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

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

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

Making me think

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a full, fabulous day on the water guiding Kirk Deeter and his wife (she's a wicked good angler). Kirk is an editor-at-large at Field & Stream, editor of Angling Trade, author of a number of excellent fly fishing books and a guide on waters near his home in Colorado. I'll add a post in the near future about our day together and what I learned from Kirk but for right now I thought I'd post my comment to his current blog post about guiding on Field & Stream's Fly Talk:

Kirk - I really appreciate your thoughts on guiding and a guide’s responsibilities because it makes me reflect on my work, my mission, my weaknesses and my strengths.

In the last two weeks I’ve had two clients come back to fish with me, carrying new rods and reels that they had purchased after their experience in my boat. They were ecstatic about their new set-ups. I found myself thinking “that’s they way it’s supposed to work” in reference to the relationship between tackle manufacturers, guides and consumers: guide chooses gear based on personal preference and experience (not based on best discount)…manufacturer helps get that gear into guides hands by offering discounts…consumer tries gear with guide then goes out and buys what they liked.

Well, as you so clearly pointed out, that’s not what it’s all about. The ultimate goal from the industry prospective shouldn’t be just to sell one more rod but to add one more dedicated, passionate participant to the sport (or a segment of the sport new to that angler.) If a guide succeeds in that mission than all of us reading this blog know how many rods that angler will buy over a lifetime of fishing. More importantly, that angler may teach their kids to fish, join a conservation organization, write a letter to state rep, buy out of state licenses and find fulfillment in being on the water.

I know I’m staying tuned to hear more about what you think about higher standards, higher expectations for the guiding industry.


Check out Kirk's blog. Lots of good thought provoking posts. If you read Gordon's recent post "Clearing the Line..." you'll enjoy this earlier post, Reel Dumb Advice, on Fly Talk that Kirk wrote after our day  together chasing stripers. When you can tear yourself away from the computer remember to get out and go fishing. This stretch of mostly stable, south-southwesterly weather flow has really turned on the flats fishing. The fish have been agressive and not very selective EARLY in the morning. Figure out how early you can drag your butt out of bed, set your alarm clock then reset the alarm for at least an hour earlier. You'll be glad you did so once you're on the water.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Shallow Water Striper Fishing

The last three days have been a lot of fun. Either the fish that have been hiding out in or off the river are becoming more active or we've had a push of new bass move into our waters. I suspect that it the latter, but until I get my acoustical tags I'll have to keep on guessing.

Richdawn12   We were lines in by 4:15 Monday morning. Despite our early start we didn't find any stripers until the water just started to rise at 5:00. We were perfectly positioned to have single and double waking fish pass by us as they cruised in a foot of water, up a bar and turned the corner to move onto the flat. We only took one fish just over the slot in that spot but had lots of fun for about 45 minutes. With no wind the water was glassy calm and we could see these bulges of water pushing towards us from a hundred yards away.

We prospected on a couple of other flats with no sign of fish and then moved out to cast into the surf that was rolling up on the island off the mouth of the river. Nothing but mackerel out there that we could find. About half tide we were back on fish in shallow water with just enough sunlight and water clarity to see them fairly close to the boat and get an idea of what they were up to. The water was too deep to expect wakes and we saw no swirls or splashes but could watch the stripers grubbing on the bottom in an area rich with crabs and shrimp. We couldn't spot fish way off and plot our cast, but we could get an idea of where the fish were milling and cruising and make some quick, short casts. The crab flies were the ticket. Didn't try any shrimp imitations so can't report on their effectiveness.

We finished our 12 hour marathon by working the deeper ledges on the bottom of the tide as we headed back upriver, finding fish willing to eat at every stop. The water is still amazingly muddy in the Kennebec at this stage of the tide but the bass could find what we were tossing. This wasn't fly water so we went to the  1 oz. Lunker City Pro Jig with 5 3/4 inch Fin-S-Fish. This is my stand by jig choice, versatile and effective - sinks readily, great action, quality hook, catches fish.

