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Native Kennebec Striped Bass Need Your Help

June Striper

There's only 24 hours left, but you can still   

email laurice.churchill@maine.gov through April 14.


The Kennebec River in Maine is home to the only significant population of breeding East Coast striped bass north of the Hudson River. Stocking efforts in the 1980s helped restore these once native fish to an increasingly healthy and productive watershed. The ambitious project worked. Every spring, stripers return to the Kennebec to spawn successfully.


In 1990 the Maine Department of Marine Resources implemented special regulations on the Kennebec River and surrounding waters to protect these spawning fish during May and June. All striper fishing is single hook, artificial lure only and catch and release only until July 1.


The Maine DMR is considering a proposal to change these regulations. 1)The catch and release zone would shrink considerably and, 2)use of bait, on circle hooks only, would become legal . As of this email, you have 24 hours to submit your comments regarding this proposal to the Maine DMR. Past rulings clearly show that your voice does count, as public comments have helped sustain these conservation measures in previous challenges.


Reducing the catch and release zone and allowing the use of bait during May and June will increase striped bass mortality in this watershed.  I am opposed to these changes in regulations. Here's why:


  • We have far too little data about the spawning habits of these fish. We need to know much more before we take anything other than the most conservative approach (short of closing the fishery completely). Has the value of these spawning fish decreased since 1990? Do we have supporting evidence that we should take a less conservative approach?
  • There has been a 66% decline in the estimated recreational catch of striped bass along the East Coast from 2006 to 2009. Maine DMR has submitted another proposal to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would reduce striped bass mortality along the East Coast up to 40% and further protect spawning stock when it is concentrated and vulnerable. How can we ask every other East Coast state to support such changes when we are modifying rules that will increase striper mortality and weaken protection of spawning fish in our own waters?  
  • When I explain to my guests why these rules are in effect, I find that they become instant supporters of these conservation measures. In all of my years guiding I've only lost a handful of potential clients because of the catch and release rules.  
  • Waters opened to keeping fish would allow use of J hooks for the next two years.   
  • I'm a huge fan of circle hooks but allowing the use of bait during May and June will increase the overall pressure on this fishery. Increased pressure will lead to increased mortality, even within any catch and release zone. Fisheries managers worldwide use gear restrictions as a tool to limit mortality.
  • Enacting or defeating these proposed changes will have no significant effect on the numbers of striped bass available for us to pursue in this watershed this season or next season or the year after that. What we don't know is what role these native, spawning fish could play in our fishery in ten, twenty, thirty years.  
  • We took the gamble in the 1980s with the stocking program. We enacted special regulations in 1990 when we knew that the program was working. Why go off course now?


If you would be willing to take five minutes to share your opinion with the Maine DMR I'd really appreciate it.  


You can email laurice.churchill@maine.gov through April 14.


Thanks to all of you who've already submitted comments.


Capt. Peter Fallon 



To learn more:


Copy of the Maine DMR official notice of proposed rule changes


CCA article about striped bass restoration on the Kennebec River


Blog posts from some of my good friends and fellow guides with their thoughts on the proposed changes (both for and against)

