Early season is finally here! Stripers, alewives, boat rides, oh my!

Good news! After a lot of searching I finally started to connect with a few stripedos by the end of the weekend despite the ocean is still being a chilly 52 degrees. The stripers seem to still be a little south of my usual haunts, but at least we've confirmed that they are coming. Fish were taken both in marshes and on beaches with flies, including my new tie the 2018 Herring Deceiver, white and olive clousers, and crab flies. Little fish are always better than no fish! Tons of young-of-the-year Atlantic herring on on the beaches and river herring are pushing up from the estuaries and into the rivers proper. There's a veritable smorgasbord waiting for these first waves of stripers moving into southern Maine waters.

A lot of hours were spent looking for my first 2018 striper!

A lot of hours were spent looking for my first 2018 striper!

Plenty of fish were to be had this morning by wading fishermen on an undisclosed beach south of Portland.

Plenty of fish were to be had this morning by wading fishermen on an undisclosed beach south of Portland.

Foggy sunrise on the coast of Maine.

Foggy sunrise on the coast of Maine.

As part of my marine biologist duties today, I also went to check out the local alewife run to see if I could sample a few for our annual monitoring of the run... turns out there were a few that were caught in a holding pool in the brook thanks to low water conditions. Hopeflly these guys and gals will get some rain soon.

The main pool was black with fish.

The main pool was black with fish.

The side pool had a few fish too...

The side pool had a few fish too...

Mary calling in the fishes. 

Mary calling in the fishes. 

2018 striper season is right around corner!

It's about to be our favorite time of year! Stripers are right on our door step with some rumors kicking around and definitely fish on the New Hampshire coast. Monday morning was my frist real effort of the year a marsh outflow on the right tide for early season stripers. None to be had unfortunately, but it was great to get used to the weight and power of casting 350 grain shooting head lines on an 9 wt rod while waist deep in the surf. Although we didn't see any sandeels that morning (the typical bait here), our other larger coastal rivers are full of river herring right now. Schools are either getting ready to head upstream to spawn or they are juveniles that come into the estuaries to feed. Alewives, blueback herring, and shad have all arrived on the coast a Maine which means the stripers aren't far behind. I think it will only be a few more days before the first catches of migratory bass in Maine become more than just rumors this season.

Wouldn't you have wanted this for breakfast? If there were any stripers around that morning, I'm sure they would have tried!

Wouldn't you have wanted this for breakfast? If there were any stripers around that morning, I'm sure they would have tried!

The waiting game for stripers is on, so a jigging trip to Tantas in the meantime

As only the 3rd trip of the season, some may think it's a little ambitious to run offshore, but in the immortal words of Captain Ron:

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Today is May 15. One year ago today, I caught my first striper of the 2017 season after hearing scattered reports of a few fish around. This year things seem to be taking their time, despite the alewives running and plenty of other bait around. Every fisherman I know is getting antsy. Sure, the trout fishing has been pretty good, but we've all spent long months tying flies and dreaming about warmer weather and salt air and New England's premier gamefish. Not being able to take it any longer and wanting to stretch out the old legs on the Sarah Jeanne, the nice offshore weather on Mother's Day provided the opportunity to go look for groundfish with my friend Andy.

For anyone judging us for going fishing on Mother's Day: Andy's family lives in New York so he got a pass on other obligations that day. As for me, my mother passed away a few years ago and I spent a lot of day thinking about her. She let me get my first boat at 10 years old, a 7 foot row boat. She taught me how to fish. She taught me how to row. She always encouraged strong independence from a young age, although she was always quick to let my brother and I know when she didn't approve of our adventures or any other life choices!

Headed out the river and into the rising sun.

Headed out the river and into the rising sun.

The great advantage of keeping the boat on a trailer is being able to change up my fishing areas with relative ease. We launched the boat in Saco and headed SE about 12 miles out to Tantas Ledge. Although word on the waterfront is that the haddock fishing has been pretty good on Jefferey's Ledge, Tantas is arguably the closest offshore ground to the Portland area, so it seemed like a good bet for the first offshore trip for the Sarah Jeanne.