IMG_0702 Tuesday was in many ways similar to Monday, without the light later in the morning. We didn't see as many waking fish. Maybe it was the tide being an hour later, maybe it was the guy who kept trolling back and forth close off our bow right in the travel lane for the fish, maybe it was just a different day. We had a number of shots but just couldn't put it together. Fishing with Roger and John is always a blast. These guys can cast, tie gorgeous and effective flies and know how to catch fish.

IMG_0699 We messed around chasing a big lone fish on another mud flat before moving to find the crab patrol bass. They were cooperative and it was fun to see them act just as I expected. I told Roger and John to "think nymphing", that the takes would be subtle and come when the fly was right on the bottom and the bass would spit more than they could imagine. After a few minutes Roger kept exclaiming "it's just like nymphing, it's just like nymphing...that hit was nothing like a classic striper take." Roger was dialed in and took a number of fish. We haven't had many stripers in Maine that are under 20 inches and we all rejoiced at finding some schoolies. The best fish of the day spit the hook on Roger after five minutes through no fault of his. Played perfectly it was one of those fishing moments where you toss up your hands and have no thoughts of what you could have done differently.

When we lost the water movement we made a big move. Roger and John made a quick trip back to the Gun Club to check in and announce that there were more fish still to be caught. I hauled out at Morse Cove, relaunched in the New Meadows and picked up John and Roger to fish the top of the dropping tide under perfect cloudy skies. It took us some exploring to find the flat that the fish were favoring but there was no mistaking where they were when one of Roger's casts caused thirty fish to swirl and bolt. They didn't go far and four casts later the Gurgler was harassed and finally inhaled by a nice fish. We caught a few more and then...they were gone. We then found actively feeding fish under diving birds for the first time in weeks. The stripers were spread out and coming up as singles, but once again the Gurgler was the perfect call on Roger's part. Can you guess what I was tying last night after another 12 hour day (I had to do some prospecting on my own after Roger and John headed home to stay married) while sipping a Bud, listening to the Sox and trying to stay awake until 9:00?

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Okay pookey, do the honors!

I fished out of my new boat yesterday morning for the very first time. Stunning day, crisp, bright, ultra clear, vibrant, not so fishy. Driving up to Morse Cove I was debating my plan – explore some areas that we didn’t fish over the weekend or go directly to the spots where we were catching fish. I decided on the latter. Exploring made more sense from a guiding perspective, but I thought it would be fun to just go fishing (well, really I mean to just go catching). On my first cast I landed a nice chubby 26 inch striper. Now that’s the right way to christen a boat.

At each stop I was able to tempt one or two fish to come to the surface, much slower than what we found on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. A 400 grain line and a large herring fly would pick up another fish or two along the ledges. As the tide dropped out there we fish hugging the bottom in 15 to 25 feet of water. Occasionally one fish would surface to chase a herring but I never saw anything even approaching a flurry of activity. Drifting and jigging a picked up a couple more fish.

As the striped bass continue to move up the Maine coast we'll see more fish filling into the Kennebec and New Meadows Rivers. Water temps in the rivers are ideal, ranging from a low of 56 to a high of 63 degrees. The amount of bait that is here is hard to comprehend until you witness it first hand. Things should really take off in short order. I expect that the cloudy weather of the next couple of days should also help bring more bass to the surface.

Having sated the need to land a few Maine stripers I poled across a couple of flats just looking for fish moving up with the rising tide. I spotted countless sturgeon but nothing with stripes on its side. I finished the morning by taking my wife for her first ride in the new boat. She approved. Her poling lessons start tomorrow.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing Info

I’m sitting in front of the Sox game, answering emails, enjoying the transition from winter to summer and thinking about striper fishing. Andrew D. sent as a question about what lures we recommend for targeting striped bass below the Topsham – Brunswick dam on the Androscoggin River. Thought I’d share my response to Andrew:

I’m a huge fan of soft plastics such as Sluggos and Fin-S-Fish and Hogys . They’re ideal baits for the swirling waters below the Topsham Dam. I fish them weighted and unweighted. I’ll add them to a bare jig head or onto a bucktail jig and work the entirety of the water column. When I fish them without any significant weight I’ll occasionally crank them fast so that they skitter and splash across the surface but usually like to dead drift them. I’ll cast across the current and let the lure swing downstream, occasionally adding a twitch. I’ll also cast up current and reel up slack as the bait comes back towards me.

