'm not so much looking for new explanations or introductions to unknown tactics but I do find that observations of others helps put order to experiences I've accrued, sharpen lessons learned, and highlight the questions that I am now trying to answer and the gaps in my understanding that deserve more of my attention.


August Striped Bass Fishing Patterns Continue Here in Maine

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Not a whole lot has changed with striper fishing in and around the Kennebec since my last update on Aug. 11 (scroll down). Fishing is pretty good and does vary day to day and spot to spot. The fog and cloud cover didn't really jazz everyone up as hoped but there are plenty of stripers around. Timing of the morning low this week was nice, but there just isn't a ton of current in the Kennebec these with weaker tides and on some flats the fish behavior was weaker too. There are some good sized stripers to be caught off the ledges and islands. No sign of the first big flush of young of the year alewives moving down river, but we are due any day now. Biggest change for me personally is I an now fully succumbing to "albie brain". Woke up at 1:57 am this morning thinking about what lies ahead...

I do have a couple of open dates the week of the 19th, but then my calendar is booked right through my departure from Maine for Cape Cod and two months of chasing false albacore and bonito. Let me know if you'd like to get out this coming week. And speaking of albies, if you've never experience this fishery, you owe it to yourself to change that, pronto. You can filter posts by topic here. Select "False Albacore" from the menu on the left margin of the page and you will get an idea of why these fish posses those of us who love to chase them. September dates for albie trips on Cape Cod are filling fast and I'm excited to host a full slate of anglers who've never seen the mayhem, never experienced the challenge, never felt the energy of these incredible fish.

Here's my update from last weekend:

Striper fishing in the Kennebec River, Maine continues with the same mid-summer pattern we've been seeing for the last couple of weeks. Fish activity varies day to day, but every day they are here. No shortage of striped bass in the shallows. No Sir. My anglers from this weekend will attest to being amazed at the sight of big pods of bass, including fish we'll over 30 inches cruising in the skinny water on sand flats and mud flats. Sometimes they would eat and sometimes they would give us the finger. Never got a bite from the biggest gals but did pluck out a couple of 30 inch fish, one when we hopped out of the boat to wade up on them they were so shallow, which was such a hoot and really rewarding.

Watching well over a hundred stripers scoot under the boat in three feet of water is a sight and working that group for an hour made up for the lack of waking fish were we were looking for Saturday morning. I admit to having higher hopes for more consistent fishing this past week with the stronger tides and finally some fog, but we were finding a few hours of "meh" with fish that weren't jazzed up and an hour or two of "there it is!" action. I am optimistic looking ahead to the timing of the tides this week. I love working two hours either side of low for fly anglers and am geared up for another busy week sharing this incredible place with some fabulous people.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

Phippsburg, Maine

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Mid-summer Striper Fishing

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In deepest, darkest January, when I think ahead to mid-summer striper fishing I think about the best of what we have going on right now. Clear, clear water. Bright mid-days with excellent sighting on light colored flats. Windless mornings. Waking and feeding fish in the early sweet light. Big bass cruising in very skinny water. Casting floating lines and small, no-flash flies imitating little sand eels, smaller shrimp, and of course, green crabs of all sizes. What I often "forget" to recall are the days when the fish are just where you expect but really don't want to play. The manic up and down nature of late July and early August trips. Being beat down by day after day of unrelenting sun. And of course, the greenheads. Definitely don't think of them falling asleep on a minus 15 degree night.

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Well, we have it all right now in and around the Kennebec River. We are fully immersed in typical mid-summer conditions and results. If you fish one day and haul out or walk off the beach thinking it's mid summer and fishing is just wicked slow, come back the next morning or that night. If you absolutely nail it and call your friends or boss and promise them an incredible outing with you the next day, be sure to have them read the fine print on the disclaimer. It might be awesome. It might be tough sledding. 

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We are seeing lots of fish in shallow water on a very consistent basis. And by mid July, we had a lot more striped bass in the 27 to 33 inch range cruising the flats. We've been blessed with some excellent sightcasting weather conditions. And even some of the anemic tides we just endured fished really well.

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Here are a couple of ways to improve your chances of coming home feeling victorious:

