Maine Striper Update

I fished with Fritz in his gorgeous new 20 foot Maritime Skiff this weekend. Part of our mission is to teach him to be able to run the boat, competently, confidently and comfortably. Part of our mission, is of course, to catch fish. We are succeeding at both.

Saturday evening we spent the bulk of our time sorting through new gear, figuring out how to best stow everything, fueling procedures and putting some hours on the engine and the new owner. It was slack tide when we got underway, so we ran to the mouth of the Kennebec, scouted a couple of coves, made a few casts and then headed back up river for dinner at The Cabin.

On the east shore of Stage Island we found 200 gulls (mixed species), innumerable cormorants, terns, eagles, osprey, egrets and eiders. It was clear that there was something going on there. Our casts produced no results but our sonar screen was lit up with balls of bait.

Sunday morning we didn't dare start out in the dark. The Kennebec is still loaded with debris from the flooding. We were rewarded at our first stop with breaking fish. Schoolie stripers. This wasn't water boiling, birds screaming, bait fleeing, frenzied action but consistent, single breaking fish spread along a couple hundred yards. The tide was just starting to move and the stripers tended to hang on the drop off where it went from 6 to 15 feet deep.

We found the same pattern in a couple other coves for the first few hours of the morning. Half of our stops produced no results. We checked one flat that we both love to fish. No signs, no strikes.

All of the fish that we caught we little, little guys. We spent some time fishing deep in the areas where we were finding the fish, looking for a heftier return, but no luck.

First Fish

The water is clearer but still a mess. By half tide the draining river was again filled with swirling silt. There was far more bait visible that the previous week, but still not as much as prior to the flooding. I'm heading back over to eastern Casco Bay early this week but optimistic about the Kennebec for the coming weekend.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.Mainestripers.com


Striped Bass Update for the Kennebec River

I don't have a striped bass fishing update for the Kennebec River for you as the water is still high and dirty but I'll be back out there Friday evening and over the weekend. Water levels upriver in both the Kennebec and Androscoggin are down significantly from a few days ago but both rivers are running about twice as high as what we were seeing last week before all the rain. That's a lot of water.

Here are a couple of photos that I took at the Kennebec Tavern on Tuesday. Folks there said that they hadn't seen the water that high in the 16 years they'd been there. They have a lot of clean up work ahead but amazingly enough they were hosting the Bath Garden Club Luncheon at the time I was snapping these shots. If you look real close in this first photo you can just make out the pink jackets and summer blouses through the front windows. I suspect that a few extra Manhattans were consumed that afternoon.

Kennebec River 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kennebc River 2

I did hear from a friend who was fishing from shore around the mouth of the Saco yesterday that the water there is starting to clear. He was seeing small schools of breaking fish that stayed well out of casting range.

I expect that I'll be over in Casco Bay for some part of this weekend and for at least two of my charters next week I will fish around Harpswell. Having the Maverick on a trailer is a huge benefit when the weather throws us a curveball.

Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you deal with all of this stained water:

Try fishing dark patterns - olive, purple, black.

Remember that the incoming tide brings cleaner water and the end of the dropping tide will be the muddiest.

Make some commotion on the surface with a popper or gurgler.

If you're chucking hardware, make some noise. Searching with a Rat-L-Trap can be a trip saver.

Find the bait. Everything has been disrupted by the flood waters. As normalcy returns, you need to hit the reset button on your own understanding of what's happening where.

Be very careful out there. There are still trees and logs and stumps and broken up docks and bolts of puplwood and deck furniture floating around. As much as I love to get an early start, I won't be launching until I can see what's ahead of me and I'll be back to the dock before it's truly dark. Also be mindful that the mud flat that you have run across a hundred times my now have a 70 foot oak tree stuck in it, lurking just below the water.

The most amazing thing about this whole event is that the water will drop, and the bait will show and the stripers will eat and we'll be singing the praise of June in Maine.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

Mainestripers.com


Maine Striper Update - Good News, Bad News

Striped bass continue to move up the Maine coast, filling into rivers and bays south of Portland, Casco Bay and the Kennebec watershed. We're seeing the schools of little stripers that I was finding down by Cape Cod last month, which is welcome news. And the bait. Wow.

Unfortunately, we are also watching floodwaters tear through coastal Maine, dumping dirty water into every bay, river and harbor. There are rocks sitting on the mudflat in Dromore Bay next to my house that were in the streambed two days ago. The combination of runoff, dam releases and high tides with the full moon has put a lot of junk into the Kennebec. And the rain. Wow.

Here are some graphs from the USGS that show what's happening upriver:

Screen Shot 2012-06-04 at 7.10.23 AM

Screen Shot 2012-06-04 at 7.09.26 AM

The forecast for the week calls for rain the next three days, but in lesser amounts. I'm hopeful that by the weekend, we may find some of the waters starting to clear and fishing picking back up.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Mainestripers.com


Striped Bass Update for the Kennebec River

First Kennebec Fish 2012
Stripers are back in the River with plenty of feed available. In our expeditionary outing, Fritz Folts and I put our time in Saturday, fishing early and fishing late and we were rewarded with one nice "first fish". We saw about six more swirls, strikes or slaps but only landed the one striper.

The Kennebec is loaded with bait of all sizes. Little sand eels around the mouth, brit herring 2 inches long from Fiddler's Reach to Parker Head, macs up as far as Goat Island and adult herring throughout. Water temps ranged from 54 to 66 degrees. We found fish in water that was about 62, but there are sure to be more bass up and down river.

Time to fill the thermos and head back out. Make sure that you are aware of the special regulations for this watershed if you are fishing the Kennebec in May and June. Hope you get to enjoy some time on the water this holiday weekend.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Mainestripers.com


Striper fishing and lilacs blooming

The pioneer striped bass often show up here in mid-coast Maine just as the lilacs bloom. Judging by the flowers I'm seeing next to the shed here in Phippsburg, it's time to go fishing.

I've heard from fellow anglers who caught or seen stripers down in the Saco and Scarborough Marsh at the end of last week, so there should be so early arriving fish pushing through Casco Bay, the New Meadows River and into the Kennebec by now.

Word from waters just north and south of Boston is good and I'll be heading that way next week, but in the meantime, I think I'll go search for some fish closer to home.

Capt. Peter Fallon

MaineStripers.com


Short sighted and disappointing news from those entrusted with managing our fishery

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council just wrapped up their meeting in Boston and voted not to put a reduction in striped bass mortality out for public comment. Read this article from the Baltimore Sun and see if you agree with the comments about those of us in New England advocating that we manage this fishery based upon "emotion". Do you find yourself scratching your head at the comments from the rep from the Maryland Charter Boat Association? Can you believe that those of us who make our living by running striped bass charters can have such disparate positions on how to manage this resource? The stock assessment reports for this year are wonderful news but wouldn't a moderate reduction in mortality help ensure that the fish spawned this spring make a significant contribution to the breeding population in five years? A reduction in striped bass harvest is only one step that we need to take, but it is an important one and a simple one to achieve through regulation change. The Maryland Fisheries Service Director is right about one thing...not the last we've seen of this issue.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon


Update from Gillies & Fallon Guide Services, LLC

As many of you already know, Gordon has decided to retire from Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC. He is immersed in exploring waters across Maine as he chases largemouth and smallmouth bass and trout, rebuilding a new-to-him bass boat, camping almost every week and making plans for more exploration of southern waters this winter.

I find myself thinking about how much fun we've had together over the past eight years and how much I'll miss Gordon's contributions to Gillies & Fallon Guide Service in the seasons ahead. The trite phrase "I couldn't have done it without him" really does apply here. I think back to conversations in his kitchen in Halford Dormitory about how we should start guiding together and build a business on the coast, about the lists detailing what documents needs to go to the Secretary of State and about all of the incredibly creative ideas that Gordon would sketch out on the folded 8 1/2" x 11" white paper.

We started working together back in 1993, in a stand of white pines, in Hebron, Maine. Wow. That was a while ago. We've shared innumerable adventures and really enjoyed working together to bring you the best experience possible.

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC continues, even though Gordon M. Gillies has withdrawn as a member. In his ever generous way, Gordon has allowed me to continue to use the name that we built together.

Thanks Gordon. Now maybe we will get to fish together more often.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

 

 


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


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 

 www.MaineStripers.com

 

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


Department of Marine Resources NOTICE OF AGENCY RULE-MAKING PROPOSAL
RULE TITLE: Chapter 42.03 Striped Bass – Closed Area and Closed Season (Kennebec River and Sheepscot river areas)
CONCISE SUMMARY:
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/ .
STATUTORY AUTHORITY: 12 M.R.S. §6171
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.
AGENCY CONTACT PERSONS: AGENCY NAME: ADDRESS: WEB SITE:
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.


