Sunday, December 20, 2009

Striped Bass Fishing Holes of Maine - Any New Records Out There?

There's a noted theory in fisheries science called "imprinting". Meaning that a school (genetic family) of fish will return to a given or several locations year after year to feed. One location can hold just one family of fish over the years. Their genetics being of one family. It is not unheard of for a family of fish to be 100% fished off a certain location to never see that family of fish again. This theory of "imprinting" could explain why certain "fishing holes" consistantley attract fish every year. With so many anglers fishing well known "fishing holes", we could be easily fishing down several striped bass "families" to the point of extinction. Other, smaller families can be found on lesser known "fishing holes" which might explain the variance of angler success along the coast. One angler may be having wonderful fishing while another is getting skunked because he is fishing the same old "fishing hole" that has been cleaned out of a "family" of fish that used to frequent the popular spot. My message here: find a new fishing hole to discover a new "family" of fish. Your fishing may improve, even locate a record size fish, either personal or for the books because you are fishing a lesser fishing location that hasn't had all the big girls removed from the "fishing hole" Striped bass fishing is not like it was 10 years ago. We still need to put some controls on excess mortality of striped bass by commercial and recreational anglers. There's still striped bass fishing to be had here in Maine. We as anglers just need to help improve the future fishery.

The photograph above is representative of what could happen when you fish lesser known fishing waters. This fish, most likely, would have been a new line class world record. It was taken using a 12 pound mono leader and estimated to weigh close to 50 pounds. We chose to release the fish and not stress it by taking too much time keeping it out of the water for weighing and doing all the necessary measurements required for a release record. This was the only fish caught in the obscure fishing location. Note the tiny fly this monster fish took. I believe it is was a size 6 hook.

Big decisions are mounting around the management of Maine's striped bass fishing. First, Maine needs a saltwater fishing license so that it's Department of Marine Resources will have funds to pursue recreational fishing issues in Maine Waters. Second, Maine needs to address new striped bass fishing regulations to reflect the need for decreased mortality of striped bass while they are in Maine. We are killing the wrong fish using the outdated slot limit. Personally, I would like to see the striped bass limit returned to one fish per day at 36 inches or larger. Management and license issues are something to discuss another time.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Commercial Striped Bass Rollover Denied

November 2, 2009 was a bench mark date in striped bass conservation. On the date, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) voted not to allow a proposal allowing a commercial fishing quota rollover from previous year’s uncaught quota by a vote of 8 apposed and 6 for.

Anglers from the entire east coast had written, called and emailed opposition to the proposal. Contingents of northeast state anglers attended the meeting to appose the action and were heard by the commissioners.

The meeting was held in Newport, Rhode Island where many fishermen from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut gathered as one to make their wishes known.

Maine anglers attended included Matt Boutet, Jay McGowen, Brian Beckman, Gordon Thompson and I. It was a long day. Matt spoke and then I spoke and that was it. The chairman cut off any further public comment!

In part, my comments are as follows: “I am apposed to a rollover of unused, commercial striped bass quotas.

“It is my observed opinion that striped bass stocks along the entire Atlantic coast are in steep decline as evidenced by the lack of robust year classes to sustain a healthy population into the future. Any increase in striped bass mortality is not in the best interest of striped bass stock stability. I lived through the last striped bass crash and I see history repeating itself.

“For the past five years I have observed a steady decline in striped bass populations ……………. There appears to be very few small fish left for the future.

“Numerous problems exist that will slow a recovery process of striped bass stocks. The biggest being the ability of the Chesapeake Bay to produce enough fish quickly. During the last striped bass population crash, Chesapeake Bay was a healthy system and responded famously.

“Other known obstacles are: rampant poaching by commercial and recreational fishermen, by-catch issues, forage issues, climatic concerns, spawning successes, high grading by all user groups, recreational gear concerns, commercial gear concerns, increased pressure developing on Hudson River stocks and, most important,- time.”

The lengthy discussion of the commissioners was looking testy. This was going to be a long afternoon and it was.

In its formal comments before the ASMFC against the proposal, the Coast Conservation Association (CCA) “cited several disturbing trends in the striped bass fishery, including a dramatic decrease in the number of striped bass caught and released by recreational fishermen, particularly in the northeastern states of New Hampshire and Maine, the prevalence of the fatal disease Mycobacteriosis among the Chesapeake Bay spawning stock, and a Fish and Wildlife Service annual survey that encountered the fewest striped bass in the survey’s history.”

After much debate and scientific data presentations, the vote was taken.

The results are: against the rollover proposal - Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. Voting for the proposal were Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, North Carolina and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The Fish and Wildlife Service abstained. Many are wondering why the National Marine Fisheries Service voted in favor of the proposal. That’s seems to be an insider situation. Maybe we can find out. Anyone have connections to find out?

Following the vote, an interesting rant by one Mike Johnson, a proxy for the NY legislator seat, chose to attack the validity of public comments coming in from emails, phone calls and regular mail. He suggested at length that they weren’t important. He was suggesting the public comments shouldn’t be paid attention to. One commissioner, Tom Fote of New Jersey aggressively counted Johnson’s rant suggesting that public input to the process is most important and should be listened to closely.

