At least three tournaments, one bait shop and a guiding business. That’s the fallout, so far, of the declining striper population in Maine.

The Kennebec Benefit Pro-Am Tournament was called off two weeks ago because of what director Forrest Faulkingham called a sad drop in stripers.

“Last year, 28 anglers caught two fish. Three years ago, 12 anglers caught 193 fish,” said Faulkingham about the Pro-Am. “It’s gone down.”

The kayak fishing tournament held by Seaspray Kayak in Bath was canceled in July because the number of entries had fallen. And while it’s tough to blame that on the striper population, Seaspray owner Scott Shey said some of the fishermen were coming from Texas and Florida, and wanted to know they were going to catch fish.

“We get a lot of fishermen from out of state. They say ours is the most scenic kayak fishing tournament. When there are not a lot of fish, they say it’s tough to justify spending the money on travel,” Shey said.

And for the second year, the Casco Bay Striper Tournament held out of the Yarmouth Boat Yard in September was canceled when there weren’t enough entries.

Boat yard owner and tourney director Steve Arnold said the reason for the dip in interest has more to do with the recession than the fishing. Arnold thinks an entry fee cheaper than $50 would draw a crowd.

Two saltwater guides who keep slips at Arnold’s yard say the striper fishing has been pretty good.

But the fact remains, business up and down the coast is slowing due to the striper scare.

While removal of dams from Maine rivers in recent years may open more spawning ground, some say, the reality is the bulk of Maine’s summer striper population — near the northern end of its migration run — spawn in the Chesapeake Bay or the Hudson River.

Very few stripers overwinter here. Rather they make that migration run south in October. So the new spawning ground can only help so much.

“I think it will help. When they took out the Edwards Dam, it opened up 17 miles of spawning habitat. The fact they’re catching them in Waterville shows the stripers like it there pretty well,” Faulkingham said. “But we’re still killing too many. It isn’t going to be a resounding help.”

For some, the prospects of a striper comeback are so dismal and unlikely, they are getting out of the business.

The Bath tackle shop, the Kennebec Angler, is closing this fall. And striper guides are selling their saltwater fishing boats.

The charter captain association just sent out a survey asking if any of its 60 members were closing up shop, and a few said yes.

Gordon Gilley in Bath is one.

“It’s been going down the last four years. Clients would call and I would tell the truth. And they would go out fishing. But personally, it was agony,” said Gilley, a guide for 20 years.

“Seven, eight years ago, you’d catch 40 to 50 in six hours. Now you catch two. They say any day on the water is a better day than being in the office. I say it’s dispiriting.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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