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


Fishing Is Funny

Maine striped bass caught fly fishing on the flats of the Kennebec River near Popham BeachI’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the change in the fishing in the Kennebec River and keep coming up with conflicting thoughts. This week has been incredible and disappointing. I’ve noticed a distinct difference from last week, when there were lots of active feeds all over the River and we were all raving about the great fishing. Where I’ve been, that has changed and not for the better but on the flats, wow...and come on fish. We’re seeing a lot of bass from 18 inch micro stripers to 40 inch cow bass in water from 6 feet to 12 inches deep. A lot. Sometimes they are hungry and aggressive and cooperative. Sometimes they are incredibly fussy. Early mornings on the coming tide have been generally slow for bigger fish. They just haven’t been waking much and thus sightcasting to them is really tough. You get a swirl, and a short push of water, and often a refusal, then nada for a while. Late morning to early afternoon, under bright sun, the larger bass have been much more cooperative and accommodating. Funny, this fishing.

The morning tide has been weak and I am sure that makes a difference, not in our favor. If you’re planning a striper trip far in advance, you’d be well served to target dates when the tides are at or above normal. In the Kennebec, an 8 foot high tide (or less, as measured at Fort Popham) can be challenging. 

Go to fly for shallow water striped bass on the flats of the Kennebec River, MaineMy general approach is to start the morning with a spun deer hair slider in a dark color if we’re fishing on a darker bottom flat up in the marshes. The fish are usually “up” in the water column, at least when we can target individual bass or pods. These flies push some water and often illicit vengeful strikes. Once we shift to more traditional “sightcasting” over light colored bottom flats, the trick is to figure out if the fish are looking up or down. If down, it is time for shrimp, crab, or something that combines attributes of both. If they are looking up, we switch to baitfish patterns, sometimes small sand eel imitations and other times larger hollow flyes. You can get some important clues from the way the stripers break the surface when they feed, but we also rely on what worked yesterday on that flat and then changing fly pattern after two refusals on really good shots.

Part of what makes fishing funny is the mix of predictable fish behavior and the ever-changing reaction, location, travel, feeding patterns, of these game fish. Use what you learned last time out, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Be ready to add a lot of tippet as you try fly after fly. While I believe presentation trumps all, getting to watch the reaction of bass after bass after bass leaves me with zero doubt that on some days finding the right fly is key.

Albie Snax does it again , fooling another shallow water striped bassAs for hardware chucking (which by the way, I’m proud to admit to doing) the standouts in shallow water continue to be the Albie Snax from Fish Snax Lures, the Zipster spook from Lonely Angler, and the small RonZ’s. I’m sure that the Hogy Skinny’s would be well received along with other small plastics. Don’t ignore creature baits if you are fishing the green water rolling off ledges. That largemouth bait also takes big, big stripers in shallow water close to the ocean at times. I haven’t recently tied on any of the small buck tails that I tie up, but maybe we’ll test them tomorrow. 

Tides here in midcoast Maine are improving. Fish whenever you can. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be the day that you will recall for years to come, you will learn more. Wear long pants, as the greenheads are just stating to show up. They aren’t out in force yet, but it will only be a matter of days. 

I’m booked rest of this week and headed back to the Vineyard for another long weekend of trips there but may have the 21st and 22nd open if you want to get out to chase striped bass here in Maine. 

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Should I Stay or Should I Go — Leaving Fish to Find Fish

After three incredible weeks fishing Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and surrounding waters it was wonderful to run down the Kennebec River yesterday morning just after 4:00 am with Fritz Folts, cruising past water loaded with flipping herring and then to be greeted by breaking fish and diving gulls at our first stop. There were individual bass chasing herring up onto a small mud flat and pods of stripers coming up in the middle of the channel and a few fish popping right tight to shore and plenty more revealing themselves on the sounder screen. You know when there are six herons in a span of shore 40 yards long fighting over the best fishing spot with herring gulls, black backs, turns and bald eagles diving from overhead there’s some bait in the area. The mission was to catch fish on the surface with the spook and we found success...but, we weren’t finding fish bigger than about 25 inches. After a short discussion, we made the decision to leave fish.

We could have taken the “quantity” approach, catching as many fish as possible and hoping that a few would end up being larger bass. We did spend a little time fishing adjacent structure instead of the small pods of busting bass, but that strategy wasn’t producing what we wanted. With zero wind and the sun still low in the sky and a southwest flow forecast for the day, conditions were ideal for fishing some shallow water, targeting waking fish. If you’re swallowing noseeums with bites of your Frosty’s donuts (they open at 4:00 am!), then you should be focused on shallow water fish.