I had some hats made up saying, “NO ROLLOVER” and past them out to anyone in support. I believe we had 28 hats showing in the audience with hats on.

This action was a huge victory for striped bass. It is only round one however. If you love fishing striped bass it’s time to get involved to help insure the future viability of striped bass stocks. Join any organization which is trying to help.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Monkey Brain Fly and False Albacore Test Continues Into 2010 Season

In a post last January ( I presented a fly called the "Monkey Brain" which showed promise of being a great false albacore fly.Well, the 2009 false albacore fishing on Cape Cod's Vineyard Sound and Buzzard's Bay was fantastic. The Monkey Brain did produce well, but calling fishing it a test was unfair as most any previously used fly for fishing fat alberts would produce hook-ups. The prevailing bait was tiny.(see the attached photo) I wondered how much better the fishing would have been if a smaller Monkey Brain fly were used. Not having fly tying equipment with me, I waited until the end of the season to make some new and smaller flies to try next year.

You can see from the photo that I created a set of Monkey Brain flies. I labeled them: standard, junior, mini and micro. The two larger flies are tied on a size 1/0 Gamakatsu live bait hook and the smaller ones on a size 2 Gamakatsu live bait hook. Note the size of the micro and mini sizes in relation to the dime and the bait spit up photo. For the two smaller flies I had to use very high quality hackles like the ones Kenney Abrames of "Striper Moon" fame uses on his beautiful, flowing striped bass flies. Using such a short piece of the tips of those high quality hackles was troubling. However, I retained the remainder of the hackle to use as collars on future flies.

So, I will have to wait for the 2010 season to see if Garret Booth's Monkey Brain fly will be a magic attractant for fussy false albacore. Time will tell.

Striped bass politics is a frustrating activity. There is much happening on that front and I will address that in a post soon.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cape Cod Fall False Albacore, Striped Bass and Bonito Fishing Report

The first two weeks of September, 2009 were some of the finest angling days for false albacore in the northeast I've seen in years. The albies were mostly in the 6 to 8 pound range and were feeding like sipping trout most of the time. And naturally, they were doing their albie thing of being challenging to the hook. There were days when most of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay were loaded with the speedsters. When you have albies up feeding almost all day, through the tides, you have a wonderful opportunity. With so many fish around,the few people pursing them were mostly behaving. Not many running and gunning techniques were being practiced. My sports did take a few bonito during the first week of September. Striped bass available to fly fishing anglers were not available in the waters during this early fall season fishing. They should arrive soon though. See my previous Blogg to the right in January of the fly of choice( Enjoy the remaining northeast, fall fishing season.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Maine Fall Striper Fishing Is On The Move

Hurricane Bill stirred things up and tropical storm Danny will likely continue to stir the pot which will jump start the fall, striped bass fishing season. For the past several days I have seen indications of improved striper fishing with fish becoming more aggressive each day. First light action is beginning to reveal surface action and the fish are filling their bellies. Let the fall action begin. The next four weeks can be the best fishing of the season with migrating fish feeding heavily every day. As the fall season progresses, mid-day action will pick up so first light and last light outings aren't necessary. This is my favorite time of the year. I will be guiding on Cape Cod until mid-September and then return to Maine for the grand finally of the season in to October. Tight lines everyone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Maine Summer Saltwater Fishing Has Begun

Striped bass catches in Maine this summer have been very good for fish in the high 20 and low 30 inch range. They are fat, feasting on blueback herring, alwife, mackerel, britt herring and crustaceans. The number of fish roaming the Pine Tree State aren't as plentiful as in years past, but the quality of the fish makes up for the numbers. Every fish being caught on my boat has "shoulders" - meaning they are heavy and strong for their size. As of mid-July, crustacean imitation flies have been working quite well along with poppers. The best time to catch seems to be first light for the several hours prior to the daylight hours getting stronger. Heavy rainfall in Maine has kept the estuary water temperatures below 70 degrees F. and dirty, so surface activity has continued into the late days of July. Fishing should remain quite good for the remainder of the summer.

Bluefin tuna fishing has been red hot since the first of July. Stick boats and trollers have been boating more tuna in the 150 to 300 pound class than in many previous years. Light tackle anglers looking for football tuna weighing less than 60 pounds might be rewarded with a new year class to play with as some speadsters in the 20 pound class have been reported along Maine's coast. The biggest problem has been getting to fish tuna. Weather and sea conditions haven't been the best.

As of July 21, 2009; buefish haven't been seen or reported in the midcoast area of Maine. A trickling of reports of snapper blues have surfaced from the extreme southern areas of Maine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cape Cod Early Season Report for Striped Bass and Tuna

The early season bite report for striped bass is easy, big and many. The fly rod fisherman has not seen fishing like the 2009 start for many years. Stripers from 28 to 40 inches are available in numerous locations around Cape Cod.