Waiting on the Wind

In what has been the windiest September I can recall, I managed to set aside this week to chase false albacore down on Cape Cod. This time period has been kind to us in the past. The fish have been cooperative (as albies go) and there are fewer boats chasing them around during the week. A day or two would be windy enough to force us to alter plans, maybe seeking shelter up in the coves and harbors of Buzzard's Bay or chasing stripers and blues in Boston Harbor or Duxbury Bay. A day or two would be FAC, all the way across the Sound, letting us imagine that we were still in the middle of summer as we ran to the fish market in Menemsha for lunch and left jackets in stuff sacs even after the sun went down. And a couple days would be windy but fishable. The kind of days where you needed the stripping basket, where you might reach for the spinning gear before the fly rod, where you would need a shower before supper to rinse off the salt caked on from spray.

This week has been filled with days where you don't even make the effort to poke out past the jetty or drive down to the shore to gauge the waves and the forecast is calling for more of the same. I made it out Wednesday, in a pesky chop driven up onto the Falmouth shore by the southwest wind. No funny fish revieled themselves to me. I chatted with a couple of other anglers who had been running the same searching circut who reported the same findings. Thursday's weather window was much smaller, as the Cape Wind tower in Nantucket Sound was reportsing gusts to 17 knots out of the southeast by dawn. The northeast corner of Buzzards Bay offered the best combination of lee shore and chance to see hardtails. By 1:00 PM there was enough shelter along Monument Beach and Wings Neck to consider staying out, but the run back to the launch ramp was going to be a slog. Time to head home.

There are still stripers in the Kennebec River and Casco Bay. My last Maine saltwater trip in 2009 was in the third week of October and we found fish. The past couple of weeks the striped bass have been holding in deeper waters upriver. There have also been pods of nice bass cruising along the outer beaches, but getting to them has been tough between all of the swell and wind. The past three weeks have been much slower on the flats in the Kennebec. We haven't had any significant numbers of peanut bunker down around the mouth of the river and the little spike macs are still hanging just offshore. For whatever reason, the bass haven't moved into many of the traditional fall ambush points where they feast on young of the year alwives. They remain very grouped up, but that could change at any time.

Looks like we'll have a brief respite when the winds will drop under 15 knots, and there aren't many days left to chase the albies without a much longer trek to the south, so we'll give it another shot. Bird season is underway in Maine and the snow guns at Sunday River will be fired up any day now.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

 


September Dislikes and Likes

This is an amazing time to be on the water, both here in Maine and down in Boston Harbor, Cape Cod Bay and the south side of the Cape. Some days it's full on summer and other days it is very clearly fall. There is a touch of melancholy to every outing, as the days seem so much shorter and the fish start moving south but there is also a sense that we're onto a secret. With so many people turning their attention to house projects, youth soccer games, early season hunts and even winterizing their boats (Yikes!) we can feel like we've got it figured out and everyone else is missing the boat.

Here are some seasonal thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain these past few weeks.

September dislikes...

Too many windy days – everywhere - Kennebec River, Stellwagen Bank, Vineyard Sound.

Having to wear socks for a reason other than bug protection.

Lower angle of the sun makes sighting stripers more difficult.

Running low on hot fly patterns.

Hurricane swell messing up water clarity on the striper flats.

Sunset before 7:00 PM.

Dry, bright, clear, days with strong NW wind.

The run and gun crowd on the albie circuit.

Fewer excuses for why I haven’t finished remodeling the kitchen.

Did I mention the wind?

Trying to find my wool hat.

Wondering if the swarms of peanut bunker will ever return to Maine.

Thoughts of season pass sales numbers, staff training, new voucher policies and moving to Sunday River.


September likes...

Small bait is easy to imitate with a more castable fly.

Wearing socks for reasons other than bug protection.

No 2:30 AM wake up times.

Having a little more time to refill fly boxes between trips.

Eating supper with Sarah more than once a week.

Ice in the cooler lasts a lot longer.

Skinny water stripers slamming all sorts of flies.

Far fewer boats on the water here in Maine.

Less DEET.

Fat striped bass and fast false albacore.

Finding my wool hat.

The colors at Small Point.

Re-rigging the small metals for the windy day albie hunts.

The slow rate of growth of the lawn.

Indian summer days on the tuna grounds of Cape Cod Bay.

Taking along a thermos of tea for the first time since early June.

Thoughts of woodcock, grouse, pheasants, sharptails and huns.


Hope you've enjoyed this month as much as I have. Remember that there are still a lot of fish to be caught.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Saltwater Fishing: Hurry Up and Wait

That's what we're doing around mid-coast Maine, waiting for the saltwater fishing to turn back on as the days get shorter and the waters get cooler. Our striper fishing is slow right now. Even though it feels like fall this morning the fish are in an August mood.

On some trips we're finding the fish in the shallows and just having to make shot after shot and endure refusals, follows and indifferent reactions until we get one to eat. The windy days are tough as the bass aren't usually giving us many clues as to their whereabouts. We've encountered a couple of short lived frenzied blow ups in very shallow water on either side of low water, but not enough to count on for a fish finding technique. Most early mornings and evenings have been disappointing. We find a few wakes, see a couple of swirls but generally don't get the number of opportunities that we had just three weeks ago.

Guides bouncing eels or drifting live bait are reporting similar findings, both in the faster, deeper waters and along the edges of the flats. After an unbelievably warm summer, this stretch of more normal weather has many of us thinking "Fall". We take turns reminding each other that it is still August, and there is usually a slow down at this point in the season and that September will bring better days and better moods for us all.

Part of our challenge may be the amount of bait available to the stripers. Not very hungry fish surrounded by hoards of feed makes for limited windows of successful catching. There are acres and acres of tiny spike mackerel just offshore. Running from Cundy's Harbor to Pott's Point the other morning we went scooting over bait-ball after bait-ball. The guides filling their livewells don't have to travel far off the beach at Popham or Reid. The flats closer to the ocean have good numbers of sand eels about 2 inches long and silversides just a bit bigger. We've foul hooked a couple of itty-bitty bluefish that have been tearing into this bait along the marsh banks and ledges in a couple feet of water. The young of the year alewives are dropping out of the ponds and lakes, making their way out to sea. Idling up to the edges of the flats, the fishfinder screen reveals clouds of bait hanging in 25 to 15 feet of water.

Eventually all of this forage will make for some memorable outings, as the striped bass change their attitude and start feeding hard as they begin their migration south. I try to remind myself that I should be thankful for every opportunity to practice my patience, but I'm really ready for "eventually" to be now.

I did get two messages on Monday about False Albacore showing up off Rhode Island and Martha's Vineyard. Yes, that has me excited. I've scheduled a couple of weeks down in Massachusetts to chase the funny fish south of the Cape, the tuna in the Bay and stripers in Boston Harbor. Let me know if you'd like to join me.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Saltwater Fishing: Sightcasting for Stripers...Wow

Maine saltwater fly fishing means many different things to different people. In the minds of two hardcore striper anglers from Virginia it now means sightcasting to good sized fish in shallow water.

There was nothing easy about the fishing yesterday and today. Although there are no absolutes in fishing, cool, dry, bright days with a north-northwest wind are universally despised by striper anglers and guides alike. Very strong tides, some recent rains upriver and generally windy days have made the water clarity a bit less ideal than last week. The timing of low water coupled with the -1.4 foot height only gave us a short window of water on the flats at low light before we had to wait for the flood to fill back in enough to get up into shallow water. The forecast for calm winds until 9 AM this morning was a lie and the clear sky that went along with that prediction was filled with too many clouds. And yet, Paul and Sam had a blast and have discovered a whole new world of striper angling that will change they way that they fish at home.

These two guys are amazing angling partners, deep friends and a joy to fish. They have traveled across North America to pursue an incredible variety of gamefish in fresh and salt water. They share two boats, a 23 foot Parker that they keep in Chesapeake Bay and a 16 foot Mitzi Skiff that they recently bought for trips to the Florida Keys and the Everglades. On the bow, each is a true predator. In the "on deck seat" each is a true gentleman, genuinely wanting and helping the other to succeed.

They have caught a lot of striped bass down in Virginia, out in Montauk, here in Maine. They also travel to the Bahamas every May to chase bonefish. Even under challenging circumstances, we were able to experience a variety of shallow water opportunities. They were both stunned and joyed to spend two days casting floating lines and crab and shrimp patterns for stripers.  We spent the first hours of light chasing waking and swirling fish in calm water that was falling off of a large flat. Once the sun got higher in the sky and the tide started filling back in, we worked groups of fish that we could sometime see clearly and other times just catch a belly flash as a clue as to where to cast. We briefly played with one school of laid up bass (yes they do that...but getting them to eat when they are going nowhere is a low return game) on a white sand bottom until they slowly meandered away from us. We were taunted by a couple of very large single fish sloooooowly cruising an inch below the surface under bright sun at slack high water. Thankfully, we were rewarded with the strong runs of a couple of nice fish that just don't like being hooked in 2 feet of water.

