May 21, 2013Lots of activity last week in both fresh and salt water and (with some exceptions) great fishing. The lack of rain and very slow and low levels in some of the big mid-state Maine waters was causing some very tough conditions, especially in the Moosehead Lake Region where water flows at the outlets were extremely light. Saltwater fishing has really picked up with flounder, mackerel, stripers and good groundfishing pretty much the rule.
“It’s a good time of the year to get ready for some serious flounder fishing,” noted Seth Legere at Kittery Trading Post’s fishing department.
“Recently we’ve seen a bit of a resurgence in the numbers of flounder being caught in our local waters and we’re hoping that this is a trend that will continue. For some reason, nearby coastal Maine’s flounder fishery has not responded to the management plan that includes seasons and relatively small bag limits and size limits designed to help these fish repopulate the old favorite place. Both in New Hampshire and definitely in Massachusetts waters, flounder are making a comeback to the point where the last few years some of the half-day charter and party boats have been able to target them.”
“This is not a given that this trend is going to continue and expand, but there are certain spots where catching a few fish can almost be counted on. One of these places that never was a traditional flounder hotspot but for some reason has transitioned into one is at Rye, New Hampshire’s Rye Harbor. For the last few years flounder catches, both off the rocks and jetties and even inside the harbor, are becoming more and more achievable. Also the waters between Hampton, New Hampshire and the Merrimack River at Salisbury, Massachusetts have had some spotty but occasional great fishing. It can’t be counted on but it’s sure worth the effort as some days limits of flounder are very common.”
“The days of trying to catch flounder on rough and simple fishing gear such as hand lines are over. Back when the bottom of the flounder grounds was just crawling with them, that gear was all you needed. Now with the scarcity of fish, going with light and very sensitive gear will provide you with some fish, whereby the old stuff just won’t put “meat-on-the-table”.
“Both spinning gear and conventional revolving reels will work–more and more anglers are using the conventional gear. Along with those that choose to go light and sensitive, the super braid lines are way ahead of any other lines in telegraphing the very subtle take of a flounder. And they are so much smaller in diameter that in strong currents you can use a lot less weight and therefore have much more sensitivity in feeling that bite.”
“One thing that hasn’t changed is the use of the very long shanked snelled flounder hooks with the small gap. The long shanked hooks help avoid having the flounder swallow the whole hook, making hook removal a lot easier. The old-timers knew this and developed that design that still rules. The small gap works well because our winter flounder (also called black backs) have very small mouths and a big-gapped hook would be rejected. Summer flounder, most often called fluke, are just the opposite with a very large and toothy mouth and special very large gapped hooks have evolved for that fishery. This should not affect our local fishing here as only seldom do we see any amount of fluke in our local waters.”
“Founder bait is usually either clam bits or sea worms and you just can’t tell which one is going to be their choice on any given day. With the scarcity of flounder in our areas, it’s a good idea to have both kinds of bait available and when some kind of a pattern develops then go with the flow and switch to the winner.”
“Anchoring and working a chum bag in places that have enough current to draw flounder into your fishing area is one trick that can work very well. Flounder chum is usually a mix of ground up clam or mussel shells along with any ground fish waste–and many add cooked corn kernels to the mix. Use a mesh bag with large enough mesh to allow a good flow of chum. By using blocks of frozen chum instead of fresh, you can regulate the flow of chum and just send out enough of a chum line to draw fish over a longer period of time.”
“One trick that works well is to attach your chum bag to your anchor line, making sure that it’s weighted enough to stay on or near bottom, as flounders are definitely bottom dwellers. Others use enough weight to sink their chum bags right under their boats which enables them to bounce the weighted chum bag off bottom and stir up some interest in the fish.”
“Don’t despair if you don’t catch fish each time out, but the time to worry and evaluate your methods is when everyone else is catching fish and you are not. Observe, ask questions and don’t be afraid to disregard old and sometimes questionable technique,” Seth suggests.