I use all sizes of the above lures over the course of a season. I’d focus on imitating the big bait that draws the bass to the Topsham Dam in late May and June. Even though the Hogys and Sluggos  aren’t shaped like the alewives, they work really well when the stripers are focused on such large bait. I’d sling the 10 and 14 inch Hogys and the 9 and 12 inch Sluggos.

Rubber crank baits such as the Storm Wild Eye Shad also take some really nice fish at Topsham. There are lots of different brands and colors to choose from. Again, go big.

When the water’s dirty I’ll spend some time casting a large Rat-L-Trap. The vibration and noise can lead to some ferocious takes. When the tide slows or when you see fish follow you lure but not commit to eating it, try a big spook style top water plug. I’m partial to the Lonely Angler Zipster but fish a variety of spooks. Watching the fish slap, toss and inhale a top water lure is hard to beat.

Hope you weathered the winter well. Won’t be long before the alewives start running up the Kennebec and Andro and the stripers will be right behind them.

Send us your questions. We'll happily share our insights and opinions. See you on the water before long.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Plug Of The Year

If you follow our reports or send us questions, you know that we spend a lot of time striper fishing in 6 feet of water or less. Last season this passion for chasing Maine stripers in shallow water became a necessity, as our focus on the flats was absolutely the most consistent ticket to success. Both Gordon and I swear by soft plastics, tie our own jigs and carry boxes of various crank baits but our go to lure in the skinny water is a spook style plug made by Lonely Angler.

Fishing top water is a blast. Combine the visual stimuli of sight casting with the surface eruptions of a striper tail slapping, charging, and inhaling a floating lure and you'll be addicted. This is light-tackle spin casting at it's best.

Your casting accuracy is rewarded and there are times when this can be pretty technical and demanding fishing. Blind casting a spook can be a fantastic fish finding technique (I'll even remove all the hooks and prospect with one for fly anglers when sighting conditions are poor and the fish aren't waking or swirling on the surface) but key to success on the flats is training yourself to spot fish. Land any plug 2 feet beyond a 28 inch striper that is cruising in 28 inches of water and that fish is gone, in a hurry. We all talk about the importance of not "lining fish" when we're sight casting with a fly rod. You'd be amazed at how quickly a pod of striped bass flee when 10 lb. test braided line (diameter of 2 lb. test mono) lands on the water above them in these environments. Some days the bass charge the spooks from thirty feet away and swallow the whole plug with abandon. Other days your cast needs to land much closer ( but not too close) and at the proper angle to the approaching fish and you've got to convince that fish to eat it. Twitch, twitch...pause...twitch, slam.

Can you discover the pattern that drives the fish to eat on that particular flat on that particular day? Do they want a quiet, constant retrieve? Is fast and splashy the ticket? Will they hit the floating baitfish imitation again and again until you succeed at setting the hook or is it a one-and-done day? Can you tell the difference between a tail slap and a big bass trying to eat the plug? Do you have the patience to hold off on setting the hook until you feel the weight of the fish? Can you do all this an hour before dawn or an hour after sunset? How about when you spot a bass over 40 inches in 2 feet of water swimming towards the boat?

Every top water addict has their favorite spook-style lure. They all catch fish and they all entertain. If you've been dependent on poppers for surface action, you owe it to yourself to expand your repertoire. If you need to buy some tackle to help you through these early spring days of waiting for the bass to return, check out the Lonely Angler website. If you'd like to learn more about how and where and when we fish these incredibly productive lures, give us a call or send us an email to book your outing.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Big Improvements

After a wicked slow start to the striper season here on the Kennebec, the fishing has really picked up since the end of last week. Fritz and his son Alex were up for three days to mark the start of their summer. They will be here a number of times over the next four months, but that doesn't dampen their enthusiasm for this first outing. I made sure to give them a realistic picture of the slow fishing that we were encountering the previous two weeks. Saturday afternoon and evening we found fish in every location where we stopped. Sometime just a single fish, other times three, four or five. No blitzes but we did see a couple bass chase big bait right to the surface. The Rat-L-Trap was the hot lure that evening in the dirty water left over from the recent rain and new moon tides, but we also took fish on the surface and with the Storm Wild Eye Shads. It was nice to see a few fish 23 to 25 inches.

