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