Essential Gear and Tips
In our last blog post we suggested carrying a fishing rod while boating on the Kennebunk River, as this is a great way to get the entire family involved. I remember my first boating experiences on Cape Cod with my Grandfather and uncles, we would pack a cooler full of sandwhiches and drinks and head out for the entire day chasing schools of striped bass and bluefish. As a kid, I always looked forward to these days fishing with grandpa and have been an avid fisherman ever since.
In the Kennebunk River and surrounding waters you will primarily target striped bass. Stripers tend to start showing up in late May, and will hang around through the fall. When the water warms up enough at the peak of the summer, you can also find schools of bluefish. If you're lucky you will come across schools chasing bait up on the surface, otherwise you can have luck trolling plugs offshore. There are also several different types of baitfish, but mackerel in particular are a favor of stripers. So what will you need to get started? Below we will outline some basics to get you out on the water.
Rod & Reel:
You can get started with a basic rod & reel combo that will do the trick. One and two piece rods are both up to the task, and should be looking for a rod that will handle a line weight between 10-30 lb. Find a saltwater spinning reel that has a good weight and feel. We recommend heading down to the Kittery Trading Post to speak with their staff about getting the perfect set up.
For stripers, there are several types of lures you can use. The bucktail jig is a reliable go-to which comes in a variety of color combinations, we prefer the classic white and red combo. For added effectiveness, hook a shad Slug-Go bait parallel with the jig to give it some extra action with the appearance of an extended tail. A Rapala shad hard bait is another option worth giving a try. You can cast these baits off of docks and around any kind of structure. The rocky coastline holds many nooks and crannies where stripers like to hide and prey on surprised fish caught in the whitewater.
For bluefish, the most important thing to remember is to use metal leader. Bluefish have very sharp teeth that will cut the line if not hooked perfectly. It's worth having a pair of gloves on board to handle these fish, and a gaff if you plan on keeping them. Bluefish are not picky about the lure, you could likely catch them trolling a soda can if you rigged it with hooks. When trolling offshore, use a combination of top-water and diving plugs to find where the school is in the water column.
Stripers love bait, especially mackerel and sandworms. With mackerel you can either fish them live if you have a good livewell, or cut them up into chunks. To catch mackerel you will need a sabiki rig, which has 6 seperate hooks. It's not uncommon to catch multiple mackerel at once, which can be a fun activity for the kids. Once the livewell is full, it's time to go striper hunting.
When fishing mackerel you can either choose to anchor up close to rock structure and wait for the bite. Or You could also float with the Kennebunk River tide. With each method set a bobber or balloon about 3 feet up the leader, which will help indicate when there is a take. Don't set the hook right away, let the fish eat before raising your rod tip.
Sandworms are another favorite meal for stripers. You can purchase sandworms from your local bait and tackle shop, pick up one-two dozen. We also recommend using a worm rig, as this helps to attract stripers:
Once you've got your worm rig all set, troll in shallow water close to the beach or in the same direction as the tide in the river. We usually have a lot of success early morning right in front of Gooches beach.
These tips should give you a foundation to work off of. While there are several factors that determine whether the bite is on, there is no substitution for simply putting in the time with your line in the water.
If you've just returned from a long day of fishing and have a boat covered in fish guts, we'd love to get it clean for your next adventure!