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July 29, 2014

    The typical late July weather has had a big impact on both the saltwater and freshwater fishing. Severe thunderstorms have harassed a lot of anglers, as have periods of sweltering hot weather followed by both fog and windy periods. But plenty of people have withstood what Mother Nature has thrown at them, having some great days and some very slow ones. It’s like a crapshoot, especially in the saltwater, where stripers are either trying to eat the bottom off your boat or absolutely off their feeding.

    “Striped bass are probably northern New England’s most sought after saltwater favorite game fish, but as the season matures and the spring striper blitzes become just a memory, where and when do you find enough stripers to make a good day of fishing?” Seth Legere at Kittery Trading Post’s fishing department asks.

    “It’s not so easy as saying the answer is blowing in the wind, but it’s pretty close. The answer is that, chances are these fish are to be found in the mid-range depths of the open ocean, probably feeding on the schools of mackerel that find these areas good feeding and refuge places.”

    “And mackerel seem to be key to having a good day’s fishing as they need to be caught and turned into ground chum in significant numbers to provide an opportunity to have an unforgettable day out to sea.”

    “A good idea is to plan on a productive out-to-sea striper trip by finding and catching a mess of mackerel to be used as both chum and also your starting-off-bait for striper fishing. And that can be a considerable challenge if the schools of macs are being pushed around by marauding schools of bluefish. The macs will go off the feed but can be caught by snagging, at least in enough numbers to put together ten or more pounds of ground chum. The more chum you can put up and freeze, the better your chances at having a kick-butt striper day.”

    “With frozen ground mackerel chum in hand, pick a day when the forecast is for light winds, and if you’re lucky, a day with some scattered clouds. Don’t pick a day when there’s a cold front moving in as those days are disastrous for good striper action!”

    “Key is to anchor up on some ocean bottom structure in the 80 to 150 foot depth range. Have your bait tank or floating bait cage ready to go and with a bag of frozen chum overboard, get out your mackerel gear in an attempt to round up some live mackerel for bait. As soon as you hook your first mackerel, hook it on to your chosen striper rig with enough weight to drop it down in the twenty-foot range, and now you’re fishing for stripers. As you continue to catch live mackerel, set out some more live macs under balloon bobbers, suspending the bait from ten to twenty feet under the bobbers. But continue to try to fill your bait tank or live cage with mackerel, to provide more chum if necessary or also to use as live bait.”

    “You need to chum hard, as the key to this type of fishing is to attract the big schools of mackerel, and the stripers (and hopefully not bluefish) will come. So it’s not a sit back and wait day. It’s a work hard and chum hard day, but can produce some world class striper action.”

    “Enemy number one are bluefish!  School of blues can rush into your chum line and cut all of your live baits in half, as quickly as you can say that! And stripers will pay no attention to dead half mackerel floating under a balloon!”

    “If you don’t mind switching gears and trying for a few bluefish, hook on some of the bit-up mackerel down in the 40 to 50 foot range and hope for the best. If not, a good thing to do is to stop all chumming and rest the area for a half hour or so. Then start up again.”

    “Enemy number two are dogfish! On a foggy or very cloudy day, beware! Dogfish will show up in your chum and really destroy all of your baits. We haven’t seen this done but we know of some very productive offshore striper anglers that will use polarized sunglasses and put out their live macs close to the shady side of the boat. They will pull them out when the dogfish arrive but keep on chumming until a striper arrives and drop the bait down right in front of them. This procedure is done on a short line without the use of a bobber and takes a lot of concentration—but it works!”

    “So get out your ocean charts and look for likely spots to try this very effective mid-summer striper approach. It works, but with all fishing, it’s not a guaranteed result,” Seth ends.

    MASSACHUSETTS: Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett had a pretty interesting morning. We caught him just as he was landing his boat after a frustrating trip for mackerel and stripers.
 
    “We were coming back in because of the heavy rain and the wind was starting to gust. As we neared shore along the Revere coastline we noticed a bunch of blue lights and sirens were wailing. Getting closer we could see what looked like a bomb had dropped with dozens of trees down, power lines sparking, small fires glowing, a hundred foot section of guardrail torn down and just an incredible tangle of debris. Several of the buildings had been hit hard with entire roofs removed. It had to be a tornado or microburst. And we almost got caught right in it!”
“Our fishing had been slow but never have we been so lucky as to have not been in the eye of that storm!”

    It was hard to get Pete to relay any fishing info but once he settled down a bit he did say that there had been quite a big giant bluefin tuna bite at the Curl on Jeffreys Ledge and that a lot of cod and haddock had been taken in that same area. Also, lots of mackerel had been caught at Martin’s Ledge and around the BG Buoy, and schools of squid were pushing small bait on the surface in the harbor (Boston) around the airport.

    Lots of stripers in the 30–34 inch range around the Amelia Earhart Dam and the Charles River Dam where catches of up to 50 fish a day have been reported by the tube-and-worm trollers.
 
