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Thought I'd share my reply to an angler's questions about finding striped bass around the Sheepscot River and Back River up around Edgecomb. He was wondering about general suggestion for where to target fish, how important it is to add a fishfinder to his 16 foot skiff and how to find out about salinity levels in the rivers.

Rich - I have a couple of suggestions for you that might help.


How do you like to fish? Favor the fly rod or chucking spinning gear or drifting bait? If you are most interested in catching stripers on the fly then right now I'd concentrate my efforts on the shallow coves that abound in your area. They are all mud bottom, so you won't have great "sighting conditions" most days in terms of seeing fish. You will see them, though usually very close to the boat making for a tough presentation, and that can help you learn their patterns. What you really want to watch for is signs of fish - v-wakes, swirls, nervous water, fins, pushes of water. If you see anything on the surface that doesn't fit the general pattern of wind or current, assume it is fish until you learn otherwise.

Get out early and late. You want to be on a flat just before you can make out these signs on the water or squinting in the settling darkness to discern that tell-tail sign of fish. Target overcast or foggy days when the wind is calm and your time frame for seeing fish signs will be extended later into the morning or start earlier in the evening.

For this type of work, a simple pole (think canoe type pole) would help you push that skiff around quietly. A stern mounted trolling motor would be a better investment than a fishfinder if you end up liking the shallow water game.

Low incoming tide around first or last light is an excellent time to learn new areas. Second choice would be two hours before high or an hour or so after high, again, during periods of low light. At low water work the edges of the flats in just enough water to float your skiff. At high water cruise the edges of the marsh banks, over flooded grass and right against the ledges.

There are a pile of flats all within a mile of the Route 1 bridge that can hold fish.

Don't worry about salinity. There are random acts of bluefish violence all the way up the Kennebec above Bath and there's a lot more fresh water over there. There are very few of them around right now anyway, so you will be targetting stripers for the time being.

The deeper, faster moving water fishing will pick up once the juvie alewives start moving down river in good numbers. I was on fish yesterday AM from 4 to 5:30 that would occasionally come to the surface to smack herring, but even in these instances we did better going down to hook these fish.

Good luck and have fun exploring. If it was ten years ago when you were slaying fish around the reversing falls, the game has changed significantly, at least in the way that I approach it. The "old spots" and "old techniques" still work, but if that is the only way you think about finding fish, you'll have too many fishless outing. You just might find that catching two chunky fish that you "see" in two feet of water, requiring good stalking skills and the perfect cast, can be wicked satisfying.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Reminders That "Catch And Release" Doesn't Always Succeed

Searching for tuna Waiting for everyone to wake up and get going on this foggy morning I've been sending updates to friends on where we found tuna yesterday, what we saw for bait and birds and suggestions on tactics for today. Many of the bluefin were small fish, much smaller that the mediums that we found back in June on my last trip in Cape Cod Bay. Current regulations on tuna harvest will require release of most of the fish caught out there today. Successfully releasing a bluefin tuna after a brutal battle is always challenging and risky. With the smaller fish we have the option to keep it and a better chance to land it quickly. We really don't know much about survivability of these fish.

Striped bass are generally rugged fish. They often are ready to swim away as soon as we land them. A lot of us work to limit mortality in the bass that we catch by trying to land them promptly, crimping barbs, employing circle hooks, supporting the belly of a big fish and taking photos quickly. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we don't contribute to striped bass mortality when we release the fish that we catch.

Hun My niece Claire and I spent time this morning looking at photos from my last bird hunting trip to North Dakota. Lot's of images of a happy but tired dog, sunsets, wheat stubble, abandoned school houses and of course...dead birds...in the mouth of the dog, on the tailgate of the truck, on top of my vest next to the 16 gauge, on the grill in the motel parking lot. For a nine year old from San Francisco, the fact that the birds are dead stands out.

Claire and I also quickly scrolled through a ton of summer photos that included umpteen shots of clients holding fish, stripers in the water, reviving another bass. There aren't any images of a fish on ice, or cleaning the fish at home or a striped bass on the grill. It is logical for her to assume that we don't kill any stripers. She is only nine. How often do we fall into the same trap?

Fishing is still a blood sport, even when we release everything that we catch. Some percentage of all of the fish that we hook, in any fishery, will perish. Our impact upon the fishery is greater than most of us usually acknowledge. One significant challenge for fisheries managers is to quantify catch and release mortality.  There is decent data from a number of studies done in freshwater ecosystems, more limited statistics in saltwater settings, but we know much more than we did twenty years ago. Here's a great, readable article that summarizes a number of release mortality studies. Limiting physical injury as a result of hooking and limiting physiological stress on the fish that we catch when we fight, handle and release them are the two variables over which we have the most control.

