Monday, December 1, 2014

New Striped Bass Regulation Plan Flawed

               Likely you have read the news about possible striped bass conservation measures adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council last fall in Mystic Connecticut at their annual meeting. The short news is a 25 percent decrease in recreational and 20.5 percent decrease in commercial take.  All sounds good, right? Well I am sorry to report that’s not necessarily the case. Striped bass are still in trouble and the ASMFC actions aren't going to help that much. The reason for me saying that is a lengthy subject, too long for this forum. So, I suggest you go to:  for a lengthy, spot on analysis of the subject. If you are honestly concerned for the future of striped bass fishing in Maine, read the entire blog. Take the time to absorb the contents to understand the complexity of the system.

                The accompanying photo is typical of what happens south of Maine. Those fish are all mature, breeding age female striped bass.  This type of action is likely to continue in the near future despite the devious actions instituted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council. If you believe the system is rigged in favor of killing versus conservation, you are correct. What can you do to turn the tide? I am miffed on the subject after spending years of concentrated effort to do so. So called conservation organizations continue to be on the debating team rather than getting on the field of play to accomplish a win in favor of conservation. I dislike saying that, but after years of participating with such groups and devoting much time studying, lobbying and attending meetings that likely had the fix already in; I have become jaded.
                Last fall, nine concerned Maine guiding captains rented a 12 passenger van, went to the ASMFC meeting in Mystic, Connecticut to display their support for strong conservation measures that had been hammered out over the past three years. A complicated measure came up for a vote and passed. We were quite happy with the outcome as it seemed like a small victory after many years of battling for striped bass mortality reduction coast wide. If you read the above suggested blog it is clear that we all bought into the snake oil sales pitch. You are not likely to see any further regulation changes for three to five years as the ASMFC process for change takes that long if they want it to. And you can believe they don’t want it to.     The one fish at 28 inches standard stands in place for the entire east coast recreational fishery. The so called conservation equivalency formulas in place are likely to allow states to petition for things like two fish, 23 inches or larger per day to accomplish the equivalency.                
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But when New Jersey elects that recreational equivalency, states like New York and Rhode Island are likely to do the same. And so it will go up and down the coast. So, we haven’t changed anything except a decrease from two to one fish per day. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Maine will select for a keep limit.
                Maine’s popular slot limit may be allowed but with a tighter length limit such as 22 to 24 inches or 24  to 26 inches with a one fish limit. Maine’s bonus 40 inch plus trophy fish may or may not be allowed within the new conservation equivalency plan.

I for one hope the 40 inch trophy fish is dropped. I never liked it and here’s why. I’m not opposed to the 40 inch fish being taken. It’s the process of getting it that bothers me. A few large fish are taken with artificial lures and flies, but most are taken using bait, especially live lining mackerel. Now that’s all fine and good if you only catch that one fish over 40 inches and call it a day. In reality, the quest for the larger fish means catching several between 30 and 40 inches while using live bait. That means playing, landing and releasing them safely. That’s my issue. To many breeding size fish will die in the process of finding that one 40 inch plus fish. We need more, not fewer breeders in the system to help the recovery. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Is A Guide's Real Job?

Memories! That’s what a guide creates. Good or bad.
                There are weather conditions and fish and game availability that a guide can’t control. But, they can control many other things like a clean boat, being on time, being honest, 
providing functional equipment, knowledge of the area and landscape, empathy, good story telling, and a willingness to help the not so talented sports to learn about the quest at hand.
                On any given day a guide meets a sport who is very talented at the quest and on other days is presented with rank beginners. It is the guide’s job to provide a day of activity which is memorable. It doesn’t necessarily mean catching the most or biggest fish or shooting the biggest deer or a limit of winged challenges.
                I had a man and his young son come fishing for striped bass a few years back. The father made it very clear that the day was all for his son. The little guy could hardly cast a small spin rod. I helped him all trip long. Fishing was a little on the slow side, but he did manage to catch a few with his limited talent. During the lull in fishing he got a little cranky. So I made a quick decision to change the trip plan to a nature quest, suggesting he might like to see some seals. Oh yes he would. So we did. And then I suggested we just might find a bald eagle if we got lucky. We did. Would he like to see a family of baby ducks? Yes he would. We did.
                . I said it might be several weeks before he got his pictures. He was disappointed because he wanted to tell his mom how big the fish were.
                The biggest fish he caught was about 14 inches. So I asked him to stretch his arm out straight to the side. I measured from his arm pit down his arm to 14 inches. There, I told him he could show his mother the size. That measure went well beyond his elbow.
                Last year the same father and son team came fishing again after several years had past. The little guy was now much bigger.