Sunday morning was perfect -  absolutely still, water just starting to move at dawn. Fritz and I were underway early, heading for our favorite flats. Our conversation on the run down the river was all about how much we'd looked forward to this event since the end of last fall. As we ghosted up onto the flat we could see a couple of stripers pushing water about 100 yards ahead. A perfect first cast by Fritz had the fish charging towards the Lonely Angler spook. Fish on, thank you very much. Perfect. Well, that was the high point of the morning , both emotionally and piscatorally. We were able to stalk a few more striped bass cruising in the shallows and convinced a couple to eat the spook, but the intermissions between strikes was way too long. As the current picked up we changed tactics and started to work eddy lines and ledges with good moving water. We found a few fish but it was decidedly slower than the day before. Once again, the Rat-L-Trap landed the fish of the trip.

After a midday break (nap, lunch, shopping run) we headed out for another afternoon/evening trip. It took us about an hour to get dialed into the fish but once we did it was a hoot. The stripers would pop up to the surface for ten seconds and hit anything if you could get it near their location right away. We had a good time with this game of hide and seek while we waited for the ebb to increase, anticipating that the flashes of surface  action would evolve into full bore feeding frenzies. Our patience was rewarded by 6:30 and the next hour was non-stop, giddy fun. These fish were feeding out in the middle of the strongest current in 30 to 50 feet of water. We'd pick off fish popping tight to shore and occasionally one of the coves would erupt, but the bulk of the bass were coming to the surface away from the structure.

Starting off from Sebasco early on Monday morning we fished our way down to Hermit Island with no fish to show for our efforts. By 8:00 we realized why we weren't finding fish, so we blasted back to the resort to wake up Alex (he decided to celebrate his first day of summer vacation by sleeping past 4:30 AM) and get him into the boat. We ate breakfast and headed out again, this time on a long planned boat ride from the New Meadows over to Popham and back. We only stopped to fish long enough to catch mackerel at the fort at Popham - that's right, mackerel. After two years in a row of tardy arrivals, the mackerel are here in the Kennebec and in the New Meadows. Wow, did it feel like summer on Monday. Hot at Sebasco but reports from inland about the oppressive heat made us chuckle as we cruised past Small Point and thought about putting on a jacket.

I didn't fish on my way back up the New Meadows but I did stop into Cundy's Harbor to talk with some of the guys that I used to work for, hauling and tuna fishing. They were full of reports about stripers  hammerin' bait up in Mill Cove every evening. There have been big pogies over in the New Meadows and like the Kennebec, the herring are now up into the river. After spinning our wheels in the mud the last couple of weeks our season is finally getting some traction. I know that it will happen, but it is awfully reassuring to finally see it in person.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


The Alewives are Running and the Stripers are Right Behind Them.

Alewivesintank1_2 The annual alewife migration is in full swing. These anadromous fish run up the rivers all along the Maine coast in their effort to reach spawning habitat in lakes and ponds. The adult alewives drop back down the rivers to the ocean soon after they have completed spawning. The young of the year alewives begin their trip to the sea starting in July, peaking late August into early October. The large, nutrient-rich adults are important forage for early arriving striped bass. If you've fished with us in the fall you know how the stripers love to gorge on the juvenile alewives in preparation for the long trip south.

Alewivesinbucket2 Watching the alewives navigate falls and fish ladders is an annual rite of spring for many of us in coastal Maine. The alewives are an important, early source of lobster bait when other fish are scarce. Some of the runs are managed by towns with rights sold to the highest bidder. The Department of Marine Resources works with a number of dam operators to ensure alewife passage at other locations.


