Fishing Report: Weather continues to have an effect on both the fresh and saltwater fishing, as record rainfall has been the norm for the last two months. In the saltwater, the incursion of freshwater from the coastal rivers has moved fish around. Most of the stripers have dropped down from some of the rivers into water with more clarity and salinity. Mackerel, that striper fishermen love for bait, seem to move a couple of miles or more offshore when the salinity drops and within a couple of days after a big rain they’ll move right in to the river mouths. And some people are blaming the very irregular appearances of bluefish on the salinity.
The amount of water has made brook fishing for trout the best mid-summer fishing in years, especially for native brookies. With good flows of water and cooler water temperatures, the hatches have continued long after normal and the trout haven’t had to seek thermal refuge to stay in their preferred temperature ranges.
“August and September brings some different challenges to striper and bluefish anglers but these months also bring the chances of real trophy fish,” according to Joe Hutter at Kittery Trading Post’s Fishing Department.
“Most of the river herring have migrated out to sea. Migrations of menhaden, most often called pogies in this area, can come inshore and really perk up the fishing. Also, small baitfish often move into the rivermouths and will attract both small and large blues and stripers. And to top that off, eel migrations and feeding become more active. Fishing at night when the eels are on the move can bring some really good striper action but too many bluefish can interfere with this as the blues love to just cut those live eels to pieces without tasting the hook.”
“Pogies will not hit a bait or lure, unlike herring which are easily caught on Sabiki rigs or other small lures or flies. Some anglers will go through the process of gill netting for live pogy-bait which most often requires a special license but the majority of fishermen take their pogies by snagging them with what are called snag or snatch hooks. These are large treble hooks with a weight molded in the center. Another rig that is often used is a series of large treble hooks with an ounce or more of lead weight on the end to cast with.”
“When you spot a school of pogies, which are pretty visible when they are feeding on the surface, you need to be careful not to make your casts right into the school as the fish will sound to bottom, scared by the heavy rig. You also need some stealth when you motor up to a surface-feeding school of pogies. A lot of people make a mistake by vertical jigging when they try to snag-hook. A much more effective method is to horizontal jig, dragging your hooking rig sideways through the school of fish.”
“You need a well aerated bait tank or one with a good movement of water to keep the pogies alive and kicking. Snagging damage seems to be quickly healed but a heavily bleeding baitfish can cause mortality in your tank so keep an eye open for this.”
“A lot of people do not try to net or capture the small baitfish that can be so abundant and find that light tackle and artificials and flies work well on stripers and bluefish feeding on the small baitfish. Small surface poppers, the common striper fly patterns and small swimming lures will often bring strikes.”
“Live eels shouldn’t provide any special concern when you learn a few simple ways of caring for them. But catching them can be a problem, so most anglers purchase their live eels from a bait dealer. The eels are sold in a plastic bag full of water. They will soon suffocate if left in this bag. A simple and useful method is to just set them free over a layer of ice cubes in a container or bucket that has drain holes to let the ice-melt drain away from the eels as they will drown in this foamy melt. A small bucket that has drain holes suspended in a larger bucket that will collect the drain water is a good method. You can also hold your live eels in your boat’s livewell but they are much more active and hard to handle than those stored on ice.”
“A piece of rag or old bath towel is an easy way to handle the ice-numbed eels. Hooking should be with a single circle hook of size 3/0 to 5/0, depending on the size of the eels and the size of the fish you’re catching. Hook through the upper or lower jaw. Hooking through both can cause breathing problems for the eel. Using wire leaders to prevent leader cut-offs from bluefish isn’t that effective as almost always the blues will not take the entire eel but will cut it off, just leaving the eel’s head on your hook. Fluorocarbon leaders in the 25 to 35 pound range work well.”
“Between your drifts, drop the live eel gently on the deck of your boat. Leave your line slack to avoid that nasty tangle of your eel twisting up your leader. When making long trips between drifts, just drop your eel with hook still attached back into the ice bucket.”
“Night fishing is the most productive time for using live eels for stripers. And know that the stripers will be hunting eels on the mud and sand flats, as that is where the eels will be feeding. Avoid the fast moving water that you’d normally fish in the daytime,” Joe ended.
MAINE: “Get out your shorts and bikinis this week, it's gonna be hot” suggests Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol in his emailed report to us this morning.
“Inland fishing will probably be limited to before daybreak until mid-morning as the temperatures are expected in the high 80's. Actually, it's not a bad idea to fish at night this week. There is half a moon and the clear skies should give anglers great surface action.”
“I talked with an angler from Massachusetts this week as he took out at Long Lake in Parsonfield. He fished dusk till dawn and had tremendous luck using surface poppers and loud crankbaits. Insect (large bugs) hatches have been plentiful and I don't want people to think I'm too smart by trying to name them but big Mayflies make up the bulk of surface food as well as flying ants.”
