Attention Maine Saltwater Anglers

Maine DMR is hosting an open, online meeting on April 21 at 6:00 pm to share updates on striped bass management and research in Maine and most importantly, hear from YOU about what you want from your fishery and your fishery managers. There will be a segment about the management process at ASMFC but this is not a public hearing on Amendment 7. If you have feedback for DMR or want to learn more about the management process I hope you'll join and invite others to do same.
 
Recreational anglers have a very small footprint within DMR and our opportunity to have more influence will never be better. We play a significant role in Maine's marine economy and yet have limited resources devoted to our fisheries at the state level. Other segments of our marine economy have done a better job at advocating and securing the support that they deserve. We need to step up our game and this meeting is a perfect opportunity to do so.
 
Hope you will share the link with striper anglers who share your passion.
 
 
Thanks
 
Peter
 
Capt. Peter Fallon, President
Maine Association of Charterboat Captains
 

2021 Saltwater Fishing Charters - Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina

IMG_5648 (1)

I'm looking forward to a busy and fun season of saltwater fishing trips here in Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Really looking forward to it. I mean really, really. And based upon the conversations I've been having with many of you, this anticipation is mutual. I'll be starting out with trips in May around Cape Cod, then spending much of June here at home on the Kennebec River and Casco Bay with 10 days set aside for a renewal of my annual Martha's Vineyard adventure. July and August are all about home waters here in Maine. I'll head to Cape Cod a little earlier this year, starting the albie hunt before Labor Day. Then by November 1 I'll be set up back in Beaufort, North Carolina to finish out the season with more albie madness and some other offshore pursuits. I hope you'll join me somewhere along the way. The pace of bookings is impressive but I still have great tides available in all locations for every month.

Here in Maine I focus on chasing shallow water striped bass but I also fish great moving-water structure, oceanfront ledges and islands, and along the beaches. The variety of options in this watershed is amazing and, compared to what you would often find south of Maine, it is uncrowded. We'll fish in a stunningly gorgeous setting and if you've never seen the lower Kennebec River watershed by boat I know you'll be in awe.

I use top of the line fly and light tackle spin gear from Sage, G. Loomis, Nautilus, Bauer, Scientific Anglers, St. Croix, Aubut Rods, Shimano and other manufacturers. I always have plenty of gear all rigged and ready to go but can happily also give you recommendations on what to bring if you'd also like to utilize your own tackle. If you are a tier, I'd love to share suggestions on patterns I favor for these waters, but know that I have boxes stuffed with flies for you use.

I'm really please to be joining the Scientific Anglers Pro Staff. I've been so impressed with their lines the last few years. They continue to lead the industry with developments in coatings, tapers, and now leader material. Let's put some of my reels on your favorite rod and let you experience what I mean.   

IMG_0013

Here in Maine I often fish out of a 18 1/2 foot Maverick Master Angler flats boat that is incredibly well suited to these waters. It has a remote control, bow-mounted electric trolling motor and I also pole it. It is a fabulous fishing platform and I think you'll enjoy it. It's perfectly suited for two anglers plus myself. I also run a semi-custom 25 foot LTB center console that I had built this past year. It too has a Minn Kota trolling motor and the latest electronics from Humminbird. It's as fly friendly a boat as I could find, with low and narrow gunnels, clean and level deck, and lots of open space.

IMG_1976

All of my striper trips are catch-photo-and release. As you may know, the striped bass population all along the eastern seaboard is overfished. The only way we are going to see more big bass to target is by returning fish to spawn and spawn again. I have no squabble whatsoever with the angler who chooses to keep a couple of fish a season, but I'm out there almost every day. These fish are my business partners and returning them is one small contribution that I can make to improving this incredible fishery. If keeping a striper is a part of the experience that you want to enjoy I would be happy to help connect you with some excellent guides.

New this year, I donate 5% of my charter fee to organizations that support responsible fisheries management, fisheries research, or angler education and resource protection. As a guide I have a unique opportunity to connect anglers with groups that help make our fisheries sustainable and accessible. My goal is to help users become supporters and to grow anglers into advocates. I've put together a menu of organizations that focus on research or advocacy specific to our Northeast inshore fisheries, that work on the local level to protect our coastal watersheds, or dedicate their efforts to promote this sport that we love so much. You choose the group that you'd like to support and I make the donation following payment after our trip. You'll then receive any membership benefits that may be associated with the donation. 

I fish with a lot of anglers who travel the world to chase fish and plenty of anglers who are just getting started fishing or who've only fished freshwater. I spent 10 years as a teacher, outdoor educator, and coach and have been a professional fly casting instructor at L.L. Bean for 16 years. I love sharing what I've learned about this watershed, striped bass biology, fishing techniques, and casting skills of all kinds. 

My passion is sight casting in shallow water for these fish with fly gear and light spinning tackle. If you haven't pursued stripers this way, I'd love to share the experience with you. If you've stalked bonefish on the flats or cast to redfish pushing water, you'll be stunned at how similar this will feel. And if you have fished for stripers this way, well, you know.

Spotting the v-wake of a pod of bass working a dead calm mudflat, calculating when and where to cast, executing the delivery of your shrimp fly or topwater plug, working your offering to entice but not spook the fish, and finally watching one of the stripers make a hard turn and hone in on your imitation and then explode in two feet of water at the sting of the hook is...exhilarating, captivating, intoxicating, and of course addictive.

It isn't the easiest way to chase striped bass but we're not out there to feed our families. If you want to try a different approach to striper fishing or you already know exactly how you prefer to chase these incredible gamefish, give me a call or send me an email. You can learn more about my false albacore trips at CapeCodAlbies.com

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.
 
Peter
Capt. Peter Fallon
pfallon@mainestripers.com
207-522-9900

Thoughts on Potential Expansion of Massachusetts Commercial Striped Bass season

On January 28th, the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MFAC) voted to unanimously support a proposal to expand the number of days per week that the commercial striped bass fishery would be open in 2021 and to start the season earlier despite three straight years of significant declines in landings. This proposal was presented by Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) Director Dan McKiernan.

Let’s start by acknowledging that the recreational (including for-hire) side of the fishery has a far larger impact on both harvest and post-release mortality, but that doesn’t negate the significance of the commercial harvest of striped bass. All harvest, all mortality, matters. We currently lack a meaningful plan to rebuild this fishery in an appropriate (and required) timeframe. What we’re currently doing isn’t working and is making things worse. Changing the commercial fishery in Massachusetts is only one of many steps needed to rebuild this stock - the most valuable and accessible gamefish on the East Coast.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the commercial harvest is better documented and more accurately reported than both the recreational harvest and post-release mortality. That isn’t a valid argument for harvesting more fish under the commercial rules. The declining catch of commercially legal striped bass may be the most obvious and least debatable measure that striped bass are in trouble.

Director McKiernan does not deserve to be vilified for advancing this proposal. He’s often been a voice for reason and conservation at ASMFC striped bass board meetings. It’s possible to oppose this move to add commercial days while supporting other actions he takes.

The Massachusetts DMF is currently a leader in striped bass research. Their multi-year study examining seasonal aggregation patterns of stripers has the potential to radically alter the way that we manage these fish. Their work on post-release mortality should give us better figures to use in calculating the impact we all have when we catch these fish. I certainly don’t know of all of the striped bass studies underway, but I haven’t heard about any more impactful than these two. We need to support this important work at DMF.

Some of Director McKiernan’s comments introducing this proposal at the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee did strike me as tone deaf. How could he think this proposal would face little opposition? Maybe he was referring to opposition from members of the MFAC? Yes, there seemed to be less opposition last year to expanding the open days. COVID impacts were a game-changer that had stakeholders stay on the sidelines. In 2019 public feedback was overwhelmingly opposed to an earlier start and additional open days for the commercial harvest. DMF cited this input in their decision to withdraw that proposal. Did they think this wouldn’t happen again? Especially after two additional seasons where most people targeting striped bass have experienced continued declining encounters with fish over 27”? The culture of saltwater fisheries management at all levels has for too long focused on maximizing allowable harvest and harvesting all of that is allowed. It is up to us to change that underlying approach.

Striped bass are a migratory species. What happens in Massachusetts matters to almost all who target stripers on the East Coast. I am NOT advocating for allocation of a higher percentage of harvest to recreational anglers and for-hire operators. I run all of my charters as catch and release only for striped bass. It’s part of a business model that works for me, but I understand that it doesn’t fit for all. I do subscribe to the idea that abundance in this fishery is good for all of us who value striped bass.

The MFAC’s commercial striped bass sub-committee noted possible important future changes to the structure of the fishery in their materials distributed ahead of the meeting but made no mention of them during the meeting discussion. They are likely switching tagging requirements from dealers to harvesters which is an important step in more accurately measuring harvest of striped bass under commercial rules. They are also considering making this a limited entry fishery. Both changes deserve our attention.

I support the gamefish (and no sale) status for striped bass here in Maine. The value of a bass that is caught recreationally or on a charter boat is significantly larger than one harvested for commercial sale. I can also support a responsibly managed commercial fishery in Massachusetts. Limited entry rules are inevitably fraught with inequities but are often a prerequisite for sustainable commercial fisheries. Requiring documentation that 50% of a commercial license holder’s income come from fishing activities would build support for continued commercial harvest amongst many charterboat operators and recreational anglers. Such a rule would allow for a reduction in commercial harvest while better sustaining commercial fishing communities.

The commercial quota should be seen as a cap on harvest not necessarily a target. Individual states are far more nimble in decision making than ASMFC, and should therefore adjust their own regulations as needed, within the current regulations agreed to at ASMFC.

Those who state that the commercial quota is set by scientists miss an important detail. Yes, the fisheries scientists at ASMFC are responsible for formulating potential quotas but do so under the guidance and direction of the striped bass board. It is the board that then sets the quotas. These decisions have roots in recommendations by the technical committee but are far from decisions made by scientists.

The expansion of the open commercial harvest days is an ill-conceived idea, poorly executed, but one that is serving to call attention to the number of us who are incredibly concerned about the current state of the striped bass stock and the inadequate action at both ASMFC and the state level to make meaningful changes for the future of this fishery for all stakeholders. If you feel the same way, I hope you will email DMF Director McKiernan here: marine.fish@mass.gov

My final take-away regarding the commercial harvest schedule in Massachusetts: What lies ahead at ASMFC, the crafting of Amendment 7, is far, far, far more important and impactful for the future of this fishery. We all need to be paying attention, learning more, and participating in the process going forward and that work begins today.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

mainestripers.com

capecodalbies.com


A Dynamic Environment - Striper Fishing Changes in The Kennebec River

Maine Saltwater Fly Fishing
Kennebec Striped Bass

The end of June and beginning of July marks a transition in fishing conditions in and around the Kennebec River. The frequent and wide-spread surface feeds of the early season taper off. You can still find striped bass busting on top, complete with diving birds, fleeing bait, and all that entertaining mayhem, but it's more limited or concentrated in location and often duration. There are stripers eating every available bait in all types of habitat right now, from big herring in the current to tiny shrimp on the sand flats. Some anglers shift their focus to bumping bottom structure with bait such at eels, live mackerel, or bloodworms or working same areas with jigs rigged with soft plastics and this approach accounts for a lot of the fish taken that fall into the legal slot limit. Others move out of the Kennebec and work the beaches and ledges from the Sheepscot to Small Point, tossing livies into the surf or working big plugs at night and some of the biggest fish taken every early July will come from these waters. For me, it's prime time for bigger fish on the flats. We usually have improved water clarity, more windless mornings when the fish wake in the shallows, but still-hungry stripers willing to chase down a Hollow Fleye in two feet of water or slurp a shrimp fly like one more peanut at a cocktail party. Usually. 

We were setting up for what was looking like a really good early July. June featured lots and lots of fish, feeding with abandon, and hoards of them to be found up in the shallows. Somedays those stripers forced you to change flies 12 times an hour and you never felt like you dialed them in but caught enough to feel good about yourself. Other days the "hero fly" sent you home on top of the world. There was a noticeable drop off in numbers of bass over 26 inches compared to a few years ago, but enough visible in the water or on social media that you knew you had a chance at a bigger fish every trip. One charter last week didn't produce a fish over 25 inches but we sure saw some and had every confidence that with the right opportunity, our crab fly would get hammered, based upon the reaction that it was getting from the fish that presented us with good shots. On Thursday, under bright sun, we had shot after shot after shot at fish up on sand and mud flats and working the edges of the same flats at low water and had some fun eats, but lot's of almosts. The numbers of fish we were seeing had me really excited about the charters I had lined up for the coming days. 7 out of the last 10 years, the biggest fish out of shallow water has come in the first 10 days of July, and while that might be shifted a little later for 2020, things were on track for a hell of a holiday week.