MAINE: Master Maine Guide Stu Bristol of Lyman filed this report: “Getting some great fishing reports either from some of the best anglers in southern Maine or some of the biggest liars! Just about everyone I spoke with reported big lake trout or salmon or double-digit numbers of bass and crappie. I believe the bass anglers since the fish have been spawning since the middle of last week. Quite a few anglers are lifting fish off redds using a small crawfish imitation and barbless hooks. Great photo ops but too much action will disturb these sensitive fish. During the bass spawn it is not legal to kill or possess them.”
“Water temperatures on the smaller lakes are reaching the 60 degree mark and the larger lakes are still in the high 40’s and mid 50’s. One surprise is the outstanding trout angling guys have been experiencing on Rock Haven pond in Newfield. Plenty of bass but anglers are taking trout on Senko worms and bass plugs. Crappie anglers are few and far between but the most notable are the guys and gals who make the trip to Green and Sabattus Pond. Crappie in the 2-pound range are eager to greet you but you’ll have to find them. Once found, stick with the school and have a ball. The same is true with the white perch. Still, you’ll have to contend with multiple bite-offs by pike in the 18–30-inch range. Haven’t heard if Arrowhead Dam is fixed and the water level is rising but I should find out by the next report. It’s been down so long the fish will need a week to relocate,” Stu ends.
Peter Mourmouras at Saco Bay Bait and Tackle sends this report: “If you have not already heard...the STRIPERS are here!!!! Bait is in the river and we also had a great weekend last weekend catching shad in the Saco River using 1/8, 1/4 oz. shad darts bouncing off the bottom of the river just outside the ripping current. Marco Lamothe also had some info to share”: “Herring have moved into Maine coastal rivers and fishermen have followed. Sporadic action being reported below the Cataract Falls Dam on the east channel of the Saco River just below the Main St. bridge. Shad are also in the mix for this unique "niche" fishery”.
“Best tactics include a Sabiki style rig with small hooks such as the Sabiki Piscator with size 8 hooks or smaller. From a boat it is best to make a moderate length cast with a 2 oz. or 3oz. bell weight at the bottom. Just as the rig is touching bottom begin slowly bouncing it back to the boat. Both shad and herring will strike the rig. The limits on herring are 25 and for shad too.
“Most people use these silvery fish for bait, quickly placing the live herring onto a larger circle hook and pitching it into the current. Striped bass love both the alewife and blueback herring varieties (the two species which frequent Maine rivers in spring). From shore, fish a similar rig with a swimming plug trailer such as a swimming Yo-Zuri or a one oz. Crippled Herring will help lengthen your casts. The bell weights tend to hang up on bottom when fished from shore. Fishermen who find these long rigs too cumbersome to manage are encouraged to cut the four or six hook rigs in half or even into thirds.”
“I personally harvest these alewives and blueback herring for use later in the season. They make good bait for my lobster traps that my clients love to watch being pulled, and I also use the herring chunks for fishing stripers and bluefish later in the summer when mackerel can be scarce.”
“Offshore action is really off to a fast start this spring. Gulf of Maine humps such as Jeffreys Ledge and Tantas Ledge are already producing with some of the best early season reports we have heard in quite a few seasons. A friend of mine has fished Jeffreys twice in the last two weeks with limits of cod being caught in 90 minutes or less both trips. He also reported incredible numbers of "slammer" pollock on both trips. A few legal haddock were caught as well. All the harvested fish were stuffed with 6-8" herring.”
“Regulations for cod this year remain the same. Length is 19" with a limit of nine fish. Haddock have no bag limit with a length limit of 21"; two inches longer than last year.”
“Weather conditions have been pretty sweet as of late, so we strongly recommend scheduling an early season adventure out to one of the local ledges. Tantas has traditionally been its best in late May and June, so don't overlook this hump. For boats coming out of Portland, Scarborough, or Saco, ground fishermen can save a 14-mile trip (one way) by giving Tantas a look on the way down to Jeffreys. You might be surprised by the numbers and quality of fish.....especially fat cod and slammer pollock. Need some GPS numbers or some ideas on gear needed? Stop in the shop and we'll point you in the right direction.”– Captain Marco Lamothe 207-286-5565.
