Maine Saltwater Fishing: Sightcasting for Stripers...Wow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Thought I'd share my reply to an angler's questions about finding striped bass around the Sheepscot River and Back River up around Edgecomb. He was wondering about general suggestion for where to target fish, how important it is to add a fishfinder to his 16 foot skiff and how to find out about salinity levels in the rivers.

Rich - I have a couple of suggestions for you that might help.


How do you like to fish? Favor the fly rod or chucking spinning gear or drifting bait? If you are most interested in catching stripers on the fly then right now I'd concentrate my efforts on the shallow coves that abound in your area. They are all mud bottom, so you won't have great "sighting conditions" most days in terms of seeing fish. You will see them, though usually very close to the boat making for a tough presentation, and that can help you learn their patterns. What you really want to watch for is signs of fish - v-wakes, swirls, nervous water, fins, pushes of water. If you see anything on the surface that doesn't fit the general pattern of wind or current, assume it is fish until you learn otherwise.

Get out early and late. You want to be on a flat just before you can make out these signs on the water or squinting in the settling darkness to discern that tell-tail sign of fish. Target overcast or foggy days when the wind is calm and your time frame for seeing fish signs will be extended later into the morning or start earlier in the evening.

For this type of work, a simple pole (think canoe type pole) would help you push that skiff around quietly. A stern mounted trolling motor would be a better investment than a fishfinder if you end up liking the shallow water game.

Low incoming tide around first or last light is an excellent time to learn new areas. Second choice would be two hours before high or an hour or so after high, again, during periods of low light. At low water work the edges of the flats in just enough water to float your skiff. At high water cruise the edges of the marsh banks, over flooded grass and right against the ledges.

There are a pile of flats all within a mile of the Route 1 bridge that can hold fish.

Don't worry about salinity. There are random acts of bluefish violence all the way up the Kennebec above Bath and there's a lot more fresh water over there. There are very few of them around right now anyway, so you will be targetting stripers for the time being.

The deeper, faster moving water fishing will pick up once the juvie alewives start moving down river in good numbers. I was on fish yesterday AM from 4 to 5:30 that would occasionally come to the surface to smack herring, but even in these instances we did better going down to hook these fish.

Good luck and have fun exploring. If it was ten years ago when you were slaying fish around the reversing falls, the game has changed significantly, at least in the way that I approach it. The "old spots" and "old techniques" still work, but if that is the only way you think about finding fish, you'll have too many fishless outing. You just might find that catching two chunky fish that you "see" in two feet of water, requiring good stalking skills and the perfect cast, can be wicked satisfying.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Reminders That "Catch And Release" Doesn't Always Succeed

Searching for tuna Waiting for everyone to wake up and get going on this foggy morning I've been sending updates to friends on where we found tuna yesterday, what we saw for bait and birds and suggestions on tactics for today. Many of the bluefin were small fish, much smaller that the mediums that we found back in June on my last trip in Cape Cod Bay. Current regulations on tuna harvest will require release of most of the fish caught out there today. Successfully releasing a bluefin tuna after a brutal battle is always challenging and risky. With the smaller fish we have the option to keep it and a better chance to land it quickly. We really don't know much about survivability of these fish.

Striped bass are generally rugged fish. They often are ready to swim away as soon as we land them. A lot of us work to limit mortality in the bass that we catch by trying to land them promptly, crimping barbs, employing circle hooks, supporting the belly of a big fish and taking photos quickly. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we don't contribute to striped bass mortality when we release the fish that we catch.

Hun My niece Claire and I spent time this morning looking at photos from my last bird hunting trip to North Dakota. Lot's of images of a happy but tired dog, sunsets, wheat stubble, abandoned school houses and of course...dead birds...in the mouth of the dog, on the tailgate of the truck, on top of my vest next to the 16 gauge, on the grill in the motel parking lot. For a nine year old from San Francisco, the fact that the birds are dead stands out.