  1. Fish early and fish late. It's pretty bright by 5:30 even though the days are getting shorter. Start in the dark or finish in the dark. It helps to catch a bunch of waking fish early, sustaining you through the middle of the day when you are tossing at bass in bright conditions.
  2. Practice your fly cast, even if just the night before you go out for ten minutes while the grill is warming up.
  3. Speaking of practicing your cast, don't just work at throwing as long a line as possible with countless number of false casts. Focus on fast, accurate presentations at shorter distances. Your mission is to minimize the number of false casts needed to accurately present your fly to an always moving target. 60 feet in three false casts is a good goal. A lot of skinny water fish of all types are caught on what I call "plop casts" where you dump the fly close to the boat at the group that just surprised you all. "Where the hell did those fish come from?" Get the fly to them pronto. Most of the time they have felt the boat and or seen you, but sometimes they can't help themselves. Give them a chance to eat, but make it fast.
  4. Work out a consistent initial pick up and false cast, whether the fly is in the water or in your hand. More tangles happen when rolling a fly for pick up or first cast than any other point in the casting process.
  5. Be mindful of where your stripped line lands, whether you are in a boat or wading or standing on a ledge. With a lot of the long, hard striper strips we often use, you are really throwing the fly line somewhere. Position yourself as best you can to avoid tossing it overboard, onto a cleat, out of your basket, or around the trolling motor. So often you are presented with opportunities when you are already retrieving your fly, you want to be sure that you can pick up and re-present your offering without a hitch.
  6. Get tight to your fly as soon after it lands as possible. Develop the skill and habit of stripping out slack as soon as the fly lands on the water, even if you are then going to let your crab sink to the bottom or your flat wing streamer swing in the current.
  7. Be prepared to change flies frequently. You will have the opportunity to see fish react to what you throw at them. Don't judge a fly choice based upon a presentation that has the fly swimming right at the head of a bass in 18 inches of water, but be ready to try different flies throughout the day. What worked at 5:00 isn't necessarily the ticket at noon. Time of day, forage available, amount of light, bottom color, presence or absence of current, number of fish together, all factor into what the fish will eat. 
  8. If you are chucking artificials at skinny water stripers, have a trio of options that allow you to present something on the surface that makes noise, something just under the surface that is more subtle like an unweighted soft plastic, and a small jig that you can bounce across the sand.
  9. Eliminate the distraction caused by the frigin' bugs. Cover up - almost completely. I wear long pants that are light, cool, and quick drying with socks and shoes. I prefer to cast barefoot but for two weeks out here that's asking for punishment once the day warms up. I also wear a Simms hoody that is also light but treated to repel insects. I even have fingerless gloves of the same material for the worst noseeum mornings. I do still apply bug dope to exposed skin early and late (cleaning my palms immediately after application, of course) but the only time the greenheads take a chuck out of me is when I don my flipflops to haul out the Maverick. Despite my warnings, people keep showing up in shorts and or Tevas, so the big green eyed bastads have easy meals nearby. Some of our best middle of the day fishing last two weeks has been up in the saltmarshes where the greenheads rule.

Hope you're getting out with all of this incredible summer weather. I'd gladly take more morning fog, but am happy to fish what we have. Sometime in the middle of August we should see some June-like days, with crazy surface feeds on strong outgoing tides. This next month is going to be fun.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Striper Fishing With A Fly - Kennebec Conditions Are Good, Not Great, But Getting Better

I started a post at 2:45 Wednesday morning that led with my disappointment that fishing wasn't fabulous, as my expectations for the Kennebec at the end of June and first week of July are extremely high. But then I remembered that I wanted to make Ottolenghi's Avocado Toast for our trip this morning and I needed to be at Frosty's by 4:00 am to meet Fritz for his inaugural Kennebec trip of 2019. I was going to write that striper fishing overall in the Kennebec is good, not great, but that fish over 30 inches weren't yet showing themselves (to us, of course) on the flats, and that the water is still stained from a ton of runoff and high releases upcountry, and that the fish just weren't consistently waking, or pushing water, under near perfect weather conditions. We've had good outings casting to breaking fish, but that just isn't quite the same as sightcasting, which had only been ok. Well, that all changed this morning. What an outing.

One day does not make a trend or pattern, but I am brimming with optimism tonight. After working moving water past structure from 4:30 to 6:00 with almost constant hook-ups, we found hoards of striped bass pushing water in wicked shallow water and they were cooperative. We also "jumped" a few much larger bass on a flooding mudflat and even though we didn't connect on their attempt to eat, we were buoyed. Water releases upriver are starting to trend towards more normal levels, forecast is good, and bigger stripers are filling in daily.

Here are a couple of quick suggestions for fly anglers:

  1. Get on the water early. Earlier than that, even. 
  2. Fish big herring flies in fast water around structure but go small on the flats once the sun is pretty bright on the water. If you're in feeding fish and are thinking "Jeezum, I should be hooking up more often", go even smaller.
  3. There are groups of striped bass that are settling into a summer pattern, showing up on deeper ledges that are holding herring at particular stages of the tide. You'll see a collection of boats, most drifting bait, and gulls (not terns) overhead. You may find some active fish in the water column, even coming up to the surface at times. You can try to work the same water with a 400 to 500 grain integrated shooting head and big herring fly that sinks well. But that's not your only option. Work adjacent structure and shallows, especially if the light is reasonably low, even if it is a little before or after the "big bite" is going off. See suggestion #1 above.
  4. Back to shallow water - f you're seeing fishing under bright sun follow then turn away from your fly, pull out the flash from your pattern or switch to a more muted color.
  5. Most importantly, go fish. Just get out there. 

I have many more thoughts to share but I'm beat from a long string of early alarms and lots of sun and have more of both ahead of me. My next open date is Wednesday, July 10. Let me know if you'd like to get out on the water.

Remember, fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


I Want June To Last 90 Days

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It sure felt like late June on the Kennebec River this week. On Tuesday, we were on fish pretty much the entire trip, from 6:00 am until 4:00 pm, and found the stripers feeding and holding in almost every way you might expect to encounter them up inside the river. Only thing missing for us were bigger bass.

We started on a mudflat that had good numbers of fish very happy to eat on top, although they weren't doing a fabulous job of showing themselves. We kept talking about making a move and another striper would demolish the spook. Our first move ended up being about 200 yards off the flat to spots down the shoreline where the fish kept popping and calling us.

By the time we made our second move, the tide was ebbing nicely and fish in shallow water were gleefully sipping very small bait. I couldn't tell if they were little silversides or something else, but the slender craft fur hollowfleye outfished the the slightly longer, decidedly wider, spun deer hair slider by a wide margin. These fish weren't pushing water, unfortunately, but were rising in the current with frequency.

From there we headed to a cove loaded with bass hugging the bottom and hanging on the ledges when the current moved well past the structure. Then onto a flat that would be uncovered in two hours where we found fish but were working blindly due to the building breeze. A hundred diving herring gulls (aptly named given what they were eating) led us farther downriver to strong current tumbling and roiling over big ledges. Bigger offerings didn't bring us bigger fish, but there were plenty of bass and not all of them were right under the birds.

