Feeling Crabby

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Crabs were there, stripers weren’t.   I saw so many crabs and so few stripers, that it put me in a slightly crabby fishing mood.  I know that I shouldn’t complain about a vacation.  It’s a blessing to be away and enjoy the salt.  Still, when you know how glorious a fishery is and appreciate its’ capacity for stellar angling, then it’s tough to experience lousy fishing.  Southern Maine striper and bluefish have been kind to me over the past 15 or so years.  I’ve enjoyed prolonged surface blitzes, birds everywhere, superb surf fishing, solid rock/combat fishing, excellent blind casting and repeated sight fishing shots at 30″ to 40″ stripers.  Hours and hours on the water have given me a baseline of angling options for Maine.  This year, sight fishing was poor to nonexistent.  Despite the crabs and abundance of sand eels, larger fish weren’t present.  Or, the very few that I witnessed, weren’t in a playing/feeding mood.  Simply put, these stripers weren’t happy.  Their swimming body language clearly indicated they were moving, not casually prowling around for food (crabs).  They weren’t spooked, they just weren’t happy, hungry fish.  Perhaps it was the warmer water temps, the bright sun, changes in wind direction, but they weren’t happy.  The 3-4 large fish that I did see, never slowed down to play with those yummy crab patterns or chase down my attractive sand eel flies.

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I spent over two weeks at the beach and it was my slowest fishing ever in Maine.  Several outings, I never touched/saw a fish.  It was the first time I never witnessed terns, nor gulls diving on hapless spearing, sand eels, or herring.  Last year, there was a daily morning and afternoon surface frenzy.  This year, even the ever random bluefish, never made an appearance.  Also confusing, there were still plenty of mackerel around in late August.  Most years, the mackerel move off the beach, or away from shallow water areas around late July.  Mackerel were easy to catch around high tide, but I wasn’t targeting them.

IMG_0201Still, I managed to catch enough stripers and the odd mackerel to keep my angling spirits up.  One particular morning, a friend and I landed nearly two dozen schoolies.  We timed the slack tide just right and located a pod of fish waiting to move onto the flat with the flood tiede.  The action was fast and furious, as we enjoyed several double hook ups.  But of all those fish hooked, nothing was over 20″.  Some years, it’s tough to hook a striped bass under 20″ on that same beach.  Days earlier, my older nephew landed several schoolies on his own, trolling with a diving pug.  Another nephew enjoyed bringing in fly rod hooked mackerel.  These guys were purely thrilled to be seeing/touching fish.  Perhaps I’m spoiled by this fishery, but a 3 to 4 lb schoolie striper doesn’t raise my eyebrow!

IMG_0202Fish were caught, sunrises were enjoyed and the salty breeze was fresh.  Nonetheless, multiple forays to the rock jetties, various sandy flats, drop offs and the crashing rock/surf were slow.  Some mornings, there were half a dozen fly fisherman plying a particular flat.  Between the group, very few fish (schoolies) were caught.  Talking with fellow anglers, the action in June was incredible and July was decent.  My vacation time (August) was slow.  Oddly, several of the tackle and fly shops continued to promote the “stellar conditions”.  Most fisherman agreed, conditions were not so stellar.  I even gave up questioning bait chunkers each high tide.  Despite offering clam strips, sand worms or chunks of mackerel, their fishing was slow too.  You just have to chalk it up to a slow month.  The slowest I’ve ever experienced in Maine.

IMG_1679Days later, I’m able to savor the experience of being the first one on the water and watching a sunny orb rise over the Atlantic.  I’ve got the memory of sharing this coastal fishery with a good friend, of helping my nephews catch fish, of watching seals nearby and of wading in surprisingly warm water for Maine.  I know it’s a win-win just being on vacation and fishing there.  All my crab patterns will have to wait until next season.  Before next year, I’ll replenish my array of thin, olive hued spearing and sand eel patterns.  By then, I’ll be in a better striper mood and reinvigorated with confidence to tackle that promising striper and bluefish fishery!  Perhaps the fishing wont’ be so crabby next season!IMG_0199

 

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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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