There are plenty of times when a big herring grocery fly or half and half Clouser on a 400 grain sinking shooting head will "out fish" the crab fly at the end of a 12 foot 12 lb test leader attached to an 8 weight floating line. (Right now might not be that time.) Catching any fish, any time, any where on a fly is always a blast and worth the effort. Striped bass in strong currents or surf give a great account of themselves. But how does the commercial go...spotting a school of a dozen bass cruising on the sand, making the right cast, watching two fish peel off and follow your shrimp fly, seeing a bigger fish charge past them, then a glimpse of white as the mouth opens, stripping until the line is tight and then listening to zzzzzzzzzzzzz...priceless.

Shaking hands back at the launch ramp this afternoon, I ask Sam and Paul for a favor. I want a report about their first foray out on the flats of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They have all the tools: the Mitzi Skiff; extensive sightcasting experience; and a ton of fishing time together. Some gray December day or rainy May morning, I'll being checking email in my office at Sunday River and a photo of one of them holding a bass on the bow of their flats skiff will make my week.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


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


Scattered Fish Thoughts

Let's play good news, bad news. The good news is that there's great fishing all across Maine and New England right now. Name the species and and it's prime time for that gamefish. The bad news is that the days are now getting shorter. Takeaway lesson: Go Fish.

Lightship1 Just back from an amazing wedding on the Nantucket Lightship down on Martha's Vineyard. Who plans a wedding during peak fishing season? Well, I guess I'm guilty of getting married on the opening weekend of deer season. Sorry about that. And Martha's Vineyard isn't a bad place to spend four days in June if you like to fish. We got to Scituate and decided to avoid the Friday afternoon traffic to the Cape by running my father's boat down to Vineyard Haven. Very smart move. Most travel to wedding's involves flight delays, stops at DSW, searching for a gift. We tangled with bluefin tuna on the way down and back.

I have a tuna problem. I kept it in check last season, trying to stay on task and filling dates with as many striper chartes as possible, but I just LOVE the hunt for big fish.

Do you fish Hogy soft plastics? If not, you should. Both eats from the tuna came on Hogy soft plastic baits. We used Hogy hooks as well, and they stood up well. They've been a hot striper lure for us these past couple of seasons.

Calmsea The RonZ jig caught multiple scup, bluefish and fluke on Hedge Fence. That lure does it all.

Be sure you keep spare fuel filters and a filter wrench on board at all times. A gallon milk jug is the perfect container for a spent filter until you get back to the dock or ramp. Leaving Vineyard Haven Harbor the On The Fly came up on plane and then slowed to 1200 rpm's on its own. A quick change of the fuel filter and we ran back through the canal, out to Ptown, back to the Gurnett and up to Scituate without incident.

If you are in Portland, Maine, go to Harbor Fish. Even if you don't plan to buy anything. It is the most impressive fish market that I've visited, save the Tsukiji market in Tokyo. Last night we grilled two pieces of sushi grade yellowfin tuna that were spectacular.

Cambiw No morning trip today. We'll fish the dropping tide this afternoon and then look for stripers pushing up onto the flats with the rising water as the sun gets low. Hope the thunderstorms pass through early or hold off for us. Very busy stretch coming up. Time to re-rig some leaders and get to the grocery store.

Cam Arnett. Seven years old. Learned how to cast a spinning rod yesterday. He loved checking out the shipyard at Bath Iron Works and driving the Wasabi back to the launch ramp. First time he felt a striper hit his lure he said "It felt funny in my heart". How insightful is that observation? I loved it. "It felt funny in my heart."

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing Advice: Go Fish

Cody with full fish

Maine striper fishing must interest you if you are reading this post. Here's the most important bit of knowledge that I can share with you: Go Fish. It's June, the stripers are hungry and there is a ton of bait in our waters. You may find bass busting herring on the surface, you may stalk stripers in the skinny water as they sip shrimp, you may just enjoy a couple of hours in the boat or wading the beach, but it is worth the effort to make the time to fish. It won't get easier than this month, and you can learn a lot when the fish are active. Just think back to January if you need some extra incentive to get out on the water.

It's been a very good week of fishing on the  Kennebec River with surprisingly little boat traffic. Each day has produced different opportunities but always consisted of a really nice mix of shallow water sightcasting and strong moving water angling. Remember that the stripers have the greatest advantage over large bait (herring) when and where the current is strong. When the water slows a bit, the bass are more likely to shift their attention to smaller, less elusive forage.

 EarlyChris fighting fish in fog morning is early this time of year and it is easy to start the trip at 4 AM and still feel like I'm a little late getting going. I can haul the boat at 9 PM and still see color in the evening sky. Low light conditions aren't the only time to chase stripers (we caught the bulk of the fish we landed today between 8:00 and 11:00 when the ebb was at its peak) but if you love chasing fish up on the flats, plan to sleep some other month.

As is typical for June, we've experienced all kinds of weather this week: foggy and slightly muggy, bright and crisp, rainy and cool. All have been worth fishing. Let the weather help guide you to where the fish want to be and what they'll be doing during the course of the day/tides.

I'm off to Martha's Vineyard for the next four days. It will be odd to be off the River, but at least I'll be on the water. Get out there and have fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

IMG_1285


Maine Striper Fishing: Ups and Downs

Cranes and rods_2 Striper fishing keeps you wondering and makes you think. After a stellar Thursday afternoon/ evening on the Kennebec River, Friday morning was disappointing for us. The fish that we found, which wasn't many, just had to be coaxed to eat. No reckless abandon. No surface feeds. No repeat of the show from the day before. The scenery was stunning, with early morning fog giving way to a spectacularly blue sky and an absolutely calm water surface. A great day for a boat ride.

We managed to track down a few stripers in various types of water during the course of the morning. Chuck's spent a lot of time on a lot of waters but it had been a while since he'd been cruising around the Kennebec. Tony shot 486 photos. Chuck had to answer his phone 37 times. Tony was lamenting his commitment to running T-ball practice in the early afternoon. We laughed, ran around, poled some flats, explored some salt marshes and had a lot of fun, even if I was cursing the crisp, dry, great to be alive day.

Back in gear this afternoon, the falling tide was kind to us. Made the first drift at 3:00 PM. Not as many fish showing on the surface compared to Thursday afternoon, but plenty of stripers just horned up about all the herring in the river. It seemed like any structure with strong flowing water held fish.

Mr greenlaw_2_2 I was surprised by the limited boat traffic. I noticed two boats alter course as they ran up river, drawn to a cove with gulls circling overhead. Each boat slowed to an idle, as the occupants scanned the surface of the water. For those few moments, no herring tried to flee the water in panic, no swirls gave away the stripers holding in the strong rips. Off the angler's went, maybe in search of "more productive water", maybe late for a cookout. Drifting down current, we were taking a break, wiping fish slime off our hands, re-rigging leaders and getting ready to make another pass. Gulls circling high means bait holding deep. There were also about a dozen birds sitting on the tide exposed ledge, just waiting for the next flurry. The action in this particular cove continued for an hour and we left feeding fish to check other locations. Those birds were dead giveaways. They were expending the energy to fly overhead for a reason.

Second to last stop of the evening had less current than the other places we'd fished. That, coupled with the shallower water and more surfacing fish, made for perfect popper conditions. It was time to get out a rod with a floating line and have some fun. Enough of that deep water work.

End of the trip In a perfect finish to the outing, there were striped bass prowling a flat in one to three feet of ultra calm water just as the tide was starting to rise and the sun was about to set. An olive hackled hollow flye seemed appropriate...and worked just fine. Really nice way to end the day. Catching stripers any way, any where is great. Shallow water sightcasting with a fly rod for cooperative fish just rocks.

Should be a good day tomorrow. Weather forecast is favorable, although thunderstorms may chase us off the water in the afternoon. If you want to get out in some stunning settings and chase these marvelous gamefish, send us an email or give us a call.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Good to Wicked Good

Striper fishing in this slice of Maine went from good yesterday to wicked good today. Despite the East wind, the fish were assaulting herring all tide long this afternoon.

My good friend Rich called early this morning to see if I wanted to join him on a quick dash down to the Merrimack River. I reluctantly declined, as I had a regular client trying to extricate himself from the office in Boston to come up for an afternoon then morning of fishing. I spent my morning diligently crossing off items on my to do list, but by 1:30 I just couldn't sit at my desk any longer. My angler wouldn't be able to make it up Maine, and I kept thinking about Rich drifting across the flats of the Merrimack. By 2:00 I had the Wasabi in the water.