We ran to a flat that often holds large stripers. As we were slowly working our way up into the middle of the cove, we could see fish pushing water ahead of us in a couple of different locations. We were about two and half hours into the dropping tide in two feet or so of water and the clock was against us. First pod to approach gave Fritz a perfect head on shot and he made the cast. The fish in the group immediately showed interest in the spook and as one tried to eat it I got a good look at how large it was. With great presence of mind, Fritz calmly twitched and paused the lure, like he was toying with the twenty sixth 18 inch schoolie of the morning. He played it perfectly, keepin these fish interested and competitive, but also giving them a chance to line themselves up for the eat. It’s not always easy for a larger fish in shallow water to grab a surface plug on the first try. Not far off the bow we both watched a big, white mouth open and inhale the zipster after another fish of similar size missed it. The hook stuck and the striper took off. After a well executed fight, Fritz lifted his rod to bring the leader to my hand. I realized that this fish would be a two-hander. Elated, we quickly snapped a few photos and Fritz returned the feisty bass to the water.

96392483-8B2C-42C6-BEE4-C430F4EFAFF6

Some people swear by the adage of not leaving fish to find fish. We however, left for good reasons, and it payed off. Part of our decision making was based upon how we most wanted to fish, what would bring the greatest reward if we were successful, and the pretty ideal conditions for doing so. 

I hope you get a chance to enjoy this incredible fishery. If you want to get out on the water, send me an email (pfallon@mainestripers.com) or give me a call at 207-522-9900. I do have a couple of openings coming up before my next trip south.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Prime Time for Flats Fishing Stripers in Maine

If you love to chase striped bass in shallow water, get out there NOW. This stretch of hot weather has not deterred the fish from moving up onto the sand and mud flats of Midcoast Maine. There will of course be times when the fish are more fussy, but for the most part, they have been very willing to oblige with an eat if you make a good presentation and offer them the right treat. We've had a lot of windless mornings, and the bass have been happy to show themselves with their tell tale V-wakes. Late morning through early afternoon, no wind allows us to see into their world and spot the fish cruising lighter colored bottom. I'm not seeing stripers over 30 inches yet, but have been getting reports of some bigger fish showing up in Southern Maine and around Portland.

I blew off cutting our overgrown lawn last evening to get out myself for a couple of hours either side of sunset, and I'm so thankful that I made the right decision. Between 6:30 and 7:30 I landed ten or more fish, all between 24 and 28 inches, out of two feet of water, in one of the most gorgeous places on the coast of Maine. I have another full day of teaching fly casting ahead of me and then have to get on a plane to Michigan for three days (this trip is killing me!) so I needed  a fix to sustain me through the coming week. I'll update with more details and suggestions from the Detroit airport.

Oh...and I received word (via Littleton, CO) that the bluefish were tearing up the pogies in Maquoit Bay yesterday.

Tight Lines,

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Strong Striper Fishing Continues on the Kennebec River Here in Maine

Maine striped bass caught fly fishing on the Kennebec River
Let Me Help You Become A Better Striped Bass Angler

There are plenty of stripers in the Kennebec right now and they continue to eat well. We've had some really, really good trips and some outings that qualify as solid but not spectacular (in terms of catching). If you're thinking we've hit the "dog days of summer" in terms of striper fishing, hold off on that assumption. The warmer weather has provided us with some foggy mornings and still evenings; fishy conditions for sure.

There are stripers available to you, no matter how you like to fish. Is sight casting to big bass on a sandy flat what gets you out of bed well before dawn? Well the water is gin clear in and around the mouth of the river and the bass are roaming the shallows on almost all of the flats within 2 miles of Popham Beach. Prefer chucking a crease fly with your 9 weight rod? Get after them in the shallow water early and late in the day when the light is low and you can be rewarded. You a top water junky? Fish the strong moving water on the outgoing tide around ledges, edges, and other structure and you can watch the surface show that is so much fun. If drifting deeper structure is your game, a lot of the traditional summer hot spots closer to Bath, especially from BIW down to Lee Island, are loaded with herring and can produce fish after fish on every drift once you find the stripers.