Claire and I also quickly scrolled through a ton of summer photos that included umpteen shots of clients holding fish, stripers in the water, reviving another bass. There aren't any images of a fish on ice, or cleaning the fish at home or a striped bass on the grill. It is logical for her to assume that we don't kill any stripers. She is only nine. How often do we fall into the same trap?

Fishing is still a blood sport, even when we release everything that we catch. Some percentage of all of the fish that we hook, in any fishery, will perish. Our impact upon the fishery is greater than most of us usually acknowledge. One significant challenge for fisheries managers is to quantify catch and release mortality.  There is decent data from a number of studies done in freshwater ecosystems, more limited statistics in saltwater settings, but we know much more than we did twenty years ago. Here's a great, readable article that summarizes a number of release mortality studies. Limiting physical injury as a result of hooking and limiting physiological stress on the fish that we catch when we fight, handle and release them are the two variables over which we have the most control.

If you're interested in reading more, here's a report on studies done in Maryland on striped bass catch and release success and here's a general article with good suggestions and thoughts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

Reviving fish I had three recent disappointing experiences with nice stripers that we caught in the Kennebec River. We decided to tag a fish that was over the slot limit. I inserted the tag needle too low on the fishes back an nicked an artery or vein. The fish bled significantly, something I'd never experience in all of the stripers that I've tagged in Maine and Massachusetts. We quickly got the bass back into the water. The blood rapidly clotted at the tag entry site and the fish swam away with vigor. Three days later I entered Morse Cove at the end of a charter and found the same fish floating dead on the surface. I was pissed at myself the rest of the day and am still bothered by my mistake.

The same day that I killed the fish in the process of tagging it, we had trouble reviving a fat 29 inch striper. There was nothing remarkably different about the fight - it didn't seem longer than usual, there where no seal attacks, the hook was in the upper mouth and easy to remove. This bass just wouldn't right itself while we were reviving it. We probably spent 15 minutes holding the fish along side the boat, working to get it strong enough to release. Eventually, it's mouth clamped down on my thumb and its tail swooshed as it turned away, but I can't say that I'm confidant that bass survived.

Only three days later we caught two fish that came to the boat missing chunks of their tails. Seals. We would see the gray shapes zooming after the bass as we desperately tried to yank the fish into the safety of the cockpit. We ended up leaving this spot that held plenty of stripers because we didn't want to continue to subject them to the predation of the seals.

I know that I'll be paying close attention to how we handle fish that we catch. I hope that as we contemplate and debate rules and regulation, management strategies and population studies, we recognize our contribution to mortality even if we practice 100% catch and release. I'm still going to chase the tuna and do my best to limit the number that I kill, but I'll do so wondering if I'm being hypocritical.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Way too long since last post

Maine striper charter season is in full swing here on the Kennebec River and Casco Bay. This is the time of year when we get lots of inquiries from folks looking "to go fishing today or tomorrow".  If you call or email us and we are booked, we'll work to set you up with another guide who will take great care of you and your kids, who is on the water all the time and who will work hard to put you onto fish.

I've been very busy the past couple of weeks. My wife talks to me via messages on Facebook, I spend quality time with the dog at 2:30 AM and I haven't been good about updating the fishing reports page.

The fishing really picked up about ten days ago. I'm struck by how little we really know about our fish, their habits and our reasons for success or failure to catch them. The increased activity coincided with much stronger tides. Many of us who are on the water every day remarked that we seemed to have more stripers around, not just more cooperative fish. Did they come down the Kennebec, pushed by warmer waters? Did they come in from offshore? Are these some of the bass that friends to our south were telling me about? Were they here the weeks prior but just not in the places where we were looking? Ask around and you'll hear lots of opinions but few statements that would survive rigorous peer review. Doesn't mean that they are wrong, just that we can't really judge validity.