It didn't take long to find the fish and they were not shy. After bringing four chunky stripers to the boat, I called Gordon to tell him to meet me...now. He was already in his truck leaving North Bath, but I couldn't convince him to ditch his responsibilities (he did waiver).

The wind was pesky enough that handling the boat in the rushing tide got to be a pain and I stowed the 8 weight fly rod and started chucking a Hogy 10" double-wide plastic bait (my wife always chuckles at that description) up against the ledges and into the current lines. Whomp. It was getting eaten every other cast for about fifteen minutes. I'm out of fishing shape. My arm was tired.

The surface action slowed so I caught a few fish by going deep just to confirm that the bass were still there then decided to run around for a while. The thirty circling and diving gulls kind of gave away the next place I should check out. The breeze kindly let up and I drew the 8 weight again. I played around with about ten different fly patterns. They all worked. I couldn't really tell if color made any difference, but maybe white was better than purple? Patterns ranged from hackled hollow flyes, to traditional grocery flies to striper dragons to poppers. All of the bait I saw was herring so that's all I offered.

This went on for a while. I had yet to see another boat on the water. I eventually left breaking fish to check some other locations and all held stripers willing to eat. Every fish I caught was covered in sea lice and fairly bright. We caught fish last night but it wasn't anything like this. Maybe it was the overcast skies, maybe it was just being in the right place at the right time but it sure seems like we just had a big group of striped bass push into the Kennebec.

Action slowed as the tide died. I didn't land a fish much over 30 inches but some of them were just fatties. The water is dirty from the rains of last weekend but it didn't damped the enthusiasm of these bass. The timing of the ebb only gets better over the next couple of days. I know where I'll find Gordon at 4:30 tomorrow morning.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Charters: My Most Important Client

Had my dad Dadwithflyrodout on the Wasabi Friday for a great striper fishing trip. We started slow but finished strong. Here are a few of the highlights from the day:

Polled a couple of flats in the early AM fog. Perfect light, no wind, stunning scenery (why didn't I grab the good camera?) but only a few groups of fish showing themselves. We had a couple of decent shots and one school come in for attack but we never hooked a fish. We just weren't seeing the numbers of fish that I had earlier in the week.

Dadfishwithfly Ran around for a while looking for action, wakes anything and waiting, waiting, waiting for the tide to really get going. My dad accused me of making up fish sightings to keep my client's interest focused. I did my best but couldn't prove him wrong.

Came back to a spot that my father remarked looked so good but had never given up a fish for him. First drift through he was hooting "Whoa, this is a big fish". Before we could cycle through the eddy again he was making sure that I was emailing the photo of him with the fish to my niece and nephew in San Francisco. "They'll check email on their iphones at breakfast before they go off to school". I guess this is now normal for a lot of third and fourth graders.

Dadwithfish Headed to another ledge that is so consistent. Another spot that my father has never fished. Fifth cast of the big herring fly, his line comes tight just as the fly makes its downcurrent swing through the seam. Another nice striped bass get's sent to San Francisco. We only plucked one more fish off this point before continuing our tour.

My father declares that it is time to breakout the spinning rod and see if a fish will eat the Lonely Angler Spook. Eat? They crush it. They're just pissed about that thing dancing over their heads. He catches a couple more bass and then has a bigger fish inhale the surface plug. This is a photo-email worthy fish, even if my niece and nephew are in class. Just as we get the fish to the side of the boat a big gray shape zooms up from the darker water and grabs a hold of the striper. Done in by a seal.

Spook My father's work is done. Mission accomplished. His arms are tired and he's ready for a sandwich. He run's the boat up the Kennebec back to the ramp. There's just enough chop on the water in a couple of stretches for me to show him that in the Maverick, faster is often smoother. I get him comfortable zipping across the top of the waves at 40 mph while I down my sandwich.

Home in time for a nap and some chores before my mother arrives back from Portland and the Brunswick farmer's market toting bread from Standard Baking, pie from Two Cats Bakery, lobster's from Gilmore's, salad from a local grower and a variety of pre-dinner snacks from who knows where else. My father has made his customary stop at the NH liquor store, so we have plenty of wine.

Once it's martini time, I have my dad grab his glass and join me on the lawn for Lobsters some fly casting practice. I'd noticed that he was often using only a single haul on his backcast, so we want to program the haul on the forward cast to automatic. Maybe its the joy from the day, maybe its the couple sips of gin...he gets it right away and is double hauling every time without thinking about it.

Sarah and my mother get to hear fish stories (again) from our day over dinner. Perfect.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

 

Fly Fishing for Stripers: "What are you using?"

3flies Fly fishermen tend to get very focused on what fly to use. I'm guilty. Come on admit it. You do too. Stripers on the flats, brookies in a beaver pond, browns on a big river, we often ask and hear "what fly are you using?" When we ask, "what worked", we're really asking about the fly that caught fish. The reality is that variables such as presentation, depth, movement, time (of day, of season, tide in saltwater) are usually much more important factors in success than fly selection. But...it's still fun to talk about flies.

Here are three of the four flies that worked for Roger yesterday. [Bottom to top: bubblegum hackled hollow flye, herring grocery fly and black slinky snake fly] The fourth fly was Andy's purple haze Clouser.

We started the day poling a mudflat off a salt marsh with a small creek opening. The tide was dropping but the current in the river really hadn't yet picked up steam. Zero wind and just the right amount of fog made for perfect conditions. The stripers were pushing water and swirling on bait and we could see it all. First fish came soon after we started. A small pod of a couple bass were cruising down the edge of the marsh over some flooded grass. They kindly offered us an ideal presentation as they were tracking straight towards us, set to pass down the left side of the boat. Roger made the cast and two strong strips and then bam! A big swirl then splash and smiles all around.

We playMaine saltwater fly fishinged around up on the mudflat for a while. Landed another nice striper, had some other chances and lined a fish or two. Roger showed up this morning with his rod rigged with a small purple over white with pink glimmer Clouser that his long time fishing companion Andy had tied for use on the Morse River. The section of the river where we started our trip was loaded with herring and we could see and hear them flipping on the surface less than 50 yards from where we were fishing but the bass that were feeding on the flat weren't chasing big bait. The "rise form" was far too subtle, just that telltale swirl of a striper slurping something small. Andy's purple haze Clouser wasn't a fancy shrimp imitation but it worked just fine. Roger and I talked about emailing a couple of photos to Andy who was stuck in his office back in Connecticut, but decided that we wanted all of the good fishing karma that we could get.

Once the current in the river picked up the action on the flats slowed down. We ran around for a while, checking some other edges and rips. Only saw one brief blow up in about a foot of water but by the time we could pole up on the fish they were gone. We made the switch to the bubblegum hackled hollow flye and a 350 grain RIO line and started working along ledges that faced the ebbing current. Wasn't long before we tracked down individual stripers coming up to chase a herring. We picked up a couple more fish working the eddy lines and switched to the herring grocery fly just to see if we could discern a preference. Worked..but no better than the hollow flye.

We ranMaine Saltwater Charters down river to pick up Roger's wife for the last two hours of the charter. Nothing remarkable to report from our prospecting at the mouth of the Kennebec as the tide was filling back onto the flats. We did see Chester Rowe returning from a very successful mackerel outing with two of his longtime clients. Chester kept one eye on the fishfinder screen while cranking in mac after mac but never saw a big arch under the schools of striper bait.

 Our last stop was on another mudflat adjacent to a marsh and creek. Roger was surprised when I clipped off the Clouser and replaced it with the black slinky snake fly. He remarked that he often used a black snake fly when fishing at night but never would have considered using it at noon. I'm a big fan of black, olive and purple in stained to murky water over a mud bottom at anytime of day. The wind was up and the sky still overcast, so we had no visibility down into the water but it wasn't long before we found fish giving themselves away. It wasn't quite sightcasting, but if we could get the fly in the area where a fish had just swirled it resulted in an explosion and then that sweet sound of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. These were also pudgy stripers, dark in color and absent sea lice, just like all of the other fish we had landed.

Roger and I kept talking about how much fun it is to cast to fish that you can see and to catch striped bass in skinny water. We really enjoyed ourselves. Roger was thrilled to kick off his Maine striper season with some success. Hope you get out wherever you are. It's June and all over New England, now is the time to fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Now Happening at a Coastal Location Near You

First Fish of year1Stripers are back in the Kennebec River and all along the Maine coast as far east as Thomaston. Just in time for a stellar Memorial Day weekend, the striped bass have returned from points south for another fishing season. 

The stripers we found last night and this morning in the Kennebec were chasing herring to the surface in very sporadic bursts, one fish at a time. We never saw them get their act organized into anything approaching a flurry, let alone a blitz, but it was so satisfying to see the fish here after another Maine winter.

