July

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


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.


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