After four weeks of guiding on the Cape, I can say it is wonderful to see the excellent fishing for striped bass with flies. The season is young, so lets hope it continues to be good. My first fish striped bass caught in Maine on June 4 was 30 inches. That's a much better start than last year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Commercial Striped Bass Fishermen Want More

As the striped bass fishing season becomes part of the focus of anglers for the 2009 season, commercial striped bass fishermen are attempting to receive at 25% increase in quota through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council (ASMFC) system and it's striped bass advisory council. This action will be considered at the ASMFC's May 7, 2009 meeting.

New science that indicates at sharp decline in striper populations along the entire eastern seaboard is being reported rejected by the advisory council after the recent focus of abuses of commercial striped bass fishermen and fish dealers. Strong fines and jail sentences are just recently being handed down by judges. The last vote of the striped bass advisory council of the ASMFC on increased commercial quotas rejected any increases by a tie vote.

If there is any increase in commercial striped bass fishing along the Atlantic Coast, the striper population is likely to collapse within a short, few years in my opinion.

Please contact anyone you know who might influence the voting at the ASMFC meeting to encourage restraint in allowing any commercial striped bass quota increases. Better yet, go to the meeting and express your displeasure of any such considerations. Go the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries web site ( for full details of the meeting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New False Albacore - Atlantic Bonito and Striped Bass Fly A Winner on Cape Cod

Every fall a very special fishing event occurs from Cape Cod to South Carolina – fly fishing for false albacore, nicknamed albies and fat alberts by many anglers. They are difficult to attract to a hook or lure, when hooked; they provide an exciting fight and they are the perfect catch and release fish as they are terrible table fare and there is zero value on them as a commercial fish; so everyone releases them.

False albacore are members of the tuna family and reach weights to 20 plus pounds with averages ranging from seven to 12 pounds. But don’t let the small size fool you – they are admiralable fighters on seven to 10 weight fly rods. Actually, seven weight rods are a little light for them in my opinion. Seven weight rods just can’t fight the fish fast enough to release them alive after the fight. They are a small fish that will easily take a true 50 yards of backing and in many fights, over 100 yards. They are a true test for anglers who enjoy the hunt, the take and the release.

Prior to false albacore arriving in Cape Cod waters, another quality fish arrives, the Atlantic bonito, nicknamed bones by many anglers. Bones don’t run as big as albies, but they are also difficult to the hook and fight vigorously. Apposed to albies, bones are excellent table fare and prized by many who seek them. They also have a set of teeth that albies don’t have, making it a little more difficult to land them with fine leaders. Fly anglers will hook at least 10 times the number of albies to bones per day of fishing. Targeting bones is sometimes difficult as they are around when large schools of bluefish are feeding and when fat alberts arrive, bones seem to disappear. False albacore seem to drive Atlantic bonito away.

This past fall, false albacore weren’t thick on Cape Cod, so the Atlantic bonito were working the waters of Vineyard and Nantucket Sound daily during the months of August and September. I can unequivocally say that I easily boated more bones for my clients during the fall of 2008 than any previous year.

I have puzzled that over, trying to determine why my luck fishing bonito was so good this past fall. What did I do different that may have changed my success rate? Several factors may have changed my luck – or maybe it was just luck.

First, I surmised that the lack of good schools of false albacore kept the bonito in the waters I was fishing longer into the fall season; making them more available than usual.

Second, there weren’t many large bluefish around that might drive the bones away, again making them more available than usual.

Third, there weren’t as many crazy fishermen chasing them all over and putting them down every time they surfaced.

Small forage fish bait was in short supply, making the artificial fly presentations more attractive to the fish.

Other game fish were in short supply during September, so we fished more vigorously for bonito, staying on a few fish longer than we usually would. I didn’t go running around looking for greener pastures to fish in.

And then the fly! Yes, it might just be that one fly I had never heard of turned the trick. One of my customers showed up with his usual good supply of flies. We lost a couple of my usual selections to what we surmised were albies. My customer asked me to look at his large fly box to see if there was something there that might work. I quickly noticed a small 3 1/2 inch white fly I had never seen before. We tied it on and landed two Atlantic bonito that day. I tied up a bunch of them that night and continued to catch bones more regularly than usual. The fly you ask – the Monkey Brain originated by one Garret Booth of New Hampshire tied on a 1/0 hook. The fly is simple to tie and has the elements needed to catch. I used a size 1/0 Gamakatsue live bait hook to tie to. The tail is simply four wimpy Schlappen feathers with four silver crystal flash lengths buried in the feathers, lightly palmered schlappen where the body and wing meet, a silver body with large black over silver paste on eyes. The body and head are epoxied with the eye area built up a little to provide a bulge.
The action of the Monkey Brain fly in the water is wonderful. It is the correct size and profile of the prevailing bait and the epoxied body gives it a nice jigging action. It is easy to cast and the Gamakatsue hook readily penetrates the hard mouth of bones and doesn’t straighten under pressure of such a hard running fish.

Next fall we will see if this fly is a magic touch or just a flash in the pan. I think it will be an exceptional, catching fly for bonito as well as striped bass and false albacore. Time will tell.