Fishing Merrymeeting Bay, Maine
THE RELATIVELY WARM, BRACKISH WATERS OF MERRYMEETING BAY, WHICH IS FED BY SEVERAL RIVERS, MAKE FOR SOME INTERESTING POSSIBILITIES ON THE FISHING FRONT. STRIPED BASS CAN PLENTIFUL DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS, BUT SO ARE FRESHWATER SPECIES SUCH AS SMALLMOUTH BASS, CARP AND NORTHERN PIKE.
Stripers generally make their appearance around the end of May. The first bass to show measure 14 to 20 inches, with a few 20- to 26-inch fish mixed in—great sport on a fly rod or light spinning setup and 8- to 12-pound line. Local anglers do well with these early-run bass by fishing 2- to 4-inch plastic shads in the top third of the water column. A quick retrieve usually works best. Hot spots include The Chops, the upper reaches of the Kennebec and the large shoal near the mouth of Abagadasset River known as The Sands.
While fishing the bay and its tributaries, you may occasionally see Atlantic sturgeon leaping clear of the water.
Larger stripers enter the bay in June and stay through October (although fishing in recent years has been disappointing). While it’s possible to hook a big striper in any deep channel inside the bay, the best action usually takes place just above Bath and at the northern end of Lines Island. Drifting live eels in 7 to 30 feet of water on the last quarter of incoming tide is a great way to score in these spots after July 1.
Note: from mid-October to July 1, anglers may not take or retain striped bass from the Kennebec River or any of its tributaries. From May 1 to June 30, anglers are only allowed to use single-hook artificial lures, and all bass must be released. The use of live or dead bait is not allowed during this 2-month period.
If you want a change from saltwater fare, give smallmouth bass and northern pike a try. Both species will strike Rapala-type swimming plugs, live minnows, spinnerbaits and small jigs from June through September. The smallies tend to concentrate around rocky areas inside the Kennebec River north of Merrymeeting Bay, while the pike can be found throughout the bay. June and fall are prime times for this fishery.
While fishing the bay and its tributaries, you may occasionally see Atlantic sturgeon leaping clear of the water. These prehistoric-looking bottom-feeders are protected by law and cannot be targeted, but anglers occasionally hook them on bottom baits intended for stripers and carp. They are powerful fighters, and can grow to over 5 feet. If you catch one by accident, you must release it.
It should be noted that Merrymeeting Bay boasts a fantastic smelt run during the dead of winter. You can rent ice-fishing shanties during January and February from several local smelt camps (see contact info below).
Bait & Tackle
- Kennebec Angler (Bath) (207-442-8239)
- Pono’s Trap and Marine Supply (West Bath) (207-386-3225)
Charters & Guides
- Capt. Dave Pecci, Obsession Charters (207-442-858)
- Capt. Johan Brouwer, Great Gazooks Tidewater Fishing (207-442-0729)
- Capt. Ethan DeBery, Fish n’ Trips (207-841-7977)
- The Maine Division of Marine Fisheries Smelt Camps lists contact info for several smelt camps in the Merrymeeting Bay area where you can rent ice-fishing shacks, bait and gear during the winter.
Anglers over the age of 16 who wish to fish in Maine’s marine waters out to 3 miles from shore, including the waters surrounding its offshore islands, must register annually with the state. There is a $1 to $2 service fee to register. The permit expires on December 31.
The following individuals do not need to register:
- Persons under the age of 16.
- Persons fishing aboard a charter or partyboat.
- Persons renting a smelt shack from an individual who holds a commercial operator’s permit.
- Persons with a disability.
- Disabled veterans.
- Persons holding a saltwater recreational fishing license from another state.
- Maine residents who purchased a freshwater fishing license and who checked a box indicating that they intend to fish in saltwater.
- Maine residents fishing on July 4, Memorial Day weekend, or Labor Day weekend.
To register online, go to:
Seasons, Catch & Size Limits
For information on Maine’s saltwater fishing regulations, by species, go to: Maine Department of Marine Resources.