We even found striped bass up on the mud flats at 10:00 this morning. How nice to pole for them here in the month of May. Fritz did a masterful job coaxing a healthy looking 25 inch bass to eat after four swirls of inspection. Water temps were as high as 68 degrees. 68 degrees. That's amazing. The river is filling in nicely with herring. You'll see them flipping on the surface from Popham up past Bath. We didn't find a lot of fish, but this time of the season, that can change dramatically day by day. News from other guides just to the south is encouraging. We may fish Casco Bay or the New Meadows for tomorrow's charter, just to mix it up a bit. Off to the Sea Dogs game tonight but Fritz and I will be back at it tomorrow morning at a coastal location near you.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


You Can't Make Chicken Salad Out Of Chicken Sh*t...

...or why we need a National Saltwater Angler Registry.

So now you know that you need to register with NOAA (or have a saltwater licenses from an approved state) in order to fish for striped bass in Maine on New Hampshire or Massachusetts. Why? The frequent lament of some anglers is that this new requirement is just another money grab by the federal government or an example of more meddling by Washington in matters best left to individual states. Here's the story.

NOAA is the federal organization charged with managing marine fisheries. They submitted their recreational fisheries data collection program, known as MRFSS, to the National Research Council for review. The NRC is a private, non-profit, independent agency chartered by Congress. The scientists who contribute to NRC studies volunteer their time. The organization has a well deserved, excellent reputation within the scientific community. In 2006 the NRC came back to NOAA with a report that said they weren't doing good science. It wasn't an indictment of their efforts but rather of their systems. Their sampling methods needed significant improvement.

Under the MRFFS program, one of NOAA's  primary data collection methods was the Coastal Household Telephone Survey. NOAA (or state) reps made random calls to households in coastal counties to collect data on recreational fishing by members of that household. Did I ever get one of these calls? No. Could I have received one of these calls. No. Why? Because I don't have a land-line. I use a mobile phone as my only phone and the survey had no way to track cell phone users who resided in coastal counties only. One of the other flaws in this program is that saltwater anglers who didn't live in a county bordering the ocean were never called. The striper fanatic from Farmington, Maine or Worcester, Massachusetts was never going to get a call. Neither was the person from Ohio who spent two weeks on Martha's Vineyard fishing the Derby. What would significantly improve NOAA's ability to efficiently collect data from saltwater anglers? The NRC said "their names and contact info".

As a migratory bird hunter, state and federal agencies have my name, address and phone number. They send me requests for information and wing samples. They ask me questions about my previous season's efforts and harvest when I renew my license. My wife is not a migratory bird hunter. They don't waste their efforts asking her about the number of woodcock that she harvested last year but they do capture that data from every person in the country who legally hunts woodcock. By sharing information between federal and state agencies, the people managing our migratory gamebird populations have a national database of migratory gamebird hunters. The NRC said that NOAA needed the same thing.

The Coastal Household Telephone Survey was not the only flawed program that the NRC flagged and the need for a national database of saltwater anglers was not the only change that they recommended. More on those topics in another post. When Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act in 2007, it told NOAA to implement many of the changes recommended by the NRC, including the creation of a national angler database. NOAA's stated preference is to have the coastal states enact registry or licensing requirements that meet their data collection needs and then share the contact info. Until all of the states do so, NOAA has created the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) and the National Saltwater Angler Registry. Their goal is to be more efficient in collecting more complete info such as who fishes, what's being caught, how many fish are being caught and when and where people are fishing.

Sound management of any natural resource depends upon sound science. Without good data, you can't have good science, thus the reference to chicken salad. Sound management is also based upon social and economic values and decisions. The data that NOAA looks to collect from those of us who fish in saltwater is also used to determine the social and financial value or worth of our coastal fisheries. I know that I want to be counted. How about you?

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: National Saltwater Angler Registry

Preview  I just returned from a meeting of the Maine Assocoation of Charterboat Captains with representatives of NOAA, the Maine Department of Marine Resources and the Chair of the Marine Resources Committee from the Maine House. Like most fisheries management forums that I've attended, there was some contentious and passionate debate, focused on the new law in Maine enacting a state saltwater fishing license for 2011. One provision requires commercial boat operators to purchase an additional license that exempts their clients from buying a saltwater license when fishing on the charter or head boat. A minority of the captains in attendance were incensed that the state was leveling another fee on their business, that the provision was added to the bill at the 11th hour and that they had no option when it came to carrying this license. Most of us in the room expected that Maine would copy most of the other states that already require saltwater fishing licenses and charge charter operators a fee that would cover their clients. I'd prefer to write fewer checks to the State, but I'm glad that I can cover licensing requirements for my clients.

I'll add more details about the Maine saltwater license bill in the coming days, but the law doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2011. So what about this year? What do you need for a license to fish for striped bass in Maine in 2010? There has been confusion and debate in various articles. Here's what you need to know.

If you are going to fish for striped bass in Maine in 2010 you must register with NOAA through the National Saltwater Angler Registry. The process is simple and efficient and there is no fee. That's right, it is free. The reason for the new registry is to build a "phone book" of saltwater anglers to significantly improve the data that NOAA collects on recreational fishing.

There are exceptions to the registration requirement. If you are fishing on a charter, head or guide boat you don't need to register. You do not need a license if you come out with us, as we are already registered in the NOAA database and provide them with the information that they are seeking.

If you are under the age of 16 you don't need to register. If you hold a Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit you do not need to register (however, anyone else in in your HMS permitted boat does need to register). If you are a non-resident angler already registered with NOAA either through the National Saltwater Angler Registry or through a state saltwater license (recreational or commercial) that NOAA recognizes, you are all set.

These registry requirements and exceptions for fishing for striped bass in New Hampshire and Massachusetts are the same as Maine for 2010.

I'll write more about the origins of the federal registry, the coming state licenses and why they are good ideas (not always perfectly executed) this week. Let me know if you have questions.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Striped Bass in Maine: Confirmed catches in southern Maine this week

Might be time to toss your rod tube, chest pack, stripping basket and waders into the back of your car or truck. I spoke with two friends who've been catching stripers in Maine waters this week. The reports from guides north and south of Cape Cod continue to point to a promising season.

This early and warm spring has the fresh water fishing in Maine peaking right now in many areas. If you want to chase brook trout and landlock salmon (and some browns and rainbows) you should get in touch with Greg Bostater at Maine River Guides. I teach fly fishing with Greg at the LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. No matter your level of experience, you'll learn much from Greg and have a fabulous time doing so. He's wicked fishy too.

See you on  the water soon.

Capt. Peter Fallon

MaineStripers.com


An Important Question You Should Be Asking Yourself...

Spook up close_2 Why Did I Just Catch That Fish?

If it hasn't happened for you already, it should, soon. You'll feel that tug or tap or whomp and another striper fishing season will be successfully underway. You'll grin, maybe hoot, even possibly do a jig on that ledge or up on the bow. It'll be a mix of excitement and relief that will wash over you as you realize that yes, you can still do it and for a few moments all will be right with the world.

Revel in the joy. Catch another fish. Send a photo to your buddy at work and then get serious. Remember, you're a predator, even if you painstakingly and religiously release every fish you catch in a season. Start asking yourself why you succeeded.

Note what you did to get the hit. Where did you cast relative to the current? What was your rate of retrieve? What depth were you fishing?

Note what prompted you to make those decision. Did you see bait skittering across the surface? Was there a visible eddy line, or depression on a sand flat or an edge to a patch of eel grass that caught your eye? Was a single gull sitting on the marsh bank just beyond where you cast? 

Now see if you can replicate the result. 

If you enjoy analyzing events, and you seek to comprehend cause and effect, think about spending some time on the water with us this season. We don't have all the answers but we're always asking lots of questions.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Last Day Of The Ski Season Has Me Looking Ahead...

...and looking back at posts that Gordon and I wrote last season. I'm ready to fish. How about you?

Here's an entry in the blog from the second week of June, 2009:

Finding the Fish

That's the name of the game right now. I really think that the fish are bunched up, especially when the water really starts to move. Cruising from point to point, edge to edge, I find a fish, then nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, another fish, then more empty places. But when you find fish, fish, fish you can keep catching them for a couple of hours at a time...you just have to find the school and then figure out what stage of the tide turns them on.

I fished the same patterns (fish activity, not fly design) during this same stretch of June last season. Where I found fish they would be packed into an eddy or cove. They would be there for a couple of days and then take up a new residence for a couple of days. It was fun fishing and a great gas saving help.

One key last year at this time was being on the water early or late. By 8:00 most mornings, occasionally 9:00, the show would be over and I mean done. We'd work hard from then until noon with very good current flow and catch nada after four hours of the kind of fishing where you get pissed if you don't at least get a hit on every cast. Wait 'till 4:00 or 5:00 PM. relaunch, and the show would be on again.