The deep water ledges and holes continue to produce catches of nice sized stripers, even in water where the surface temps are approaching 79 degrees. There herring are holding the bass in place and on a number of days time of day has been less important that time of tide. Each spot tends to fish better on a particular phase of either the coming or going tide, but the only rules are the ones that we impose on ourselves. Make three to six good drifts and move if you aren't finding the fish. Don't count on marking them, but do pay attention to bait showing on your sonar.

I've had some excellent times on the flats and other times when the fish were there, en mass, but giving us the finger. They can be fussy, maddening and mysterious. They can be finicky and coaxed to eat by the perfect presentation. They can be aggressive and feeding with wild abandon. Put your time in and you will see all of the above.

I am confident that most of the time, we will be more successful when the light is low - early morning, in the fog, cloudy days, dusk. We can't see as well into the water, but we're more likely to find fish waking and swirling, especially in small groups as opposed to the single cruising fish that just don't eat as often.

Presentation does matter. A lot. Often times, a cast that is close to being on target amounts to nothing more than casting practice. When the fish are grouped up into pods of five to ten fish, meandering, slowly working the bottom, swirling on small bait we stand a much better chance of getting a bite. When the stripers are making tracks, swimming in straight lines at a good clip, the presentation has to be perfect to have a chance at an eat.

Stronger tides in the evening and a fairly weak tide in the morning has produced better action around dusk the past two days. Cause and effect....? Given the way I wrote that sentence, I seem to believe so, but my sample size is pretty small. I'd love to hear more reports from those of you who are fishing this week. Any correlation in your findings?

I'm fishing Cape Cod Bay the next three days. I'll try to post more thoughts that have been rattling around in my sleep deprived brain for the past two weeks so check back over the coming days.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Lining It All Up

Lex fighting fish A string of weak tides and bright days have made the striper fishing on the Kennebec and New Meadows challenging at times, but challenging can be fun when you spot that feeding bass, pole up on it, cast and watch him track the fly...or streak away in abject terror. When we've had conditions all line up right, we've enjoyed some excellent, technical fishing. Low light, no wind, moving water, happy fish leads to happy us.

Crab fly in mouth We've had some outings when bright light mid-day with little breeze gave us great sightcasting conditions. As is always the case in shallow water striper fishing, some of the flats we poled held lots of cruising fish with little interest in eating while other spots held bass grubbing on the bottom or ganging up on very small baitfish and shrimp.

Tuesday morning we were underway just after 3:00 AM, excited about a little bit of cloud cover, running to a flat that has held a school of nice sized fish, counting our proverbial chickens. Yup. Tough morning. We just weren't finding the numbers of fish that we had been seeing in previous days. We were dedicated to catching stripers in the shallow water and we covered a lot of ground between 3:00 and 10:00. Our most exciting shots came at about 9:00 to large groups Skinny water striper 2 of bass, milling in tight circles, reminding us a bit of tarpon. These bigger groups (15 to 40 fish) are tough targets. It's so easy to spook one fish and have them all scoot. We landed two fish all morning, both just over the slot limit. Although we held higher hopes, we loved our good opportunities.

Our afternoon trip yesterday wasn't easy. The wind just wouldn't lay down. We worked a number of flats all over the place with few signs. We finally found a load of bass up on one mud flat that we're feeding well and willing to eat. The guys I had on the boat couldn't fish past 7:30 PM and stay married. Of course the fog rolled up the Thomas with fish river right as well hauled out and by 7:39 the wind died and the water was glass. I could see fish swirling on the flats as I pulled into my driveway and yes, I was cursing.

The late incoming tide in the afternoon/evening has been a consistent producer in the deeper water where the herring are holding. Some of the guides focusing on strong currents around structure have also done well either very early in the morning or once the outgoing tide has picked up steam. Better (stronger) tides are in our near future. Just got a text about some very big stripers being caught off the northeast shore of Massachusetts. Talked to a friend two days ago IMG_0700 who stalked a school of wow sized stripers along a beach south of Portland last weekend. Let's go get 'em.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine striped bass fishing
Got to trade places with my angler two mornings ago - him on the poling platform and me on the bow. Fritz Folts put me onto this nice 35 inch fish. It ate a fly based on Tim Borski's Bonefish Slider. Very nice fight in three feet of water. Wicked fun. Thanks Fritz.