“Under the surface at daybreak, the Senko worms are still the top lure, especially in dark green in low light and very bright Day-Glo chartreuse in bright sunlight, fished under the lilies and in the milfoil.”
“Believe it or not, the stripers have not gobbled all the brown trout from the tidal Ogunquit, Stevens and Mousam Rivers. Actually, the stripers have avoided the rivers last week due to rain, rain and more rain. The salt level is way down and the striped bass have moved out onto the beaches in large numbers.”
“On the incoming, I found large schools of sandeels being decimated by tinker mackerel all along the beaches, especially around the sandbars. Just look for the mackerel-gulls and have a field day. The glut is short-lived, however, as the tide fills the bays. Then the stripers are hanging tight to the breakers along the ledges and out about the third breaker on the beaches.”
“The Saco River, in fresh water, between Biddeford and Dayton is running very high and difficult to fish. However, brown trout and smallmouths are still waiting to be caught below any of the major obstructions in the river. You'll need to get down and use something very noisy such as spinnerbaits and rattle lures.”
This just in from Craig Bergeron at Saco Bay Bait and Tackle: “I was busy at the store early Saturday morning selling chum and flats of bait to customers heading offshore in search of sharks. The sun was bright orange and not a breath of wind. We have had a few reports of blue shark action on the backside of Jeffrey’s Ledge and just beyond Tantas Ledge. Mike Keegan hooked and lost a mako last week. It spooled his 50 Tiagra with fresh mono as he was fishing all weekend. I should have plenty of sharking news in next weeks report.”
“The ground fishing is still red hot on Tantas with huge numbers of sea pollock and market size cod. Our good friend Dan Kelley has been doing well on haddock fishing Jeffrey’s with the 14 and 16 oz. Lav jigs.”
“The striper fishing has been decent in the Saco River. The tube and worm is still the most productive method fishing from the boat. Pete and Max fished Thursday afternoon and caught a couple dozen fish mostly in the slot with the largest fish measuring over 36 inches. WOW, not bad river fishing at the end of July. The beach fishermen have been doing well early morning, or late evening. Bait of choice has been live eels.”
“The mackerel fishing is still strong. My father and Butch fished in front of Wood Island Friday morning and caught all they wanted in an hour. Mustad Flasher rigs with a heavy jig was the ticket. He said they were so thick you didn’t even need chum.”
“I guess the bluefish must have moved out of Saco Bay. I talked with Capt. Joe Tufts from Rock&Reel Charters and said that they had caught quite a few bluefish off of Richmond Island. They were using Gag’s poppers and Yozuri Hydro Magnums to keep the rods bent.”
“The bluefin report is promising with many anglers catching them trolling, on the hook (anchor), and flying kites.”
“Eon Bexon was in the shop a few days ago getting his squid rig repaired, after a giant he landed thrashed it. John Bergeron on Angler Management caught a beauty just over 80 inches last Saturday fishing on anchor. The weather and seas look promising this coming week so I should have a good offshore report for you in the coming days.”
“We have a busy month ahead of us with many local tournaments to keep the weekends rockin’. Don’t forget about the rigging class scheduled for August 17. Call the shop or e-mail me with any questions or if you would like to sign up.
Captain Barry Gibson of Saltwater Sportsman Magazine sends us this report: “Boothbay area charter skippers and private anglers continue to pick away at the stripers, with varying degrees of success. The mouth of the Kennebec and adjacent beaches are producing legal ‘slot’ bass as well as a few pushing the 40-inch mark. Local angler Chuck Wiltz caught and released a beautiful 44-incher that fell for a live mackerel in Linekin Bay on Friday the 31st.”
“Mackerel are virtually everywhere, with consistently hot fishing around the Cuckolds Lighthouse. A few reported live-mackerel bite-offs indicate the bluefish may be making their annual appearance.”
“The Fifth Annual Boothbay Region Fish & Game Association/White Anchor Tackle Shop Saltwater Tournament will be held on August 8 and 9, with plenty of cash prizes for the largest stripers and blues, and there's a kid's division as well. For more info call White Anchor Tackle at (207) 633-3788.
Freshwater fishing in Maine continues to be very good, according to Dave Garcia at Naples Bait and Tackle on Long Lake in the Sebago Region. “Tyson (his son) and I fished the Maine Bassin’ Trail (Sebago Region) tourney on Mousam Lake this weekend and took second place with a catch of 14 pounds, nine ounces while the winning bag was 15 pounds, five ounces. It was a great event with lots of action, mostly on largemouths. Our biggest fish was just over five pounds. This event put us pretty solidly in first place for the season so far.”
Dave said that the trick was to fish jig-and-pig rigs right in the milfoil weeds.