And then it changed. Between June 28 and July 1 we had a lot of rain, especially upriver in the Kennebec and Androscoggin watershed. Stations I checked reported between 5 and 7 inches of rainfall during that period. The river rose and eventually all of the muddy water arrived here in Bath and Phippsburg and Georgetown. We had an excellent bite the morning of July 4 in some cleaner water on the coming tide where stripers were hammering herring in strong current but then when we moved to work the flats with the rising tide, we were hampered by coffee-colored water everywhere. Not only did we have limited spots where we could have a chance at sighting fish, we weren't even bumping or spooking them as we prospected through the shallows. The Humminbird Mega Side Imaging sonar was confirming what our eyes were not seeing. I heard from a buddy of mine that his live mackerel were dying only a few miles upriver from the mouth of the Kennebec. On the incoming tide! That's a lot of freshwater.

Screen Shot 2020-07-05 at 6.41.52 AM
Screen Shot 2020-07-05 at 6.41.52 AM

Striped bass are incredibly tolerant of turbid water and suspended sediment. Their gill structure allows them to patrol the surf zone with comfort in that area that deposits sand into the liner of your bathing suit. They can also rapidly adjust to changes in salinity by regulating osmotic transfer across cell walls (bring you back to senior year biology?) at a pace that is impressive. There are still plenty of striped bass in and around the River, but if you notice that things are "off" or different than the last time you were out a few days ago, you have my guess as to why.

The good news is that we've seen these changes in conditions plenty of times in past seasons (most often in June) and with some drier days, will be back at it on the flats with happy fish and good visibility. If you're planning to fish, go fish. There are stripers here to be caught and in some spots at certain tides it will be Game On! But have a change in game plan in your back pocket. If what usually produces for you isn't, mix it up. Try something or somewhere different. Every trip out is a chance to learn and the opportunities to do so are truly unlimited. 

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Hello June, Hello Striper Season

Fullsizeoutput_17bb

Stripers are back in all of their usual Maine waters and June is the prime month to find surface feeds, hungry fish, and happy anglers. In what seemed like a May that confused itself for April (we only ate supper on the porch twice all month), the striped bass defied some logic and predictions, and filled into our chilly waters slightly ahead of "schedule". Of course our expectations have no bearing on their behavior, but many anglers were thrilled to find better May fishing in saltwater than expected.

Here in the Kennebec, the water has warmed rapidly, to the point where I am exploring the need to calibrate the temperature sensor on my sonar units. Alewife runs are down (as expected given draught that impacted spawning three years ago) but there is still so much bait in the water that the early waves of arriving striped bass don't have to work hard to find food. Yes, the water in the river is still very dirty despite the dry conditions, but these fish are incredibly tolerant of high turbidity, and muddy water shouldn't put you off. Ocean waters well away from the coastal rivers are much clearer, and under the right weather conditions, can afford some sightfishing opportunities.

Here are a couple of early season reminders that may help your fishing, even if they aren't new revelations:

  1. There are a lot more stripers still making their way to Maine, so if you aren't finding fish...move. The ratio of bass to bait, stripers to unit area, are all improving daily but far from where they will be in a couple of weeks. Fish impatiently this time of year. Move around. Cover some water. Burn some fuel. Check your full list of shore spots.
  2. Water temps do influence fish behavior but remember that every striped bass in Maine waters migrated through some really chilly water to get here. Coastal rivers are fish magnets this time of year and early season, flats that warm with the afternoon sun can be good places to target as the light gets lower, but don't write off the ocean spots you love to fish. Plenty of fish out there too.
  3. Speaking of light...yeah, we're more likely to find mid-day surface blitzing fish in June than any other month, but we're more likely to find stripers feeding on top early morning or evening or even at night. These fish still prefer low light conditions. So should you.
  4. Alewives and blueback herring are far from the only bait around, even in the Kennebec. Stripers that have travelled hundreds of miles to get here are hungry but they still get selective. Imitating big bait can pay dividends, tempting a fish much larger than the one you just caught, but bass of all sizes can get keyed into small bait and that axiom is true even in June.
  5. See suggestion #1. Be an active angler. I've been on the water almost every day this past week and found feeding fish, but I've seen a lot more ocean with nothing going on. It's June. It's happening somewhere. Go find "there".

When it does all come together, rejoice. It's been a hell of a March, April, and May. That tug of the first striper of the season will make everything seem right with the world for a period of time. Treasure that fish, even if it is shorter than your foot, and give some consideration to changes in tackle and technique that can help improve the odds that one of us will catch that same striper again. Enjoy! You deserve it.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Who’s got two thumbs and is ready to get you back on the water? THIS GUY!

Fullsizeoutput_153a

We’re cleared to begin guided trips in Maine on May 1 under a comprehensive set of protocols designed to ensure safety for clients, guides, and our community. I can’t begin to adequately explain how much I’m looking forward to having you out on the boat and sharing our heightened appreciation for the incredible experiences we enjoy in coastal Maine. If you’ve fished with me before, you know.

Current safety protocols limit trips to people who have met the governor's 14 day quarantine requirement and are residing in the same household. Additional mandatory guidelines are a work in progress. I’ll share here when we get closer to a final version. I’ve always believed that as a charterboat captain and guide my primary responsibility is the safety of my guests. I’ve spent years managing and mitigating risk as a boarding school dean, a volunteer EMT, and a ski industry executive. The steps I take to ensure safety for all aboard have and will continue to exceed those required by the state and the Coast Guard.

If you have been following news about the Reopening Maine plan and are wondering when you will be able to visit from out of state without quarantining for 14 days, please know that state leaders are working diligently to adapt to changing health metrics here in Maine and in other states and to take advantage of additional public health tools as they become available. Stay tuned and stay optimistic.

Thanks to the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources and Commissioner Keliher, the Maine Association of Charterboat Captains, and the American Saltwater Guides Association, and countless others for all of the effort to get guides across Maine working again.

Hope you, your families, and your friends are all safe and well and I look forward to catching up.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Calling All Striped Bass Anglers And Guides - Our Fishery Needs You

IMG_4446

Calling all striped bass anglers and guides: our fishery needs you. Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries is considering a proposal to open their commercial striped bass season early this year. In recent summers it has started June 23. They are looking at starting it as early as June 1. The rational behind the proposal is that commercial anglers have not harvested to their quota cap the last two years. In 2018 they only landed 89% of their quota cap. Last year the harvest fell to a startling 67% of the total pounds allowed despite strong markets in both years.

Striped bass are in trouble. The failure of the commercial fleet to catch their full quota is telling. Yes, MA DMF deserves credit for reducing the commercial quota by 18% this year but with so many unknowns about the effectiveness of new regulations in all of the East Coast waters these fish inhabit, now is not the time to be adding additional days to an effort that removes fish 35 inches and greater from the population. 

If you fish for striped bass, you are a stakeholder. Even if you never fish in Massachusetts waters, what happens there to these migratory fish matters to you. If you live in Massachusetts, or travel there to fish, this is especially relevant. If you live or fish in Maine or New Hampshire waters only, where do you think you would find the majority of fish over 35 inches that are bound for us are between June 1 and June 23?

You can influence the decision by MA DMF, but you need to speak up now. MA DMF is holding public hearings and accepting public comment via mail and email through 5:00 pm Monday, March 16. Link for details is below. Your comment can be short and succinct. Tell them that you are concerned about the state of the striped bass fishery and want more conservative management measures, not less. Add whatever details stand out to you. Make it your comment with a line about why this fishery means so much to you. Public input made a difference last year when MA DMF asked us for our opinion on adding an additional day per week to the commercial open season. We need your comments again. 

Speak up and send your comment here: marine.fish@mass.gov

Below the link to the details on the proposal (includes hearing locations and dates and email link to submit comments) you'll find a copy of my letter to the head of the agency, Acting Director Daniel McKiernan. Let me know if you have questions or if I can help you with your comment.

https://www.mass.gov/doc/020720-winter-omnibus-public-hearing/download

 

Acting Director Daniel McKiernan

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries 

251 Causeway Street, Suite 400

Boston, MA 02114

 

Dear Director McKiernan,

I’m writing to express my opposition to the proposal to open the Massachusetts commercial striped bass harvest earlier than June 23 and to share my overdue appreciation for your leadership at the February ASMFC meeting of the Atlantic Striped Bass Board.

I am gravely concerned about the current state of the striped bass fishery and even more afraid of where we will be three years from now. I’m working to become more informed, more involved, and to bring others into this process. I travelled to the February ASMFC meeting at my own expense and I appreciate and applaud your efforts at the striped bass board meeting to promote consistent regulations coastwide, to check some of the more irresponsible CE proposals from New Jersey and Maryland, and to lead the push against the New York proposal to allow their charter/party boat fleet to harvest fish 31” and greater. While I originally advocated for the option that would establish a 35” minimum size, I have supported the need for consistency in regulations coastwide. Thank you for speaking up for responsible management, both at the board meeting and in your letter to your counterpart in Rhode Island.

Now a resident of Maine, I fish frequently in Massachusetts waters, both recreationally and as a for-hire charterboat captain. Growing up on the water in Scituate, I first earned my Coast Guard license in 1986 and ran private and charter boats out of Boston for a number of summers. I started Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC in 2004 in Phippsburg, ME but extend my season and market by traveling south to fish Boston Harbor to Martha’s Vineyard, with the longest stint in the fall when I am on the Cape for September and most of October. 

I am not opposed to the commercial harvest of striped bass. I live in a community that is centered around people who make their living on the water. I’m on the town committee that has just received permission to open a limited commercial river herring harvest in one of our ponds. I paid off my college tuition bills catching lobsters and tuna. I have kept my distance from advocacy organizations that have seemed more interested in resource allocation than overall well-being of the fishery. And while I understand the logic behind the argument that commercial striped bass anglers have an approved quota and thus should be allowed more opportunity to harvest that quota, I don’t believe it would be a prudent management decision. 

You and the Department of Marine Fisheries deserve credit for honoring the guidance of the ASMFC striped bass board and applying equal 18% reductions to the recreational and commercial harvest targets in the state, however, there are so many unknowns about the results of all changes brought about by Addendum VI that a more conservative approach is warranted. The failure of the Massachusetts commercial fleet to reach the harvest quota cap the last two years adds further weight to the argument for an abundance of caution in management decisions. We have yet to hear back from the Technical Committee regarding their calculation of the projected cumulative mortality reduction as a result of Conservation Equivalency approaches from a number of states. Between New Jersey’s bonus tag program and Rhode Island’s potential 30” to 40” CE, we could be harvesting over a much wider slot than originally intended and the TC has been clear that predicting the effect of any slot limit on striped bass is challenging. Slot limits are an untested tool when it comes to management of this species. With no mechanism in place to hold states accountable for their results under CE proposals, we’re at least two and likely three years away from any ASMFC changes to react to changes in the striped bass population. Commercial anglers might argue that what happens on the recreational side shouldn’t in any way impact their portion of the fishery but I would suggest that we need to consider each and every management decision with respect to the overall health of the fishery and we’d be well served to remember that we’ve reached this point in part because Addendum V has failed. 

Massachusetts could support and strengthen the commercial striped bass harvesters who make some significant portion of their income from commercial fishing interests with other regulatory changes. There is support in portions of the recreational and for-hire community for changes to the commercial harvest rules that would serve to limit participation and potentially raise prices, directing use to those fishermen who are most deserving of access to this limited and valuable resource.

Retaining the June 23rd opening of the commercial season sends a signal to all stakeholders that you and the Massachusetts DMF are committed to taking steps in the best interest of rebuilding this fishery. The measurable decrease in commercial harvest landings in 2019 and 2018 are a message that should not ignored. I heard resounding approval of your organization’s 2019 decision to keep the open commercial harvest days at two when it was clear that we wouldn’t reach the quota cap. My understanding is that the decision was based in part upon the volume of public comments opposed to adding the third day. Your organization listened to public input last year and I hope will do the same this year.