This stable weather pattern is good for coastal tourism and good for striper fishing. We've enjoyed some excellent flats fishing EARLY in the morning and again in the evening. I'm talking off the dock before 4 AM early. We've also found some fish willing to eat on the afternoon rising tide but we've also had some stretches where it's tough sledding for a couple of hours after the sun gets up over the trees or before the shadows get long in the afternoon.

Guys fishing live macs and herring over deeper structure are doing very well in the Kennebec right now. The stripers are keyed into the herring in the fast water and a variety of small stuff in the shallows. Get out your bonefish and permit fly boxes and go have fun.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Saltwater Fishing: Striped Bass Update

Fritzwithlincfish Stripers are transitioning to a more typical summer pattern. There is still a lot of herring in the Kennebec River and the schools of these critical baitfish are setting up on the ledges and humps. The herring range in size from 3 to 10 inches. If you can locate the larger bait, you increase your chances of taking a bigger striped bass. We caught our two largest fish of the season on Sunday afternoon in just such a setting.

The flats fishing has ranged from ok to excellent. Our best success has come on the incoming tide regardless of the time of day, as long as it was cloudy or foggy. The beaches are also fishing well, even though the schools of mackerel have thinned out here. Plenty of small bait to go with the pollack and crabs.

Catch and release season in the Kennebec special area ends today (July 1), and along with that change, it is now legal to fish bait. Here's to all angler's sharing the drifts instead of anchoring up.

Should be a busy holiday weekend on the waters in Maine. The forecast has everyone talking about getting out. Today and tomorrow may be a bit challenging fishing wise, but we're set up for a stable SW flow after Friday, a real summer pattern, that might make some fish very willing to eat your fly.

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Scattered Fish Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing Advice: Go Fish

Cody with full fish

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

IMG_1285


Maine Striper Fishing: Ups and Downs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: Good to Wicked Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Charters: My Most Important Client

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing: National Saltwater Angler Registry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


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

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

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

See you on  the water soon.

Capt. Peter Fallon

MaineStripers.com


An Important Question You Should Be Asking Yourself...

Spook up close_2 Why Did I Just Catch That Fish?

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

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

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

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

Now see if you can replicate the result. 

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


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

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

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

Finding the Fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


What It's All About

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.com


The Tug Is The Drug, Part 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

Weather On My Mind


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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com

Spousal Therapy

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

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

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

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

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

 

IMG_0813


  Big eat

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

www.MaineStripers.comIMG_0797


Here's One Pattern That's Producing

Snake Fly.

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com

Shallow Water Striper Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Okay pookey, do the honors!

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Maine Striper Fishing Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com


Plug Of The Year

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Big Improvements

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Fall Fishing for Maine Stripers Is ON

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
 www.mainestripers.com


Coming Back to Earth - Maine Fishing Report

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Sluggos on the ledges...Maine Striper Fishing Update

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

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

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

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

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


Holy Bait, Batman

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


3 Layers of Long Underwear...

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

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

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


Opening Day on the Kennebec

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Only Weeks Away...

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

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

See you on the water soon,

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Maine Striped Bass Fall Fishing Update

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Quick Update

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

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

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


The Fall Bite Is On

Peanutbunker1 Birdsonpeanuts1_8

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

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

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

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

 

Capt. Peter Fallon 


Friday, August 4th

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
WWW.MAINESTRIPERS.COM


Quick Update

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

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

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


Week of July 4th

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


What a Difference a Day (or so) Makes

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Sea Serpents

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com


Rain and Runoff

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

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.mainestripers.com