May

Striper fishing and lilacs blooming

The pioneer striped bass often show up here in mid-coast Maine just as the lilacs bloom. Judging by the flowers I'm seeing next to the shed here in Phippsburg, it's time to go fishing.

I've heard from fellow anglers who caught or seen stripers down in the Saco and Scarborough Marsh at the end of last week, so there should be so early arriving fish pushing through Casco Bay, the New Meadows River and into the Kennebec by now.

Word from waters just north and south of Boston is good and I'll be heading that way next week, but in the meantime, I think I'll go search for some fish closer to home.

Capt. Peter Fallon

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


 


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

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

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

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


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

Capt. Peter Fallon
www.MaineStripers.com



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