Respectfully,

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


ASMFC Striped Bass Board Takeaways - Better Than Our Worst Fears, Worse Than Our Best Hopes

Fullsizeoutput_16d1

The current striped bass management system is broken. We should have better fishing, much better fishing – more bass and larger bass. And we would if ASMFC, the governing body for stripers, had been responsibly managing this fishery. On Tuesday, Feb. 4, I was able to travel to Alexandria, VA to attend another meeting of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board. Here are some of my takeaways.

ASMFC Striped Bass Board - We Can Swear at it But Can’t Afford To Swear it Off  

You win some and you lose some and that was true for striped bass and the striper fishery at Tuesday’s winter meeting of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board. Results and discussions were better than our worst fears, and worse than our best hopes. There still isn’t a concerted effort to save the striped bass fishery, but at least there was some progress in imposing some responsibility in the drive to harvest every possible fish by a number of states. ASMFC has a history and habit of delaying overdue and urgently needed action, and that continued at Tuesday’s “chaotic” (as characterized by board Chair David Borden) and contentious meeting of the Striped Bass Board. The fact that this board had never disapproved (by vote or by pressure) Conservation Equivalencies (CEs) prior to this past meeting is stunning news to those of us starting to pay much closer attention. The fact that accountability for CEs that don’t meet goals had never been advanced prior to Tuesday is condemning evidence. This board has been ineffective and irresponsible. There are fundamental flaws to ASMFC’s structure and authority, and the process is dysfunctional, but for now, this is the process we have to live with.

 

CEs – Going Off the Rails & “Proposal” Is a Misnomer

Conservation Equivalency proposal implies an impending decision to approve or disapprove. Historical precedent for this board has been to leave that up to the proposing state, not the board. This process has not worked the way any reasonable person would assume. There hasn’t been any board approval or disapproval. No wonder ASMFC has been largely impotent. What happened Tuesday when the board went state by state was flawed but precedent setting. The New Jersey members were apoplectic that the board would have the audacity to want to vote to approve or not approve the CEs that they wanted to use. Apoplectic. I thought Adam Nowalsky (NJ) was going to have a cardiac event.

Striped bass are overfished and overfishing is occurring (bear with me – I’ll define those terms another day). The board is thus required to take action to reduce overall striped bass mortality. In October, the board adopted Addendum VI to the current management plan (known as Amendment 6, with the goal of reducing overall mortality by 18%. The board voted in favor of enacting a slot limit of 28” to 35” (1 fish per day per angler) for coastal waters and I fish per day greater than 18” in Chesapeake Bay.

Addendum VI fell apart when the board also approved New Jersey’s motion at the October meeting to ignore the plan’s goal of an 18% mortality reduction across the entire geographic range of striped bass and allow each state to cap their own mortality reduction efforts at 18%.

This led to 49 CE “proposals,” a number that was concerning to many members and to the Technical Committee (TC). In their report, the TC stated that there were too many CE proposals to even attempt to calculate if the potential mishmash of regulations would meet the goal of reducing striped bass mortality by 18%. Emerson Hasbrouck (NY) asked of the entire board at the start of the meeting if the TC has no guidance for us on coastwide mortality reduction – how are we to proceed?

It was as Ritchie White (NH) who described, “CEs going off the rails.” He went on to say that CEs had historically offered states the ability to make minor tweaks, that he was getting “tons of emails” about their misuse. He lamented that they were completed without public input up and down the coast, which is not how ASMFC does business. I like his concern, but beg to differ – it is how ASMFC does business and is one of the reasons the majority of the public has lost confidence in this organization.

Dennis  Abbott (NH) lamented that even though everyone voted for a 28” to 35” slot in October they were “sitting in back with their pencils out, calculating what they could propose through CEs.” He stated that isn’t fair to the public, and wondered why did ASMFC go out to the public when the majority of the states are not abiding by the decision of the board? He even raised the obvious concern that CEs only benefit the individual states enacting them – implying that they have no benefit for the species nor the fishery as a whole. (Please note that I originally incorrectly attributed these comments to Dennis Seviakis (DE). I've corrected my mistake here.)

The TC has been directed to calculate the overall mortality reduction once all states have decided upon what regulations they will use. They will issue this report at the May meeting, but by the TC’s very clear admission, they will be guessing, given the number of variables and unknowns involved with changing angler effort, seasonal closures, slot limits, and variations in size and bag limits.

 

Accountability – A Novel Concept

The accountability conversation is finally on the table and figures to be a contentious topic when the board begins Amendment 7 discussions at it’s next meeting in May. It’s unbelievable that this idea of holding states accountable for regulatory results is new. Truth is stranger than fiction.

ME, NY, RI were the only members to vote in favor of the motion to require accountability for CE results initiated by Pat Keliher (ME). Pat did bring up paybacks when he first introduced the need for accountability. It’s clear that the board can require accountability and Max Appelman (ASMFC Staff) reported there is opportunity to do so, following the Fisheries Management Plan assessment after year one. The board has required accounting for commercial overharvest, so this isn’t a completely novel approach. Multiple members spoke about the need for accountability picking up steam in feedback via emails and meetings. We are beginning to be heard.

It was encouraging to hear support from John Clark (DE) and others to make accountability a part of the Amendment 7 discussions, but disheartening to watch NJ and MD look for any opportunity to delay such logical action. Mike Luisi (MD) was pretty subtle and suave with his play. Adam Nowalsky (NJ), not so much. See reference to near cardiac event above.

Accountability can’t wait for the lengthy process of implementing Amendment 7, which could take up to two years. The accountability motion that failed at Tuesday’s meeting would have evaluated the 2020 harvest but wouldn’t have required any changes in regulations if a state was overharvesting until the 2022 season and did not include any provision for paybacks.

 

18% Leaves No Room for Error

The board could and should direct a more conservative approach by requiring a greater than 50% likelihood to achieve desired mortality reduction. The 18% target for overall mortality reduction should have included some kind of buffer, bringing it to something like 20% or 22% or 25% given all of the uncertainties that the Technical Committee has identified and the failure of recent conservation measures. Chris Batsavage (NC) spoke in favor of a buffer discussion at future meetings and I know from post-meeting conversations that other board members would welcome that approach. This too could be a significant change to the way the board has operated, and one of the rays of hope going forward.

 

Inaction & Pace of Change

Too little, too late. Kicking the can down the road. Half measures (that’s being generous). All describe the history and habit of this board and ASMFC as a whole.

 

In the Middle

Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, North Carolina, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and National Marine Fisheries all seem to fall into the middle, muddied waters between the states that are pushing for more responsible management and the states that just want to maximize their own harvest. Each member has an equal vote, so winning their support will be critical.

 

MRIP Data – The Be All & End All and Wait… The Excuse

If you’re the TC calculating mortality reduction goals you have to rely on MRIP data for harvest estimates. It’s what you have. If you’re a state crafting a CE designed to bring home the largest possible harvest, the MRIP data is gospel in the most fundamental sense – no room for argument, interpretation, or uncertainty. (See MD and NJ.) If you’re a state (not just MD and NJ, but they led the charge) arguing against accountability you lament all of the flaws and doubts surrounding MRIP data. At ASMFC you can have it both ways.

 

Heros And Zeros – Who Stood Up for Striped Bass

Pat Keliher, Commissioner of the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources and the incoming Chair of ASMFC, is deserving of thanks from all of us, regardless of where we live and where we fish. He pushed the board to review CEs state by state (something the board had never done) and proposed a motion to require accountability if regulations enacted under CEs resulted in harvest over targets. This too was groundbreaking, even though it didn't gain enough votes to pass. Multiple times, Pat relayed concerns of Maine stakeholders. He reported tremendous opposition to the way CEs are being used. And, he shot down an attack from NJ in their lament that they were being asked to give up too much when he relayed discussions in Maine about being more conservative than the board mandate (using that term loosely – it is ASMFC, so a mandate isn’t really a mandate). Pat was clear that the conversation at a recent meeting in Maine regarding the failures of this body really hit home. (Stephen Train also from Maine, supported Pat’s positions at every turn.)

Dr. Justin Davis from CT and Ritchie White from NH spoke up in support of every appropriate measure, motion, and CE and against every irresponsible move. They both highlighted significant concerns with public faith in the board. These guys were superstars.

MA DMF’s Dan McKiernan was a strong voice in the effort for achieving consistency in regulations coastwide and led the pushback against NY in their play to try to allow charter/party boats to take a fish of any size larger than 31”, stressing the need to protect the integrity of the MRIP data.

Rhode Island was one of the surprises for me – a real disappointment. They gave cover to NJ and MD with their CE proposal to take fish between 30” and 40” and they almost enabled NY to add to the mess with a provision for NY charter/party boats to harvest fish greater than 31”. If RI had only advanced the board recommended slot limit, NJ would now likely have the same slot (not including their "bonus fishery"). Instead we’re facing what is effectively an expansion of the “coastwide slot,” as anglers will be harvesting fish between 28” and 40”. RI did however cast one of the three votes to support accountability measures.

New York earns mixed marks. John McMurray continues to lead the charge for more responsible management of this fishery, faster and more decisive action, limits on the runaway use of CEs, and implementation of accountability measures. The rest of the NY crew made some excellent points, seemed to favor consistency in regulation, but then added to the chaos as they made an unsuccessful push for their charter/party boats to be able to take fish 31” and larger. Yikes. The CT rep wasn’t buying them a beer after the meeting. On the plus side, NY did join ME and RI in favor of finally and immediately adding some kind of accountability for the CEs.

New Jersey and Maryland continue to effectively advocate for their states to be able to harvest as many fish as possible without regard to the health of the stock. Had they been left unchecked, NJ could have been harvesting fish from 24” on up with no upper size limit through their recreational fishery and their “Bonus Program” (don’t get me started – need to save that beauty for another day). Maryland was forced into limiting recreational anglers to 1 fish at 19” but the charter/party boat fleet will take 2 fish a day per person and their spring Trophy Fishery for bass  greater than 35” continues. So much for the board decision in October to limit the Chesapeake Bay fishery to 1 fish at 18”.

 

Next Steps

While it does provide momentary satisfaction to hurl vitriolic abuse at NJ and MD, it doesn’t do us much good. Telling our own board members that we expect them to hold NJ and MD accountable is different. We also need to ask our representatives to find ways to bring states that are on the fence – DE, DC, PA – onboard to urgently implement responsible management and a more conservative approach to harvests. I applaud steps that the board has taken and support measures that some members have tried to advance but this is still too little, too late. Our overwhelming voice needs to make clear that we are gravely concerned about this fishery as it currently stands and more distressed about where it will be in three years.

Enough (too much) for now. More on next steps in my next post. Thanks for caring and being involved.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


Maine Meeting on Upcoming Striped Bass Regulatory Decisions

Fly Fishing Charters Phippsburg Maine

On Thursday night, the Maine Dept. of Marine Resources held a rule-making hearing in Yarmouth to collect public comment on proposed changes to striped bass regulations in Maine. The Dept. is required to collect input because they are changing the regulation in Maine to adopt the max. size of under 35" but the draw to attend wasn't only about what they are proposing to do here. Striped bass are managed collectively by all of the states where there is a fishable population through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission or ASMFC. Many of the 38 people in attendance turned out to also speak about what some of the other states are proposing to do with their own striper rules. Maine has an equal vote with other states on the ASMFC Striped Bass Board, which meets next Tuesday, Feb. 4 to approve or disapprove of each of these proposals.

Here is the comment that I read into the public record on Thursday night. You'll find a recap of the Thursday meeting below along with a link to a helpful article from the American Saltwater Guides Association with more info.

My name is Peter Fallon. I’m here representing my charter business and the American Saltwater Guides Association. Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I hope others here in the room tonight will also comment on our fishery and our expectations.

While I had advocated for 1 fish greater than 35 inches, I am pleased to see Maine supporting the decision of the ASMFC Striped Bass Board to move to a coastwide slot limit of 1 fish between 28 and 35 inches and not submitting a Conservation Equivalency proposal.

The current striped bass management system is broken. We should have better fishing, much better fishing – more bass and larger bass -- and we would if ASMFC had been responsibly managing this fishery.