“Over on Kezar Lake, the Yankee Bass Trail had some incredible fishing in their tourney on Sunday. The winning bag was over 31 pounds with the largest largemouth a big eight-pounder. That lake is hot right now. It’s full of baitfish and that grows big bass!”
The Sebago Lake togue (lake trout) fishing continues to amaze us. We had one party that was fishing off the south end of Frye’s Island and had a catch of 29 fish for their day! Their largest fish was eight pounds with most of the others being in the three to five pound range. All were caught on dodger/sewed-on bait combos. They were using large dodgers with the bait running about three times the length of the dodger behind it.”
Salmon fishing is just about non-existent over at Sebago but a few are being caught by the togue people.”
“Brook trout fishermen should take advantage of the fact that the brook water levels are ideal for fishing and the water is still cool enough for the brookies and hatches, making for a very unusual mid-summer combination. Brook fishing for trout ends on August 15 so there’s really not a lot of time left and the opportunity is there right now.”
“We’re not seeing hardly any salmon fishermen but the togue fleet is still out there. Even they are starting to thin out but their fishing is still world class,” noted Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago.
“Bass fishing has been excellent. We’ve been sending a lot of people over to both Trickey Pond and Hancock Pond and have had them come back with good reports. Even here on Sebago a lot of the camp owners don’t have any trouble hooking up with a few bass, often right off their docks.”
“Our hot spots right now are here on Rangeley Lake and Big Dodge Pond,” noted Ken at River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc. “Last Friday we had a great time on Dodge Pond. In just an hour and a half we landed seven fish; three salmon and four brook trout. They weren’t huge but nice fish with the brookies running in the 12 to 14 inches and the salmon a bit larger. We were fishing with four lines, two of them with streamer flies; a red-beaded gray ghost and the other a sneaker pattern. The other two lines had DB Smelt lures; one was orange and black while the other was gold and orange. These color combos have been great for much of the season.”
“Our guide Ray Soriano had a great last week on Rangeley, where he now has moved his boat and is fishing most of the time. His clients had two brookies that were four and a half pounds that are headed for the taxidermist and plenty of other action on both trout and salmon.”
“Yesterday we were listening to the radio chatter from the DB Smelt crew out on Rangeley. The Fish Hawk boat had landed a couple of salmon over four pounds and also the other boats had some very quality brook trout, some over 18 inches.”
Ken said that the best river fishing right now has been below the Aziscohos Dam on the Lower Magalloway River. “Most of the other rivers have high water temperatures right now but the dam at the Lower Magalloway is a bottom release dam that puts out cold water that attracts plenty of trout and salmon. They raise the releases on the weekends to help out the white water rafting group so come Monday there are a lot of fish upriver brought in by the flows and when they drop the water conditions are great for fishing.”
In the Moosehead Region, Dan Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop is happy about the water flow in the outlets of Moosehead Lake. His favorite is the East Outlet, the Kennebec River where it flows out of Moosehead Lake and down into Indian Pond.
“When the flows and temperatures are right, this is a great stretch to fish, both from driftboat and from shore. As the season goes on it’s mostly caddis hatches but when they slow down, a big attractor dry fly like the stimulator can bring up fish that will just smash those big flies. And nymphing with a pair of flies is always a good idea. Using a strike indicator will improve your strike to hookup ration considerably.”
Dan said that the togue population in Moosehead Lake is incredible and is surprised that more anglers aren’t taking advantage of it in the summer like they do in the winter. “There’s just as many togue right now as there are for ice fishing. There are so many fish that both size and bag limits are the most liberal in the whole state.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: At Suds-n-Soda Sports, Jason MacKenzie is happy about how their All Summer Long Striper Tourney is going. “We’ve got some really nice fish in the top three entries but they are not so big that they are not vulnerable. Each week it seems that someone gets knocked down out of the prize pool. Last week Steve Courshesne who is always a top contender, got put out of third place by Michael J. Murphy whose fish was 50 inches long and weighed 42.5 pounds.”
“There seems to be a lot of big fish around right now, both inshore and offshore. The fishing in Great and Little Bays was affected by last week’s rain but it doesn’t take many days for the stripers to move back up as the water clears. Mackerel have been particularly effected by the freshwater incursions. After each big rain they move offshore a couple of miles and all the way out to the Isles of Shoals but in a couple of days they move right back in around the #3KR Buoy and the West Sisters Ledge which is off the Kittery Point shoreline.”
“Probably because of the salinity, bluefish have been very spotty and that pleases the mackerel fishermen as the blues have always scattered the mackerel schools and driven them offshore. Also, we haven’t heard much about schools of pogies so far this year. There’s been a scattering of reports of small bunches but nothing that you could count on for catching striper bait.”
“Both founder fishing pressure and catches have dropped off, but that isn’t unusual for mid-summer. The Rye Harbor and nearby ocean areas seem to be producing the best flounder action.”