    “We’ve got all kinds of baitfish here in the harbor with big schools of pogies, as well as the mackerel and squid. We’ve even got a few bluefish in the mix, as well as lots of stripers that are on the pogies that are well into the 40-inch plus range.”

    At Surfland on Plum Island, their website has information on how to apply for a permit to run your surf buggy on the beaches of the Federal Wildlife Area, a favorite place for fishing for all sorts of saltwater species from the beach. There are also some great photos of recently caught fish to be viewed.

    NEW HAMPSHIRE: Master NH Guide Tim Moore at Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland reported that there’s been a lot of complaining lately about the here-one-day and gone-the next stripers in the Piscataqua River and Great Bay.
 
    “It’s sure hard to explain! One boat landed close to 50 stripers of mixed sizes one day and the next day hardly had a nudge, fishing the same baits and lures in the same areas! Even those fishing out in the ocean for stripers are finding the same thing.”

    “Some of the more successful striper anglers have switched over to night fishing and live eels both drifted and trolled are accounting for some quality fish, but not lots of them.”

    “We seem to have a lot of small baitfish, but the mackerel are spotty at times and the flounder fishing has been non-existent for a couple of weeks now.”

    “One of the brighter spots is that the groundfishing has been better with more and more keeper-sized cod and haddock, but still lots and lots of undersized haddock. Some large pollock and decent sized cusk are in the mix.”

    George Taylor at Taylor’s Bait and Tackle in Madbury reports that the fishing at the nearby Bellamy Reservoir had been steady, with mixed bags of crappie, yellow perch, sunfish and bass and pickerel being taken almost every day.

    “The crappies are mostly average sized with an occasional whopper being caught. The yellow perch trend is small but there’s some good-sized pickerel in the mix, and occasionally a huge largemouth bass is taken.”

    “Right close to us, Barbados Pond produced another eight-pound rainbow trout, as well as two in the five-pound range and one that weighed three pounds. That is so remarkable because this is a small and quite heavily fished pond. But it is chock full of crayfish and those trout grow huge when they just gorge on that crayfish population.”

    “Another local small pond, Willand in Somersworth, continues to amaze people. Because it’s a spring fed pond with no inlets, there are big trout and bass that will holdover and it seems that every year some really big ones get caught. Also, there’s a decent crappie population that also seems to hold its own, even with the heavy fishing pressure.”

    The crew at Dover Marine Sports reports that they’ve had plenty of reports of how the striper fishing has been so on and off. But they’re also getting excited about the fact that a few more bluefin tuna are showing up and getting caught, as well as the fairly decent groundfishing out on Jeffreys Ledge. They also tout the Willand Pond fishing, as it’s in sight of their store!

    Last weekend’s report from Captain Rocky Gauron at Gauron’s Fishing Boats at Hampton Harbor: “Of course, today is Saturday. But all trips had good fishing yesterday. Let's start with the half-day cod and haddock trip. There were a hundred haddock caught on the morning groundfishing trip. That's super, right? Ninety-four of the haddock were too small and had to go back over the side. They also had some cod—a 12-pound cod won the pool. Plenty of redfish. Plenty of action.

    The all-day trip had a good day too. A good number of pollock, and some nice cod and haddock were brought in around the boat. My grandson, Jackson, had six nice keepers. He had 25 pounds of fillets last night, his best day since early April. My other grandson, C J, caught three. He was on his first all-day trip. The half-day mackerel fishing has been real good this past week, just a few slow trips. Again, my grandson Jackson went out twice on the half-day. One trip he caught 33 mackerel, and the next one he caught 66!”

    Matt Carpenter, Regional Fisheries Biologist in Southeast New Hampshire reports: “Fishing can be a little slow in southeastern New Hampshire during the peak of summer. You can still cast for bass, pickerel and sunfish along the shoreline of lakes and ponds, including the Bellamy Reservoir (Madbury), Swains Lake (Barrington), and Freese's Pond (Deerfield), but most of the rivers and streams become too warm for trout fishing. Trout stocking is done for the season in southern New Hampshire. The last fish to be stocked are the surplus trout. Each hatchery raises more fish than required as insurance against die-offs from disease or other issues that may occur in the process of raising fish. At the end of the season, these fish must be stocked to clear room for the following year's production.”

    “This summer there were 3,000 surplus rainbow and brown trout available for stocking in southeastern New Hampshire. These fish, stocked on July 10, were split evenly between Pleasant Lake (Deerfield) and Lake Massabesic (Manchester).”
 
     “The two lakes were chosen because they contain deep water that will remain cold enough to support trout over the summer. The trick to stocking these fish is to boat them out into the center of the lake so that they can quickly swim down to deeper water. Fishing for these surplus trout will be a matter of accessing deep water. A boat will be necessary, but any boat will do: canoe, kayak, sailboat, or motorboat.”

    “The thermocline, or the depth at which the warm surface water transitions to colder water, usually occurs around 30 or 40 feet below the surface. Jigging is the simplest method of fishing in deeper water. You could try live bait (worms), small jigs, or spoons (such as a crippled herring or Swedish pimple). If you prefer to be on the move, then you could try trolling with dodgers (also known as flashers) or lead core line to keep your bait or lure below the thermocline.”

