September 9, 2014 Though many anglers pack it in once hunting season arrives, there are those who simply can’t resist some of the incredible fishing fall has to offer. Lake trout will stack up over deep water; usually suspended 20–50’ off bottom in water as deep as 160’. Jigging spoons or bucktails are the go-to lure for fall lake trout for many die-hards who simply can’t pass up the chance at a 50-fish day.
Warm water species such as crappie, white perch, and northern pike take their hint from the dwindling amount of daylight and cooler temperatures. Panfish species will school up over deep basins making them easy picking using small jig heads tipped with soft plastic, and the pike will move shallow and will eat just about anything that they can fit into their tooth-filled mouths.
There are those, too, who will take advantage of the fall run of striped bass, if there is a fall run. Bets have been placed as to whether or not the stripers will move inshore during their southerly migration. Only time will tell.
With cod and haddock now closed, some anglers are still out picking away at jumbo redfish and pollock. There were high hopes that the haddock season would be extended, but that didn’t happen. Whatever the case, don’t hang up that rod and reel just yet if you want some great fishing action. The scenery alone this time of year can often make the trip worthwhile.
MAINE: “In the recent past we’ve talked about the use of live eels for fishing for striped bass, so we feel a need to talk about some of the other live baits that are very effective but don’t have the big following that those slimy eels have,” notes Seth Legere at Kittery Trading Post’s Fishing Department.
“Live sea worms, which can be separated into two of the more popular species of sand worms or blood worms, are a well known but little used striper candy! It’s well known that stripers are often bottom feeders and are quite apt to swallow about anything alive that will fit into their gaping mouths. Sea worms easily fit that bill and in some instances are the most deadly striper bait that you could possibly be using.”
“In areas around docks that are supporting the commercial fishing industry, lobster bait and other goodies, even small lobsters, are apt to be just jettisoned off the docks. Places where lobster and commercial fishing boats tie-up for a while and are apt to wash down produce are incredible attractions to baitfish and other small fish to feed on the scraps and they also attract both large and small striped bass and other game fish. These places are a great place to drop a baited double hook rig down to bottom with sea worms on small but sturdy circle hooks–they become a deadly weapon!” (In Maine, make sure you’re using circle hooks with any kind of bait you are using for striped bass, as this is mandated by regulation! And it’s a good idea for lessening the hooking mortality wherever you are fishing.)
“Even though you’re apt to be pestered by small and aggressive fish such as cunners and small bluefish or harbor pollock, those big stripers and also black sea bass and tautog are apt to be attracted quickly to that seaworm bait. (Those alternative species can also provide some good eating and are fun to catch).
“If you have a choice, whether digging your own sea worms or purchasing them, pick out the larger and more livelier ones for stripers. If you can’t do this, when baiting your hook with smaller ones, go with a striper-sized bunch of them, not just one small worm or you’ll just be feeding those pesky alternative species.”
“Unlike when fishing other baits, such as chunk or live baitfish or live eels, you don’t have to let the fish take the bait before setting the hook. When you feel a hit on your live seaworms you should know that the fish has inhaled the bait and set the hook instantly. If fishing with circle hooks, which is mandated by law in many states, you should just lift your rod in a smooth swing and start to reel in line. The circle hook will set itself.”
“Chunks or whole shucked surf clams are the other live bait that will provide some serious striper action when used in the right situation. They will work well in the above situations, but really come into their own when fishing on a surf-pounded beach, where you will be apt to find their empty shells (and if lucky, a few full ones to use for bait). Believe it or not, a big striper will grab a full grown clam, complete with shell and crush that shell with its jaws and also it’s digestive system and then discharge the remains out it’s entrails!”
“We’re not preaching for you to use a full shelled giant surf clam. A good chunk of it, which should include the leather-like rim to provide a good hook-hold, is a good technique. Changing your bait occasionally is a good idea as a fresh clam bait will attract more fish because of the scent stream it gives off.”
“Both seaworms and clam baits are apt to be swallowed deep into a stripers gullet, so the use of circle hooks, even where not mandated, make for a much easier hook removal as they will generally be hooked into the corner of the stripers jaw. Some bait anglers will even pinch down the barbs on circle hooks when fishing is fast, to enable an even quicker and harmless release. This will cause very few, if any, unintentional releases and is a good conservation method as well as making it much easier for you,” Seth suggests.
Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago is happy with the overall salmon and lake trout fishing right now. He encourages anglers to take advantage of less fishing pressure and get after the salmon that aren’t slow to bite. Greg says that lots of salmon, although many shorts, are easily coming aboard. “This is probably the best I have seen the salmon fishing,” Greg says. He also reports that the lake trout fishing has been exceptional as well. Lakers of all sizes have been falling for a flatfish jigged in anywhere from 70–90 feet of water.
Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman reports; “As expected, the fishing pressure has dwindled since schools are now open but the exceptional weather has helped those who hit the water over the weekend. Trout and salmon are slowly coming back to the surface on the big lakes. Little Ossipee anglers are reporting brook trout in the one-pound-plus and a few salmon double that size using downriggers and leadcore just at the top of the thermocline. Sparsely hackled streamer flies such as Queen Bee and Miss Sharon are doing well and a few anglers report success using a Black Ghost maribou.”
“Bass anglers are finding fish early in the day along rocky shorelines and out at the edges of remaining lilies. Some of the southern Maine lakes and ponds now have a full bloom of hydrilla and the cursed milfoil. Vertical jigging into the pockets has been producing some lunkers in the 5-pound and over range.”
“Crappie anglers are having great luck using bright shad darts and small jigs wrapped with chenille. Of course the popular lakes and ponds are the most productive and the most visited this week. Topping the list is Sabattus in Greene where northern pike catches are nearing double digits and pike in the 5–8-pound range are becoming common. White perch in the 2-pound range are being found all around the pond, just under the surface. Afternoon hatches are giving away the school locations.”
“There are still a few brook trout anglers on the water, fishing the larger pools. Water levels are down considerable but the long pools are giving up fish in the 8–14-inch range. Fortunately the biting insect population is dwindling due to cold mornings.”
Aboard the Bunny Clark, reports of a 23.5 pound pollock being caught on their first fall marathon trip of the 2014 fishing season are encouraging to those who wish to continue groundfishing, even though cod and haddock have closed. “This was the last fish to come aboard before we headed back to Perkins Cove to end the trip. He thought he had bottom. This partially because the fish was foul hooked. This is the Bunny Clark's largest pollock of the fishing season so far and the first pollock to break the elusive 20 pound barrier.”
Ken at River’s Edge Sports at Oquossoc in the Rangeley Lakes Region reports; “The fishing has been great lately! Jerry and I went out yesterday and we were finding salmon and brook trout 25–35’ down over 70’ of water. We are still waiting for the brook trout to move into the rivers and streams, but we desperately need some rain to spur the fish on.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Rick at Suds N Soda in Greenland reports, “Things have slowed down in Little Bay. Rain and cold temperatures have driven much of the bait fish out of the Bay and the Piscataqua River and the stripers have gone with them. The good news is that there are some keepers being caught around the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor in the area of Wood Island with some mid-thirty inch fish in the mix. We haven’t had any reports of bluefish in the area, but there is always next year.”
“Flounder are also beginning to bite again in-shore. We encourage anglers to take advantage of the fall bite while the weather is still comfortable. The best reports of the season have consistently been from Hampton/Seabrook Harbor, the Wentworth area of Little Harbor, and Pepperell Cove in Kittery Point. Clams have been working well in Hampton and sea worms are the hot bait everywhere else,” Rick says.
“Manadnock/Upper Valley Regional Fisheries Biologist, Gabe Gries is no stranger to fall fishing. Fresh off a recent brook trout trip he reports; “The recent cool mornings reminded me of a plan I made with a friend earlier this year. We decided, during the summer’s first heat wave, that once things cooled down in September, we would spend a day fishing for wild brook trout. To me, there isn’t a better time of the year to explore the small brooks where these fish live. Comfortable temperatures, few to no biting insects, fall foliage, and maybe even a couple trout for dinner, make for a perfect day.”
“Most anglers who fish for wild brook trout closely guard the locations of their favorite spots, and for good reason. These fish are an incredibly valuable resource and are sensitive to environmental conditions, generally short-lived, and reliant on natural reproduction for their continuation. Wise harvest is always recommended.”
“Finding a wild brook trout brook to fish can be as simple as looking on the Internet or taking a drive. Search for areas that are forested and have reasonable elevation changes, and you should have a good chance at finding wild brook trout, if environmental conditions are conducive (i.e., cold water, adequate habitat, food, etc.).”