As the tide started to rise, the wind very cooperatively shut right off, and we poled up an immense expanse of a flat working fish that would reveal themselves with swirls and subtle pushes of water. Oh, what fun, but as is the case in saltwater everywhere, an hour later the conditions had changed enough to change the fish' behavior.

We started back to the ramp but had to check a hump in the middle of the river that had three birds circling high over it as the incoming current built in speed. Yup. Loaded with stripers. After some fun fishing in a completely different way, we called it. Well, we did. But we also made one last stop for a couple last casts and caught two fish in three feet of water that ended the day as we started, inhaling the spook with complete conviction. Whoa. What a trip.

The Kennebec watershed offers an incredibly diverse range of options when targeting striped bass. The rambling recap above of one charter itinerary doesn't even cover it all, as we never fished oceanside ledges or any of the beaches, nor did we get up into the salt marshes.

It feels good to get dialed back into what is happening here on the river after a whirlwind of trips out of Martha's Vineyard, Boston Harbor, a day in the driftboat targeting smallmouth bass, and a quick dash to Barneget, NJ. My only lament is that June is almost over.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestriers.com


Kennebec River Striped Bass Fishing Update - Breaking Fish Bonanza

After what I described as good early season trips all of last week, the striped bass fishing on the Kennebec River here in Phippsburg really lit up this week. We'd all been waiting and searching and watching for big pods of happy stripers busting bait on top and hadn't seen it in the river (although I did get credible reports from around Gardiner about surface feeds 10 days ago) until this Sunday. I was teaching a two-day fly fishing class but a good friend was on a good surface feed Sunday morning on the dropping tide. It's only gotten better since then. Much better.

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Of course it is still fishing, and not always what we expect. I fished Tuesday with my dad and was disappointed by what we found. It was bright, and dry, and cold, and not fishy weather. We got a good early start and had great moving water but were only finding one fish here and one fish there. Eventually we located a good group of bass that we're happy to eat but it was a slower morning than I hoped. Don't get me wrong, it was great to fish together on a stunningly beautiful morning after a fun evening of the season's first lobster feed but I really wish he'd been able to stay one more day. We'd be hearing stories for years about the fabulous fishing.

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I fished by myself on Wednesday. I was wide awake at 4:00 and tied flies for the first two hours of the morning with intensions to get after some desk tasks and house projects. There wasn't a hint of wind on the water and the cloud cover was perfect, so by 6:03 I was in scramble mode, hooking up the Maverick and grabbing some snacks to go. I needed to test out these small hollow fleye variations I'd been working on and I also wanted to try a new SciAngler Amplitude Anadro line that I'd bought for some other purposes. It didn't take me long to find birds working over stripers at the bottom of the out tide. I really, really love to fish shallow water for bass that are visible or pushing water, but after another long winter, I'll take fish going bananas on the surface. I had a blast.

I fished a bunch of different fly patterns, fly line and rod combinations, and connected lessons shared over the weekend with observations on the water. Here are some fly thoughts:

  1. Detecting a hit and setting the hook are learned and practiced skills. Most beginner to intermediate fly anglers would be amazed to learn how many fish have eaten their fly that they never knew about. This early June striper fishery offers an incredible learning opportunity when the fish are on. Ok, a lot of times you could be asleep and hook a striper, but not alway. In perfect conditions it was fascinating to note hw many "takes" would easily be missed - especially when dead drifting a fly pattern with great life. Repetition builds competence. If you go to the driving range, you should be fishing here this week.
  2. Dead drifting. An often overlooked approach in saltwater, especially around breaking fish. If you don't employ this technique very often, here's your prompt to try it. The day before I'd been coaching my dad to make much stronger, more dramatic strips with his herring pattern to elicit strikes from unseen fish. It was working. Wednesday morning, around fish keyed into very small bait, no strip was the ticket. Even with a floating line in reasonably deep water. So much fun. The local warden was fishing a popper on his fly rod over busting bass at the same time and he reported finding best success when he just twitched his fly and then let it sit. He had a great big smile on his face, talking about his morning outing.
  3. Speaking of fun, I really liked the Scientific Angler Amplitude Smooth Anadro/Nymph line. I need to use it more to feel fully dialed in on best applications, but I ended the morning looking forward to using it more. Speaking of more fun, I was fishing it on a Sage X 9 foot 9 weight that I'd only used in heavy wind last fall chasing albies. I like casting and fishing this rod.
  4. Connecting numbers 1 and 2 above, detecting the hit and dead drifting a fly, I was thinking about the number of casts that don't unroll perfectly, even on a windless day, and how often people aren't in touch with their fly. Retrieving with tip at hip level, rod pointed away from the fly, slack in the leader are all streamer sins in most instances. When the fly touches down, get the tip touching the water, pointed at the fly, and strip out any slack in the line-leader...then let it drift.
  5. Fly size and shape matters most. I spent a lot of time answering questions over the weekend about fly patterns, how to choose what to fish, why they are designed as they are, where you start, when to change, and how to fish different types of flies. As I was testing a variety of patterns on Wednesday, it was a perfect reminder that size and shape matter most and that how the fly behaves in the water (inherent movement and as imparted by the angler) comes in at a close second. I loved being in a situation where you could readily discern what the fish preferred. Everything caught fish this morning, but at wildly different rates, and there we're clear common threads.

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Thursday morning was more of the same, kind of old school, Kennebec June fishing, run 'till you see birds, stop, catch fish until they either move on or you decide to see where else the stripers are feeding hard. I got to spend the morning fishing with my great friend Rich Pschirrer and neither of us really noticed the rain we were having such a blast. Just got a text from Rich saying "Let's do more of that, anywhere, anytime." I agree. I'm game.

