Come late June, a couple of natural migrations catch the eye of visitors to the Bangor area. First, striped bass begin running up the Penobscot River.
Shortly thereafter (usually after some highly efficient gossip, or an even more efficient column like this one) the anglers make like the stripers and begin to school up.
To their boats, they run.
To the riverbank, they drive.
All in a quest to land a few hard-fighting stripers.
Now, I’m not one to guarantee anyone angling success, and for the record, I’ve yet to see anyone catch a striper in Bangor or Brewer this month.
But I do have a secret to share. Lean in here close, so I don’t have to shout. The stripers are running. Really. Maybe.
The first clue came on Wednesday, when a dozen cars were parked near a pretty riverside park in South Brewer. That, for the uninitiated, is the go-to spot for land-bound anglers, or for those with only an hour or two to kill before they head back to work.
Rods were tucked into their makeshift rip-rap holders, and camping chairs dotted the riverbank.
Stripers, I thought.
A couple hundred yards down South Main Street, I saw more evidence of the summer migration: There, on the marquee of Van Raymond Outfitters, was a single word that said it all.
Again, to the uninitiated, that might not sound like much.
But to a hungry striper, it sounds like lunch.
On Friday, a pair of anglers worked the incoming tide about an hour before high tide. Neither was catching … yet … but word on the grassy knoll was that a young fisherman had caught a 22-inch striper the day before.
Back at Van Raymond’s, fishing department manager Jim Snow said sales on the bloodworms has been a little slow thus far.
Read into that what you will.
“We got four flats, That’s 1,000 worms,” Snow said. “We might have been a little early for the worms, but we had a kid in who had bought some worms and he said somebody caught one. A guy had one about 24 inches, the first of the week.”
If you’ve been paying close attention, that either means that at least a pair of nice stripers has been caught this week, or that the single fish caught has been growing with each retelling (which wouldn’t be surprising, considering the way fish tales work).
Snow said that most anglers fish the river from shore a couple hours each side of high tide, but he said that’s not set in stone … if you’ve got the right equipment.
“I don’t know. I think that’s more because people can reach the water when the tide’s up,” Snow said. “Because people have caught fish right at dead low tide, out in boats. Nobody wants to wade across the mud flats at low tide to get to the water.”
So what’s the point. What are the stripers doing?
Your guess is as good as mine, I suppose.
Some folks say the stripers are here. Some folks say the fish are being caught. And some folks say there are big fish in the river … maybe.
But here’s the thing. You won’t catch any fish if you’re not fishing. And you won’t know if the stripers are really in unless you head to the river and give fishing a try.
Which is all the excuse most of us need in situations like this.
Every few years or so, I make plans with a few friends to head north for a week of fishing.
In Maine, I thought I’d seen “remote.”
As it turns out, I hadn’t. Not even close.
This destination requires an 18-hour drive to the site of a former mining town on Quebec’s Route 389.
Notice I said former mining town.
Nowadays, all that’s left of Gagnon, Quebec, is an airplane hangar, a piece of paved road on an otherwise gravel highway and a lake with a few assorted camps.
The nearest gas is two or three hours away. The nearest auto repair can be found in Labrador City.
And the nearest fish are about 40 yards from where we’ll sleep.
That final piece of the equation, you’ll recognize, is the reason five of us are heading there.
That, and the chance to catch up, unwind and eat far too much.
No, there aren’t many people in Gagnon, Quebec. But there’s plenty of water. Rivers. Lakes. Streams.
And there are plenty of fish to be caught, if we’re lucky.
By the time you read this, I’ll already be on the road.
And by the time you hear from me again, I’d imagine I’ll have accumulated more than a few tales to tell.
‘Going Outdoors’ on the Net
After months of discussion and some hard work by the BDN Internet team, I’m happy to remind you that you can now watch several “Going Outdoors” segments at www.bangordailynews.com.
“Going Outdoors” is a cooperative effort between this paper and ABC-7 in Bangor. For the past several years, chief videographer Dave Simpson and I have documented our trips afield in order to produce pieces for inclusion on Monday’s ABC-7 and FOX-22 broadcasts.
The segments we selected for inclusion on the BDN site were produced over a four-year span and deal with a number of off-beat recreational pursuits.
We’ve got a handful of segments on the Web now, but we’ve selected more than 40 for eventual inclusion. The rest will be launched on our site periodically over the coming months.
To check out a few for yourself, go to our Web site and click on “Outdoors.” Another tab for “John Holyoke Going Outdoors” will take you where you need to go.
The segments are short — about two minutes for most — and of course you can watch them for free.
While most of the viewers thus far have started at the top of the list, you might want to skip around. A particular favorite is the “Falling Pumpkin” piece, during which I show viewers how easy it is to fall down (repeatedly) while learning to snowboard. You’ll find that piece farther toward the bottom of the list.
Thanks for listening to this admittedly self-serving plug, and I hope you take a few minutes to check out some of our past work.