If you're interested in reading more, here's a report on studies done in Maryland on striped bass catch and release success and here's a general article with good suggestions and thoughts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

Reviving fish I had three recent disappointing experiences with nice stripers that we caught in the Kennebec River. We decided to tag a fish that was over the slot limit. I inserted the tag needle too low on the fishes back an nicked an artery or vein. The fish bled significantly, something I'd never experience in all of the stripers that I've tagged in Maine and Massachusetts. We quickly got the bass back into the water. The blood rapidly clotted at the tag entry site and the fish swam away with vigor. Three days later I entered Morse Cove at the end of a charter and found the same fish floating dead on the surface. I was pissed at myself the rest of the day and am still bothered by my mistake.

The same day that I killed the fish in the process of tagging it, we had trouble reviving a fat 29 inch striper. There was nothing remarkably different about the fight - it didn't seem longer than usual, there where no seal attacks, the hook was in the upper mouth and easy to remove. This bass just wouldn't right itself while we were reviving it. We probably spent 15 minutes holding the fish along side the boat, working to get it strong enough to release. Eventually, it's mouth clamped down on my thumb and its tail swooshed as it turned away, but I can't say that I'm confidant that bass survived.

Only three days later we caught two fish that came to the boat missing chunks of their tails. Seals. We would see the gray shapes zooming after the bass as we desperately tried to yank the fish into the safety of the cockpit. We ended up leaving this spot that held plenty of stripers because we didn't want to continue to subject them to the predation of the seals.

I know that I'll be paying close attention to how we handle fish that we catch. I hope that as we contemplate and debate rules and regulation, management strategies and population studies, we recognize our contribution to mortality even if we practice 100% catch and release. I'm still going to chase the tuna and do my best to limit the number that I kill, but I'll do so wondering if I'm being hypocritical.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Way too long since last post

Maine striper charter season is in full swing here on the Kennebec River and Casco Bay. This is the time of year when we get lots of inquiries from folks looking "to go fishing today or tomorrow".  If you call or email us and we are booked, we'll work to set you up with another guide who will take great care of you and your kids, who is on the water all the time and who will work hard to put you onto fish.

I've been very busy the past couple of weeks. My wife talks to me via messages on Facebook, I spend quality time with the dog at 2:30 AM and I haven't been good about updating the fishing reports page.

The fishing really picked up about ten days ago. I'm struck by how little we really know about our fish, their habits and our reasons for success or failure to catch them. The increased activity coincided with much stronger tides. Many of us who are on the water every day remarked that we seemed to have more stripers around, not just more cooperative fish. Did they come down the Kennebec, pushed by warmer waters? Did they come in from offshore? Are these some of the bass that friends to our south were telling me about? Were they here the weeks prior but just not in the places where we were looking? Ask around and you'll hear lots of opinions but few statements that would survive rigorous peer review. Doesn't mean that they are wrong, just that we can't really judge validity.

The deep water ledges and holes continue to produce catches of nice sized stripers, even in water where the surface temps are approaching 79 degrees. There herring are holding the bass in place and on a number of days time of day has been less important that time of tide. Each spot tends to fish better on a particular phase of either the coming or going tide, but the only rules are the ones that we impose on ourselves. Make three to six good drifts and move if you aren't finding the fish. Don't count on marking them, but do pay attention to bait showing on your sonar.

I've had some excellent times on the flats and other times when the fish were there, en mass, but giving us the finger. They can be fussy, maddening and mysterious. They can be finicky and coaxed to eat by the perfect presentation. They can be aggressive and feeding with wild abandon. Put your time in and you will see all of the above.

I am confident that most of the time, we will be more successful when the light is low - early morning, in the fog, cloudy days, dusk. We can't see as well into the water, but we're more likely to find fish waking and swirling, especially in small groups as opposed to the single cruising fish that just don't eat as often.

Presentation does matter. A lot. Often times, a cast that is close to being on target amounts to nothing more than casting practice. When the fish are grouped up into pods of five to ten fish, meandering, slowly working the bottom, swirling on small bait we stand a much better chance of getting a bite. When the stripers are making tracks, swimming in straight lines at a good clip, the presentation has to be perfect to have a chance at an eat.

Stronger tides in the evening and a fairly weak tide in the morning has produced better action around dusk the past two days. Cause and effect....? Given the way I wrote that sentence, I seem to believe so, but my sample size is pretty small. I'd love to hear more reports from those of you who are fishing this week. Any correlation in your findings?