The current use of Conservation Equivalencies, or CEs, is one fatal flaw. ASMFC has repeatedly stated that they want consistent regulations on the Atlantic coast and in Chesapeake Bay and yet they continue to approve Conservation Equivalencies that result in a mishmash of regulations and overfishing. States get to do what they want and there are zero consequences when they overfish. And they do overfish. No payback. No required adjustments to size, bag, or season limits. No constraints on future CE proposals from those states.

Recreational anglers in New Jersey harvested almost five and a half million pounds of fish in 2016. To put that into perspective, the recreational harvest in Massachusetts that year was just over two million pounds and here in Maine, about 125,000 pounds. New Jersey has a huge impact on this fishery and now they want to target fish 24 to 29 inches (which includes the 2015 year class) and fish over 42 inches through their trophy bonus tag program.

Have we forgotten what happened to the once robust 2011 year class as the result of an ill-conceived Conservation Equivalency from Maryland, a habitual offender of overfishing? Now New Jersey is about to decimate the 2015 year class if they are allowed to set their slot limit to take fish starting at 24 inches. Is Maine ok with that?

Maryland is also pushing a proposal that includes a continuation of their trophy fishery for bass over 35 inches and a 2 fish a day allowance for charter and party boat anglers – both of which go against the decision at the October ASMFC meeting to move to 1 fish a day at 18 inches for all of Chesapeake Bay, which was supported by 84% of the public comment.

Some Conservation Equivalency proposals look good on paper but fall short in meeting the desired results. All of these CEs have met the requirements of the Striped Bass Technical Committee but so have all of the past proposals and many have been a disaster. The Technical Committee has said that there is a high degree of uncertainty that these measures will meet mortality reduction goals. They say clearly that they have no idea how much overall striped bass mortality will be reduced by such disparate regulations.

This entire plan to reduce overall striped bass mortality by 18% was built with the assumption that the new regulations would be effective coastwide and baywide. It was presented to the public in the same way. It was supported by a huge percentage of the public input and approved by the ASMFC Striped Bass Board this fall. It’s no wonder that so many people have lost confidence in ASMFC.

Maine has often been a leader in striped bass management and conservation. Our adoption of mandatory circle hook use ahead of any ASMFC requirement is but one example of such forward thinking. I hope the Maine board members and ASMFC Chair, Commissioner Pat Keliher, will continue to lead by holding New Jersey and Maryland to the decision of the board and the expectations of the overwhelming majority of the stakeholders.

At next Tuesday’s ASMFC meeting I urge that Maine vote to approve only those CEs that would give us all one consistent slot limit coastwide and one consistent slot for all of Chesapeake Bay.

 

Here's my recap of the Thursday meeting:

To all of the passionate striped bass anglers, guides, and tackle shop owners who showed up in Yarmouth for the DMR hearing on Thursday - thank you. I've heard from a couple of you that the crowd was decidedly larger than the group that gathered this fall to provide public input into the proposed Addendum VI options. It's encouraging to see rising involvement as the challenges to responsible management grow.

Having Commissioner Pat Keliher present to hear discussion, questions, and on the record comments was incredibly important for our objectives. When Pat joined in, providing context, history, explanations and a patient ear it served to make our investment of time even more worthwhile. What was scheduled to be a routine rule-making hearing quickly evolved into an hour plus question and answer session. The questions and comments were excellent, across the board. And Pat's statements about the cascade of Conservation Equivalencies precipitated by the decision of the striped bass board to allow each state to target an 18% reduction in mortality were telling. The ASMFC meeting next Tuesday will be interesting for sure.

One thing that is not in doubt is that the Maine delegation heard us, loudly and clearly. Our expectations of them can not be misconstrued and they know that we will be following up with them after the meeting.

The number of people who stepped forward to comment on the record was impactful. It's not an easy or comfortable thing to do, especially the first couple of times, but it is critically important and needs to become our habit for future public hearings. I've spoken with a number of people in attendance who submitted their comments in writing prior to the event. This too becomes easier and more comfortable over time. I know of other folks who wanted to attend the meeting but couldn't make it fit into the schedule of life. They have or will comment via email and hope to join in person at the next go-round. And there will be a next-go round, and one after that, with more to follow.

I suspect that the results of the meeting on Feb. 4 will be mixed, with some news to cheer and other decisions to fight. We can't afford to wait until the next round of rule-making hearings to express our concerns, offer our suggestions, learn more about the process and hold our fisheries managers accountable. I don't know what form or forum that will be, but the need and interest is clear.

 

And here's the link to the article with more info on CE's and what lies ahead:

https://saltwaterguidesassociation.com/striped-bass-at-the-asmfc-2020-winter-meeting/

It's not too late to participate in this process. The article above gives good guidance on what you can write and how to get your view point to the people who are deciding the fate of this fishery.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Striper Thoughts

One of my goals for this off-season is to reread some of the books that helped me become a better saltwater fly angler and tyer. I've amassed quite a collection over the past 30 years. Throughout the '90's I could count on finding a couple of new titles under the Christmas tree. My wife and I used to spend more time wandering through bookstores whenever we travelled or needed an escape at family gatherings, and having a new fishing book in hand provided refuge when going fishing (again) wasn't possible or acceptable. In the boom days of northeast saltwater fly fishing - aka the striper recovery - before the internet was the oracle, there seemed to be a hot new title out every couple of months. Not only did these authors help me learn more about catching striped bass, but they helped fuel my passion for chasing this fish and becoming a more proficient angler.

My wife and I both like the feeling of having books around, although too many are stacked in plastic tubs in various storage spaces, and we clearly need to get better at culling them. I suppose we could investigate the possible reasons for our behavior, and the ideal of rereading would be but one motivation. As I sift through stacks and boxes and shelves, the titles that I have read a second and third time tend to either be collections of essays on bird hunting that have been my company on longer trips out West or How To titles on saltwater fly fishing and fly tying. I recognize that my desire to revisit the best books is driven in part by gaining more insight and understanding, becoming a better angler and guide. Lessons now are different than they were in my third summer of chasing stripers with a fly rod. I'm not so much looking for new explanations or introductions to unknown tactics but I do find that observations of others helps put order to experiences I've accrued, sharpen lessons learned, and highlight the questions that I am now trying to answer and the gaps in my understanding that deserve more of my attention.


August Striped Bass Fishing Patterns Continue Here in Maine

Fullsizeoutput_13b8

Not a whole lot has changed with striper fishing in and around the Kennebec since my last update on Aug. 11 (scroll down). Fishing is pretty good and does vary day to day and spot to spot. The fog and cloud cover didn't really jazz everyone up as hoped but there are plenty of stripers around. Timing of the morning low this week was nice, but there just isn't a ton of current in the Kennebec these with weaker tides and on some flats the fish behavior was weaker too. There are some good sized stripers to be caught off the ledges and islands. No sign of the first big flush of young of the year alewives moving down river, but we are due any day now. Biggest change for me personally is I an now fully succumbing to "albie brain". Woke up at 1:57 am this morning thinking about what lies ahead...

I do have a couple of open dates the week of the 19th, but then my calendar is booked right through my departure from Maine for Cape Cod and two months of chasing false albacore and bonito. Let me know if you'd like to get out this coming week. And speaking of albies, if you've never experience this fishery, you owe it to yourself to change that, pronto. You can filter posts by topic here. Select "False Albacore" from the menu on the left margin of the page and you will get an idea of why these fish posses those of us who love to chase them. September dates for albie trips on Cape Cod are filling fast and I'm excited to host a full slate of anglers who've never seen the mayhem, never experienced the challenge, never felt the energy of these incredible fish.

Here's my update from last weekend:

Striper fishing in the Kennebec River, Maine continues with the same mid-summer pattern we've been seeing for the last couple of weeks. Fish activity varies day to day, but every day they are here. No shortage of striped bass in the shallows. No Sir. My anglers from this weekend will attest to being amazed at the sight of big pods of bass, including fish we'll over 30 inches cruising in the skinny water on sand flats and mud flats. Sometimes they would eat and sometimes they would give us the finger. Never got a bite from the biggest gals but did pluck out a couple of 30 inch fish, one when we hopped out of the boat to wade up on them they were so shallow, which was such a hoot and really rewarding.

Watching well over a hundred stripers scoot under the boat in three feet of water is a sight and working that group for an hour made up for the lack of waking fish were we were looking for Saturday morning. I admit to having higher hopes for more consistent fishing this past week with the stronger tides and finally some fog, but we were finding a few hours of "meh" with fish that weren't jazzed up and an hour or two of "there it is!" action. I am optimistic looking ahead to the timing of the tides this week. I love working two hours either side of low for fly anglers and am geared up for another busy week sharing this incredible place with some fabulous people.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

Phippsburg, Maine

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Striper Fishing With A Fly - Kennebec Conditions Are Good, Not Great, But Getting Better

I started a post at 2:45 Wednesday morning that led with my disappointment that fishing wasn't fabulous, as my expectations for the Kennebec at the end of June and first week of July are extremely high. But then I remembered that I wanted to make Ottolenghi's Avocado Toast for our trip this morning and I needed to be at Frosty's by 4:00 am to meet Fritz for his inaugural Kennebec trip of 2019. I was going to write that striper fishing overall in the Kennebec is good, not great, but that fish over 30 inches weren't yet showing themselves (to us, of course) on the flats, and that the water is still stained from a ton of runoff and high releases upcountry, and that the fish just weren't consistently waking, or pushing water, under near perfect weather conditions. We've had good outings casting to breaking fish, but that just isn't quite the same as sightcasting, which had only been ok. Well, that all changed this morning. What an outing.

One day does not make a trend or pattern, but I am brimming with optimism tonight. After working moving water past structure from 4:30 to 6:00 with almost constant hook-ups, we found hoards of striped bass pushing water in wicked shallow water and they were cooperative. We also "jumped" a few much larger bass on a flooding mudflat and even though we didn't connect on their attempt to eat, we were buoyed. Water releases upriver are starting to trend towards more normal levels, forecast is good, and bigger stripers are filling in daily.

Here are a couple of quick suggestions for fly anglers:

  1. Get on the water early. Earlier than that, even. 
  2. Fish big herring flies in fast water around structure but go small on the flats once the sun is pretty bright on the water. If you're in feeding fish and are thinking "Jeezum, I should be hooking up more often", go even smaller.
  3. There are groups of striped bass that are settling into a summer pattern, showing up on deeper ledges that are holding herring at particular stages of the tide. You'll see a collection of boats, most drifting bait, and gulls (not terns) overhead. You may find some active fish in the water column, even coming up to the surface at times. You can try to work the same water with a 400 to 500 grain integrated shooting head and big herring fly that sinks well. But that's not your only option. Work adjacent structure and shallows, especially if the light is reasonably low, even if it is a little before or after the "big bite" is going off. See suggestion #1 above.
  4. Back to shallow water - f you're seeing fishing under bright sun follow then turn away from your fly, pull out the flash from your pattern or switch to a more muted color.
  5. Most importantly, go fish. Just get out there. 

I have many more thoughts to share but I'm beat from a long string of early alarms and lots of sun and have more of both ahead of me. My next open date is Wednesday, July 10. Let me know if you'd like to get out on the water.

Remember, fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


I Want June To Last 90 Days

PJoQsmgKSkGuk2jCuiHBTg

It sure felt like late June on the Kennebec River this week. On Tuesday, we were on fish pretty much the entire trip, from 6:00 am until 4:00 pm, and found the stripers feeding and holding in almost every way you might expect to encounter them up inside the river. Only thing missing for us were bigger bass.

We started on a mudflat that had good numbers of fish very happy to eat on top, although they weren't doing a fabulous job of showing themselves. We kept talking about making a move and another striper would demolish the spook. Our first move ended up being about 200 yards off the flat to spots down the shoreline where the fish kept popping and calling us.

By the time we made our second move, the tide was ebbing nicely and fish in shallow water were gleefully sipping very small bait. I couldn't tell if they were little silversides or something else, but the slender craft fur hollowfleye outfished the the slightly longer, decidedly wider, spun deer hair slider by a wide margin. These fish weren't pushing water, unfortunately, but were rising in the current with frequency.

From there we headed to a cove loaded with bass hugging the bottom and hanging on the ledges when the current moved well past the structure. Then onto a flat that would be uncovered in two hours where we found fish but were working blindly due to the building breeze. A hundred diving herring gulls (aptly named given what they were eating) led us farther downriver to strong current tumbling and roiling over big ledges. Bigger offerings didn't bring us bigger fish, but there were plenty of bass and not all of them were right under the birds.