I'm curious to see if that's the sort of pattern we have right now. The river is load with bait again this season, perhaps even more so than last mid-June. I'm leaning towards fishing the dropping tide for the fastest action, regardless of the time of day, which is why I'm writing this at 5:00 AM instead of out in the boat.

I heard that the DMR was recently conducting angler surveys on the Kennebec. One of the days there were 22 anglers who reported being skunked. It was a day when our clients caught a lot of fish. I say this not to gloat or boast but to illustrate the point that the stripers are grouped up. Find 'em and its great fishing.

Off to launch the boat. I'll post results.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


On a Sea of Grass...

...and wheat stubble and standing barley and cut lentil fields. The North Dakota prairie is an amazing expanse every bit as impessive as the ocean. The light and the sky early and late in the day makes me feel right at home in such a different place. Absolutely stunning.

Of course a significant part of the attraction is that some of the best bird hunting in all of north America is right here.

On a Sea of Grass...


September Striper Fishing and a North Wind



Fishing 20090028

Our fall striped bass fishing in Maine changes day to day, tide to tide. We go from catching lots of fish to working very hard for a few in an instant. This persistent north wind hasn't helped to really turn on the bass but there is some good news from the Kennebec River.

There are fish holding consistently over deep structure where the herring are still plentiful. Some trips we've seen individual fish pop to the surface to chase a 6 to 8 inch herring or a 3 to 4 inch alewife right out of the water. Most of this visible activity has happened early in the morning or in the evening. Still no signs of blitzing fish, but with all the bait that is coming down the river that too could change quickly.

There are still stripers prowling the flats and they are much less fussy than they were back in late July and August. One of my experienced fly anglers this week was very surprised to hear my stories of fishing 13 foot leaders of 8 pound test fluorocarbon and changing flies every fifteen minutes to see what small crab or shrimp pattern the skinny water bass would eat.

Most of these bright days have come with a healthy breeze. The fish that like to cruise just under the surface when the light is low should feel more safe when the overhead visibility is limited...right? So why don't I see them exhibiting this behavior when the leaves are rustling at 5:00 AM? Is it tied to the effects of the weather associated with the north wind? Does their prey change behavior when the water isn't still?

Fishing 20090009

I've been jotting down notes about tips for sight-casting on windy days. I'll add a post devoted to this topic shortly. September is a great month to fish in Maine. The water is warmer than in June but cool enough to remind the fish about the coming migration and winter. We see lots of bright and dry days and can "sleep in" and still get on the water before dawn. The downside is the north and northwest wind that is so common.

Remember the bit about change. Cover the water. Move and move, again and again. If you fished yesterday and it was slow, don't wait to go back out until sometime next week. You could miss the day that keeps you dreaming of spring during the coming winter months.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


What It's All About

The forecast for Saturday looked to be fishy, with the first cloudy morning that we've had in a while. My anglers were called to work so I headed out with the hopes of scouting some flats that I haven't explored in a while. The wind was up early, straight out of the north, making the surface of the water very tough to read. After poling around for an hour and only bumping two small groups of fish I ran to find some moving water.

There were a few stripers holding in the current lines right tight to shore and willing to eat on the surface. I then went to check on a number of places that had been so productive earlier in the week. First drift I hooked (and promptly lost) a fish, but that wasn't a repeatable event. A couple more drifts produced nothing.

My good friend Capt. Dan Wolotsky of Sweet Action Charters was alone in his boat, doing the same thing, getting his fix and finding fish for his Sunday clients. We were sharing findings when we decided that we should fish together. I put the Maverick on a mooring and hopped into Dan's boat. We fished six places that all held good numbers of bass recently but only hooked one fish.

We decided to run upriver and check a couple of ledges that had good current flow over them and started at a spot that both of us knew but hadn't fished well for either of us. We spent the next hour there catching fish on almost every drift. So much for our exploring mission. We got caught up in the fun of fishing and had a blast.

After a busy summer for both of us, Dan and I had plenty of stories to share. What I took away from our conversation was the importance of the "fun" element of a fishing charter. Nobody works harder for his clients than Dan. He's really good at putting his guests on fish and he's driven to find success but he always remembers that it's not just about the catching. Good fishing day or tough fishing day, Dan's always committed to making sure that everyone on his boat has a blast, and that's a gift.

Check out Dan's Blog and you'll see what I mean.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Fast Start, Slow Finish...More Saltwater Fly Fishing News From Maine

After a couple straight days of catching lots of fish I had high hopes for yesterday's charter. With two very talented and experienced anglers on the boat I knew that we'd make the most of our opportunities.

We started at 5:30 AM with a chilly run in the dark to the first flat that we'd examine. With just enough light to read the surface of the water and zero wind I shut down the motor and hopped up on the poling platform expecting to see the enticing signs of stripers working the shallow water ebbing off the flat. After explaining the game to Jeff and Curtis and offering some thoughts on strategy and tactics I was beginning to wonder where the fish were. I had seen one swirl in the distance up at the head of a cove and that was it. I was about to offer the suggestion that we move to another flat when we all saw the distinct v-wake of a bass cruising just below the water's surface. I started poling to intercept that fish when she vanished in the three feet of water. Two minutes later we were seeing multiple wakes and quiet swirls of a number of striper bass zig-zaging in the shallowest water, grubbing off the bottom and getting us pumped.

Our first couple of shots weren't ideal - a single fish tracking away from us, then one that kept changing course every time the fly would touch down. Jeff was on the bow with the Sage Z-Axis 8 weight rigged with a 9 weight floating line, a very long leader (~13 feet ending with 12 lb fluorocarbon tippet) and a Hollow Fleye (dark olive saddles with light olive bucktail). He is a saltwater fly fishing guide [Solis On The Salt] based out of San Diego and former owner of The San Diego Fly Shop. He's chased an amazing array of saltwater gamefish around the world. He spends a lot of time guiding anglers in Baja, both inshore from the beach, nearshore out of Pangas and offshore for billfish, tuna and other big game. Getting the picture here...? Jeff could see the fish, calculate where he wanted to cast and put the fly on target (both far out and in close) in a very short period of time. If you're thinking "I want to be able to do that, consistently," all you need to do is spend hundreds and hundreds of days of sightfishing with a fly rod.

It wasn't long before we were presented with a fine opportunity. The fish was cruising slowly right towards our port bow, pausing every fifteen feet to swirl as she looked to pick something off the bottom. Jeff saw the fish instantly, had the presence of mind to hold off on his cast until just before the fish came into range, made two false casts, boomed the fly right out to the last spot were the fish swirled, had the fly turn over perfectly and started long and hard strips right after touchdown. He hadn't stripped more than six feet of line when we saw the bulge of water, another swirl and the line come tight. The whole event was supremely satisfying for all three of us. The bass was a nice 24 inch slot fish, nothing huge, but really rewarding.

We were into active fish for a little while with lots of good opportunities and a few more scenes of success and some perfectly played presentations when the eat came in the pause between strips or the fish just didn't cooperate. Jeff's good friend and angling buddy Curtis was very generous, insisting that Jeff stay up on the bow of the boat. Curtis has spent a lot of time catching a lot of stripers on and around the Kennebec River. He kept a boat at Morse Cove for years and knew the waters well. He was impressed with how shallow we spent much of our time and it was nice to have him experience a different way to fish in areas that he can call homewaters.

The flat we were on got quiet earlier in the tide than usual. We checked some moving water close to the edge of the shallows and had follows, attempts to eat but no hook ups. We moved over to another expansive flat that has held a lot of fish during this period of fairly stable weather. The wind was already up on that more exposed water and after poling around for fifteen minutes we just weren't seeing anything. We zoomed back to our original location, played around with some fish that we could just reach with the Maverick without grounding out and decided it was time for a big change.

After a run that seemed 30 degrees warmer than first thing in the morning we swapped out the 8 weight and floating line for the 9 with a 400 grain line and a big herring pattern. We stowed the rod with the spook and grabbed the very light but ultra sensitive St. Croix Legend Elite with a 1/2 ounce RonZ jig. First drift, bingo, fish eats the RonZ. Let's do that again. Second drift, Curtis does it again with the jig. I'm thinking "here we go, should be like this for the next three hours of the tide." Third drift, nada. Fourth drift, no luck. Fifth drift, time to move.

We picked up one other really chunky striper on the RonZ as we passed over another submerged ledge. Jeff put the fly into every sliver of moving water along the rocky shoreline and sunk a heavy Clouser to the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water (there is skill involved in being able to do that) again and again, all in 15 knots of wind that was never in the right direction. His water haul was impressively consistent. Curtis was putting the jig right where it needed to be. We just weren't being rewarded.