Greg Cutting at Jordan’s Store in East Sebago had finally been able to get out on the water and actually caught a salmon. “To change my luck it took an old Flash King lure with white and blue colors that were pretty faded and also with rusty hooks. And before that fish was hooked we had several nice hits and didn’t realize that the rusty hooks needed to be changed. That same lure caught several fish the next day.”
“Our very skilled local fisherman, Roger Bacon, who always shows up with some quality salmon and togue, had a very slow period but finally redeemed himself by catching four very nice salmon one morning last week. Roger also gets an occasional lake trout while salmon fishing but right now, even though some real quality lakers are being caught, they don’t seem to be in their regular grounds, especially right off the store here on what we call “the shoals.”
“It’s our guess that where you find the huge schools of alewives that they love to feed on, that’s where all those lake trout will be found.
At River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc in the Rangeley Lakes Region, Jerry reports that there has been some excellent fishing, both on Rangeley Lake and also on Mooselookmeguntic Lake. “Lots of real quality brook trout to four pounds at Mooselook being taken with the DB Smelt being one of the best choices. Also, here on Rangeley it’s been mostly quality brookies ranging from 10 to 19 inches. Also great brook trout fishing at Rapid River and the Lower Magalloway River.”
At Greenville Maine, Penny Legere at the Maine Guide Fly Shop on Moosehead Lake told us that the skimpy flows of 500 cubic feet of water at the East and West Outlets of the Kennebec River has caused very tough fishing conditions and slow fishing. This writer and several others also found the fishing on the Moose River and out on Moosehead Lake extremely slow last weekend.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: At Suds-n-Soda Sports in Greenland, Master Guide Tim Moore was pretty happy about the flounder fishing that has finally showed up at and around the Rye Harbor and Hampton Harbor areas. “Hampton and Seabrook Harbors have been especially active for flounders. Also we’ve got schools of mackerel out off the mouth of the Piscataqua River at the #2KR Buoy and stripers from the head of dams of all the tidal rivers all the way down into the Piscataqua and out to sea.”
Stripers were the news at Dover Marine Sports: “They’re in all the rivers and down along the shoreline, feeding on both herring and mackerel. We’re seeing fish from the mid- twenty inches all the way to the mid-thirty inches. One hot spot has been below the dam in Dover off Henry Law Park, and also there’s been a lot of action right in Newmarket below the Lamprey River Dam.”
“Also the groundfishing seems to have picked up a bit with a lot of halibut catches in the news. We’re only hoping that many of these fish will be released as it’s taken a long time for the slow rebuilding of this once great resource. We’re also hearing of some really great fishing for big pollock, which is quite unusual for this time of year and lots of small, undersized haddock that also should be handled and released with care.”
Alan Nute at AJ’s Bait and Tackle says that the tourney just held last weekend was a disappointment in the size of salmon taken, with a fish of well under four pounds taking the prize for largest in that category. “The good news was that there were about the same amount of anglers registered, somewhere a bit south of 4,000 and also some quality lake trout, three of seven pounds, took the prize for biggest fish in that category.”
“Live shiners and in some instances, live smelt that some had kept alive for over two weeks seemed to produce the most action with lures such as the Gun series, Top Gun, Mini Gun and BB Gun holding their own. Those that were trolling streamer flies also had some good action on the salmon.”
Andy Schafermeyer, New Hampshire Regional Fisheries Biologist filed this report: “The recent rain had an interesting effect on North Country fisheries last week. Water temperatures dropped over ten degrees in some locations and water levels rose quickly. It is almost as if a typical spring took a two week break and finally arrived. The result has been a boost to healthy trout and those who pursue them. Some of the softer, gravel roads have also firmed up, and fishermen have been able to get into some remote ponds. These ponds are at their prime, and spring trout fishing should be fantastic.”