As the tide started to rise, the wind very cooperatively shut right off, and we poled up an immense expanse of a flat working fish that would reveal themselves with swirls and subtle pushes of water. Oh, what fun, but as is the case in saltwater everywhere, an hour later the conditions had changed enough to change the fish' behavior.

We started back to the ramp but had to check a hump in the middle of the river that had three birds circling high over it as the incoming current built in speed. Yup. Loaded with stripers. After some fun fishing in a completely different way, we called it. Well, we did. But we also made one last stop for a couple last casts and caught two fish in three feet of water that ended the day as we started, inhaling the spook with complete conviction. Whoa. What a trip.

The Kennebec watershed offers an incredibly diverse range of options when targeting striped bass. The rambling recap above of one charter itinerary doesn't even cover it all, as we never fished oceanside ledges or any of the beaches, nor did we get up into the salt marshes.

It feels good to get dialed back into what is happening here on the river after a whirlwind of trips out of Martha's Vineyard, Boston Harbor, a day in the driftboat targeting smallmouth bass, and a quick dash to Barneget, NJ. My only lament is that June is almost over.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestriers.com


Kennebec River Striped Bass Fishing Update - Breaking Fish Bonanza

After what I described as good early season trips all of last week, the striped bass fishing on the Kennebec River here in Phippsburg really lit up this week. We'd all been waiting and searching and watching for big pods of happy stripers busting bait on top and hadn't seen it in the river (although I did get credible reports from around Gardiner about surface feeds 10 days ago) until this Sunday. I was teaching a two-day fly fishing class but a good friend was on a good surface feed Sunday morning on the dropping tide. It's only gotten better since then. Much better.

Fullsizeoutput_12b4

Of course it is still fishing, and not always what we expect. I fished Tuesday with my dad and was disappointed by what we found. It was bright, and dry, and cold, and not fishy weather. We got a good early start and had great moving water but were only finding one fish here and one fish there. Eventually we located a good group of bass that we're happy to eat but it was a slower morning than I hoped. Don't get me wrong, it was great to fish together on a stunningly beautiful morning after a fun evening of the season's first lobster feed but I really wish he'd been able to stay one more day. We'd be hearing stories for years about the fabulous fishing.

Fullsizeoutput_12b7

I fished by myself on Wednesday. I was wide awake at 4:00 and tied flies for the first two hours of the morning with intensions to get after some desk tasks and house projects. There wasn't a hint of wind on the water and the cloud cover was perfect, so by 6:03 I was in scramble mode, hooking up the Maverick and grabbing some snacks to go. I needed to test out these small hollow fleye variations I'd been working on and I also wanted to try a new SciAngler Amplitude Anadro line that I'd bought for some other purposes. It didn't take me long to find birds working over stripers at the bottom of the out tide. I really, really love to fish shallow water for bass that are visible or pushing water, but after another long winter, I'll take fish going bananas on the surface. I had a blast.

I fished a bunch of different fly patterns, fly line and rod combinations, and connected lessons shared over the weekend with observations on the water. Here are some fly thoughts:

  1. Detecting a hit and setting the hook are learned and practiced skills. Most beginner to intermediate fly anglers would be amazed to learn how many fish have eaten their fly that they never knew about. This early June striper fishery offers an incredible learning opportunity when the fish are on. Ok, a lot of times you could be asleep and hook a striper, but not alway. In perfect conditions it was fascinating to note hw many "takes" would easily be missed - especially when dead drifting a fly pattern with great life. Repetition builds competence. If you go to the driving range, you should be fishing here this week.
  2. Dead drifting. An often overlooked approach in saltwater, especially around breaking fish. If you don't employ this technique very often, here's your prompt to try it. The day before I'd been coaching my dad to make much stronger, more dramatic strips with his herring pattern to elicit strikes from unseen fish. It was working. Wednesday morning, around fish keyed into very small bait, no strip was the ticket. Even with a floating line in reasonably deep water. So much fun. The local warden was fishing a popper on his fly rod over busting bass at the same time and he reported finding best success when he just twitched his fly and then let it sit. He had a great big smile on his face, talking about his morning outing.
  3. Speaking of fun, I really liked the Scientific Angler Amplitude Smooth Anadro/Nymph line. I need to use it more to feel fully dialed in on best applications, but I ended the morning looking forward to using it more. Speaking of more fun, I was fishing it on a Sage X 9 foot 9 weight that I'd only used in heavy wind last fall chasing albies. I like casting and fishing this rod.
  4. Connecting numbers 1 and 2 above, detecting the hit and dead drifting a fly, I was thinking about the number of casts that don't unroll perfectly, even on a windless day, and how often people aren't in touch with their fly. Retrieving with tip at hip level, rod pointed away from the fly, slack in the leader are all streamer sins in most instances. When the fly touches down, get the tip touching the water, pointed at the fly, and strip out any slack in the line-leader...then let it drift.
  5. Fly size and shape matters most. I spent a lot of time answering questions over the weekend about fly patterns, how to choose what to fish, why they are designed as they are, where you start, when to change, and how to fish different types of flies. As I was testing a variety of patterns on Wednesday, it was a perfect reminder that size and shape matter most and that how the fly behaves in the water (inherent movement and as imparted by the angler) comes in at a close second. I loved being in a situation where you could readily discern what the fish preferred. Everything caught fish this morning, but at wildly different rates, and there we're clear common threads.

Fullsizeoutput_12b8

Thursday morning was more of the same, kind of old school, Kennebec June fishing, run 'till you see birds, stop, catch fish until they either move on or you decide to see where else the stripers are feeding hard. I got to spend the morning fishing with my great friend Rich Pschirrer and neither of us really noticed the rain we were having such a blast. Just got a text from Rich saying "Let's do more of that, anywhere, anytime." I agree. I'm game.

58134151954__0FE178BB-E19C-4583-BFA6-C38507B55A0E

One parting suggestion - if you don't have a pair of these gloves for early season outings (or fall tuna runs, December decoy deployment, or mid-winter cash washing), head to your nearest commercial marine supply store, by two pair (your dad, friend, spouse, client, will appreciate it), and stick them in your boat or bag.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers.com

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


May 31 Kennebec River Striper Fishing Update

Last Cast of the Trip

Here's Tim's best striper of the day, but certainly not his only fish. It crushed the Lonely Angler Zipster spook in a shallow backwater cove on the Kennebec River just down current of some nice moving water and rocky structure and came on his final cast of our outing. We were zipping back to the dock at a pretty good clip in the Maverick, working to make time to hit one last location before we had to meet the rest of the charter group. We arrived to find just the current I expected, but no fish (or at least no response) in the ripline. This is a spot where the bass usually key into the sharp demarcation between fast and slow water that is pushed off of a shoreline ledge. There were fish here similar tide yesterday but as we'd discussed early in our trip, past performance is no guarantee of future results. These guys had worked at the SEC and were now involved in futures markets, so they understood the disclaimer. I was hoping for one last eat before wrapping up, so we let the boat drop down with the current to make a couple of quick casts in a secondary lie where a backeddy flows across a mudflat adjacent to these ledges. Eric had pitched his spook into this water a couple of times when halfway through a retrieve, it just disappeared under water in a big gallooop! He landed a similar sized striper to the one in the photo above in some good current to cheers all around. I made the "last cast" call and Tim delivered in similar fashion out of the same water. It was a great way to end a really enjoyable morning.

Striper fishing in and around the Kennebec is improving. It's not yet bananas, but technically, it's not yet June. Every place where we stopped today we at least rolled, saw, or teased a fish and in almost all locations landed at least one. We had a couple of times where we found a good group of fish and landed quite a few before moving on. Once again, best fishing for us was in moving water adjacent to structure of some kind. Yesterday's trip was pretty similar. Both days we started just after high water and fished the dropping tide.

Pretty soon you should be able to run up and down the river, looking for surface feeds and diving birds, but right now I would concentrate on making good casts with decent sized streamer flies, top water plugs, or soft plastics (on a jig or unweighted) in areas where you see current seams close to rocks, marshy points, creek mouths, and other pieces of structure. Keep your eye on the sonar, and have close at hand a jig rod or 400 grain with a Clouser, as you may mark some under you as you drift. We didn't do any dredging yesterday because what we were doing was producing and catching on topwater tackle is too much fun. I don't think I could have pried the spook out of Eric's hands.

On our Thursday trip, we used a similar approach with similar success - fished dropping tide and focused on same type of water but not all same locations. Both outings felt far more productive and consistent to me than my scouting trips earlier this week. We even had a couple of instances yesterday where a fish revealed their presence, we made the cast, and boom. Results.

Tidal height is improving and water temps in the Kennebec were 53 to 54 degrees everywhere we fished yesterday. The water is decidedly clearer, though still quite stained, vs a week ago. I'm teaching all-day, both weekend days, so won't have any first-hand news until middle of next week, but I am in the process of activating my shoreside fish spotting network. It's good to have neighbors who are more excited to call me about breaking fish than to go out at catch them. 

I've got some open days in the beginning of June, so if you'd like to get out, please give me a call or send me an email. 

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

 


May 29, 2019 Quick Kennebec River Striped Bass Update

Striped bass seem to have moved into the Lower Kennebec watershed in greater numbers over the past week, at least based upon my fishing (and catching) results. It's still not "going off", and I have yet to see more that a handful of single fish come up to the surface to feed (in total - not all at once), but soon it will bust wide open. There are stripers all up the Maine coast to the Kennebec. I haven't yet heard any news of fish east of here, but that doesn't mean that they aren't there for you to catch. 

On Tuesday I fished the dropping tide and it took a little exploring before I found more than a single, lonely fish. Tides aren't great right now, in terms of volume of water flow, so it takes a little longer for the current to get going. High water at Fort Popham is only 7.9 feet. The most consistent fishing was in quick (not ripping fast) current around structure adjacent to shallow areas. I wasn't marking fish in these locations as I was staying off the shore by about a cast. Of all of the offerings I tossed, best producer was a dark fly with lots of action. This dirty water version of the Eldridge Brothers Secret Weapon tied with purple ostrich hurl, purple rabbit strip, and black craft fur plus various darker flash material did the trick.

Fullsizeoutput_12ae

This morning I explored different water, working deeper structure with strong current, on the incoming tide. I'll admit that I sipped coffee from the comfort of the kitchen from 4:30 to 5:30 before I decided to launch the boat. It was cold. And wet. And windy. My project list is long, and it was tempting to stay home, but as soon as I was pulling out of the driveway I was happy with my decision. And once I found fish and started to catch on almost every drift, it wasn't so wet, windy, or cold any more. I didn't see a striper come to the surface but they did push some mature alewives or herring up to the gulls and eagles. I didn't play around with different jigs or flies, but just focused on figuring out where the fish were tending to hold. I really do prefer to sightcast, especially when chucking a fly, and will take casting to moving water tight to visible structure as a second choice, but this time of year, catching feels good using any technique.

We'll see significant changes in numbers of fish and surface activity soon. Like maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. I've got trips both days and have tempered expectations but high hopes.

Fish more.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562


Fishing Charters For Striped Bass in Phippsburg, Maine And False Albacore on Cape Cod, MA

Saltwater Fly Fishing Charters For Striped Bass And False Albacore ~ Kennebec River, Phippsburg, ME And Cape Cod, MA

Thanks for visiting Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports. Here you'll find updates on shallow water striper fishing around Maine and beyond, updates on September and October false albacore fishing around Cape Cod and the Islands, insights into how I chase these fish, suggestions and techniques that may help you become a better angler, and recaps of recent charter trips. Scroll down for the the latest posts.

I specialize in shallow water sight casting to striped bass and chasing false albacore with fly and light tackle spinning gear. The only thing I love more than the challenge of hunting for these fish is sharing the elation that comes from playing this game. I guide a lot of experienced striped bass anglers who've never cast a fly or a top-water plug to a striper on a shallow flat that is pushing water like a redfish or bonefish. Watching the bass track the baitfish pattern or tail slap the spook and then (hopefully) eat your offering is incredibly satisfying and addicting.