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One parting suggestion - if you don't have a pair of these gloves for early season outings (or fall tuna runs, December decoy deployment, or mid-winter cash washing), head to your nearest commercial marine supply store, by two pair (your dad, friend, spouse, client, will appreciate it), and stick them in your boat or bag.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers.com

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


May 31 Kennebec River Striper Fishing Update

Last Cast of the Trip

Here's Tim's best striper of the day, but certainly not his only fish. It crushed the Lonely Angler Zipster spook in a shallow backwater cove on the Kennebec River just down current of some nice moving water and rocky structure and came on his final cast of our outing. We were zipping back to the dock at a pretty good clip in the Maverick, working to make time to hit one last location before we had to meet the rest of the charter group. We arrived to find just the current I expected, but no fish (or at least no response) in the ripline. This is a spot where the bass usually key into the sharp demarcation between fast and slow water that is pushed off of a shoreline ledge. There were fish here similar tide yesterday but as we'd discussed early in our trip, past performance is no guarantee of future results. These guys had worked at the SEC and were now involved in futures markets, so they understood the disclaimer. I was hoping for one last eat before wrapping up, so we let the boat drop down with the current to make a couple of quick casts in a secondary lie where a backeddy flows across a mudflat adjacent to these ledges. Eric had pitched his spook into this water a couple of times when halfway through a retrieve, it just disappeared under water in a big gallooop! He landed a similar sized striper to the one in the photo above in some good current to cheers all around. I made the "last cast" call and Tim delivered in similar fashion out of the same water. It was a great way to end a really enjoyable morning.

Striper fishing in and around the Kennebec is improving. It's not yet bananas, but technically, it's not yet June. Every place where we stopped today we at least rolled, saw, or teased a fish and in almost all locations landed at least one. We had a couple of times where we found a good group of fish and landed quite a few before moving on. Once again, best fishing for us was in moving water adjacent to structure of some kind. Yesterday's trip was pretty similar. Both days we started just after high water and fished the dropping tide.

Pretty soon you should be able to run up and down the river, looking for surface feeds and diving birds, but right now I would concentrate on making good casts with decent sized streamer flies, top water plugs, or soft plastics (on a jig or unweighted) in areas where you see current seams close to rocks, marshy points, creek mouths, and other pieces of structure. Keep your eye on the sonar, and have close at hand a jig rod or 400 grain with a Clouser, as you may mark some under you as you drift. We didn't do any dredging yesterday because what we were doing was producing and catching on topwater tackle is too much fun. I don't think I could have pried the spook out of Eric's hands.

On our Thursday trip, we used a similar approach with similar success - fished dropping tide and focused on same type of water but not all same locations. Both outings felt far more productive and consistent to me than my scouting trips earlier this week. We even had a couple of instances yesterday where a fish revealed their presence, we made the cast, and boom. Results.

Tidal height is improving and water temps in the Kennebec were 53 to 54 degrees everywhere we fished yesterday. The water is decidedly clearer, though still quite stained, vs a week ago. I'm teaching all-day, both weekend days, so won't have any first-hand news until middle of next week, but I am in the process of activating my shoreside fish spotting network. It's good to have neighbors who are more excited to call me about breaking fish than to go out at catch them. 

I've got some open days in the beginning of June, so if you'd like to get out, please give me a call or send me an email. 

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

 


May 29, 2019 Quick Kennebec River Striped Bass Update

Striped bass seem to have moved into the Lower Kennebec watershed in greater numbers over the past week, at least based upon my fishing (and catching) results. It's still not "going off", and I have yet to see more that a handful of single fish come up to the surface to feed (in total - not all at once), but soon it will bust wide open. There are stripers all up the Maine coast to the Kennebec. I haven't yet heard any news of fish east of here, but that doesn't mean that they aren't there for you to catch. 

On Tuesday I fished the dropping tide and it took a little exploring before I found more than a single, lonely fish. Tides aren't great right now, in terms of volume of water flow, so it takes a little longer for the current to get going. High water at Fort Popham is only 7.9 feet. The most consistent fishing was in quick (not ripping fast) current around structure adjacent to shallow areas. I wasn't marking fish in these locations as I was staying off the shore by about a cast. Of all of the offerings I tossed, best producer was a dark fly with lots of action. This dirty water version of the Eldridge Brothers Secret Weapon tied with purple ostrich hurl, purple rabbit strip, and black craft fur plus various darker flash material did the trick.

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This morning I explored different water, working deeper structure with strong current, on the incoming tide. I'll admit that I sipped coffee from the comfort of the kitchen from 4:30 to 5:30 before I decided to launch the boat. It was cold. And wet. And windy. My project list is long, and it was tempting to stay home, but as soon as I was pulling out of the driveway I was happy with my decision. And once I found fish and started to catch on almost every drift, it wasn't so wet, windy, or cold any more. I didn't see a striper come to the surface but they did push some mature alewives or herring up to the gulls and eagles. I didn't play around with different jigs or flies, but just focused on figuring out where the fish were tending to hold. I really do prefer to sightcast, especially when chucking a fly, and will take casting to moving water tight to visible structure as a second choice, but this time of year, catching feels good using any technique.

We'll see significant changes in numbers of fish and surface activity soon. Like maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. I've got trips both days and have tempered expectations but high hopes.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562


Fishing Charters For Striped Bass in Phippsburg, Maine And False Albacore on Cape Cod, MA

Saltwater Fly Fishing Charters For Striped Bass And False Albacore ~ Kennebec River, Phippsburg, ME And Cape Cod, MA

Thanks for visiting Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports. Here you'll find updates on shallow water striper fishing around Maine and beyond, updates on September and October false albacore fishing around Cape Cod and the Islands, insights into how I chase these fish, suggestions and techniques that may help you become a better angler, and recaps of recent charter trips. Scroll down for the the latest posts.