I'm fishing Cape Cod Bay the next three days. I'll try to post more thoughts that have been rattling around in my sleep deprived brain for the past two weeks so check back over the coming days.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Lining It All Up

Lex fighting fish A string of weak tides and bright days have made the striper fishing on the Kennebec and New Meadows challenging at times, but challenging can be fun when you spot that feeding bass, pole up on it, cast and watch him track the fly...or streak away in abject terror. When we've had conditions all line up right, we've enjoyed some excellent, technical fishing. Low light, no wind, moving water, happy fish leads to happy us.

Crab fly in mouth We've had some outings when bright light mid-day with little breeze gave us great sightcasting conditions. As is always the case in shallow water striper fishing, some of the flats we poled held lots of cruising fish with little interest in eating while other spots held bass grubbing on the bottom or ganging up on very small baitfish and shrimp.

Tuesday morning we were underway just after 3:00 AM, excited about a little bit of cloud cover, running to a flat that has held a school of nice sized fish, counting our proverbial chickens. Yup. Tough morning. We just weren't finding the numbers of fish that we had been seeing in previous days. We were dedicated to catching stripers in the shallow water and we covered a lot of ground between 3:00 and 10:00. Our most exciting shots came at about 9:00 to large groups Skinny water striper 2 of bass, milling in tight circles, reminding us a bit of tarpon. These bigger groups (15 to 40 fish) are tough targets. It's so easy to spook one fish and have them all scoot. We landed two fish all morning, both just over the slot limit. Although we held higher hopes, we loved our good opportunities.

Our afternoon trip yesterday wasn't easy. The wind just wouldn't lay down. We worked a number of flats all over the place with few signs. We finally found a load of bass up on one mud flat that we're feeding well and willing to eat. The guys I had on the boat couldn't fish past 7:30 PM and stay married. Of course the fog rolled up the Thomas with fish river right as well hauled out and by 7:39 the wind died and the water was glass. I could see fish swirling on the flats as I pulled into my driveway and yes, I was cursing.

The late incoming tide in the afternoon/evening has been a consistent producer in the deeper water where the herring are holding. Some of the guides focusing on strong currents around structure have also done well either very early in the morning or once the outgoing tide has picked up steam. Better (stronger) tides are in our near future. Just got a text about some very big stripers being caught off the northeast shore of Massachusetts. Talked to a friend two days ago IMG_0700 who stalked a school of wow sized stripers along a beach south of Portland last weekend. Let's go get 'em.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine striped bass fishing
Got to trade places with my angler two mornings ago - him on the poling platform and me on the bow. Fritz Folts put me onto this nice 35 inch fish. It ate a fly based on Tim Borski's Bonefish Slider. Very nice fight in three feet of water. Wicked fun. Thanks Fritz.

This stable weather pattern is good for coastal tourism and good for striper fishing. We've enjoyed some excellent flats fishing EARLY in the morning and again in the evening. I'm talking off the dock before 4 AM early. We've also found some fish willing to eat on the afternoon rising tide but we've also had some stretches where it's tough sledding for a couple of hours after the sun gets up over the trees or before the shadows get long in the afternoon.

Guys fishing live macs and herring over deeper structure are doing very well in the Kennebec right now. The stripers are keyed into the herring in the fast water and a variety of small stuff in the shallows. Get out your bonefish and permit fly boxes and go have fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Saltwater Fishing: Striped Bass Update

Fritzwithlincfish Stripers are transitioning to a more typical summer pattern. There is still a lot of herring in the Kennebec River and the schools of these critical baitfish are setting up on the ledges and humps. The herring range in size from 3 to 10 inches. If you can locate the larger bait, you increase your chances of taking a bigger striped bass. We caught our two largest fish of the season on Sunday afternoon in just such a setting.

The flats fishing has ranged from ok to excellent. Our best success has come on the incoming tide regardless of the time of day, as long as it was cloudy or foggy. The beaches are also fishing well, even though the schools of mackerel have thinned out here. Plenty of small bait to go with the pollack and crabs.

Catch and release season in the Kennebec special area ends today (July 1), and along with that change, it is now legal to fish bait. Here's to all angler's sharing the drifts instead of anchoring up.

Should be a busy holiday weekend on the waters in Maine. The forecast has everyone talking about getting out. Today and tomorrow may be a bit challenging fishing wise, but we're set up for a stable SW flow after Friday, a real summer pattern, that might make some fish very willing to eat your fly.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com