    When you catch a trout, it will be more stressed than usual due to the warm temperature at the surface. Try to keep handling time to a minimum so that the fish can return to deeper water as quickly as possible, if you decide not to take it home for a meal,” Matt suggests.

    Gabe Gries, Regional Fisheries Biologist in the Manadnock, Upper Valley Region reports: “One of my favorite July activities is fishing in emergent aquatic vegetation for largemouth bass. Some bass anglers try to do everything they can to avoid fishing in vegetation because of the frequent snags that ensue. However, by using the right lures you can avoid this frustration and hook onto some really nice fish.”

    “First of all, it is important to realize why the bass utilize aquatic vegetation. Vegetation provides a number of functions for predatory fish, including cover, ambush locations, and food in the form of smaller fish and insects. Aquatic plants also provide oxygen to the water.”

    “There are many lures out there that can be used to easily fish in aquatic vegetation, but I will just touch on a few. First and foremost is the frog. There are many good brands out there, and they are essentially all snag-less. Combine them with a 7-foot medium-heavy rod and a reel outfitted with 20+ pound braided line, and you are ready to go.”

    “Simply cast the frog into emergent vegetation such as lily pads, and slowly twitch the lure back towards you. Strikes can be explosive (that's half the fun!) and care must be taken to give the fish a couple seconds before setting the hook.”

    “Another method is a heavy (1/2-ounce or larger) jig equipped with a plastic trailer such as a crayfish imitation. Simply target pockets in the vegetation, let your jig hit the bottom, and then raise it up and down a couple times. If you don't get a bite, reel up and cast to the next location.”

    “Finally, a 6-inch plastic worm or fluke type bait rigged weightless on an extra wide gap hook is a great bait for this type of fishing. Rig the hook "Texas" style making sure to embed the hook point into the lure so it is not exposed. Simply cast out and retrieve the lure across the top of the water. A great tip is to stop reeling when the lure is over an opening in the vegetation and let it sink so any bass following the bait will think it has an easy meal.”

    “The abundance of applicable lakes and ponds in southwestern N.H. for this type of fishing is mind-boggling. Tops on my list include: Stumpfield Marsh (aka Hopkinton Reservoir), Scotts Pond, Grassy Pond, Warren Lake, Potanipo Lake, Highland Lake, and Crescent Lake.”
“Remember, bright sunny days are best, as these conditions usually send more bass into the vegetation.”
 
    MAINE: There was no new news from both Saco Bay Tackle and Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol, but the Sebago Lake news was very positive.

    “The Sebago Lake landlocked salmon fishing has been unusually good for this time of year, with lots of boats landing up to a dozen or even more salmon in a day’s trip. These are not huge salmon, with about 20 inches being max, but lots and lots of fish from 17 to 19 inches and they are hitting with abandon. What is also unusual is that they are really not that deep for this time of year, anywhere from down 20 feet and a bit deeper. They’re hitting mostly sewed-on bait or lures, with an occasional fish taking a streamer fly.”

    “Although there’s a few togue (lake trout) being caught, not that many people are targeting them as the salmon fishing is so good and the few togue that are being caught are being caught by salmon fishermen.”

    “Another local body of water, Parker Pond in Casco is producing some wonderful crappie fishing. Live minnows have been best producers. Also, some nice bass are being taken but they are tight into cover and difficult to pull out when you hook one.”

    Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago also reports that the salmon fishing is probably as good as he’s ever seen it. “We’re not seeing any real whoppers but the lake seems to be just full of those pretty fish in the 17–20 inch range and they are hitting extremely well for this time of year. This weekend, one boat caught 22 salmon in the 16–19 inch range in one great day. Another boat caught six that same day in the same size range, but we think he was fishing for lake trout!”

    In Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region, Ken at River’s Edge Sports reports that Rangeley Lake has been steady, with no really fast days but producing fish for just about all the boat anglers, with an early morning bite being key to most of the action. At Mooselookmeguntic Lake, some incredible wild and native brook trout from three and a half to five pounds have been reported.

    “We don’t know of any other body of water in Maine that has so much easy access to anglers that can produce the amount and size of these highly prized brookies. It just continues to amaze us. People pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to fly into remote ponds and lakes all over this continent to have a crack at wild and native brookies of this size, and here we have a lake that is accessible to all that routinely produces trophy brook trout each year!”

Because of the inherent time restrictions of gathering fresh, up-to-date information, editing and producing this report in a timely manner, occasional errors or marginal information may slip by us. We try our hardest to provide accurate information. We urge readers to use this report as a tool to increase their fishing pleasure and not to rely on as their sole resource. First or second hand information is offered by fishing guides, commercial fishing charters or party boats, bait and tackle dealers, well known successful anglers and state and federal fisheries and natural resource law enforcement officials. We also welcome and use reports forwarded to us by fishermen that use this report.


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