At some point, we'll find the fish more fussy in the shallow water and less likely to smack a fly striped slowly in the surface film or hopped across the bottom, but if you can go now, do it. Remember that not every day is great. Even when the timing and strength of the tide seems to be perfect for the way you want to fish, there is variation in how cooperative the other party will be. If you have a trip that is underwhelming, don't jump to the conclusion that "the stripers aren't running" or "the water's too warm and the bass must have moved out of the River". Resolve to get up early again or slip out of work in time to launch for the last hours of daylight. If you can choose your days, a foggy or overcast morning or evening is ideal.

If you want to know more about how to find striped bass on your own, you can accelerate your learning by hiring a guide. My favorite striper charters are ones where my anglers are curious about why we are fishing in a particular spot and why we passed up other water that looked so good. I'd love to share with you what I know about striped bass and help you become a better striper angler. Give me a call or send me an email if you're interested in a striped bass charter when you're here in Maine.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


More Fun on the Flats

Big bass

The greenheads are out in force, which in addition to wearing long pants all day, means that the stripers should be up on the flats in good numbers. Some of the most consistant sight casting of the entire summer often happens right here in the first half of July. A stable, southwest flow coupled with high overhead sun makes me feel like I'm in Florida...sneaking around in two feet of water, changing flies to see what the fish want, kneeling on the bow of the boat to minimize profile, wiping sweat from around the eyes, mouth dry with excitement as 40 inch bass track the fly. It is all so much fun I can't stand it. I spend all day doing it and just want more. Three times this week the breeze started to wrinkle the surface of the water just as the light got bright enough to spot the fish, not just the wakes, fins and tails and then, it just died right off again. 11:00 AM and the water was unblemished. So lucky.

Fly fishing striped bass

A cloudy or foggy morning right about now would go over well with me. The stripers are super fussy and a little fog would help the early morning bite. The timing of the tide has also been a bit funky. The fish aren't very active when the water isn't moving, even at 4:30 AM. The neap tides do slow everything down, keeping the bass up on the flats longer, giving us more time to try to figure them out.

Maine fly fishing

The forecast through the weekend is good, although it looks like the breeze will kick up each morning and may not settle until right at sunset. The Kennebec is still brimming with bait of all kind. I've heard rumors of bluefish of Seguin and Small Point but haven't been able to confirm them with anyone who I know well. Hope you get a chance to get on the water and enjoy the amazing sight casting opportunity we have right here in Maine.

Recycled fish

 

Capt. Peter Fallon

 


Skinny water game on

What a fun day. Started up on one of my all time favorite flats at first light. The stripers were amazingly fussy. They were grouped up into schools that were too large. Drop the fly just a little too close to the pack and vooooom, the entire group erupts and scoots. I much prefer chasing pods of four, six , ten fish, where there is enough competition to encourage eats but not this skittish behavior. I was surprised at how almost all of the bass on this flat were in schools of twenty, thirty, fifty fish. It was very demanding, very cool and very satisfying.

As the tide dropped out of this bay there was one pack of striped bass that packed themselves so tightly together and roamed making tight circles as they went. The sun was high enough that they looked like a large patch of weed on the bottom from a distance, just a black glob. They were exposing fins on the surface, swirling, cavorting but not eating.

Splash

I picked up Sarah at 10:30 and ran back to a spot were I had fished at the end of the dropping tide. There were waking fish for a while as late at 9:00 which was a treat. On this flat the water was still murkey enough that unless the fish were pushing water, there was little chance to see them until right on top of them. I did spook one huge fish. This striper was over 40 inches. It had broad shoulders and a huge light colored tail. Under bright sun a few of the fish started to pop bait right on the edge of the still ebbing current. It was a nice way to finish the morning.

IMG_3055

Well, the real finish to the morning was running out past Reid State Park to Five Islands for lunch.

There was more from today that I'll share tomorrow but its late and the alarm is set for early.

Capt. Peter Fallon

 


Fishing Fourth of July Week

I'm curious to see what the striper fishing holds for us this week. The weather forecast is pretty favorable, with a steady south to southwest flow. After what's seemed like a month of always changing weather, some stability might help bring some consistency to the striper fishing here in midcoast Maine.

I'd love to see some foggy mornings buy us a bit more time before the light hits the shallow water. You've got to be up awfully early this time of year to fill the thermos, load the cooler, launch the boat, get the sports squared away and get to the first fishing spot before the sun is peaking over the tree tops. But the early alarm is worth it. The fish really do behave differently in that period of low light when you can see the wakes and swirls and get close to the bass before they scoot away from the boat or your cast.