I live in Phippsburg, ME on the banks of the Kennebec River, and guide full-time from May into November. Striper fishing in Maine starts in mid-May, with fish usually showing up just south of Portland before they start to fill into the Kennebec. To get a jump on the season I head south to Massachusetts to get onto bass before they arrive in Maine. I also plan a couple of weeks during May and June to target large stripers in Cape Cod Bay and around Martha's Vineyard. This is big water fishing and where I grew up and first started running charter boats. If I had to pick one week to fish the flats in midcoast Maine, it would fall in early July, depending upon the tides. Fortunately, our fishing holds up all summer and every year we have outstanding days when anglers to our south are lamenting the "dog days". By Labor Day I'm packing up to spend September and October fishing the south side of Cape Cod for False Albacore. 

If you're looking to improve your striper skills, or want to try to target them on the flats, or just become a better angler, I hope you'll read on and if you like what you find here, give me a call. Let's get out on the water together this season.

You can also see more frequent updates on Maine Saltwater Fishing Reports Facebook Page.

See the fish. Cast to the fish. Catch the fish.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Shallow Water Stripers

Mornings with no wind and good tides have made for some great shallow water fishing charters for Kennebec River striped bass this week. It's nice to be back on the flats, although some mornings have been Florida-hot poling the boat until the breeze comes up. The stripers are eating a variety of bait. The best feeds have been when some current is sweeping young of the year alewives across the edge of the mud or sand flats, but we've also seen them actively chasing little tiny bait fish (no ID, but under 2 inches and somewhat slender) and of course they are still picking off crabs and shrimp. 

Maine shallow water striped bass
Maine striped bass fishing

The water has cleared up but upriver flats well above Popham and around Bath are still somewhat stained. It looks like the weather pattern changes for the long weekend and sighting conditions won't be as good but I would expect that there will be some active surface feeds wherever the stripers and juvie alewives intersect. There should be a fair amount of boat traffic during the day, so an early start will give you the best shot at undisturbed fish. 

I've been tying up a bunch of peanut bunker flies for false albacore season and have tested some on these striped bass. They are a good imitation of the little alewives that are dropping out of the lakes and ponds here in Maine on their way to the ocean. I've been having a lot of fun at the vise the last couple of weeks, using some new materials and furiously working to finish up false albacore and bonito flies. I fall asleep at night thinking about the pattern I'll tie when I have my first cup of coffee in the morning. 

Labor Day is often bittersweet for saltwater anglers in Maine. An extra day, or sometimes two, in the weekend allows for more time on the water. The stripers are often cooperative as we transition from summer to fall conditions. But...the decrease in day length is really noticeable and for many people, September brings a different pace to work expectations and schedules, and the letter from New Meadows Marina about winterization, shrink wrapping, and boat storage stares you in the face. We also recognize that there are already fewer fish here in Maine than we had on July 4th and each passing day will bring us closer to the end of this striper fishing season. 

While I contemplate all of the above, it doesn't consume me, yet. That's because I have albies on the brain. My transition from striper charters to guiding false albacore trips, from Kennebec flats to Vineyard Sound shorelines, from stalking to attacking, has me fired right up. If you'd like to experience this fishery, be prepared to become consumed. Give me a call or send me an email to talk about a charter trip on Cape Cod during September. It will change you outlook on the fall.

  IMG_5974

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

Mainestripers.com

 


Change

If you fished the lower Kennebec this weekend and didn’t see 200 diving birds over an acre of bass busting bait...you aren’t alone. The single greatest constant in saltwater fishing is change and we saw proof of that concept. The good news is that it isn’t late October. There are plenty of fish around. There is an unbelievable amount of bait yet to descend into this portion of the Kennebec river and there are lots of days left to get out on the water. The mayhem we saw this past week will happen again, and again, before we put our gear away for the winter.

In the interim, there are plenty of stripers happy to eat what you toss at them. Days are getting noticeably shorter, so fishing prime time is getting easier on the non-fishing part of life. Best fishing Saturday for us was clearly during the early morning until about 9:30. Saturday evening’s conditions were tough with a slack tide and a stout northeasterly breeze but by focusing on the flats we eventually found big groups of fish up against the marsh banks and they we’re very cooperative. Our approach on this full day fishing charter was to split the day up, focusing on the most productive times to chase the striped bass.

I’m off to Boston for bass charter trips around the Haba and Cape Cod Bay this week then on the Androscoggin River Friday for a smallmouth driftboat trip so I won’t have any Kennebec updates until after next weekend.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

mainestripers.com


Breaking News on Breaking Fish

Over the last two days we’ve seen more breaking fish than we have in the last two weeks combined. The Kennebec really turned on when small blueback herring and alewives started their exodus to the sea. Wow. Did it change the fishing. There’s been no shortage of bait this entire summer, but when huge schools of bait this size flush through with the tide, the striped bass really go bananas.

26149C25-98E9-4C08-8975-74B054AC1E2E

I enjoyed a wonderful day on Monday with a father and son charter. Tom and Tyler, who have a boat of their own over in Southport, wanted to learn more about how to catch striped bass around the Kennebec River, where to fish and why, what gear to use, and fly tactics that work. We started with some fly casting lessons and tune ups on the grass at the Phippsburg boat launch ramp as the sun was rising before launching the Maverick flats boat.

Of course we talked about structure - rocks, edges, bars, drop offs, troughs, current lines - and how important understanding structure is to finding stripers. Well, for an hour or more yesterday morning there were 200 birds over a hell of a lot more bass right out in open water pounding bait in a section of the channel where I haven’t seen surface feeds in years. 

If you’ve followed news about work to restore runs of anadromous fish to Maine’s river systems, you would have been joyed to take in the scene yesterday morning. The Maine DMR and DIFW along with other partners have placed tremendous emphasis and devoted significant resources to improving fish passage throughout the Kennebec River drainage. Their efforts are paying off. While most of the rest of New England struggles with ever declining runs of river herring and alewives, here in Maine we’re blessed with expanding populations. 

GrFfhx5zREmbe08XA0FMKgTides are good and strong right now but they are starting to subside. The strong current flow coupled with a lot of water from upcountry rains is contributing to mayhem that we are seeing. Now through when ever the striper fishing ends for the season there will be surges of these baitfish traveling downriver and the surface feeds will pick up and drop off with the fluctuation in the abundance of bait. It may only be mid-August, but what I witnessed Tuesday and Wednesday tells me that the fishing season is changing.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

 


Kennebec Striper Fishing Still Going Strong

Here's a very brief, and long overdue, update on striper fishing in Maine's Kennebec River. The River is still loaded with bait of all sizes and holding bass throughout the typical summer spots. Fishing on the flats has been mixed, more often a result of less than optimal weather conditions when it has been tough. I can't believe how often my trips have coincided with an early morning breeze and/or foggy mid-days. It's been a while since we've been able to spend a couple hours of a charter chasing waking fish early AM.

This morning was more of the same. We checked a couple of flats on the run down river from Bath, but the rippled surface had the fish cruising at a depth that gave us no signs. You can wish the fish were feeding in a particular way or place, but it doesn't make it happen, so we changed up plans and tactics and focused on moving water around shoreline structure where the herring have been abundant. After the third "one-and-done" slap/swirl on the Lonely Angler Zipster we traded out the spook for the Albie Snax (great call Fritz!) and started catching. Next change was from amber to white and first cast Fritz was tight to a nice 30 inch striper. Not being able to watch the fish react to the bait makes establishing cause and effect challenging, but you can bet we kept that white Albie Snax on the hook for the next cast.

The 30 incher was the largest fish of the short morning charter, but there were plenty more bass in the 22 inch to 25 inch range willing to eat. Despite a dropping tide, cloudy skies, and a south wind, we saw only isolated surface boils. The fish we were on were looking up but hanging down and many of the takes were pretty subtle until we were in some really fast moving water.

There are plenty of little schoolies around that can be great entertainment for kids or people new to striper fishing. They can also be a blast on your six or seven weight fly rod when the wind isn't too bad. Herring are all over the place and there are lots of small sand eels on the flats. Shrimp and crabs aren't so visible but there are a lot of striped bass that eat both.

If you're looking for a striped bass charter here in midcoast Maine, I love to show off this fishery. 

I've got lot's of thoughts, observations, and some questions to share from the last couple of weeks on the water but need to get ready to grill some littlenecks for supper. Maybe tomorrow...

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900


Fishing Is Funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Pfallon@mainestripers.com

207-522-9900


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

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

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

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

96392483-8B2C-42C6-BEE4-C430F4EFAFF6

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

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

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


All Good News RE Stripers

I’m wrapping up the last day of a 4 day trip to the Vineyard where we’ve experienced some pretty fabulous fishing. All reports I’m getting from fellow guides at home are good, with a noticeable increase in numbers of fish - meaning more spots will be productive. I don’t have reliable info on the arrival of bigger bass in the Kennebec or Caco Bay, but I’m sure they are there. The great tides these next few days should have you planning time, making time, to fish. This is now peak striper season. Get after it.

I’ll add an update on our findings down here in Vineyard Sound along with some tips on how to best make this trip yourself when I get a chance to put in some computer time. We’re fishing our way back to Boston from Vineyard Haven today.

 

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Maine Striper Fishing Update

Here's a short video from Friday, June 9, showing stripers moving into shallow water:

It's really cool when you can pattern fish, and as this video shows, there are times when they do what you might expect.

Hope you get out to fish, wherever you are. This is a special time of year.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers@me.com

207-522-9900

 


Two Herring Fly Patterns That Stripers Love

We're off to a good start here on the Kennebec River with more striped bass arriving daily. These fish are hungry and there's plenty of feed in Maine for them right now. I've done a couple of fly-only trips this week and can tell you that fly selection really hasn't seemed to matter. There have been some surface feeds where the bait was clearly small - 2 inches or so - but we weren't forced to try to match what the stripers were eating. There's a ton of herring in the river and I'm a big fan of larger patterns when fishing good moving water around structure. I believe it gives us the best chance at tempting a bigger fish to eat.

I really focus on two aspects of flies when choosing what to use: profile - size and shape - and action - does it look alive, how does it move through the water, does the fly do what the natural does, does it trigger the desired response. Then I also take into account the angler's ability to cast the flies under consideration. More on fly design and selection later. For now let me share two patterns that I really like to use.

 

I fish a mix of flies that I tie myself and flies that I purchase. The two in the video above are from S. S. Flies in Denmark, Maine. I also buy some fabulous patterns from Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop in Cape Neddick, Maine and The Tackle Shop in Portland, ME. All three of these suppliers are tying locally, producing patterns that have been tested and refined on countless numbers of Maine stripers, and creating flies that achieve desired profile and action with the minimum required materials. Check 'em out.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt, Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

 


Stripers Are In The Kennebec

There were plenty of stripers in spots this morning in the Kennebec between Bath and Popham on both the dropping and rising tide. The River isn't full of fish just yet, but they are there and happy to eat. The dropping tide produced some surface feeding activity but even when they weren't showing they were willing to come up top. The water is pretty stained but I couldn't discern a color preference. All white, herring colors, all dark all seemed to work equally well.

Keep moving, searching, casting. When you find fish, they won't be alone. There's no shortage of bait of all sizes and the talk of the town in Phippsburg is how strong the alewife run is this year.

Biggest fish of the morning was 24 inches, but I'm sure there are some larger fish moving into the river.

Pinching down your barbs makes the release so much easier for you and these bass. Remember that there are special regulations in the Kennebec watershed designed to protect breeding striped bass. Here's the link to the details: http://www.maine.gov/dmr/recreational-fishing/regs-tips/documents/2018_striped_bass_regs.pdf

It's finally June. Striped bass are back. Resolve to fish more.

If you are looking for a striped bass charter this June, I'd love to get you out on the Kennebec River. My few remaining open dates here in Maine are filling up fast as I'll also be fishing on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island this month.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

pfallon@mainestripers.com

mainestripers.com


Kennebec River Scouting Trip

We looked for stripers in the Kennebec for a couple of hours on Saturday without success. With fish now in the Presumpscot River there should be some bass filtering into the New Meadows and Kennebec. The water visibility was not great, but typical for this time of year. There are plenty of herring in the River.

Here are a couple of quick suggestions for early season striper outing.