“May 15 marks the beginning of the catch-and-release period for bass; this regulation, along with no live bait, is in place to protect spawning fish. At last week’s high school bass tournament on Winnipesaukee, anglers observed fish staging and some guarding nests. In Northern New Hampshire, the bass will start to spawn within a week, and anglers should be prepared. Catch rates can really pick up, but catch-and-release methods become important to protect the overall population. Land fish quickly and keep them out of the water for the shortest time possible.”
“I have gotten some fantastic reports from pike fishermen on the Connecticut River. These beasts have finished spawning and are feeding heavily. Already a voracious predator, warming water has kick-started their metabolism, and they will strike at any food source available. Setbacks in the river are the warmest, and pike should be cruising through them. Pike and walleye habitat can sometimes overlap in the river, and both species can be targeted in the same outing.”
Don Miller, Regional Fisheries Biologist in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region reports that northwest winds at 20 mph-plus, the last few days have not been conducive to big lake trolling. Prior to the winds, my fellow Fish and Game pal Kyle and his girlfriend Heather had a good day on Winnisquam, with a couple of nice salmon to show for it.”
“Lake temps are excellent right now, as the last few nights have slowed down the warm-up. We’ve been stocking landlocked salmon yearlings the past three days, so keep an eye out for the young ones. Newfound Lake at 55 degrees is the coldest, followed by Sunapee (57°), Pleasant (58°), Big Squam (60°), and Winnisquam at 62 degrees. These are great temps for salmon, and early morning will find them still near the surface.”
“While stocking Pleasant Lake today, we witnessed some cannibalistic action as a very large salmon cut into the freshly released yearlings! It reminded me of a bluefish blitz, as the fish relentlessly chased the young salmon around! This is just a reminder that an age class of salmon faces many obstacles in their time spent in the lake. Loons, cormorants, mergansers, otters, predatory fish and, yes, man himself, all make a dent in their numbers.”
“I recently was part of the Fish and Game contingent that assisted tournament organizers at the first NHIAA-sanctioned bass fishing event held at Lee’s Mills on Lake Winnipesaukee on May 9. What a fantastic day for students and parents! There were a substantial number of teams entered in the competition, and the bass definitely cooperated! The team from Exeter won overall first place, but every one of those teens were winners on that day. A big thank you to all those boat captains who donated use of boats and equipment and time to make this a very special event. I can’t wait until next year, when the new format will be in place and more students participate!
River conditions right through the mountains and central New Hampshire are prime now. The catch and release area south of Eastman Falls on the Pemigewasset River looked great today, with only ONE angler noted! Trout pond fishing is holding up well, with some great insect hatches occurring in the late afternoon hours.”
MASSACHUSETTS: Pete Santini at Fishing FINatics in Everett reported that last week’s Zobo Flounder Tourney that he sponsors had 65 happy participants and that a lot of great flounder were caught. “The wining fish was just 2.6 pounds but there were a lot of them within an ounce or two of that fish. We were able to raise a thousand dollars that went to the One Boston Fund as well as giving out seven hundred and twenty five dollars in prize money!”
“The majority of the fish were caught at Deer Island Flats so now people are apt to be calling that region Zobo Flats!”
“After the tourney was over we had a wonderful flounder fish fry at JJ Grimskey’s restaurant where the fish we caught were the centerpiece of the meal. This was all included in the entry fee. Pete added that the annual Striper Shootout will be held on June 14 and 15 with lots of great prizes and plenty of excitement.”
“Other good news—lots of mackerel at Grave’s Light. Lots of stripers at NE Bridge, Sturtevant Island and Revere Beach. They’re taking clams, worms, chunk bait and by trolling the Santini Tube-and-Worm Rig. Remember, fish it slow and low! Also plenty of cod, haddock, redfish, pollock and even more halibut than usual out on Stellwagen Bank.”
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. (Thank you, Dick Pinney Kittery Trading Post Fishing Report Editor.)