river herring

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. 

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!