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The first time anyone goes offshore in southern Maine they are always surprised that as the land slips away, the mountains creep up and start to look massive. The closest land is barely still visible out here (pretty much just a little bit of Cape Elizabeth), but the view of Mt. Washington is stupendous. I believe that this is due to fact that the trees, hills, etc. that usually surround us and block our view on land are greatly reduced and eventually no longer visible, while the tall White Mountains are as visible as they would be if there were an empty plain (or water) all the way to their base. Unfortunately with just my iPhone I couldn't get a good picture of it, still covered in snow and towering on the horizon. Next time we go outside I'll try to bring the good camera.

The day was gray, with both sea and sky exhibiting a greasy calm in the morning.

The day was gray, with both sea and sky exhibiting a greasy calm in the morning.

No other boats were around, really exaggerating how far out we seemed to be making my 20 foot Aquasport. A few lines of lobster gear were up on top of the bottom and on the edges in 200-260 feet of water. In two weeks, when the bluefin tuna season opens on June 1, I'm sure there will be a veritable floating village out there but today we seemed to have the whole Gulf of Maine to ourselves. The water seemed fairly warm, 51 degrees at the surface. We saw a few schools of fish on the sounder and started to jig. We fished with Norwegian style jigs starting on one side of the ledge and drifting up over the bottom and down to about 280 feet on the other side then repeated. Strong currents around 1 knot made tending bottom difficult with only 16 oz jigs but we made do. A few cod took the jig, but with no recreational retention for the 2018 Gulf of Maine fishery due to low stocks, these guys happily swam back to bottom no worse for wear. As someone who has done Gulf of Maine cod research for years and grew up on the waterfront, I understand the state of the science and the frustration of fishermen with ever greater restrictions and the irony that the first fish of the day we caught was the "mythical" cod. 

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We fished for a few hours, doing our best with our light gear and heavy currents. A few more fish came up with only one keeper haddock before the wind started to come around and pick up, but fun was had and the Sarah Jeanne's first offshore trip was a success. We'll have to try it again!

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Alewives are here and running!

It's that time of year when the anticipation of spring becomes almost unbearable. I've seen them in the talons of ospreys for a week and known that they have been staging in the mouth of some rivers (probably waiting for the water temperature to be right), gotten calls about coves full of fish, but today I finally saw some photographic evidence of the fish starting to run upstream in to fresh water in a Midcoast Maine pond. The stripers will be here any time now!

Dip netting for lobster bait. Gerry Mortin photo from Facebook.

Dip netting for lobster bait. Gerry Mortin photo from Facebook.

Shakedown Cruise 2018

After her long slumber in the driveway and some routine springtime maintenance (light gel coating, some painting, water pump impeller replacement, etc.), last Friday was finally the time to take the F/V Sarah Jeanne out for her shakedown cruise. Launching at the Eastern Prom in Portland just after sunrise, the water was like glass and it finally started to look like summer around here.

Looking east across the smooth waters, only disrupted by three Long-tail ducks that haven't left yet for their nesting grounds in the Canadian tundra. The ducks overwinter in Casco Bay and we ended up seeing hundreds of them on our boat ride.

Looking east across the smooth waters, only disrupted by three Long-tail ducks that haven't left yet for their nesting grounds in the Canadian tundra. The ducks overwinter in Casco Bay and we ended up seeing hundreds of them on our boat ride.

The namesake of the vessel making sure we'd have great picutres to share.

The namesake of the vessel making sure we'd have great picutres to share.

Eye of Sauron peaking over the breakwater but still hiding behind a cloud.

Eye of Sauron peaking over the breakwater but still hiding behind a cloud.

We poked out towards the islands to open up the throttle and clear our any gunk in the carburetors and feel the salt air. It's pretty special to be out on the bay this time of year with no other boats around and no lobster gear/buoys in the water. It truly feels like a different place.

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Ostensibly the point of a shakedown cruise is the make sure all the electrical systems, bilge pumps work, outboard is happy, and so on, but of course there was an ulterior motive... I've been noticing ospreys around for other a week now and seen the cormorants particularly active up the Presumpscot Estuary and figured river herring must be starting to show up. Although still a little early for stripers, I thought it might be fun to break out the fly rods and stretch out the lines a little. As we slowly scooted up the river with the tide, we actually started to mark a few fish here and there on the sounder.  