Img_0293 At the Brunswick Hydro facility, the DMR moves these fish over the dam and also runs a "trap and truck" operation. Some of the alewives that ascend the fish ladder are held in oxygenated tanks and then delivered to pods and lakes via truck. The alewives reach spawning habitat where upstream passage is blocked by dams. The adults, and eventually the juveniles, are able to descend from the lake or pond to return to the salt water.


Img_0297 I stopped by the fish ladder at the Brunswick dam earlier this week. Here are a few updates:


 


  • More than 6,000 alewives have come through the fish passage so far this season.
  • The DMR moved over 80,000 alwives last year.
  • The 3 to 5 trucks per day are delivering fish to Sabattus Pond, Taylor Pond, Marshall Pond, Bog Brook and other locations.
  • Suckers and brook trout are entering the fish passage. No sign yet of atlantic salmon or striped bass.
  • The run will peak towards the end of May. Florida Power & Light will open their viewing room at the fish ladder this week, Wednesdays through Sundays 1:00 to 5:00 PM.

Img_0300Here are two links to more information from the Maine DMR:

http://www.maine.gov/dmr/searunfish/alewife/index.htm

www.fws.gov/northeast/gulfofmaine/downloads/fact_sheets/alewife%20fact%20sheet.pdf


Img_0299If you are around the coast during May, check out one of the alewife runs. You'll be fascinated  as you watch these energetic fish  clear ledges and falls or ascend a fish ladder. You'll also race home to get your striper fishing tackle organized or to tie up some alewife flies.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com



Fall Fishing for Maine Stripers Is ON

The rivers, coves, beaches and flats are loaded with bait right now. Peanut bunker, young of the year alewivesImg_0239_2, mackerel, sand eels and silversides are everywhere from the Sheepscot to Casco Bay. There are a range of size classes of bass pushing bait up onto the ledges and shores and chasing black clouds of baitfish across the flats. The most consistent action on the Kennebec  has been down river from Squirrel Point to the mouth and beyond, although things are picking up above Bath on up into Merrymeeting Bay. The New Meadows is just as loaded with forage. It is Olde Country Buffet all across our waters.

Capt. Peter Fallon
 www.mainestripers.com


Coming Back to Earth - Maine Fishing Report

After a fantastic week of striper fishing we're back into the summer pattern over the past two days. On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we found more surface action than we'd seen in all of July combined. We were able to start the days casting to fish in very skinny water. Swirls, v-wakes, funny water, fins and dimples provided targets. After the water had dropped off of the flats the fish would set up adjacent to structure and in the channels, taking advantage of good moving water. Sustained surface feeds were a treat and we were giddy with excitement. As the week progressed the surface action diminished in duration, partially a function of brighter mornings and prime tidal flow occurring later and later. We also didn't see as much bait later in the week, but that have been due to seeing fewer fish chasing the bait to the surface. We took lots of fish and some nice fish to 36 inches.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week have been tougher days. The passage of the front and arrival of cool, dry, clear weather on Sunday seemed to put the fish down or off. On Monday we worked the flats early in the morning, seeing some small pods of very nice fish cruising inches under the surface. These were happy fish looking to feed, but cloud cover limited our light for sighting and the wind started rippling the surface by 7 AM. As the breeze increased our sight fishing opportunities ended and we stowed the fly rods. We worked the edges of the flats and then the channels as the current picked up. No surface action all morning and much less bait showing up on the sonar. There were fish that would still hit topwater plugs and Sluggos. We ended the trip running jigs over schools of schoolie stripers and blues holding in 15 feet of water. Yesterday we covered a lot of ground for only a few fish. We had little to no wind for most of the trip and poled the flats first thing looking for fish in 4 to 6 feet of water at the top of the tide. We were seeing some slow cruising pods and the usual v-wakes but the stripers were not feeding the way they had been last week. We had a couple of good shots but for much of the early morning it just didn't all come together. Once again, we finished the day picking up stripers holding close to the bottom in 15 feet of water. The 350 grain Rio line and a heavy Clouser variation did the trick.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Sluggos on the ledges...Maine Striper Fishing Update

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

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

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

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

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


Holy Bait, Batman

Wow. I haven't seen this much bait in and around the Kennebec River in a couple of years. There are clouds of sand eels along the beaches, ledges and flats. There are acres of small bait that look like silversides swarming the flats. There are herring all through the river from just above Popham to beyond Bath. There are mackerel gorging on the sand eels and "silversides" from Phippsburg Center to Five Islands to Small Point. There are even pogies over in the New Meadows River.