  1. Cover a lot of water. With few fish around, there's a lot of empty river out there. Hit the spots that you think might hold feeding fish, but don't get sucked into staying there for very long. Move. Move. Move.
  2. Good water movement is more important than time of day right now. In the Kennebec there are far more prime "moving water spots" on the dropping tide vs. the rising tide, but the intersection of hungry stripers and ample bait is more likely to occur at any peak flow for a particular piece of structure.
  3. Don't ignore the small stuff in your fly box. You'll likely see herring flipping on the surface as you travel up and down the river but there is a ton of other much smaller, less visible bait around. If you find fish feeding that seem like they should be biting your fly with greater frequency, try swapping out your big Grocery or Hollow Flye for something much smaller.

Remember to double check your safety gear, the stuff that you want to bring with you, that you did put the plug in the boat. Much of what will become routine and habit in short order has a little rust on it from a long winter. Make sure that whatever you do forget on the fist striper outing of the year isn't very important.

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

mainestripers.typepad.com


Fish Arrive In Maine

I'm up early for an Andro River trip this morning and am greeted by a post from the Tackle Shop in Portland showing a photo of a schoolie bass caught yesterday. My guess would be Scarborough Marsh, but that's no secret. I heard from a friend who caught a few small fish on Sunday down around Kittery. It was a slow start to the season south of us. Word from Cape Cod and Boston was that stripers were about a week to two weeks behind last year in terms of arrival dates and influx of bigger bass.

This time of year the most common greeting I receive everywhere I go is "Are they here yet"? Well, now's the time to get out there and find out. Hope you get a chance to fish this Memorial Day weekend.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon


Maine Striper Season - Off And Running

Striped bass are here, in the Kennebec, all over waters to the south, upriver as far as they can swim, in the Damariscotta and even up into the Penobscott north of Bangor. Both mornings this weekend fished very well and it's clear that there are more fish around above our past "slot size" than we saw this time last year. If you like to chase striped bass here in Maine, you want to go fishing now. Water temps are ideal, bait is everywhere, and the stripers are hungry.

We were seeing fish chase small herring that looked about two to three inches long and small sand eels . The size of the stripers ranged from "holy shit, I've never seen them that tiny" to "wow, that's a much bigger fish". We didn't land any bass over 30 inches but did get reports of bigger fish being taken on macs over on the Lower New Meadows. Best action for us came once the tide turned and started going out. We had acres of breaking fish and our only competition was an eagle. Not another boat in sight.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Striped Bass Are Here

IMG_0248There are stripers in the Kennebec and New Meadows and last night I heard from a good source about fish up in the Damariscotta around the oyster leases. The combination of heavy rain and big tides has our waters pretty messy, but the bass will tolerate surprisingly stained water. It does present challenges as it's more difficult to connect the fish with your offering, but it shouldn't keep you on land. Many anglers who fish these waters favor the stronger currents of an outgoing tide for good reasons, but keep in mind that the flood tide brings in clearer, cleaner water. There's no shortage of bait around but this early in the season the bass are usually pretty grouped up. If you're not finding fish, keep moving.

Boston Harbor is also loaded with bait...and dirty water...which I'm not loving. The fishing there has also been feast or famine, with some large schools of bass and a lot of seemly empty water. Once again this year we're seeing a lot of micro schoolies, always a welcome site. The weather has prevented runs down into Cape Cod Bay on days when I could go, but reports from fellow captains to the south are outstanding. Big bass chasing big baits.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

mainestripers.typepad.com


Not Far Off - Striped Bass Working Their Way To Maine

Well, it is finally May (that took a while), and the striped bass are moving up the New England coast. I expect that any day now I'll get word of confirmed catches of migratory stripers from Southern Maine rivers and salt marshes. I've been hearing from reliable sources about fish in Duxbury Bay, Boston Harbor, and around Cape Ann. They've all been small schoolies, taken subsurface. Water temp at the Portland buoy this morning is a balmy 43 degrees and today is the only sunny day in the ten day forecast, but the stripers will keep moving north, and soon, we will feel whole again.

Alewive runs are off to a slow start in Phippsburg and people are blaming the high water. We've had a lot of rain and snow melt upcountry over the past couple of weeks. The Androscoggin River in Bethel is in the trees again. The snow is mostly gone but there's more rain headed our way. I don't know if all the freshwater really does hold off the alewives, but I do know that there's a lot of freshwater flushing down the Kennebec right now.

Early season stripers do seem to seek out warmer water, which you can find on shallow, dark bottomed flats and places where a source of fresh or brackish water meets the colder saltwater. Of course they have to pass by ocean facing beaches and points to get into the estuaries, so you could intercept them anywhere, but paying attention to water temps can really help when there just aren't many fish around yet.

I plan to get the Maverick in the water next week. I'll burn last year's fuel and make a few casts. It's been years since I've trailered down to Scarborough Marsh in mid-May, but maybe I'll get down that way before heading to Boston the following week to start the season in earnest.

Remember, Low And Slow If You Go, often pays dividends this time of year. Enjoy getting back on the water.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Low Water Upcountry Makes for Clear Water Downriver

Skinny water bassBy focusing on shallow water in and around the lower Kennebec, we were able to avoid any kind of a summer slow down in our striper fishing. No dog days here, just lot's of solid outings with good water visibility on the sand and mud flats and along the beaches. While the low levels of water coming down the river have given us great fish sighting condition, the limited fog and rare drizzly day have cut down on the visible surface activity that we expect in late August. There have been days when the weather, tide and bait supply all align and the bass are going bananas, but usually conditions dictate stalking fish in the skinny water, which is more than ok with me.

On three charters this month that stand out in my memory we experienced an overnight weather shift from a hot, humid, southwest flow to a much cooler, drier pattern with a breeze out of the north or northwest. The change in the fish behavior was dramatic and unmistakable. Flats that were filled with waking and slurping striped bass the morning prior were much quieter, with fish revealing themselves only briefly. The noseeums were almost non-existent at dawn. Strikes were often halfhearted or a single tail slap or chase-chase-chase-ok-nevermind. Our best results on those days came late morning, when the sun was high enough to be able to spot the fish and cast to individual bass or small pods of stripers up on the flats.

If you've never chased striped bass in clear, shallow water, you owe it to yourself to experience this side of the fishery. It is demanding at times but oh so rewarding.

We are seeing more young of the year alewives dropping down river on their way to the ocean, and a strong outgoing tide can produce some good surface feeds when the bait and bass intersect. On one of those challenging weather morning, we tracked down a dispersed group of stripers on a flat that had decent current washing across it at the end of the out tide. The north wind had robbed us of much of our visibility into the water but the bass were popping these little alewives as they were swept across the flat. It was a fun way to finish the trip as the stripers put all fear aside and demolished anything that we threw near them.

I've been getting good reports from other guides about the fishing along the beaches from Popham to Small Point, which is in keeping with trends of past years. Our nights have been noticeably cooler recently and it is clear that we have one foot in summer and one in fall here in Maine. This is a fabulous time to fish and with the clock ticking on the season, there's no time to put off a trip. Get out.

I'm furiously rerigging lines, restocking fly boxes, reordering jigs, as I prepare to head to the Cape for albie season. I have the fever...in a bad way.

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC.


Prime Time for Flats Fishing Stripers in Maine

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

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

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

Tight Lines,

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Strong Fishing in Maine Continues - Stripers of all Sizes Ready to Oblige

The striper fishing here in Maine continues the strong start we saw in early June. There are many more age classes of fish now scattered all over the Kennebec River and surrounding waters. The micro bass have also run way up the Penobscot River and I'm sure have filled into many of the smaller estuaries and rivers east of here. It's been quite a few years since a kid in Bangor could ride a bike down to the river and catch a couple of striped bass.

The menu for the stripers is still varied. Macs abound, herring of all sizes seem to be everywhere, and there are schools of little sand eels and spearing in most of the bays and along beaches towards the mouth of the Kennebec. I've also seen photos of schools of pogies over in Casco Bay, but I have yet to launch over in the New Meadows to check out that side of the peninsular. I plan to get out the minnow seine next week when my niece and nephew arrive. We'll make a couple of "tows" on the edges of some of the firmer flats. I expect that there are plenty of small shrimp around the mouth of the Back River, which is an often overlooked target for these fish. Fly anglers have the best shot at fooling what can be fussy customers when the bass get really focused on the shrimp being swept along with the tide.

Much of June in Boston Harbor was disappointing for us relative to last year. That long stretch of brutally windy days earlier in the month really seemed to shut things down for a while. I haven't fished there since last week, but fishing seemed to be improving with more striped bass of decent size moving into the harbor itself chasing herring. I heard reports of some good sized bass that people were catching under the schools of mackerel around the outer ledges. According to Capt. Bill Smith at FishBoston, he had a great July last summer. Given the good reports from this week, I expect things in the Haba are trending in the right direction.

The schools of 30 to 50 inch bass that have been hanging off Ptown, Billingsgate, and other Cape Cod Bay locations may stick around or may start to spread out around Mass Bay and points north. We had a good (not great) day focused on chasing these fish, finding best surface results first thing in the morning about halfway between Race Point and Peaked Hill Bar and then again late morning on the north side of Billingsgate Shoals at the bottom of the tide fishing deep in about 25 feet of water. The fleet of boats around Race Point rivaled anything I'd seen off of Chatham and seemed like a scene out of Long Island Sound.

About a week and a half ago we found some tuna crashing the surface for very brief feeds. We got off a few casts but never had the feeling like we were just about to get bit. There we quite a few stick boats working an area on the east edge of Stellwagen Bank but we were finding the surface activity closer to Race Point and Peaked Hill Bar. Holy Hannah, there is some bait out there.

You could cut the grass after work this week, or get up and on the road early to beat the traffic, but I'd suggest you go fishing instead.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


New Saltwater Fishing Season Has Started

Saltwater Fishing Season - Let's Go

How do I define the demarcation line for the start of my saltwater fishing season? Preparation begins after the last trip in the fall so that doesn't work. Other people have now caught striped bass in waters that I fish in Massachusetts, but that doesn't feel quite right (kind of like "electricity" when tagging team mates free in capture the flag...?). I have yet to catch a bass and I haven't yet run any early season stripers charters in Massachusetts or Maine. How about this for qualifications? I spent yesterday helping my A#1 client take delivery of his brand new Southport 272 and then fished for stripers myself for an hour at sunset. I'll take it.

Southport 272
New Southport 272 - the ideal striper fishing boat for Boston Harbor, Cape Cod, and the Islands.

The Southport 272 (here's one review with photos) is a gorgeous boat that is incredibly well built. We went for a short sea trial in Boston Harbor from the Smith Yacht Sales base at the Hingham Shipyard and I spent some time playing around with the electronics, getting to know the impressive systems set up by Navtronics. The boat is equipped with an Optimus 360 Joystick Control from SeaStar and holy hannah, is this a game changer. I'll post much more about this boat, the way we set it up, how we equip it, and what we learn as we start to use it.

Cohasset Harbor Early Season Striped Bass Hot Spot
Cohasset Harbor early season striper fishing hot spot

When I got back from the boat I noticed that the tide was dropping out of the huge saltmarsh that drains the Gulf into Cohasset Harbor. I rigged a couple of rods and headed over to the location where I caught my first fly rod striped bass in May of 1992. I can tell you the exact spot on the ledge where I was standing, casting a Mickey Finn streamer (last fly I'd used to catch landlocked salmon on the West Branch of the Penobscot River back home in Maine) on my Sage RPL 5 weight that my folks had just given me for my UMaine graduation gift. I wasn't able to repeat those results, but it still felt great to be fishing for stripers again and I drove home with no doubt in my mind that the saltwater fishing season of 2016 has started for me.

Hope to see you on the water soon. If you're interested in a striped bass trip around Boston Harbor, Cape Cod Bay, Vineyard Sound, let me know. If you live in Maine or have plans to visit Maine this summer, I'd love to share with you the Kennebec River striper fishery that drew me to settle in Phippsburg, ME. A striper charter on the Kennebec and surrounding waters is an incredible way to experience the coast of Maine. I run half, full, and multi-day charters and focus on chasing shallow water stripers with fly and light spinning tackle.