The water in the Kennebec River is still dirty. If you've read any previous posts here, you know that's been a constant refrain this season. I'll stop right there.

The strong tides and full moon are a mixed blessing. We will have good water movement which helps when fishing around structure and the edges of the flats after the fish have moved out of the shallows but that period when the flats just start to fill in goes by so quickly. A spot that would often be worth poling for two hours will only keep us in place for half that time.

The other downside is the moon itself. I have logs that show some epic outings on the two days/nights either side of the full moon, but most entries are about disappointment. The striped bass can get funny and that doesn't equate to fun.

There will be a lot more boat traffic this week anywhere you hit the water or beach. Be mindful of others, expect the same in return but be prepared for everything. 

Capt. Peter Fallon

Mainestripers.com


Back on the Water

Maine saltwater fly fishing Finally. After a long winter and spring, I've been able to get out on the water recently. Hard to fathom that it is already the middle of July. Wow. Here are some notes from my past few days on the Kennebec.

There are fish around. In what amounts to a very limited sample size, my survey says a little better than last year but really quite similar. I did manage to get out twice in mid-June and had fabulous fishing, but that was a month ago and the stripers have changed their patterns to more typical summer behavior.

In speaking with a number of other captains, I hear some folks talk about finding more fish than this time last season and others talk about it being about the same in terms of numbers caught per charter. Everyone agrees that there are more "schoolies" around, striped bass ranging from 16 to 20 inches. There are also bigger fish around, 36 to 46 inches long, as there were last season.

The water is cooler than last summer. Our spring and early summer warm up in 2010 was historic. River temps at the end of May were almost 70 degrees near Bath. The lobsters crawled inshore well ahead of schedule. Absolutely unlike the prior year. I need to look at notes from past logs to judge water temps right now, but my gut tells me that the readings I found were much more "normal".

The water is murky, even out at Small Point. I haven't check river flow data upcountry, but they must still be releasing a lot of water. The visibility is ok under bright sun on the lighter bottomed flats, but as soon as the wind ruffles the surface or you get a little deeper the fish get much harder to spot.

There is no shortage of bait in and around the Kennebec. There are schools of herring up inside the river, mackerel just off the mouth in either direction, shrimp on the mudflats and along the marsh banks and a ton of very small bait on the sand flats. I haven't netted any of this "rain bait", so I can't tell exactly what it is, but a small, sparse Clouser will be a good imitation. I also found gulls diving on a number of upriver mudflats three days in a row, picking up worms off the surface, but saw no indication that the striped bass were focused in on the same meal.

The insect population is healthy. The salt marsh mosquitoes aren't on anyone's threatened list and in places the noseeums warrant a mask over nose and mouth. It's also greenhead time, so for the next couple of weeks, wearing long pants and socks will keep you from doing the dreaded dance and limit your vulgar outbursts to times when you blow a cast on the perfect opportunity. Just remember that on the predawn mornings when the bugs at the launch ramp are awful, you're more likely to find happy fish cruising just under the surface, swirling to sip shrimp and hopefully, your fly.

The area that we fish is gorgeous. Stunning. Spectacular. I think I do a good job of noticing what a beautiful place this is every time I'm out and I don't take it for granted...but after too long away from the water I found myself marveling at this scenery again and again.

My ski injury is still quite limiting and although I'm not yet able to guide clients I can connect you with a guide who will take great care of you. Gordon has some openings in his schedule. If he isn't available, I work with a number of experienced, talented captains all along the coast and can help you find the "right fit" for your fishing trip. Send me an email or give me a call and get out on the water.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

207-522-9900


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


Sluggos on the ledges...Maine Striper Fishing Update

No trip yesterday and too nice to not to be on the water so my wife and I went exploring and relaxing in Casco Bay. We didn't fish hard. My next charter isn't until Tuesday and it is back in the Kennebec, so I've got Monday to work to find fish. We stopped at Holbrook's Lobster Wharf for lunch, anchored in the lee of Ragged Island to read the Sunday paper and swim and worked a number of the islands and outcroppings looking for stripers.

There are plenty of pollack off the ledges. With the mackerel much more scattered, the pollack are the easiest live bait to find right now. I didn't put a circle hook through any yesterday, but the swell rolling up onto the islands was too tempting to pass up so I spent some time tossing Sluggos into the whitewater.

