It’s striped bass fishing season in Maine.
And judging from feedback among anglers and guides, the action has been better than usual in the early going and appears still to be heating up as we move into June.
“Striper action is on time in southern and central Maine,” said Ian Sawyer of Lyman. “Backwater estuaries, bays, inlets, rivers and marshes are all prime right now.”
Stripers appear to have arrived in Maine waters a week to two earlier than many years, the Registered Maine Tidewater Fishing Guide said, and that includes a strong showing of fish that are larger than those often seen at this time of year.
As is most often the case, the farther south you go along the Maine coast, the better the odds you have of enjoying a successful day targeting these feisty ocean fish.
“Great fishing in the Saco, plenty of herring,” Michael St. Cyr Jr. of North Sebago said of the baitfish. “Still only 20s to 30s [inches]; biggest one so far 34. Hitting 30-40 fish a day.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t hook up with stripers all the way Down East. The Penobscot River also often has a decent run of stripers, and the fish are showing up in solid numbers there.
“Keeper size fish already in the Penobscot, certain places,” said Joe “Hugga” Dana of Old Town.
Much of the striper talk has centered around the Piscataqua River and waters closer to the Maine-New Hampshire border, such as the Saco River.
Stripers weighing more than 20 pounds had advanced as far as the southern Maine coast as of last week, according to the On The Water website, and fish of 30-plus inches had made their way to the midcoast.
Farther north, smaller stripers known as “schoolies” had reached as far as Mount Desert Island.
“Schoolies are up to Penobscot Bay and will soon be caught at the dam in Old Town, if they haven’t started there already,” Sawyer said.
Many striper anglers have achieved good success targeting the fish in the dark.
“The nighttime bite is picking up as the water warms,” Sawyer said. “Very strong May for Maine, with a lot of bigger fish in southern Maine already.”
Ryan Simpson of New Hampshire reported that he has been doing well fishing in central Maine.
“Had a lotta luck in the Kennebec for the past couple weeks,” he said. “Average size has been 25 inches, plus plenty of bait fish running, too.”
Peter Driscoll has landed some fish in the river below Bath, but expects the action to heat up further in another week or so.
Regulations throughout the Kennebec River watershed, including the Sheepscot and Androscoggin rivers and all tributaries, limit anglers to catch-and-release fishing only, with a single-hook artificial lure, until July 1.
“Action has been hot on the Kennebec River — but must use lures & can’t keep any fish until July 1,” Brian Mitchall of Augusta said on the Maine/New Hampshire Striper Fishing Facebook page.
It’s a group that’s 6,100 members strong.
There is cautious optimism among anglers amid the productive start to the striper season. Dean Krah, a charter captain with more than 40 years of experience, has experienced some tough fishing in recent years.
“The fish are in early this year, about everywhere as I hear,” Krah said. “Already heard of some nice fish caught here [in the Sheepscot] and Damariscotta River. “They’re doing pretty good to the south.”
Krah said he experienced the worst year ever in 2021, when he canceled almost all mackerel and bass charters. Rough seas and warm water in the Sheepscot affected the fishing.
However, with a positive start to the 2022 striper fishing season, anglers anticipate being able to cash in on the action as summer approaches.