by Holden Stern

For as long as I can remember, my parents have rented a small cottage seated on the cusp of the Atlantic ocean in the tiny town of Georgetown, Maine. Many of my fishing memories growing up as a kid were fishing that very place. Maine offers some of the best striped bass fishing in the northeast, and I’ll tell you a story that might help confirm my statement.

If you peek out of any window of the cottage, it is clear that you are smack in the middle of prime striper territory. The backyard leads to a series of jagged rocks that stack along the ocean’s edge providing excellent access to surf fish. Next to the rocks, lay a short stretch of private beach that segways into another series of staggered rock way.

Every time I think of this place makes me nostalgic, recalling all the fish I’ve caught and all the fish I didn’t catch. The truth is, Georgetown Maine is my definition of striper fishing. I’d fish all day for the entire week or two we’d stay each year, I just didn’t want to miss out on any opportunity to catch fish. Most of my successful catches consisted of plugging during the evening, usually producing some decent sized schoolies and the occasional keeper.

My story starts here.

I recall throwing swimmers right off the beach during the day when the sun so hot it would nearly blind me. It was really careless fishing at that point because I figured I wouldn’t catch anything. As I watched my lure slowly flutter in, I noticed small elongated fish snapping at it. Was my mind playing tricks on me? That would tend to happen after fishing for 8 or 9 hours straight. I said “ the hell with it”, and downsized to my “one size catch all” lure, a silver kastmaster. These things have been around forever, and have proven time and time again to catch fish. So I tied on the kastmaster and tossed it as far as I could. As I cranked the reel 2 or 3 times at a decent speed, there was a nice pull at the end of the line. With the lift of the rod tip, fish on! I thought to myself “what the hell could it be?” These fish were chasing my plug that seemed bigger than them! I muscled that fish to shore and to my surprise it was an Atlantic mackerel! Wow do these things put up a nice fight for their size, and they have some serious teeth to bargain.

Cast after cast, my Kastmaster was getting engulfed and destroyed by these awesome little fish. They jump and dance, and do just about everything to try and shake that hook. Anyway, unlike my home State of Connecticut where Bunker are the primary bait for big stripers, Maine has Mackerel. And where there is Bait, there are usually bigger fish hunting for them.

Luckily my Mom had bought be this sweet portable aerator for Christmas and I happened to bring it along with me. My decision was clear, I was going to throw as many as those damn mackerel as I could stuff into that aerator and when night comes, I would live-line them for the big boys.

I must have caught 40 or 50 Mackerel. Those little buggers kept me busy all afternoon and really were a lot of fun to catch. I decided it was a good time to take a break, so I ate a quick dinner to refuel and headed back to that same spot I had caught all those macks earlier. To my surprise, most of them were still alive, despite the water, they were swimming is was pure blood red. I tied on a big circle hook and dug my hand into the tub of bait. Ahah! The first lucky Mack to become someone’s dinner. I hooked the fish through its back and with a swift delicate motion, cast into the night. I took a seat on the rock I was posted up on and admired the moon. Its reflection across the water lit up the ocean’s surface and reflected its beautiful round glare.

The mackerel swam around furiously trying to break free. There was constant movement on my line. All of a sudden I felt the movement pick, and SLAM! My rod nearly flew out of my hands. After quickly regaining my composure, I set the hook hard and the fight was on. This was no schoolie bass. It took three nice runs and put my tackle to the test. I decided it was best to navigate towards the beach to land that sucker. The battle continued until that fish tired out and was ultimately no match for the 50lb line it was hanging to. A wave washed her to shore and somehow the fish suddenly came unhooked. Out of fight or flight, I dove into the sand and scooped the fish up by its gills. Alas, I had landed my personal best striped bass.

I yelled at the top of my lungs to my parents at the cottage “Bring the camera!” “Hurry up!”. My Mom rushed to the beach so I could snap a pic of this beauty. When she scurried over to where I was holding the fish, she handed me a tape measure. A tape measure? C’mon mom I said camera! Nevertheless, the fish measured out to be a solid 38.5 inches (every inch counts), which is my biggest striper to date. Although there was no picture to show for, I knew exactly how long that beautiful fish was, and the memory to last a lifetime. I released her back into the ocean to get bigger for next year.

So just one nice fish? So what?

Not so fast there, the story has a sweet ending. After the release, I scrammed back to my spot, slipped another mack on my circle hook, and slung it back out into the night. Sure enough, 5 minutes of waiting, a slam on the line. Fish on! This continued all night one after the other. All in all, I ended up landing 6 meaty keeper sized stripers.

This is why I love Maine: thank you for a memorable night of some of the best fishing I’ve ever been a part of.