RETURN of the

June 14, 1998 Maine Sunday Telegram
Roberta Scruggs

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

  1. Always handle fish carefully.
  2. Use barbless hooks on flies or lures, and circle hooks for bait fishing.
  3. Keep the fish in the water if you can.
  4. Before releasing fatigued fish, hold them into the current for a few moments to allow them to recover.

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.

Recreational harvest
(Number of fish in millions)

.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:

Information also can be found at Bruce's Saltwater Angling site.

Size and Catch Limits June 10-Oct. 15
1 fish per day 20" to 26" and
1 fish per day 40" or longer


Pesce alla Griglia
Grilled whole fish with herb paste


Serves 4

4 small striped bass, approximately 1pound each or less, gutted, scaled, but with the heads left on

1 garlic clove, peeled

25 fresh basil leaves

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley

1-2 teaspoons coarse salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Extra virgin olive oil

Lemon wedges

Place the garlic and all the herbs on a chopping board, and using a chef's knife, chop the herbs together coarsely. Add the salt and pepper and continue to chop very fine until the herbs begin to form a paste. Drizzle some olive oil over the herbs and, using the flat side of the knife, work the oil into the herbs to form a smooth herbal paste.

Make 4 shallow slashes on each side of the fish. With your fingers, work the herb paste into the slashes, rubbing some into the cavity as well. Lay the fish on a platter to marinate for about 30 minutes.

Heat a charcoal or gas grill, or ridged

stovetop griddle until very hot. Carefully lay the fish onto the grill. Cook the fish until a thin crust forms on the skin, which enables you to turn the fish with a spatula. As the fish cooks, baste it with a little oil. Cook it until done, approximately 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve on individual plates garnished with lemon wedges.

From: "Cuchina Rustica: Simple, Irresistible Recipes in the Rustic Italian Style," by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman; William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York, 1990.



Portland Press Herald - Maine Sunday Telegram


North Carolina

Roanoke River - June 97 BRN

Crystal Coast Fly Fishing

The Roanoke Run - Charlotte Observer

NC Fly Fishing Guide - Ted Christie

FlyFish-NC Capt. Gordon Churchill

Catch & Release Guide - NCWRC

Coastal Striper Fishing - NCWRC

Saltwater Angling - by Bruce Joule

Destination Maine - Fishing Down East

Further Reading

Striper Hot Spots : The 100 Top Surfcasting Locations from Maine to New Jersey
by Frank Daignault
The Striper Moon by J. Kenney Abrames
Striper Surf by Frank Daignault
  Striper: A Story of Fish and Man by John N. Cole
Inshore Fly Fishing by Lou Tabory
Fly Fishing for Striped Bass by Joe Bruce
L.L. Bean Fly Fishing for Striped Bass Handbook by Brad Burns, John Rice (Illustrator), John Cole
The Striped Bass Chronicles : The Saga of America's Great Game Fish by George Reiger, Christopher Reiger (Illustrator)
Stripers : An Angler's Anthology by John R. Waldman (Editor), John Cole
Stripers and Streamers : Successful Flies, Techniques and Other Insights by Ray Bondorew
Lou Tabory's Guide to Saltwater Baits and Their Imitations : An All Color Guide by Lou Tabory

last update: 6/21/99