Now, what about stripers, you ask? Yes ,they are here and hungry but it has been an inconsistent start to our season. The second week of June should be as easy as it get. The mouth of the Back River around sunrise and sunset on the dropping tide should be erupting with schoolie bass that will eat anything you toss their way. Until the very end of last week the surface action we found was minimal. I heard reports about evening blitzes at Popham, with some big fish eating tiny bait in skinny water - a fly fisherman's dream. On charters last Monday and Tuesday, we found fish throughout the day but never saw a striper so much as swirl, fin or sip on the surface. The surface signs have been increasing since then, concentrated in the low light periods of the day. It has paid dividends to get out early and stay out late. Get the coffee maker loaded the night before, have the boat hitched to the truck and set the alarm. If you're headed out in the afternoon, don't make plans to be home for supper, check your nav lights and bring the bug dope.

If you aren't seeing surface action, look for a couple of gulls sitting on a ledge or flying high over head and fish the adjacent structure working close to shore and also deep along current seams. We've taken a LOT of fish bouncing a jig along the bottom in water 15 to 30 feet deep. We've also been very successful concentrating on rocky structure when the tide is pouring out of the river. One stretch of ledges kept us tight to fish for hours on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Monday morning. We never saw a striper come to the surface, but did have good luck with top water plugs right tight to the rocks. So often in mid-June finding striped bass can be as simple as running up and down the rivers and beaches looking for the birds crashing the water. Not so for much of this month. Last evening it was just as it should be. There were huge flock of terns and gulls working over breaking fish and the action went on for hours. Ah, rejoice. Now it is finally June.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


3 Layers of Long Underwear...

...and Gordon's thermos of hot tea were essential items yesterday in our search for the first Kennebec stripers of the year. On a raw day we found fish but only saw them on Gordon's new color fish finder screen. These images sure looked like striped bass holding deep adjacent to structure, all in places that have produced lots of fish for us in past years. We tried to temp these targets with a variety of jigs, but they weren't biting what we were offering. Were these holdover fish that had wintered here in Maine or were they the first wave of the spring migration?

No signs of any surface activity although we did spot alewives on the surface a couple of times. Anglers are taking stripers south of Portland in the coastal rivers and marshes. Any day now we will bring you the news that we are again catching fish in the Kennebec.

Capt. Peter Fallon
Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC
www.mainestripers.com


Opening Day on the Kennebec

It is once again legal to wet a line for striped bass on the Kennebec watershed. The Maine Department of Marine Resources has established special regulations designed to protect breeding (and resident) stripers in the Kennebec. The season is closed from December 1st through April 30th, when it is illegal to fish for striped bass. May 1st markes the opening of the special catch and release season that runs through the month of June.

No fishing for me today. Still too much work to do on the boat. We'll have fish here in meaningful numbers in just a few weeks.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Only Weeks Away...

The striped bass are on the move up the eastern seaboard. I've heard from folks who are currently taking a few fish in Rhode Island. We should start catching bass here in Maine in short order. There are usually stripers south of Portland by the end of the second week of the month. They will fill into Casco Bay and the Kennebec soon after their arrival on the southern coast.

We'll start more regular posts with updates on reported catches, preseason prep and early season tactics. As always, feel free to call or email with questions about tackle and techniques.

See you on the water soon,

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Maine Striped Bass Fall Fishing Update

It is mid-September and the striper fishing is still going strong. Sunday the 17th was a busy day on the water with many boaters enjoying a beautiful summer day. We're seeing very little traffic during the week and often have schools of breaking fish to ourselves for as long as we want to stay on them. As I write this morning, I've seen all of two boats out on the Kennebec in the first three hours of the day. Each day deeper into the month will have more and more people tending to yard work, watching high school sporting contests or switching their attention to hunting season. We have a couple of weeks of fantastic fishing to savor before we start looking ahead to next year.

