|RETURN of the|
14, 1998 Maine Sunday Telegram
An estimated 325,000 saltwater anglers, including 196,000 residents, fished Maine's coastal waters last year and the vast majority of them were after the hottest fish on the eastern seaboard -Striped Bass
The recovery of the striped bass from near extinction remains the biggest success story in the Northeast fishery. No commercial fishing for stripers has been allows in Maine since the 1960s, but overfishing by commercial fishermen in other states nearly destroyed the fishery in the 1970s. Hardest hit was the most important area - the Chesapeake Bay region, where about three quarters of the total population spawns. Other major spawning areas are the Hudson River and the Roanoke River in North Carolina.
The commercial striped bass harvest peaked at almost 15 million pounds in 1973. A decade later it had plummeted to 1.7 million pounds.
So congress empowered the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to impose a federal fishing moratorium if states didn't act to protect their striped bass. Most stated, including Maine, imposed strict regulations in the 1980s that helped the striped bass population begin t rebound.
A big spawning year in 1982 was the key to the striped bass recovery, says Pat Keliher, executive director of the Coastal Conservation Association. The striper class of 1982 grew up to be the "big ones" that thrilled anglers when the sport began to skyrocket in popularity in the early 1990s.
Fishing pressure, though, has now removed many of the big stripers (keepers now must be 40 inches or longer) from the population. "Now a 40-inch fish is hard to find. There's not a lot of them around - not a lot at all," Keliher says.
Still, the smaller "keepers" - stripers 20 - 26 inches - are extremely abundant this year, thanks to a big spawning year in 1993. Waiting in the wings is the class of '96, which is estimated to be the biggest on record. By 2004, the big ones should be back in force.
"Be happy with the small ones and look to the future for the bigger fish to be coming along," Keliher advises.
Maine's prime striper season is June and July, but fishing remains good into September. Many coastal towns have enjoyed an economic boom thanks to striper fishermen. A 1997 survey estimated that saltwater anglers spend $25 million annually in Maine - just in daily out-of-pocket expenses, not counting equipment, marina fees or boat payments.
Striped Bass Records
Maine: 67 pounds, Sheepscot River by Douglas Dodge, of Walpole Maine: Sept. 29 1978
World: all-tackle record is 78 pounds, 8 ounces; at Atlantic City N.J., Sept. 21 1982 by Albert R. Reynolds
(Source: International Game Fish Association)
Catch and Release Tips
Where to catch them
Smaller stripers begin to appear in the southern Maine river systems in late April. As they move northward, they congregate at the mouths of rivers and feed on small forage fish. Currently, stripers are being reported a far north as the St. George River at Thomaston and the big ones are beginning to show up in the Saco River now. They eventually move all the way to Canada - depending on the water temperature in a given year. Anglers are just beginning to discover them in Maine's Down East rivers. The water is just beginning to warm up enough so stripers AR moving out of the rivers and along southern Maine beaches. As the water warms, they'll move out toward the islands. The next two weeks should be prime time to fish for the big stripers, which often lurk around beaches, rock piles or islands.
.Fact: Coastal striped bass are anadromous, meaning that in early spring they enter the estuary or river where they were born to spawn, then return to ocean waters to live, migrating along the coastline. Juveniles spend two to three years in the estuary or river before migrating to the ocean. They don't die after spawning (like some species of salmon) but may live up to 30 years and grow to more than 50 pounds.
Tips on Tackle and Technique
Whether an angler prefers live bait, flies or lures, the best way to attract a striped bass is with something that looks like a bait fish darting along. Ask at a local tackle shop to find out what the stripers prefer in a particular area. On the Kennebec, for example the stripers feed on mackerel, herring, alewives and even crabs or immature lobster.
This time of year, when the small stripes- called "schoolies" - predominate, smaller baits, lures and flies are better. No until the big ones arrive should an angler switch to the larger artificial lures or the bigger live bair, such as mackerel or live eels, or larger artificials.
Fly fishermen should choose an 8 to 10-weight rod. Those with spinning rods should opt for a 12-pound setup for schoolies and a 20 to 30-pound rig if the big stripers are the target.
The outgoing tide usually provides the most action. Look for structure, such as rocks, or pockets where the bait fish might funnel.
Important: Once you get a strike set the hook with force. An average tug won't even move it in a stripers mouth.
An angler may fish all year for striped bass, but may only keep striped bass from June 10 though Oct. 15. Because of special spawning regulations, all striped bass must be released alive until July 1 in the Kennebec and Sheepscot watersheds. For information about saltwater regulations, the Department of Marine Resources, 207 633-9500, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information also can be found at Bruce's Saltwater Angling site.
Size and Catch Limits June 10-Oct. 15
Portland Press Herald - Maine Sunday Telegram
last update: 6/21/99