“Most of the better groundfishing reports are coming from Jeffrey’s Ledge. It’s a bit of a ride out there for the recreational anglers but it seems to be worthwhile, as the fishing at the nearer-to-shore spots like Old Scantum and the Mud Hole have dropped off a bit. Much of the action for cod and haddock has lately been by jig fishing, which avoids the problems with the dogfish, although they’ve been spotty also.”
Captain Jamie Savage at Dover Marine’s Sport Shop emailed us this report just minutes ago: “We're seeing a banner year for stripers in NH and Massachusetts’ North Shore. We still have plenty of large schoolies to play with and impressive numbers of mature bass that are finally moving to our inshore waters.”
“Small Bomber and Stillwater poppers have been good schoolie baits lately and the biggest mackerel you can find is the bait to target your 50 pounders with. Eels at night have also accounted for some big fish in our local river systems. I can't give too much away but I can tell you now is the time to target big bass. We put three fifty-inch fish in the boat yesterday all on live mackerel.” (Jamie takes part in the historical, hook-and-line commercial striper season in Massachusetts’s waters. This fishing is highly controlled with both daily and seasonal limits as well as special increased size limits and is limited to just rod and reel fishing – no nets. When the quota is filled, this fishing ends.)
At Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury, George Taylor had mixed reports. “The trout fishing we had for way longer in the season has finally slowed down but other fishing has picked up. The Barbados Pond fishing turned from steady trout fishing to some of the regulars now targeting big horned pout there. One fellow brought one in; the biggest I’ve ever seen. It was over eighteen inches and you couldn’t put your hand around it. You have to wade through a lot of smaller ones but more and more people are over there having some good fishing at night.”
“Willand Pond over in Somersworth had been closed for water quality reasons but now is open for fishing again. There haven’t been any reports of trout being caught there but the smallmouth fishing for average sized fish has been great, especially for topwater lures and poppers. We’re also having some good reports from Bow Lake in Strafford. This place had been slow for much of the season but now the bass have really taken off and a surprising amount of both rainbow and a few brown trout are being caught.”
“Also, we’re seeing more and more people fishing the Dover Point Bridges, especially the Scammell Bridge. This place is fishing-friendly with guardrails and good parking. Quite a few stripers in the keeper size have been taken lately. Also, the Dover/Eliot Bridge continues to produce with some fish in the 28-30 inch range. One monster striper of 53 inches was also caught in the upriver part of the Piscataqua, well upriver from Dover Point.”
“We’re also hearing good reports from people fishing with cut herring from both the beach and rocks in the Rye area. Fishing has been steady for both daytime and night fishermen there. And the few flounder reports we get mostly still come from the Rye Harbor area.”
Alan Nute at AJ’s Bait and Tackle in New Hampshire’s mid-state lakes region says that the fishing has really peaked on Lake Winnipesaukee. “Average catches of salmon, rainbow trout and a surprising amount of lake trout are from 15 to one person that caught 24 fish by 8:30 one morning! His largest fish was 22 inches but most of them were in the two to three pound range.”
“Not many people are targeting lake trout but they are catching them right in the salmon depths (35-40 feet) while fishing for salmon and rainbows. Last week the fish were about five to ten feet shallower and with the hot weather forecasts the fish should be moving even deeper as the week goes on. One laker caught right here in Meredith Bay weighed ten pounds, while some other big ones have been 25 to 27 inches and in the six pound range. The jigging for lake trout activity hasn’t started yet as the fish haven’t moved onto that kind of structure yet in any numbers.”
“Our white perch pattern fly has been hot as has been the NH Guide pattern Smelt Gun lure. The white perch color BB, Smelt and 61 Gun lures also have been producing well with the larger fish being taken on the 61 size. The white perch lure pattern is olive and silver with black dots and a copper backside.”
“Smallmouths in both the big lake and many of the smaller lakes are at the drop-offs around the rock piles so we tell people to fish the marker buoys that mark these places. Artificial worms and other rubber baits are working on these fish. A lot of the hits come on the drop,” Alan noted.
MASSACHUSETTS: We were unable to reach Pete Santini as he was out fishing for bluefin tuna but John at his shop in Everett, Fishing FINatics, reports that both small and big bluefins out around Stellwagon Banks have been hitting trolled rigs like crazy. “Floating spreader squid bars have been hot and some fish are being caught on trolled Sluggos and live pogies, if you can get them.”
Kay Moulton at Surfland on Plum Island is an iconic figure in the saltwater scene in New England. She’s seen a lot in her many decades there. Right now she’s happy about all the good striper news but says that bluefish are “here and gone.”
“Nothing has been steady except the stripers. Flounder reports have slowed. We’d been hearing rumors about fluke but when we checked it out they were sand dabs and not fluke.”