Tackle and Gear

Quick Maine Striper Fishing Update

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

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

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

 

Capt. Peter Fallon

mainestripers.com

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service, LLC


Good Reports on Striper Fishing in Maine

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

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

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

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Serice, LLC

MaineStripers.com


Striped Bass Update for the Kennebec River

I don't have a striped bass fishing update for the Kennebec River for you as the water is still high and dirty but I'll be back out there Friday evening and over the weekend. Water levels upriver in both the Kennebec and Androscoggin are down significantly from a few days ago but both rivers are running about twice as high as what we were seeing last week before all the rain. That's a lot of water.

Here are a couple of photos that I took at the Kennebec Tavern on Tuesday. Folks there said that they hadn't seen the water that high in the 16 years they'd been there. They have a lot of clean up work ahead but amazingly enough they were hosting the Bath Garden Club Luncheon at the time I was snapping these shots. If you look real close in this first photo you can just make out the pink jackets and summer blouses through the front windows. I suspect that a few extra Manhattans were consumed that afternoon.

Kennebec River 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kennebc River 2

I did hear from a friend who was fishing from shore around the mouth of the Saco yesterday that the water there is starting to clear. He was seeing small schools of breaking fish that stayed well out of casting range.

I expect that I'll be over in Casco Bay for some part of this weekend and for at least two of my charters next week I will fish around Harpswell. Having the Maverick on a trailer is a huge benefit when the weather throws us a curveball.

Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you deal with all of this stained water:

Try fishing dark patterns - olive, purple, black.

Remember that the incoming tide brings cleaner water and the end of the dropping tide will be the muddiest.

Make some commotion on the surface with a popper or gurgler.

If you're chucking hardware, make some noise. Searching with a Rat-L-Trap can be a trip saver.

Find the bait. Everything has been disrupted by the flood waters. As normalcy returns, you need to hit the reset button on your own understanding of what's happening where.

Be very careful out there. There are still trees and logs and stumps and broken up docks and bolts of puplwood and deck furniture floating around. As much as I love to get an early start, I won't be launching until I can see what's ahead of me and I'll be back to the dock before it's truly dark. Also be mindful that the mud flat that you have run across a hundred times my now have a 70 foot oak tree stuck in it, lurking just below the water.

The most amazing thing about this whole event is that the water will drop, and the bait will show and the stripers will eat and we'll be singing the praise of June in Maine.

Capt. Peter Fallon

Gillies & Fallon Guide Service

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


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


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

Making me think

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend a full, fabulous day on the water guiding Kirk Deeter and his wife (she's a wicked good angler). Kirk is an editor-at-large at Field & Stream, editor of Angling Trade, author of a number of excellent fly fishing books and a guide on waters near his home in Colorado. I'll add a post in the near future about our day together and what I learned from Kirk but for right now I thought I'd post my comment to his current blog post about guiding on Field & Stream's Fly Talk:

Kirk - I really appreciate your thoughts on guiding and a guide’s responsibilities because it makes me reflect on my work, my mission, my weaknesses and my strengths.

In the last two weeks I’ve had two clients come back to fish with me, carrying new rods and reels that they had purchased after their experience in my boat. They were ecstatic about their new set-ups. I found myself thinking “that’s they way it’s supposed to work” in reference to the relationship between tackle manufacturers, guides and consumers: guide chooses gear based on personal preference and experience (not based on best discount)…manufacturer helps get that gear into guides hands by offering discounts…consumer tries gear with guide then goes out and buys what they liked.

Well, as you so clearly pointed out, that’s not what it’s all about. The ultimate goal from the industry prospective shouldn’t be just to sell one more rod but to add one more dedicated, passionate participant to the sport (or a segment of the sport new to that angler.) If a guide succeeds in that mission than all of us reading this blog know how many rods that angler will buy over a lifetime of fishing. More importantly, that angler may teach their kids to fish, join a conservation organization, write a letter to state rep, buy out of state licenses and find fulfillment in being on the water.

I know I’m staying tuned to hear more about what you think about higher standards, higher expectations for the guiding industry.


Check out Kirk's blog. Lots of good thought provoking posts. If you read Gordon's recent post "Clearing the Line..." you'll enjoy this earlier post, Reel Dumb Advice, on Fly Talk that Kirk wrote after our day  together chasing stripers. When you can tear yourself away from the computer remember to get out and go fishing. This stretch of mostly stable, south-southwesterly weather flow has really turned on the flats fishing. The fish have been agressive and not very selective EARLY in the morning. Figure out how early you can drag your butt out of bed, set your alarm clock then reset the alarm for at least an hour earlier. You'll be glad you did so once you're on the water.

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


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