I tend to start with a white 7 1/2 inch Sluggo rigged with a tru turn baitholder and a 5/0 60 or 90 jig hook. I'll wrap solder around the shank of the hook and sometimes add Lunker City insert weights towards the tail of the Sluggo. If I have two anglers fishing Sluggos, I'll mix up the color to see if something else will out-fish the white. I keep a supply of 7 1/2 inch white, black, alewife, Arkansas shiner and bubblegum colors on the boat. Lately I've been experimenting with limetruse and the new squid colors. I find myself using the 7 1/2 inch size in place of the 6's almost all of the time. I like the 9's when I'm targeting bigger fish as opposed to prospecting for fish.

Yesterday afternoon some of the fish hit just as the Sluggo started to sink into the green, foaming water. Others whacked it after letting it drop with no retrieve. All of the fish that I caught where tight to the ledges. There was enough of a breeze that I often couldn't see if the fish were following it off the rocks but not taking it. By 6:30 PM I was finding fish that would chase the Sluggo as I twitched it right across the surface of the water.

After a week of mostly fishing deep (1 oz or more jigs or 450 grain lines with a cement Clouser) it was nice to be back working visible structure and whitewater.


Quick Update

Brit1 We got off to a good start this week with some fish over slot size eating large herring grocery flies and megamushies. There seemed to be a push of fresh juvie herring into the lower Kennebec at the end of last week. The surface blitzes have been decreasing since last Friday, but we are still occasionally finding busting stripers down around the mouth of the river.

At times these surface feeding fish have been fussy. One morning we spent an hour on a pod of schoolies, changing flies and presentations on every drift. We were picking up fish, but not at the rate we expected. I wondered if there was tiny bait mixed in with the 3 inch herring? Where's my mask and snorkel when I need it? The most consistent pattern was an variation of an Eldridge Brothers Guitar Minnow fished on a 400 grain line.

The most predictable fish activity that I've found has been on the evening incoming tide, while the bulk of the bigger fish have come towards the bottom of the dropping tide. There are still plenty of the small herring spread throughout the Kennebec. We also found fish puking up 1/2 inch diameter tan crabs and tiny orange shrimp. The water is clearing up nicely and the sight fishing on the flats and beaches should improve.


Week of July 4th

Here's a run down on Kennebec River saltwater fishing conditions this past week. The striper action has seemed more consistent and predictable, with the exception of Monday the 3rd. We experienced a significant change in weather between Sunday and Monday. I don't know if this put the fish off, but on Monday they seemed more spread out, less competitive and glued to structure. We are seeing more slot sized fish, but the bigger fish are still scarce.

Herringkils We've been keying in on the schools of herring that are spread throughout the Kennebec watershed. In some locations, this important bass bait has been set up on the same structure for days. The bite is predictable and we love predictable. These brit herring are juvenile Atlantic Herring that have moved  inshore from the Gulf of Maine, feeding in fertile waters before returning to deeper offshore water in the fall. We've are seeing herring as small as two inches and as large as five inches. Herring and black back gulls, herrons and osprey can offer easy keys of where to fish, however, in the majority of the locations holding large schools of bass there may be no bird activity, no fleeing bait, no swirling stripers.

The striped bass have not been especially selective when they are feeding on the brit herring. At many times the fish are holding tight to the bottom, clustered around ledges, humps, bars and drop offs. Getting your fly or lure down to the fish is often the key to success, especially as the current slows and/or any surface action diminishes. Megamushies, grocery patterns, juvie herring, full dressed conomo specials and guitar minnows and other half and half flies have all fished well. Use a sinking line and pay attention to boat movement and current to get your fly to sink, sink, sink. Jig heads with soft plastics and Storm wild eye shad (5 and 6 inch) have been the workhorse lures, but I always have a couple of rods rigged with sluggos and rattle traps. Braided line is the way to go.

Richwithfish Out around the mouth of the rivers, the beaches and points there are lots of small sand eels and some schools of small, deeper bodied baitfish that I haven't yet identified. The mackerel have been spotty at the mouth of the Kennebec. The pollack are on the ledges and around the kelp beds. We've found some nice fish in the whitewater but we've also had some slow times prospecting for bigger bass.

Lexwith5wt We've also found smaller schoolies feeding on tiny, orange shrimp. At times stripers feeding on very small bait can get selective but these fish have hit every fly that we've thrown at them. As a general rule, the blitzing fish will hit throughout the water column. When the surface action diminishes for a few minutes, put down your floating line or popper and fish subsurface. Nothing beats catching big fish, but I'll admit that hammering the schoolies on a 5 weight rod is fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com