I specialize in shallow water sight casting to striped bass and chasing false albacore with fly and light tackle spinning gear. The only thing I love more than the challenge of hunting for these fish is sharing the elation that comes from playing this game. I guide a lot of experienced striped bass anglers who've never cast a fly or a top-water plug to a striper on a shallow flat that is pushing water like a redfish or bonefish. Watching the bass track the baitfish pattern or tail slap the spook and then (hopefully) eat your offering is incredibly satisfying and addicting.

I live in Phippsburg, ME on the banks of the Kennebec River, and guide full-time from May into November. Striper fishing in Maine starts in mid-May, with fish usually showing up just south of Portland before they start to fill into the Kennebec. To get a jump on the season I head south to Massachusetts to get onto bass before they arrive in Maine. I also plan a couple of weeks during May and June to target large stripers in Cape Cod Bay and around Martha's Vineyard. This is big water fishing and where I grew up and first started running charter boats. If I had to pick one week to fish the flats in midcoast Maine, it would fall in early July, depending upon the tides. Fortunately, our fishing holds up all summer and every year we have outstanding days when anglers to our south are lamenting the "dog days". By Labor Day I'm packing up to spend September and October fishing the south side of Cape Cod for False Albacore. 

If you're looking to improve your striper skills, or want to try to target them on the flats, or just become a better angler, I hope you'll read on and if you like what you find here, give me a call. Let's get out on the water together this season.

You can also see more frequent updates on Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports Facebook Page.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Become A Better Fly Caster - Tips And Techniques To Improve Your Fly Fishing Skills - Keeping A Rod Strung Up

So you've decided that you want to become a better fly caster and you're looking for tips and techniques to improve your fly fishing skills. Right? You did click on the link to bring up this post. Ok, lets back up a bit. If you like to fly fish, you owe it to yourself to improve your fly casting skills. You'll have more fun on the water, you'll catch more fish, you might even find yourself fly fishing more often and it's a really enjoyable process that's rewarding on it's own.

I'm not a great fly caster. I'm a good fly caster who gets to work with some amazing fly casters. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to learn from the likes of Macauly Lord, Craig Ucker, Sam Flick, Dave Jacobson, and Rod McGarry. I've worked to become a better caster and to be able to demonstrate effectively the casting techniques that I'm trying to teach and here's the single most significant thing I've done to improve my own casting. Practice.

You know it would help your casting and it can be fun, so how do you practice more often? Keep a fly rod strung up and someplace visible.

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If your fly rod is broken down and bundled neatly in it's sock, secured in it's tube, and tucked behind your waders and boots in a basement closet, how often are you going to go through all the steps of digging it out, putting it together, stringing it up, tying on a yarn fly, and making a few fly casts? Make it easy and accessible and you'll practice far more frequently.

You don't need water to make the basic fly casts (roll and spey casts are exceptions), just some open space with cut grass. I have room in my yard to practice and can even make short casts off my deck. If you don't have space in your yard, keep the rod in your car and stop at the soccer field you drive by every day or step outside at lunch time and cast for ten minutes in the park or on the lawn next to the building. Is there a golf course where you go for a walk? Or an open space where you let the dog run? Right now my driveway has a nice snowpack and is perfect for a few minutes of casting practice after work.

Ideally, you'll use a fly line that you won't fish if you are going to practice frequently. There's a good chance that you're fishing with a line that should be retired because it just doesn't shoot very well anymore, even after cleaning it. Do you have a reel or spare spool that has been on the shelf or in a vest for years without use? Perfect. If not, don't fret. Cast on the grass and then just clean your line before you fish it.

I have two rods that I keep strung up. One is an old Orvis 4 weight that I "caught" on the Moose River in 1995 dredging a nymph at the bottom of Attean Falls. That rod owes me nothing and I don't worry about it sitting outside for seven months of the year. The other set up is an Angler Outfit from L.L. Bean that is on sale right now for $75 for rod, reel, and line. During the guiding season I will grab a rod out of the Maverick, snip off the striper fly, tie on a piece of yarn, and wander around the yard for a few minutes making some casts just to work with an eight, nine, or ten weight for a bit.

If you have or get a rod that can serve this purpose, tack three nails into the side of your porch or shed and keep the rod handy and in sight but out of harm's way and ideally out of the sun. It helps to have the rod up off the ground. I can attest to the rod-shortening ability of a lawn mower that picks up a bunch of slack fly line nestled into the grass. I turned a nine foot, six weight into a four foot, eight weight before I could get the blades to stop spinning and that rod wasn't found and wasn't inexpensive.

Grab your cup of coffee in the morning, step outside to greet the day, and make a few fly casts before you get consumed. Come home from work, visit the beer fridge, make a considered selection, and head outside. The beer sits in the snowbank well while you double haul for a couple of revolutions. In five minutes, you'll make 100 fly casts. And your day will start or end a little brighter. 

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Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562

(207) 522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


How To Catch More Albies - Tips and Techniques For False Albacore Fishing - Wind Against The Tide

Catching more albies is always on my mind, even on a cross county flight in the middle of the winter. If you fish for false albacore, you know what I mean. I'm cleaning up my laptop somewhere over Nebraska and came across this photo from one of the last days chasing false albacore around Cape Cod this past October. I got to spend some time up on the bow of the boat to close out the season when my wife Sarah was down in Falmouth for the final week of my stay on the Cape. We try to plan a week on the water ourselves after my last charter of the year and mix in trips to Edgartown for coffee or Cuttyhunk for oysters with some fishing time.