                During the day of fishing the now young man said he remembered that big fish he caught on the previous trip. I asked how big. Raising his arm out straight and pointing from his arm pit to the original point on his arm where the fish would have stretched to, this big. . Well, that 14 inch fish memory had grown to a 30 inch fish! We all laughed and his dad said that was a really big fish, ha? Memory created.
Another time I had guided this sport over several years. This day was a cold, mid July day with winds howling out of the southeast. I offered a trip cancellation because of the conditions, but he said no, he wanted to fish.
                He called this winter after many years of not visiting Maine. He had moved to Florida and decided he couldn’t stand it in August and September and wanted to come to Maine during the period to get away from the heat and fish with me a couple days a week.
                During our talk he mentioned the big fish! Oh the memory on that miserable weather day. His wife laughed on the other phone saying, “ya, that photo of the fish has been in our wall ever since”.
                We had been catching medium sized busting fish all morning and getting beat up pretty good by the rough water conditions. It was suggested that I might have honey hole in a lee that might hold a larger fish.
                I pulled into a spot and anchored up, something I rarely do. Quite quickly my sport was onto a big fish using a very small fly. His experience brought the fish in quickly. It was difficult to get the monster in the boat. No question, it was over 50 pounds taken with a 12 pound class leader and a fly I called the Every Ready. The fish was quickly released. Sport shipped his rod in the rack, reached into his vest pocket to haul out his traditional end of the day cigar, prepared it, lit it and took one drag. Then he said, “It’s been a great day Doug, let’s call it.”

                We both agreed that without verification, the fish was likely a tippet class world record. Look at the photo, I think you would agree. Memory created!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New Fly Rod Development Provides Comfort and Function

New innovations for fly rod development have been fast and furious the past ten years. Most new rods have become lighter, better casting and better fighting tools. Small details sometime go unnoticed. Temple Fork Outfitters new Mangrove series of fly rods have a neat, new feature - a built in hook keeper on the left and right side of the real seat. A groove is on each side of the reel seat that extends, up under the grip, providing a location for the hook to be stored.

The left and right grooves allows storing the fly on the opposite side from the reel handle. I have always disliked hook keepers just in front of the rod grip because I usually keep my index finger lapped over the grip for comfort, control and feel. A traditional  hook keeper is most uncomfortable, pressing against my index finger. So I usually cut them off. Just a little thing, but very functional. This new TFO system eliminates that little problem. Love it.    

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cape Cod Canal History

If one fishes striped bass in Massachusetts very long, they become aware that the fish is somewhat of a god there. Anglers fish by boat, beach and rock ledges with great skill. Striped bass fishing there is almost a religion.
They are really good at their craft, be it plugging, jigging, live bait or chunk bait fishing. Years of experience has been past down generation to generation. When, where and how to fish for the big ones is well known within fishing families.
One of the where to spots is the famed Cape Cod Canal connecting Cape Cod Bay and Buzzards Bay to the west. Here, shore fishing is the only permitted techniques. Rods, reels and lines are prepared specifically for the location as distant casting is most important. Tidal currents are very strong. When bait enters and is trapped in the canal, it becomes a six mile feeding station for stripers.
The canal has a small, six mile roadway on both sides from end to end. Vehicles are not permitted so people use bikes specifically built for fishing with rod racks and baskets for equipment. Light poles are numbered for reference and each is known to be a good, bad or somewhat ok fishing location.
It has been determined that the Cape Cod Canal fishermen should be memorialized with a bronze statue of a somewhat oversized Canal Rat as they refer themselves as. A plaque identifying the statue reads:  “The Fisherman – A Tribute to Past and Future Striped Bass Fishermen and The Great Cape Cod Canal. Inspired By Local Fisherman Stan Gibbs.” The statue is located at a public park on the off Cape side of the canal near the railroad station in Buzzards Bay (Bourne) Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Two Handed Rods De-Mystified

Two Handed Fly Rods Growing In Popularity.