The Fish Whistle 

Super Fly Charters  

Capt. Doug Jowett   


Discussion on the Fly Fishing In Maine (FFIM) Saltwater Forum  


Discussion on the Maine Fly Fish Saltwater Forum 


Recent article in the Coastal Journal

by Capt. Barry Gibson, a strong supported of these proposed changes

RULE TITLE: Chapter 42.03 Striped Bass – Closed Area and Closed Season (Kennebec River and Sheepscot river areas)
The proposed rulemaking would remove the marine bait prohibition and replace it with the requirement to use circle hooks while using marine bait when fishing in the Kennebec River closed area during the established May 1 to June 30th season. The closed area is also proposed to change from upstream and inside the line drawn from Cape Small to Cape Newagen to a line upstream and inside from Fort Popham, Phippsburg to Kennebec Point to Indian Point, Georgetown, and upstream from a line in the area called Robinhood between Lowe Point, Phippsburg to Newdick Point, Westport and downstream of the Route 144 Westport Island Bridge therefore removing the Sheepscot River from the Kennebec rules and placing it under the statewide regulations. The proposed rulemaking is available online at: http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rulemaking/ .
PUBLIC HEARING: April 4, 2011, 6pm, Bath City Hall, 1st Floor Auditorium, 55 Front Street, Bath DEADLINE FOR WRITTEN COMMENTS: April 14, 2011 To ensure consideration, comments must include your name and the organization you represent, if any. Please be aware that any risk of non-delivery associated with submissions by fax or e-mail is on the sender.
Bruce Joule (207-633-9505) or Pat Keliher (207-287-9973) Department of Marine Resources PO Box 8, West Boothbay Harbor, Maine 04575-0008 http://www.maine.gov/dmr/rulemaking/
TEL: (207) 633-9584 FAX:(207) 633-9579 TTY:(207) 633-9500 (Deaf/Hard of Hearing) Hearing facilities: If you require accommodations due to disability, please contact Amanda Beckwith, at (207)
E-MAIL: laurice.churchill@maine.gov 287-7578.
Additional information:
The original rule adopted in 1990 was based on mortality concerns for native striped bass within the Kennebec River during their spawning season n May and June. This was due to the primary use of J hooks, which at the time posed an unacceptably high hook and release mortality. In 2010 the Department adopted a year round circle hook rule to improve the reduction of the discard mortality for striped bass caught and released by recreational anglers. Those rules become effective after two seasons to allow tackle shops to reduce inventory and as an education period.
The “Recreational Fishing Alliance” has requested the proposed rulemaking to open the Kennebec to bait fishing with circle hooks during May and June. In their opinion this request is consistent with the Department of Marine Resources’ objectives to reduce discard mortality through circle hooks while also opening these waters to bait fishermen and guide businesses currently prohibited from fishing these waters for a significant portion of the season. Therefore opening this area would have a positive impact on the recreational fishing industry.
Proposed rulemaking – see underlined or deleted text below:
Chapter 42 - Striped Bass 42.03 Striped Bass - Closed Area and Closed Season
A. Except as provided in Chapter 42.03 (B), from the 1st day of December to June 30, inclusive, it is unlawful for any person to take and retain any striped bass from the tidal waters of the Kennebec River inside and upstream of a line drawn from the outer extremity of Cape Small to the outer extremity of Salter Island, thence to the outer extremity of Cape Newagen Fort Popham, Phippsburg to the southern end of Kennebec Point, Georgetown, thence east to the southernmost tip of Indian Point, Georgetown; and from Lowe Point, Georgetown to Newdick Point, Westport (Robinhood); plus downstream from the Route 144 Westport Island Bridge; and including Merrymeeting Bay and tributaries, the tidal waters of the Sheepscot River, Androscoggin River, Sasanoa River, and all other tidal tributaries of the Kennebec River. From July 1 through November 30, statewide regulations for striped bass apply to this area.
B. Special Hook and Release Season/Area. From May 1 to June 30, it shall be lawful to fish for striped bass in the waters described in Chapter 42.03(A) with a hook and line and single-hooked artificial lures (a hook may have one, two or three points), and with bait, solely as prescribed below in Chapter 42.03(C). Any striped bass caught during this special season/area fishery shall be immediately released and returned alive, without further injury, to the waters from which they were taken.
C. Waters Seasonally Closed to the Use of Bait. Use of Circle Hooks and Bait. From May 1 to June 30, inclusive, it is unlawful to use any hook other than a circle hook when using marine bait. For purposes of this chapter the definition of circle hook means a non-offset hook with a point that points 90o back toward the shaft of the hook. it is unlawful to possess or use bait while hook and line fishing for any finfish species in waters described in 42.03(A). During this closed season (May 1 to June 30), possession of hook and line fishing gear and bait on waters described in 42.03(A) is prima facie evidence of violating this regulation. For purposes of this section, "bait" is defined as any live or dead marine organism, or part thereof.
Note: No other changes are proposed in Chapter 42.