We ran around for a while, fishing spots quickly, looking to locate fish. The wind was ripping and kept us from working the shallow water right at the start of the flood tide. We finally found some shelter in a spot that required an "act of faith run" (all 150 horse running flat out, motor trimmed up as much as possible, following the ribbon of dark water, knowing that we couldn't stop or slow down) over a flat that Curtis knew held very little water. He was impressed. The sun was high and bright as we poled up the edge of a creek that borders a flat and we had one lone fish that Jeff saw before I did. The fish was in close and closing fast. Jeff quickly put the Borski Swimming Shrimp right on target. We watched the fish react and start tracking the fly, and he followed and followed and followed until the fly leader was almost to the tip top and then he just veered and lazily swam away. We were disappointed but the whole event was very cool to watch.

Sarah will testify that I was cranky when I got home. I just expected more from the day and had hoped to keep two great guys into fish throughout the morning. How often do we have a bright and dry day with a strong east wind? An email from another guide who was on the Kennebec yesterday confirmed our findings as he lamented the change in fish cooperation compared to recent days. That helped a bit, but I was still pissed. The act of recalling the details of our early morning fun and writing them here does help to dull the sting. The only real elixir is getting back out there to do it all again.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

Right back at it this morning. Gordon and I started at 5:30 and have spent the entire morning catching nice chubby fish. You can see the RonZ jig body has put up with lots of abuse and it keeps getting shorter and shorter but keeps working and working. Just after 11:00 now and we've just about lost the tide. No fish for twenty minutes now. Hmmmmm... Should we call it or should we wait for the current to turn...? Capt. Peter Fallon
The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2
The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

The Tug Is The Drug, Part 2

The Tug Is The Drug, Part 1


I just can't get enough. Day off today, lot's of tasks that I've put off too long. After 14 hours on the water on Labor Day I was ready to devote the day to my "to do list": send a spinning rod back to St. Croix for replacement...order another 1500 yard spool of Fireline...tie up more flats muddlers...tear down a Stradic reel that spent ten minutes in the water on Sunday (that's a story for an other post)...swap out a livewell pump...organize tuna tackle...rig two new Sage reels...send photos to anglers from this past week...find a job for the months when the stripers leave New England. I didn't set my alarm this morning, but had no luck sleeping in. Tossing and turning got old so I got up to get to work but I just could resist the draw towards the water.

Okay, I caved. By 6:45 I was admitting defeat. Watching the tide ebb from my kitchen window I couldn't resist the temptation to go catch some more fish. Grabbed my mug of coffee and a leftover muffin, loaded the dog in the truck and splashed the Maverick. First cast...BAM...okay, all that stuff can wait. I'm good with this decision. Next cast...HELLO....who cares what the lawn looks like. Third cast...okay, I didn't catch anything on my third cast, but I was back in the game soon after that.

Here are a couple of observations from the past three outings:

1. Fall is pushing in. The fish are more active in a typical September way. The young of the year alewives are moving down river, the blueback herring are heading back to the ocean and the stripers are taking note.

2. The RonZ jigs are killer. Check out their website and test them out yourself.

3. I've spent a lot of time trying to convince people that spending money on top of the line spinning rods is worth it. If you were with me today you could have experienced the advantages of fishing a fast action spinning rod with braided line. I was on aggressive fish but I also didn't miss hits. If the bass ate the jig or the swimbait, I felt it, in time to set the hook.

4. It can be too easy to think that the fish just aren't going to bite on a particular day. Stick it out, keep searching, change tactics, wait for the next tide, have faith, toss the 5 hour energy drink into the cooler.

5. Being responsible is overrated. Go fishing. I hauled out by 10:30 this morning and planned to spend the rest of the day taking care of business. Guess what...I was back in the water by 5:15 PM, catching fish right off the bat and really glad to be on the water. Before we know it the sun will be setting at 4:21 and we'll be chipping ice in the driveway.

6. Hebie The Dog prefers a reel with an audible drag. As soon as here hears the the zing of the reel he goes from full alert to over stimulated.

Tonight was close to being a replay of this morning. I didn't catch as many bigger fish this evening, but a few over the slot and one 31" bass kept me happy. Plus, I spent a lot of time searching and working to pattern the fish. Instead of staying in one spot to catch striper after striper, I did a lot of running around, searching and exploring.

I have a second day off tomorrow for the first time in a while. I can't wait to go fish. I do have a problem, but I accepted that a long time ago.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Good weather & good fishing

Just waiting to pick up Fritz this morning and head to Morse Cove ramp for another day forecast to be bright and calm. We've tried to take advantage of lots of perfect sightfishing conditions this week. As usual there are some days when the fish make us work to lay down the perfect presentation and other times when they say "that's okay" to a less than stellar cast. Two evenings right around the full moon were decidedly slower. Funny how often that seems to happen. Lots of good stories from another busy week. More later today...

Weather On My Mind


My morning anglers had to return to New York early, so I was left without a charter to start the day. Seemed very odd not to be on the water but it was so dry and cool and different, finally, that I stayed home to mow the grass, clean the shed and attend to a couple of other tasks that I kept putting off when it was just too hot and muggy to motivate.

Headed out with Fritz at 6 PM and found fish right away. We were a bit early in the tide for the spot where we started but there were enough stripers around to keep us there as we waited for the water movement to pick up. As Fritz commented, "it's much better to be early rather than late." Isn't that the truth.

The wind wouldn't quit, so we decided to keep the fly rods in the rack and work the Lonely Angler  Zipster spook along the marsh banks, across the tidal creeks and over the flats. As the tide gained strength the bass became more aggressive, switching from the "one and done"pattern of hits to smacking the top water plug again and again. We saw a few fish breaking the surface to feed for a couple of minutes but never saw their target. From the nature of their splash I'm guessing that it was herring or alewives.

The wind didn't die with the sunset, so we stayed with the spinning gear, knowing that the morning would bring calm conditions on the flats and a more friendly fly casting environment. Once it was fully dark we lost the fish. Hunted across an edge with good moving water then worked a couple of ledges that intersect the outgoing current. Only one swirl to show for our perseverance. Never heard a bass feed after 8:00. Hauled out by 9:30 PM with a plan to meet back at the ramp by 4:30 AM.

It was chilly running up the river to Morse Cove. I need to dig out my wool hat for the morning (I'm not kidding - there are frost warnings tonight up north) and I just might launch the Maverick with my boots on for the first time since early June.

We plan to fish tomorrow morning and evening. The forecast for a bright day and light and variable winds would be ideal for sightcasting through the mid-day hours if the water clarity were better. We'll see what happens tomorrow. We hope to finish up with another outing Saturday morning. Will Danny let us get out? Could be some really good fishing or could be a complete bust, but we won't know until we go.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com

No News...

...can be good news. Not much different to report from this morning, which is just fine with me. Fishing was good for the first couple hours of the day and then slacked off by 9:00, at least in the shallow water. I spent a lot of time working what I call "pocket flats", spots that are really small and adjacent to drop offs and fast moving water. Very different from the big mud and sand flats that can capture my attention for hours when the fish are on them. Most of the places I worked today are much smaller than my yard; edges that I can pole across in ten minutes, unless there are fish on them.

I didn't tie any fourteen foot leaders or break out the 8 pound tippet. Big herring flies, both traditional groceries and hollow fleyes, seemed to do the trick. Poppers tied "Faulkingham Style " were also getting chowed. Nothing big to report, but a nice mix of fish over and in the slot limit had me smiling all morning.

I did wear a vest until almost 9:00 AM, which is the first time I've added a layer (other than in the rain) in a couple of weeks. The wind was up early, blowing in off the cooler waters that Bill brought to shore. I see that we're due for low temps in the mid 40's for tomorrow night. How long has it been?

Another sign of the times is the decrease in boat traffic on the river. I've really noticed a drop off over the past week. There were a decent number of boats out on the water by 9:00, but it has been quiet at the ramp around sunrise and almost lonely in the evenings.

The surf from the Bill has the oceanside flats stirred up. Sighting fish down river has been really tough since this past weekend. We also have runoff from the river that is staining the water. Hopefully we'll see some improvement in clarity by this weekend. I'm not fond of these weaker tides but they do limit the amount of additional sediment added to the water.

I keep getting good news from other guides fishing the Kennebec, New Meadows, Casco Bay and south of Portland. Seems like were all finding August to be better than July and the end of this month pointing towards a fun time for the fall. Get out and fish, for before we know it we'll all be donning a lot more than a vest when we head out in the morning.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Spousal Therapy

The wind was down and the fish were up. We spent a couple of hours poling around the flats casting to fish only when they showed themselves. The bright morning made a very noticable difference in the fish behavior compared to the prior morning. We noticed far fewer fish cruising in the one to two feet of water after 7:00. The moving water around the ledges still fished well, but even these fish were sometimes reluctant participants.