Fly casting for false albacore in rough water off Cape Cod

In this image it looks pretty calm but the wind was honking out of the southwest and the tide was dumping out of Waquoit Bay into Vineyard Sound. The albies were exploding out of the water, fighting each other to inhale the bait that was being sucked out by the ebbing current. It was rough enough where the fish were happiest that Sarah would work to hold the boat right in the seam of the strongest flow, on the edge of the largest waves, but close enough so that I could zing the Rio InTouch Striper 30ft Sink Tip line into the action zone. This wasn't graceful, River Runs Through It, fly casting. The wind was pushing the boat at a good clip and as soon as the line would land on the surface of the water it would rip in the opposite direction of our travel. Line management was key and an immediate start to a two-handed retrieve was critical to staying tight to the fly and detecting the hit from the marauding albies. All hell would break loose (that's not an exaggeration) when the fish would eat, which of course often occurred with the fly twenty feet from the boat and eighty feet of fly line swirling in the wind just above the deck. (Here's a good primer on clearing the fly line when a fast moving fish eats your fly.)

Dealing with the bobbing and rolling foredeck, the potential line snags, the sometimes ugly casts, was all worthwhile as these fish ate with abandon when I could get the fly in their path. That week after Columbus Day we had a lot of windy afternoons and day after day when the afternoon breeze would buck the dumping tide the fish were right in that rough water. The few boats coming in or out of Waquoit Bay would fight through the waves, concentrating on the seas but missing the fish, and then start their search for false albacore once they cleared the area where the wind met the strongest tide. I've seen it time and again, in that location and others. Next fall, remember that albies love choppy water and strong current. They won't always be zooming through the standing waves, but you'll catch more false albacore if you seek out these situations and take the time to watch the roughest water. And if your wife is happiest running the boat and spotting fish in these conditions, consider yourself very, very fortunate.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

 

Quick Cape Cod Albie Fishing Update Report

Here’s a albie charter report for the week. I'll try to add more details between fishing trips. You can also check my facebook page for brief updates on current albie fishing.
 
I went to bed last night thinking “Oh no, what if we are in the late innings of the albie season”? The last couple days on Cape Cod have been less than stellar but a nice southwest flow today really seemed to turn on some of the false albacore we found. It had been three days since we were in sustained churning feeds. After working rocky structure, slow cruising small pods, and covering a lot of miles it was a welcome change. We did ok grinding out infield singles. It was nice to hit some long balls today.
 
Overall, pink, albie crack, and olive SI Epoxy Jigs have been top producers on spin gear along with the amber and white Albie Snaxs. Productive fly patterns have been tan or tan and white bay anchovy patterns, even when the fish off Naushon were puking up silversides. The albies in Vineyard Haven harbor have seemed to be focused on bay anchovies, even when feeding around clouds of peanut bunker. 
 
We’ve found fish just breaking the surface from Point Gammon to Tarpaulin Cove, mostly in the morning. Sometimes they’ve allowed us to idle parallel to them and take quartering shots, but other times they just don’t stay up long enough to get aligned or to work up wind or up current of them and wait them out. Best fishing has been around the north side of the Vineyard, with specific locations varying every day. 
 
Forecast for the holiday weekend isn’t bad, with Sunday looking like the fishiest day. Despite what you might be hearing, don’t give up on the albies just yet.
 
Oh, and I almost forgot...on Tuesday mid-day, Craig Ucker caught this guy on a tan and white bay anchovy epoxy fly shortly after landing his first albie on the same pattern. Very cool.
 
Cape Cod Albie Fishing Bonito
Catching more than just false albacore here on the Cape
Fish more,
 
Peter
 
Capt. Peter Fallon
Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC
207-522-9900
pfallon@mainestripers.com

Who Said Albies Don't Eat In A Northeast Wind? More Lessons From A Fall of False Albacore Fishing on Cape Cod.