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The small chevrons probably indicated alewives so we tried with pink Crazy Charlies and limbered up our casting arms. After a few weeks of trout fishing, 9 wt shooting heads take a little effort to get used to again!

Little fella hangin' out with the big boys. Crazy Charlies are both fun to tie and great to fish in Maine for smaller predators like herring, mackerel, and pollock that would never pass up a shrimp or amphipod that happened to swim by.

Little fella hangin' out with the big boys. Crazy Charlies are both fun to tie and great to fish in Maine for smaller predators like herring, mackerel, and pollock that would never pass up a shrimp or amphipod that happened to swim by.

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Although one of the ospreys we watched had a fish (sorry, a bit tough to capture that with a phone camera!), we ourselves didn't catch any. Nonetheless, it was a fun morning and great start to the 2018 season. With water temperatures between 46 and 49 and herring in the river, the stripers will be here in no time and we'll be here waiting for them!

Opening Day 2018

April 1 is the traditional opening day for trout fishing in Maine. It's no coincidence that it's also April Fools Day--no many non-fishermen understand why you'd go stand in a half-frozen body of water searching for fish that often seem like they are hibernating. With ice and snow, not to mention near freezing water temps, the excitement of opening day is enough. Opening day is about getting outside, remembering how to cast a fly rod, and basking the gloriousness of fishing season finally arriving. Much how I approach all of my fishing, catching fish is secondary.

With the late winter weather we've been having (it's snowing while I'm typing this!) we headed to a small pond that we know holds wild fish and hoped that the ice was out. As luck would have it, this pond happened to be the first one I've seen ice free in 2018.

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Spotting the pond through the tangle of alders led us to the next surprise of the day. Evidently, a beaver had moved in since the last time any of us had been there and raised the pond about 2 feet and doubled the size of the pond. Next time we come, we'll definitely be bringing the float tubes.

A few midges skirted across the cold, dark, tannic water but wet flies and tiny streamers were the place to start. After a few casts with a royal coachman I had the first hit of the year--I promptly strip set (too used to striper fishing!) and yanked the fly right out from the little guy's mouth. Nonetheless, over the next hour or so all three of us landed a dozen or so healthy brookies (and didn't lose too many flies to the flooded alders). A morning with good friends, eager (but still not foolish) wild brook trout, a "new" old pond to explore, it was the perfect Opening Day. Let's hope it bodes well for the rest of the season!

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Two April Fools on a blustery, but fishy, day.

Two April Fools on a blustery, but fishy, day.

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Welcome to the new Anadromous Adventures Blog!

Thank you for checking out our new blog and please check back here often for new posts!

This blog will serve many purposes, including keeping you up to date on our various adventures and activities throughout the year. I'll post fishing reports, adventures both on and off the water, updates fro the fly factory and favorite fly patterns, fly tying tutorials, wild fish and game recipes, and whatever else I think might pique your interest. 

We're finally starting to get some spring-like weather here in southern Maine and not a moment too soon! After what I termed a bimodal winter (winter-like December/January followed by a spring-like February followed by a very winter-like March), I think are finally start to be actually past the second peak. This Sunday, April 1st is the traditional opening day for freshwater fishing in Maine and I can't wait for this weekend! Hopefully the warm weather and little bit of rain will get rid of some of the snow in the woods.

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This week I'll get the tarp off the Sarah Jeanne, charge the battery, and tackle any spring maintenance with the hope of putting her in "The Big Lake" (Sebago) sometime in mid-April for a shakedown cruise and hopefully find a salmon or two. In addition to striper flies, a few smelt imitating flies have been coming off the bench recently for springtime.

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In the meantime before getting the boat out, the maple syrup season is in full swing and sugaring has been my primary hobby in March. It's my first year and has been a fun activity after the ice has been too poor for fishing.

Boiling down sap.

Boiling down sap.

First batch!

First batch!

Well that's all for now, please check back soon!