Fish more,

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

824 Main Rd

Phippsburg, ME 04562

mainestripers.com

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com

 


Strong Striper Fishing Continues on the Kennebec River Here in Maine

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

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

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

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

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

Fish more,

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC

207-522-9900

pfallon@mainestripers.com


Foggy Day = Fishy Day

We had a spectacular day of top water fun on Monday, as the persistent fog kept the stripers happy. After focusing on the Inner Harbor, Governor's Flats, Dorchester Bay area we made a move over to Hingham and Hull and we were rewarded for changing venues. The tide was flooding in, the fog was hanging thick, the wind was totally absent, and the surface feeds just went on and on and on.

The first pod of stripers we found were chasing little silversides, but most of the blitzes involved bass mauling schools of juvie herring. These were the kind of feeds that seemed like they would continue forever (even though we all know they are fleeting) and it was fun to experiment with different offering. These fish were not shy about hitting something big and the meal vs. snack approach helped target the bigger bass in the pods.

Once the tide slacked the surface feeds did the same. I found the striped bass up on the surrounding flats on my run home to Scituate later that afternoon as the water was moving off and out. They were willing to eat but not staying up or in one spot for very long. I suspect that late in the tide, as the light got a bit more favorable, the intensity of their feeds would have picked up.

I love fishing a foggy day. It can buy you more of that magic time that comes from getting up early and staying out late. Boston Harbor is no place to fool around with limited visibility navigation but if you know what you're doing and where you're going, and fortunate enough to find the fish without the aid of birds waving you over, waking up to foggy view can be a blessing.

Capt. Peter Fallon

 


The Striped Bass Are Back In Maine

Stripers are back in the Kennebec River and all seems right with the world again. There are fish all along the Maine Coast, from Muscongus Bay to Kittery. After a long winter, feeling the tug of that first striped bass really is so encouraging and rewarding.

The water has been slower to warm this spring compared to the last two years. It's a good strategy to fish up the rivers a bit from the open ocean and on mudflats and in coves that are warmed by the sun. The alewife and herring runs are in much better shape here in Maine vs. Southern New England. Here's to hoping that some of the big stripers that anglers are catching to the south find the feed here in Maine.

I'm fishing Boston Harbor, Mass Bay, and Cape Cod Bay for the next couple of weeks. Between fishing trips, teaching commitments at Bean's, and work at Sunday River, I am fully booked for the month of June. If you are looking to get out on the water (and you should) here on the Kennebec River, anywhere in Maine, or down in Boston or on the Cape, send me an email or give me a call at 207-522-9900 and I'll do my best to direct you to a great guide who will be a good fit for the way you want to fish. I do have some open dates in July and August.

Get out on the water. November will be here before we know it.

Capt. Peter Fallon

 

 


Ready for the Next Season - Bring on the Stripers

Monday, April 21 is the last day of skiing (and the free day) here at Sunday River and although I'll get in a couple more days on snow at Sugarloaf, I'm ready for spring and what follows. It was great to see Capt. Blaine Anderson of Connecticut Guide Service posting photos of striped bass caught on the Connecticut River this morning. The fish are on the move and will soon return to the Cape, Duxbury Bay, Scituate, Boston Harbor and eventually the Kennebec River here in Maine.

I've caught fish as early as April 14 in Duxbury Bay. No word from Capt. Dave Bitters on bass in the bay yet, but it will happen, and he will share the news. The earliest stripers I've found in the Kennebec came exactly a month later, May 14, but in a different year. I don't think we have a good idea of when the first striped bass arrive in this huge watershed as there just aren't many anglers on the water here in early to mid-May. It's a short trip to trailer down to Scarborough Marsh or the Saco River, and worth the extra effort prior to June 1.

Reels are back from winter service, rods are repaired and new fly lines sit on the tackle table, awaiting my arrival home to Phippsburg. The Maverick is in the driveway, uncovered, ready for a spring cleaning. I'm firming up dates to fish Boston Harbor and tying with a purpose. It will all happen again and I will be thankful.

Capt. Peter Fallon

MaineStripers.com

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Quick Maine Striper Fishing Update

Despite continued dirty water, the Kennebec River is still fishing well for striped bass from Bath through Phippsburg to Popham and around to the New Meadows. The combination of a lot of water coming from upcountry rains and some high full moon tides, has the river a mess. Once the stripers are done waking, sighting on the flats is non-existant much past the beaches on the way upriver and running in the dark is not a good idea given the lumber floating around but...the stripers are here and happy to eat.

We fished both fly and spin gear this morning. The Lonley Angler Zipster was far and away the best producer, which makes sense (surface splash, rattle) given the water conditions but we also caught bass on Hollow Flyes, Mushies, small Clousers and surface sliders. The average size of the fish was pretty small this morning, but it really varies day by day, angler by angler, cast by cast.

The guides I know who are drifting live bait back into the surf along the beaches are doing well. We've got some cloudy days on the way, good news, but also some more rain, bad news. Casco Bay should be cleaner and I expect to get over there early next week after a quick trip to fish Boston Harbor again this weekend. If you have the chance to get out and fish, don't let it pass you by.

 

Capt. Peter Fallon

mainestripers.com

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Good Reports on Striper Fishing in Maine

Everything I'm hearing about striper fishing in Maine is supporting what we're finding in the Kennebec River and Eastern Casco Bay. The striped bass are here and in good numbers. The bait is here and nervous, for good reason.

Schools of mixed sizes from under 14 inches to 32 inches were popping to the surface this morning, sometimes for a short burst and other times for a sustained feed. Most of the stripers we found were in 2 to 6 feet of water which was nice to see. The Kennebec is still very muddy. The bass could find the fly, but they would "miss" often and I think it was due to water clarity issues. A little surface splash went a long way in helping the stripers locate the faux meal we were serving.

Tides aren't strong right now, but that isn't a deal breaker by any means. Pay attention to water movement, look for subtle signs on the surface and don't forget to use your ears. The best feed of the day came to our attention from some distance away when we tuned in to the slaps all the way across the river.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Serice, LLC

MaineStripers.com


Time to Head Home to Chase Maine Striped Bass

Photo-8It's been a great couple of weeks fishing early season stripers down here around Boston Harbor but now it's time to head home to Maine to fish the Kennebec River and Casco Bay. I'll post a recap of adventures in urban angling soon but I need to hit the road. I'm excited to get back up on the poling platform of the Wasabi and work across mud flats, sandy bays and mussle bars seaching, searching, searching for those telltail signs of striper activity. I'm not looking forward to seeing the color of the Kennebec when I get back to Phippsburg. We need a halt to all of this rain. Reports from fellow guides in Maine are encouraging.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Quick Update: Maine Saltwater Fishing

The one constant in fall fishing is change. There certainly are patterns, year to year, day to day, but your fishing plans always need to be flexible this time of year. In June, a group of stripers may work the tidal currents in a section of the river a mile long for a week straight. In July, stable weather has pods of bass on the flats acting according to script day after day. In September and October, things are always in flux.

I fished with Fritz Saturday and Sunday of this holiday weekend. Saturday morning we went looking for a pattern that repeats itself every fall, stripers setting up in moving water over great structure, looking to ambush young-of-the-year alewives. Our first stop produced a couple fish, but far less action than we'd hoped. Sticking with our plan (not always the right call), we found what we were looking for at stop number two. It was a hoot. Therapy for Fritz after a long week in the office. A perfect way to slide mentally into the holiday weekend that sadly marks the end of summer. The fish were happy. The Lonely Angler Zipster was money. We didn't see an other boat all morning.

Photo

Sunday morning we were underway before 4:30 AM and set up on a draining flat before 5:00, well before sunset and two hours before low tide. Perfect, right. This was a spot that has been so consistant, even in late July and early August, when the fishing was at its ebb. Nada. Well, not quite, but we only saw two pushes of water on the glassy surface, heard no slurps or slaps, and had one little schoolies striped bass swat at the surface plug.

 

 

Photo

 

We made a big move and ran out to fish the beach from Popham to Small Point. What a place to be at sunrise. There we fish out there, chasing small bait that I never got a chance to identify. The only signs we saw were a couple of these snacks skipping across the surface of the water in a race for their lives. No swirls or splashes. No big feeds. Once we lost the tide, the signs stopped and we moved on.

 

 

Photo-1

Arriving on an oceanside flat just as the water was rising, we found large schools of stripers cruising in the shallow water over the sand bottom. After watching them for a while, tossing at them with no results we moved on. We saw no signs of any feeding activity and no reaction to our offerings.

 

The water temperature has dropped significantly over the past ten days. Out along the beach it was 54.5 degrees. That's a significant change. The large schools of bluefish that had been so predictable the last two weeks have moved on. There are still chopper blues and gator blues around, but they are much more dispersed. The mackerel are back along shore. The mouth of the Kennebec was loaded with them both mornings. There was also huge schools of macs on a line between Jacknife Ledge and Fuller Rock in about 60 feet of water. Keep your eyes open and you may run onto a pod of stripers or a swarm of blues going nuts on these mackerel. If your timing is right it will be a day you remember all winter.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Mainestripers.com


More Fun on the Flats

Big bass

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

Fly fishing striped bass

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

Maine fly fishing

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

Recycled fish

 

Capt. Peter Fallon

 


Skinny water game on

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

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

Splash

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

IMG_3055

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

 


Fishing Fourth of July Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

Mainestripers.com


Summer Day

More good striper fishing news from the Kennebec this morning. We had the crew down from Sunday River along with a gentleman that I'll write more about soon. The fish were up on the surface early, making Forrest Faulkingham and I think about years past. The first pod we found we're mostly small (with some slot fish mixed in), but the hoots and hollers coming from Forrest's boat we're a sure sign that catching fish after fish was good way to start the day.

There were stripers giving us the finger in one cove. Individual fish popping up to the surface here and there, but fussy, fussy, fussy. We did manage to track down a school of bigger bass right at the end of the ebb tide. These fish were pushing herring two feet into the air. Here's Neil Scanlon's fish of the day.

Neils fish

Perfectly played on light line, Neil danced around the boat bow to stern, steered the bass around the push pole, navigated past the platform a couple of times and landed it with ease and confidence. This sweet striper made us all smile. Hopefully Neil is in such a good mood tonight that his wife will forgive me for calling her mobile phone by mistake at 4:43 this morning, as I was trying to check on his progress driving down from Bethel.

Overall, the fishing was good but the day was great. The bright sun wasn't ideal, given that the water is still too stained to see well on the flats. I would have paid for a little fog until mid morning. It was interesting to see a lot of stripers keyed in on very small bait when the river is absolutely loaded with adult herring. It felt a bit like Florida out there at 8:30 but when the tide really turned the breeze came up and the temp was perfect and the run to Five Islands for lunch was ideal. Great company makes for a great day under challenging circumstances. Add glorious summer weather, some cooperative fish and a stellar lunch...you get the idea.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.Mainestripers.com

 

 


Striped Bass Update for the Kennebec River, Maine

Striper fishing in the Kennebec is getting back on track after the awful weather earlier this month, but it is still up and down. The River is slowly cleaning itself, but it is taking its sweet time. The water is stained (still) and towards the bottom of the ebb tide it looks like coffee milk. Sight casting is still limited to early morning or evening, when the stripers are waking in the surface. You just can't see down into the water at any distance, even from my perch up on the poling platform.

The herring in all sizes are everywhere, as they should be in mid June. I have seen bass chasing small bait such as sand eels up river from the mouth almost to Bath. Sometimes, these fish have been fussy, even when chasing the bait to the surface.

Father's Day +1

The striped bass that my dad is holding in this photo came out of two feet of water on Monday morning. We searched for the first hour of the morning with no results and then found happy fish slurping bait right at the bottom of the tide. The wind stayed down, allowing us to follow the fish up onto a big flat as the water started to rise. Unlike other pods of breaking fish that I've seen in the past week, these were mixed in size from small schoolies to ones about 28 or 29 inches. We went back out Monday evening to see if the pattern would repeat itself. The wind was up out of the south and the tide was running well, but we found nothing.

The weather change seemed to really turn on fish this morning. Second cast into a current seam past a ledge and bam, fish on. Next location, schoolies going nuts on the surface. Third stop, nada, but fourth stop was on again. This continued for the first couple hours until the tide died out. I thought for sure that I'd start to see fish working up onto the flats as the tide started to rise but they were stealthy and given the lack of water clarity, had to really prospect for them.

I was hoping for three or four days of southwest wind, but the wind forecast is all over the place. This strech of hot, humid weather isn't ideal for my wife's project of moving a dismantled chimney but might be just perfect for the striper fishing.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.mainestripers.com


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