We finally found some consistency fishing along the Falmouth shoreline this past week. The fishing isn’t better when the albies are in here, but it sure is convenient being based out of Falmouth. More significantly, the first great day of albie fishing I ever experienced was right off the entrance to Waquoit and the only false albacore over 13 pounds I have personally landed was in the same place years later. Add a ton of fabulous other memories, both personal and with fishing charter clients made between New Seabury and Woods Hole, and the sentimental value of finding the fish in here is pretty fulfilling.  
False albacore eats another Albie Snax Lure
Amber Albie Snax
 On Friday we arrived off Craigville Beach before dawn, fully expecting to be disappointed but looking for the first bread crumb that would lead us either east or west from there. It wasn’t long before we pushed away from the gathering albie fleet to fish on the Cotuit flats and Osterville channel. With the forecast for strengthening wind, we continued west finding them off Great Pond and Green Pond and hit the jackpot at Waquoit. It was fabulous fishing and it went on for hours. The white Albie Snax was getting eaten but not as well as it should have been. A quick change to amber and the fish were all over it. By mid afternoon they seemed to get fussy again. We changed to bright pink and wham! First cast and many cast thereafter had fish fighting to get to the bait. I heard from guides who were fishing the Vineyard, Upper Buzzards Bay, and even Rhode Island that they killed it on Friday. Some days these fish make heroes of us all and this was one of those days. 
Another Cape Cod False Albacore
The switch to bright pink Albie Snax pays off again
 The Vineyard Sound forecast for Saturday morning was pretty miserable and we made the mistake of not getting out until 8:00 am. It was pretty cushy in the Southport 272 and the fish were happy and I spent the first two hours swearing at myself for not going at dawn. I always advocate for an early start. Still get’s me pissed thinking about it now. The wind and the forecast kept a lot of people home and it felt more like a weekday out there. We started catching on Nonamesset Shoal where the albies were pinning bay anchovies up against the shoreline. My aggravation with myself (see above) got the best of me and I kept moving us around to busting fish when I should have kept the boat in one place. Settling down by mid-morning we really got in the groove in the fast current off Mink Point at the entrance to Woods Hole. There we no blow ups to attract attention of other boats that motored by, but on the edge of the shallow water the albies were showing one by one and eating with abandon. They were on big bait, and bright colored Hogy SI Epoxy Jigs were easy to throw in the wind and very effective. By early afternoon we moved off Nobska and did well there too. It would have been nice to do without the three boats zooming at WOT into every busting pod they saw, but thankfully there were plenty of fish to go around. End of the day at Waquoit was ok, not better, but ok at 5:00 pm is alright.
False Albacore Big Bait
Big bait by albie standards
 The quote of the week came from Fritz Folts on Sunday. We were trying to run his Southport back to Boston but kept running into funny fish off Falmouth and then again around the Mashnee Flats and west end of the canal. Fritz was in the zone. He was seeing the fish as soon as they surfaced and putting his casts right where they needed to be, time after time. Fritz said “Next year I need to block off four full days in a row to fish. Chasing albies is a lot like high school - by the time you really figure it out it’s time for graduation”
Hogy SI Epoxy Jig Colors for False Albacore
Hogy SI Epoxy Jigs
 Monday was another day of battling stout northeast winds, but our perseverance paid dividends. We worked fish early along the Falmouth shore off Green Pond and Great Pond. Jeff was new to the false albacore challenge and quickly understood my pre-game pep talk on the importance of accurate casts. We continued on to Nobska where we were rocking and rolling, literally, but surrounded by happy fish and zero other boats. All the other charter captains I talked to had understandably pulled the plug on trips that day. As a guy who flies small commercial plans for a living, Jeff wasn't phased by a little turbulence.
 
Jeff is forever spoiled. His first ever albie topped nine pounds. We messed around at Lackeys, seeing albies but only catching blues. Wood Hole kept us entertained for a couple of hours until mid afternoon when the switch flipped (who did that?) and the schools of churning fish shut right off all at once.
Rough weather false albacore
Happy Jeff with his first false albacore
 After an hour of testing the east wind Tuesday morning, we decided to go out to breakfast. Wednesday seemed better suited to errands and chores but Thursday was worth the hassle. The wind was honking but the fish were hungry. It wasn't an easy day to chuck flies at these fish, but it was a productive day to do so. Whoever said albies don’t eat when the wind blows out of the northeast choose going out to breakfast instead of fishing too many times.
 
My last open dates for false albacore charters on the Cape are Monday, October 1 and Friday, October 5. If you want to see what all this albie fuss is about, give me a call or send me an email.
 
Fish more.
 
Peter
Capt. Peter Fallon
Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC
pfallon@mainestripers.com
207-522-9900

What Do Albie Fishing And High School Share In Common?

The quote of the week came from Fritz Folts on Sunday. After two days of finding fish after fish after fish we were trying to run his Southport back to Boston but kept running into albies off Falmouth and then again around the Mashnee Flats and west end of the canal. Fritz was in the zone. I mean he was dialed right in. He was seeing the fish as soon as they surfaced and putting his casts exactly where they needed to be, time after time. After Fritz landed yet another albie, he said “Next year I need to block off four full days in a row to fish. Chasing albies is a lot like high school - by the time you really figure it out it’s time for graduation”.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

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Yet another Fritz Folts-caught fish

 

 

 


Cape Cod False Albacore Update - Today Isn't Yesterday And Tomorrow Won't Be Today

Here’s a recap of week 2 chasing albies around Cape Cod and the Islands:

The albie -lesson that stands out this week is that today isn’t yesterday and tomorrow won’t be today. I’ve been on the water every day this week, often for 10 to 12 hour trips, and no two days have been the same. The weather has varied, the places where we found fish varied, and the behavior of those fish varied. The rate of change with all things tied to these fish seems to correlate with their frenetic nature and tremendous energy. 
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The best classic albie fishing we encountered was on Friday. We cruised Waquoit to Cotuit at a good clip, only pausing briefly to look and glass the water. When we saw the size of the fleet at Craigville Beach, we kept going and promptly found packs of roving albies off of Hyannis moving courteously into the tide and staying up for for a pleasing length of time. It’s so much fun to set up and wait for the fish to come to you, to see them slash and swirl, and then to try to make “the” cast. This behavior continued throughout the tide and we landed a lot of fish on the 7/8 oz. Hogy SI Epoxy Jig in pink and the Albie Snax in white, pink, and amber. We were never forced to toss anything else at them. Early afternoon was tough for us. The pods weren’t showing as frequently and would quickly splash and sound. Later in the afternoon our perseverance was rewarded with fast moving fish between Great Pond and Waquoit. These guys weren’t so easy, but they were catchable.