Photo Caption:  Double handed fly rods aren't just Spey rods used for Atlantic salmon fishing today. New developments have expanded the concept of using two hands while fly fishing for other species.

photo credit:  Mike Laptew photo of Captain Doug Jowett on Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod, MA, USA. 

Do you know what a two handed fly rod is? Really, do you know? I suspect that many anglers might say, “Ya, it’s a Spey Rod”. Well, that is one form of double handed fly rod. But, in the past fifteen years and especially the last five; double handed fly rods have been seeing measurable leaps into technological changes as well as applications on the water.
                Spey rods originated out of necessity on the River Spey in Scotland where the river banks are steep and choked with heavy growth, making back casting out of the question.  A need for long casts using roll casts evolved into the use of 15 to 17 foot, two handed rods. They were heavy and early fly lines for them were custom builds by individual sports or guiles. The first lines were heavy floating lines attached to lengths of running line. The designs came from the Atlantic salmon fishing world were the use of any kind of sinking line or flies was frond upon.
                I began using 16 foot Spey rods for Atlantic salmon fishing about 1980 and struggled to learn some of the casting techniques using a floating line of 10 to 15 weight forward lines. I did ok, but not really great. What were needed were more specific fly lines for Spey casting. They were developed for floating lines only.
 As time pasted, other fisheries saw the advent of double handed rod use, especially for steelhead fishing on the west coast where the need for long casts with heavy sink tips were in demand. This demand led to the development of different actions of double handed rods which were faster action as apposed to the European action which lend themselves to the beautiful snake like Spey casting we have all seen. That rod  lead to what now is called a  Skagit rod having the faster action needed to handle short fly line heads weighing  from 300 to 600 grains of weight while fishing steelhead. The name Skagit coming from the river so named in Washington State and British Columbia, Canada.
                I began using my long Spey rods with traditional 500 to 600 grain weight shooting heads and very large flies for striped bass fishing about 1986. This delivery system worked great in the wind using mega flies for presenting to large stripers. One issue was the soft action which didn't fight a fish real fast. Skagit rods became part of the answer to that issue.
                As time passed, double handed rod use has expanded to other fisheries. Demand for rods applicable to trout fishing or smallmouth bass evolved. Switch rods were engineered to accommodate more traditional overhead casting, bring the option of very long casts to those fisheries. Switch rods are rightfully named as anglers can switch from single to two handed techniques without changing the grips. Their lengths tend to be in the ten to 11 foot range, so using single hand casting is doable with the light weight of today’s rod blanks. Line weights range from four to ten with line weights of the head section being from 200 to 700 grains.
                Next comes the most recent additional to the two handed rod development in the form of rods with two butt sections. One section for traditional one hand casting and a second butt section for use of two hands when necessary.
Temple Fork Outfitters now has two lower rod sections designed to replace the single-handed grip section on existing seven and eight weight, nine foot, four piece TiCrX fly rods. With a total of six rod sections of equal length you can now have both, a great nine foot, four-piece traditional fly rod, and a five-piece 11 foot, three inch, two-hander for easy overhead distance casting. This system is being referred to as a convertible rod.
So, there you have it. Double handed fly rods come in the form of Spey, Skagit, switch and convertible configurations. That’s a big change from the previously recognized two handed fly rods being classified into one class called Spey rods.

                Captain Doug Jowett is a Master Maine Guided holding a USCG Captain’s License who charters on the coast of Maine and Cape Cod. He may be reached at: .