“A small spinning rod, light line (4-pound test), a small split-shot, hook and a worm are all that is needed. Small inline spinners can also work well, if you have room to cast and find a large pool. Fly anglers don’t need to be left out on these small brooks, but patience will be required due to difficult casting conditions in most cases; practice that roll cast!”
Captain Rocky Gauron at Gauron’s Fishing Boats in Hampton reports; “Our all-day trips have been loaded with redfish, pollock, cusk, and lots of throwback haddock. Mackerel are back pretty strong. Not up to summer numbers yet, but still great fishing. Some really nice pollock are being caught and the fishing should only get better.” www.algauron.com
Captain Les Eastman reports that they have been getting into some huge pollock. “Our all day trips are seeing 15–28 pollock per person weighing 15–30 pounds each. Our all-day boats are still running seven days per week for the time being. Whiting trips are still good aboard the Annie B. Filleted and iced right away, whiting are delicious. The half-day boats are still doing good for mackerel as well. www.eastmansdocks.com
Master NH Guide Tim Moore of Tim Moore Outdoors reports that the lake trout are schooled up in their usual fashion for this time of year and the crappie and northern pike bite is really picking up. He reports having great luck early this week in deep water spots; “I have been finding fish in my kayak 90’ down over 140’ of water. Daddy Mac ½ ounce Albie jigs in pogy color have been a home run lately if you can believe that. I think after the owners of Daddy Mac Lures see how well these work in fresh water they might want to rename the lure. I swap out the treble hooks for single hooks to reduce hook wounding, but it doesn’t seem to affect my hook-up ratio.”
“Falling water temperatures and shorter days have triggered the crappie to begin schooling up over deep basins. On a recent trip to the southern end of Pawtuckaway Lake, my client and I managed some big slabs using a variety of soft plastics that included live baby shads from Lake Fork Trophy Lures and Daddy Mac Whisperer lures.”
“The northern pike have started to move shallow now too. This is when my signature series Whisperer Lure shines, as pike find it irresistible. Fan casting our way into a shallow flat, we have been seeing fish as long as 3’ and the really big fish won’t be far behind them.
The folks at Dover Marine Sports had one word to describe the local fishing; “Quiet! We have been getting lots of fishermen heading out, but none reporting back. Although many are still trying, most have hung up their rod and reels in exchange for a bow and arrow now that deer season is upon us.”
“The bass guys are still making a go of it though. Willand Pond has been producing some decent fish to live shiners while Swains and the Bellamy Reservoir have been giving up largemouth to frogs and chatter baits.”
George Taylor at Taylor’s Trading Post in Madbury is also seeing a slow-down in fishing activity due to schools being back in session; “The combination of cooler weather and school starting has caused a dramatic slow-down in the fishing activity. I’m sure there are plenty of crappie biting in the Bellamy Reservoir, but if no one is fishing, then no one is catching.” George also reports that many of his fishermen have put on their camouflage clothing in hopes of arrowing a white tail.
MASSACHUSETTS: Kay Moulton at Surfland Bait and Tackle on Plum Island is frustrated with the amount of seaweed that has appeared along the shorelines. “We had some really good fishing and then the beaches became covered with seaweed overnight. Then, just when it seemed like the seaweed was going to clear up, a fresh batch showed up. There is so much seaweed that the fishing has been nearly impossible. The few folks that are able to find a window in the weeds have been catching some really nice stripers.”
“No Blues,” Kay reports. “We have been getting a few reports from the north that they’re around up there, so we hope to see them here real soon. If not, there’s always next year.”
Captain Pete Santini of Fishing Finatics in Everett, MA reports; “There has been a blitz of bass breaking the surface regularly from the five sisters to Nahant Bay. We have been getting lots of bass to 45” on red, black, and orange Santini Tubes in the areas of Georges and Lovell’s islands. The Charles and Mystic Rivers are full of bass too.”
“The flounder are back around the Deer Island Flats. Zobo rigs baited with sand worms are the ticket. Surprisingly the macks are back. It seems like you can catch all you want around the BG buoy, Martin’s Ledge, and in Nahant Bay. There are some big tuna on the southwest corner of Stellwagen Bank right now too! Load up with mackerel on your way out and you never know, you just might get into some big Bluefin.”
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