We were back to the launch ramp, business completed by 10:00 AM. Now what to do? The yard is looking like good pasture but I'd promised Sarah a day in the boat before she starts another very busy stretch of work. Decisions, decisions. Now what to do? Haul boat, fuel up, dash home, pick up Sarah and Hebie, swing by the Center Store, relaunch by 11:00 and run down river to the mouth of the Kennebec. We toured around for a while then ran and swam the dog on the sand flats before anchoring up to read, lounge and nap.

Coming back up river in the evening I noticed that the tide was perfect to check out a spot that was right on the way home. First cast result:IMG_0796 

Third cast result (Sarah commented that I failed to catch a fish on my second cast):IMG_0808 

Now the camera is ready. Here's the sequence of what happened on the fifth cast, starting with the first couple of swirls and swats at the spook followed by the final, dramatic eat:

 

IMG_0813


  Big eat

Sarah and I both smiled the whole way back up river. Hebie just kept looking at us like he couldn't figure out why we weren't catching him more fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.comIMG_0797


Here's One Pattern That's Producing

Snake Fly.

Very cooperative fish in the shallow water again this morning. Maybe not as many on the flats as last Friday, but still happy to eat what we put in front of them. The north wind was just enough to influence how and where we cast but not so pesky that we were cursing it.

I notice that my box of Snake Flies is almost empty. Yikes! I've been going through them for the past four weeks at a good clip. I fish a lot of smaller (size 2) ones on the flats and will choose tiny (sizes 6 and 4) when the fish are finicky. If the stripers are in the mood to chase I go bigger. Olive is my first choice on the mud flats, but I also tie them in black, in purple and in white. The tiny ones look a lot like a Muddler Minnow.

Check out some of the other pattern instructions that  Capt. Jeff Smith has on his website. He's a great guide and innovative tier who fishes the waters around Cape Cod.

I might have seen bass popping young of the year alwives at the end of the dropping tide this morning. As Homer Simpson would say, "Hmmmmmm...alwives."

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com

Quick Notes

The stripers continue to be active in the shallow water early in the morning and again in the evening. Don't overlook water that seems too shallow to hold a 28 inch bass. We ended up wading at one point yesterday morning because I couldn't pole the flats boat over the bars where the fish were feeding.

No great bluefish news from the Kennebec. There are a few around but we haven't seen nor heard of any blitzes. Better bluefish reports come from Casco Bay and the Saco. Although they usually make a solid showing here by now, I'm reversing my previous prediction to say that it is not too late for a little mayhem.

Hurricane Bill will stir up the oceanside flats as the combination of big surf and strong tides will make sighting fish more challenging next week. Rain predicted for today and tomorrow will keep the River running high. I don't expect any significant changes to our fishing pattern to come from this weather event as it is far offshore but keep your eyes on the tropical forecast. My notes show that in many years the first distinct transition from summer to fall fishing occurs as the remnants of a hurricane pass through our waters.

Speaking of transitions...we're poised and ready for the young of the year alewives to start dropping down river in force. I spoke with a biologist doing haul seining sampling upriver and he isn't seeing large numbers of these key baitfish moving towards the salt water...yet.

The high tides have moved more junk into the Kennebec and New Meadows. Keep your eyes peeled for logs and limbs if you're getting an early start or finishing late.

The decrease in length of daylight is now significant. A 5:00 AM departure from the dock happens in the dark. If we leave by 4:30 we've got lots of time to stalk the fish in the shallow water before the light puts them off. Getting an early start continues to be key. By mid-morning the fish show themselves much less frequently and become much harder to tempt with a fly or lure.

The greenheads are almost gone. I'm back to wearing my sandals without socks. I pulled out of the boat my dry bag of warm layers that hasn't been used in a couple of weeks now [quite a stretch of weather for Maine] to wash everything before that first chilly morning that should be here soon.

I'm off the water for today and tomorrow [seems very odd], teaching a saltwater fly fishing class. Enjoy the weekend and watch out for the thunderstorms.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Sightfishing and a southwest flow

This hot and humid weather pattern has finally brought us fishing that seems typical for mid-summer. I'm a big fan a cool, dry, crisp days when its bird season but not when I'm chasing stripers ( or just about any other fish). I'll take the mid-day heat and afternoon thunderstorms to get the calm mornings on the flats with happy fish making telltale wakes across the surface of the glassy water. Fishing has been challenging after the morning flurry, which can be anywhere from 7 to 9 AM. The bright light has offered some good sightcasting opportunities when the wind has laid low but this is very demanding fishing. LONG and LIGHT leaders coupled with good fish vision and accurate casts are a must and still don't guarantee an eat. For the guides I know fishing live bait, some tides have produced consistent action right through the middle of the day. So by "typical summer pattern" I mean fish on the flats in very little water and fish on deep structure in good current that are suckers for a live herring drifted overhead.

There is still day to day variability in action when each day seems a carbon copy of the day before. Last Wednesday and Thursday offer an example.

On Wednesday morning we found fairly aggressive fish on the flats from first light to about 8 AM. Put your offering reasonably close to the fish and most times they would at least look at it. Many times the same fish would swirl and swipe and eat again and again until the hook was firmly lodged in its jaw. Accurate casts were well rewarded. Although the tides were almost anemic, ebbing current produced fairly consistent action through out the morning, becoming more sporadic by 11:30 or so. 

Thursday morning was similar in environmental conditions - same southwest flow, similar cloud cover, rising barometer, weak tide - but different in terms of fish response. We found far fewer fish showing themselves between 5 and 7 AM. The few eats that we had on the flats came blind casting to flooded grassbeds. We covered a fair amount of water to finally find a small group of fish that were not on weight watchers. Those bass were, thankfully, very aggressive. In other places with decent water flow we got no hint of fish or a "one and done" response with a single striper making a single attempt to eat. We fished the same time period, from 5 AM to 1 PM, some of the same areas and used mostly similar techniques with noticeably different results.

Now maybe we should have altered our approach even more significantly but my conversations with four other guides confirmed our findings for that day. I spoke with two charter captains who were fishing live bait, one focused on drifting the edges of the flats and shallow water structure and the other who directed his efforts around the deeper ledges and stronger currents. I spoke with a guide who worked soft plastics in shallower water and jigs in deeper water in the Kennebec and I spoke with a fourth guide who took the same approach but covered water out past the mouth of the river, along the beaches and ledges and islands. All said the same thing: much tougher day than the day before. Hmmmmmm...?

Why?

I don't know the answer to that question and it drives me nuts. I want to know why things happen and I have complete faith that they happen for a reason. The fishing on Friday was decent from 5 to 7 AM but then seemed to shut right off for the rest of the morning (again confirmed by others working in the same general area) but I have an explanation for that result that fits my pattern of experience: the weather changed to a glad-to-be-alive glorious day of cool, dry, north wind, bright sky. I don't have an explanation for the difference between Wednesday and Thursday. Was there just more bait moving down river on Wednesday? Was it the pending shift in the weather? Was the dropping tide that much weaker? The list of possible explanations goes on.

I draw three lessons from this experience (which has repeated itself time and time again):

  1. I try to recognize a change in pattern and not spend all day fishing yesterday's bite. 
  2. I go fishing. A slow day does not always portend another slow day to follow. We're all looking for trends on the water. Sometimes a trend lasts for days, sometimes it seems to change after only an hour.
  3. I have a lot to learn.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.mainestripers.com


Back In Gear

After a very busy stretch of family time chasing fish, tying flies with my niece, boating all over the midcoast, swimming with my nephew and the dogs for hours on end it was back to work this morning. I always feel out of sorts the night before a charter if I've been out of my routine for more than one day. Do I think that I'm going to forget how to chase stripers or that I won't have just the fly right at my finger tips or that I'll leave the house at 4:15 AM without the thermos of coffee that goes with me everytime? Well, I guess the answer is yes.

We were on fish right from the start this morning and did I have the guests to take advantage of our opportunities. I fish with the Murphy family every year. They are all fabulous anglers who appreciate their surroundings and love to catch stripers. We found bass in skinny water from 5:00 until 8:00 and then shifted to pulling fish out of moving water for the next two hours. The last two hours of our trip was much slower as we worked for a few fish on the edges of some large flats right around low water. More about these highliners after our second trip tomorrow morning.

The fishing has improved. The water is clearer and the stripers are cruising the flats. Some days I'm seeing a lot of fish but only catching a few during the brighter middle of the day. Crab flies are still the ticket in sightcasting situations although some days the fish have been agressive, slamming the Lonely Angler Spook and Shadalicious without hesitation, at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM under bright sun and little wind.

Blues are around (2 to 8 lbs.) but I haven't found any schools of them busting bait. That could change any day but I fear that if it doesn't happen within the next week, we really won't see them here in the midcoast at all this summer.

I'm off to launch for my eveing charter. I'm hoping for a replay of this morning. Life is good, very good, when were catching fish.

Capt. Peter Fallon