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On Saturday we covered a lot of ground and heard reports of a lot of tough fishing. Finally around 10:00 we found good numbers of albies breaking the surface with a slow and subtle rise in the greasy calm water, totally unlike any feeding behavior we've seen so far this season (probably because wind has been our constant companion).We were right on the edge of a sharp drop off that held a lot of bait.This too was incredibly satisfying as the challenge involved boat maneuvering, accurate casts, and the right retrieve. After some experimenting, we struck gold with the hot pink Albie Snax fished with a twitch and pause retrieve, similar to what you’d use on a flat for stripers. They ate it well and we were all smiles, fortunate to have these fish to ourselves for the two hours that they were up  - almost unheard of on a Saturday in September. The most unusual catch of the day came when we paused over structure to jig up a couple of scup and sea bass as a mental break from the albie focus. I dropped my 1 1/8 oz. epoxy jig to the bottom to in a quick jigging demonstration and was tight to an albie as soon as I lifted the jig off the bottom. It’s not the first time we’ve jigged these fish, but it was the most surprising.

Sunday was slow but we had our chances. We took a chance on Nobska lighting up at first light. The wind had been blowing bait in that direction, there would be good water movement just after sunrise, and the fish had not been there in any significant numbers yet. We cruised and cast for an hour with nothing to show for our play. It sounds like we had the right idea but were off in our timing by a tide cycle. Almost every boat coming out of the Inner Harbor, Great Pond, and Green Pond blasted right up to the fleet of 30+ boats clusters off the Waquoit jetty, right past the small groups of fish working the outflows of the Falmouth Ponds and occasionally pinning bait right into the sand shoreline. We finished the morning on fast moving small groups in the shallows between Allen Harbor and Harwichport, but success only came blind casting in areas where we had found the fish the day prior.

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Monday was great in deeper water for fly caught albies, really a standout day. The fish weren't staying up for as long as we would have liked but they were there in huge numbers eating sand eels and were perfect fly rod targets. 250 to 350 sinking shooting head lines on 7, 8, and 9 weight rods worked perfectly and these albies were on average a couple of pounds heavier than what we had been catching elsewhere. 

Tuesday was strange. The fish turned on for 30 minutes and ate hard. The wind was building and the current picking up. It was rough and getting rougher, conditions that these fish usually relish…and… it just changed. Either the fish departed or they sounded and the show was mostly over just when we thought it would go on all morning. It surely wasn’t due to pressure as there weren’t many boats out in that building blow.

And then there was Wednesday. At 9:00 it was like someone threw a switch. Despite slack current, the fish that challenged us to catch 2 in two hours turned on and all of the boats were battling albies. As the fish pushed inshore and had the bait corralled, they became wicked, wicked, fussy. Nobody was catching. There was a lot of furious knot tying going on but the fish kept feeding, just ignoring all of the fake meals tossed their way. At times that type of classic albie behavior can be maddening, but it is also somehow incredibly appealing. It's like a difficult puzzle that has you up too late, as you refuse to give in and give up. We never really figured them out before we had to run for the dock. We had a couple of swings and misses, but no riddles solved.Of course we did run into a pack of chomping albies 5 minutes from the dock that ate with glee on the first cast. Typical albie fishing. We left huge numbers of fish that were giving us the finger and ran into a small group that ate everything tossed their way.

Being on the water every day does help in the search for these fish and in developing strategies for finding "happy fish" when the going gets tough. We use what we've found and learned and heard in previous outings but at least this week you couldn't do exactly what you did the day before and come home happy. If you heard you missed the good bite yesterday at Cotuit, you will often be better served by checking logical spots in the general vicinity verses expecting a repeat of the day before, especially in this all-over-the-place weather pattern. 

If this craziness sounds appealing to you and you have never experienced the rush of adrenaline that comes when casting to busting albies and feeling the energy of their fight, give me a call. I have a few open dates next week and the week after for charters here on Cape Cod. Before we know it, these fish will be gone until next year and we will be left with dreams of darting terns and perfect fly casts.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon
Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

mainestripers.com

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How To Catch More Albies - Color Matters - Tips And Techniques For False Albacore Fishing

Fullsizeoutput_efIt's that time of year when I shift all of my attention to chasing false albacore off the south side of Cape Cod. I base myself in Falmouth but fish from Monomoy to Wasque to Cuttyhunk to the Canal and all of the waters in-between. More later about why these fish have such a hold on me and so many other anglers. I'll try to explain in a future post, although the best way to understand, to truly get it, is to come fish for them. For now let's focus on those of you who are already committed to catching albies.

Color matters, not all the time, but often enough that it should factor into your equation of what and how you are presenting your offering to false albacore. If you've found the fish (here's a post that can help you with that endeavor) and you're making the right casts but they aren't biting the way you think they should be, it's time to change up what you're tossing. In many instances a color change is all it takes. 

Pay attention to the other anglers around you. Is someone catching noticeably more fish? If so, the albies want to eat something other than what you have tied on. If you've found your own fish and aren't getting consistent hits, it's time to mix it up. I think about setting up for ducks. Pick a spot where the ducks want to land that morning and you'll have lots of action. Set your decoys in a location that really isn't where the birds want to be and you'll have some lookers and you'll talk a lonely single into lighting at the edge of your spread.
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IMG_1941One simple change is to alter the color of the Epoxy Jig, Albie Snax, metal, Ronz that you are using. I've seen so many instances where we went from one hit every thirty casts to one hit every five casts just by changing from white to pink, or from silver to purple. And in some of those cases have confirmed the color preference with other captains and anglers on the same fish.

While I've experienced the same result with color change in fly patterns it seems to be often much less important than when tossing artificial lures. Why? I don't know but the flies we use are often much closer imitations of the prey, and I think that has something to do with this observation. Don't ignore color when you put together your fly box or watch the false albacore zoom all around your fly without trying to eat it, but I think it's lower on the list that includes presentation, retrieve, pattern shape and size. 

When you're chucking hardware, be ready to tie a lot of knots, have plenty of leader material, rig rods with different lures, and remember to change up color if the albies aren't doing what you expect.

 

 

IMG_4633Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900