There is much less bait out on the oceanfront compared to two weeks ago. There are still schools of the juvenile menhaden that we call peanut bunker along the beaches, coves and river mouths but not the massive schools that covered this territory. As a result, the schools of stripers are a bit more dispersed. Once you find them the action can still be fast. With all of the swell from offshore hurricanes, fishing the beaches and outer ledges has been difficult, but the more sheltered structure has good whitewater and good fishing. Generic crab/lobster patterns are still the first fly that I tie on in these spots. Pollack flies continue to catch the attention of bigger fish. The roiled water has limited out sightcasting opportunities, but conditions on the flats and beaches were getting better as of yesterday.

There has been excellent fishing upriver in the vicinity of Bath. More about this in the next update as it is time to launch the boat and catch the dropping tide...

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Quick Update

The great fishing continues, although the surface blitzes on the peanut bunker have been more sporadic. If you see forty six gulls sitting on a ledge you know that the bait and the bass are nearby. So far I have not found the fish to be especially selective allowing us to use bigger flies and lures to tempt larger fish. At some point in the near future we will encounter picky fish keyed into the small size and shape of the juvenile menhaden.

The strong blow last weekend coupled with full moon tides has stirred up the water, but the recent stretch of calm days and nights is slowly helping to clear things up. Sight fishing just wasn't an option at the start of this week. I'm looking forward to poling after some good sized fish fattening up for their run south. Using the seven and eight weight rods to target large fish is always fun and the size of the bait makes that possible up on the flats.

The young-of-the-year alewives are bringing fish to the surface further upriver. Wednesday afternoon and evening was  a hoot of a good time. The best fish came on jigs bounced just off the bottom around any structure with good moving water, but it was hard to put down the top water rods. Zara Super Spooks and Rebel Jumpin' Minnows skittered across the surface didn't draw any big bass but they did keep the schoolies coming to the boat.


The Fall Bite Is On

Peanutbunker1 Birdsonpeanuts1_8

We are fully engaged in the Fall blitz before the stripers move south for the winter. Summer patterns of fish activity are behind us. This is a great time to be out on the water, so don't too caught up in a return to school, anticipation of bird season or football games or raking leaves. Some of the best fishing of the entire season is happening right now.

Swarms of peanut bunker (juvenile menhaden) are filling the bays, flats, coves and beaches near the mouths of the New Meadows, Kennebec and Sheepscott Rivers. The striped bass, large mackerel and a few big bluefish are gorging themselves on these little baitfish. The young of the year alewives are dropping out of the ponds and moving down the rivers on their way to open ocean. There are schools of spike mackerel offshore that can generate a bass feeding frenzy when they sweep past outer ledges and islands. We are also seeing silversides and sandeels close to the mouths of the rivers. The pollack are stuffing themselves on all of this forage and falling pray to big bass in the process.

If you are out fishing on your own from boat or shore be prepared to keep moving until you locate the bait and the fish. There are stretches of water that seem devoid of life but rest assured that "it is happening" some place all day and all night. The fall runs of baitfish always seem more concentrated than in the early season. If you aren't seeing birds, clouds of bait, surface feeding schoolies move, move, move.

This is a great time to fish in Maine. Our saltwater fly fishing doesn't get any better than this.

 

Capt. Peter Fallon 


Friday, August 4th

We started Friday's charter bouncing jigs and 6 inch Storm Wild Eye Shad while drifting over deep structure, picking up fish on every pass. There were no birds circling above us, no swirls on the water's surface, no bait dimpling against the rock weed but plenty of fish glued to the bottom. As long as we presented our offerings right in front of the stripers, these lazy fish would cooperate.

We found another large school of fish holding in 22' to 36' on the edge of a flat. The images on the fish finder were impressive, but that was the only view of these fish that we got. The current was slack and the fish were not eating anything that we offered. We thought about waiting around for the outgoing tide to pick up, but who wants to wait when there were fish to be caught else where.

A short run brought us to fish chasing small brit herring on the surface and great action on the fly and spin gear. Green and white mushies on a 250 grain line kept the 8 weight bent. A 7 1/2" Sluggo raised the two best fish of the day. The surface action subsided for a while but the fish were still holding tight to the structure. The rain subsided but the cloud cover remained with us for the entire trip, giving us perfect conditions for most of the morning.

Dropping down with the ebbing current we again got into stripers chasing the little herring to the surface. It was great fun to be fishing top water stuff at noon in early August. We ended up leaving with fish coming up all around us. My clients stretched their hall pass as long as they could, but they finally had to call it quits and get to their lunch meeting.

Capt. Peter Fallon
WWW.MAINESTRIPERS.COM


Quick Update

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

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

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


Week of July 4th

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


What a Difference a Day (or so) Makes

The fish are back on. As evidence I offer my thumb, raw and sore. The runoff coming down the Kennebec from last weekend's rains had somewhat tempered the enthusiasm of the striped bass. The past few days we've seen steady improvement in water clarity, with today significantly clearer than yesterday. The stripers have responded by showing themselves on the surface again, although most of the fish that we found were still hugging the bottom. We had a great crew from Sunday River and American Skiing Corp. out in the two boats today. There was no shortage of hooting and hollering with all of the hook ups.

We saw a few herring flipping in Morse Cove at first light. I'll be keeping my eyes open for concentrations of these larger striper snacks. The prime time for saltwater fly fishing in Maine is about to kick off. The next three weeks should be top notch. We do still have some openings for charters during this period, so if you're thinking about striper fishing in Maine, now is the time to act.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Sea Serpents

Sea_serpent_3 Loch Ness has nothing on us. Look at the photo of the monster we saw yesterday on our run up the river to Augusta. All of the runoff has the upper river full of tree creatures and log serpents ready to eat your prop for lunch. Many of the bouys above Richmond have been displaced by flood waters and floating debris. The current around the bridge pilings in Augusta is fercoious. The waterfront park at the Gardiner landing had alewives or herring swimming above the level of the sidewalk.

Despite the turbid water, the Kennebec below Bath has been fishing well over the past week. At times the surface action has been so widespread that the birds are having a hard time deciding which school of fish to follow. They aren't wanting for feed either. No problem getting the active fish to eat. They aren't fussy about size, color, or retrieve. Most of the bait has been small. As the large baitfish move into the river, we will be seeing bigger bass chasing them.

We'll give you another update after Wednesday's charters.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


New NMFS Tuna Regulations

Tuna_headon1_5 The National Marine Fisheries Service has announced final regulations regarding harvest of bluefin tuna. In previous announcements they had indicated that there would not be any harvest of "school sized" bluefin ("27-47" curved fork length) this season due to harvest totals compiled from 2005. There will be a season for retention – keeping a fish – of the school-size class in New England waters, from August 25th until September 14th. At first glance, the NMFS tuna regulations seem to be written by the same folks who brought us our tax code. If you have questions, call or email the NMFS for help.

Here's the link to the NMFS website with all of the details:http://216.12.134.122/News.asp#news232
For more informationyou can aslso contact Dianne.Stephan@noaa.gov.

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com

Rain and Runoff

No drought concerns here in Maine. With all of the runoff from recent rains the rivers are murky, clouded with silt. The fish remain active and when you find surface action they will find your fly or lure. Fishing away from the blitzes or below the smaller fish the challenge is getting your offering noticed in the coffee with cream colored water.

A lure or fly that incorporates a rattle transmits vibrations that the bass detect with the sensitive receptors of their lateral lines. A jig or Clouser bounced along the bottom also appeals to senses not handicapped by the turbid water. Flies featuring spun deer hair heads are thought to "push water". A gurgler or popper can be an excellent fly for these conditions.

Chartreuse is always a popular color on the Kennebec, no matter the water clarity. In these poor visibility conditions I like the following color combinations: yellow/olive, chartreuse/olive, olive/black, purple, purple/black. I'll also try patterns tied entirely out of flash material such as angel hair.

Don't let the stirred up water hold you back. As I write this, I am watching fish busting on the surface out in front of the house. Gotta go...

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com