KENNEBUNKPORT — Paul Korenkiewicz cast from jagged, seaweed-covered rocks while getting hammered by 7-foot waves just after dawn. He was fishing after a few hours sleep, but called this his greatest peace.

But Korenkiewicz is used to getting pummeled by waves. He’s used to swimming in a wetsuit with a fishing rod in one hand. He is accustomed to going saltwater fishing at 1 a.m. in the summer when the big fish are feeding.

“In the middle of summer if you’re still fishing at this time,” Korenkiewicz said as he headed out at 4 a.m. with a couple of anglers, “then you missed it.”

Korenkiewicz – one of Maine’s most passionate striper fishermen – will do just about anything for the chance to hook a large striped bass.

“There are days he doesn’t sleep much at all,” said his girlfriend, Alana McKeen. “He’ll get home from work at 9-9:30 (p.m.) after working a 12-hour day (as a guard at the Maine Correctional Center). And soon after he’ll say, ‘Well, babe, I’m going fishing.’ Then he’ll fish for three to four hours before coming home and getting ready for work at 8 a.m. And the next day, he’ll do it all again. When the fishing is good, he doesn’t want to miss it.”

This summer could be a glorious one for like-minded striper fishermen like Korenkiewicz.

Maine biologists report the striped bass fishery, after taking a dive after 2010, may be on the rebound.

It is Maine’s No. 1 targeted saltwater gamefish, according to the Department of Marine Resources. And, Bruce Joule, the department’s recreational fisheries coordinator, said the total catch of striped bass in 2016 was 686,000, up from a low of 161,000 in 2011.

For his part, Korenkiewicz is ready.

To say the Windham resident is an avid striper fisherman doesn’t quite capture it. Consider his license plate: FISH365. He studies Google maps like a detective to find the location of monster stripers he sees on YouTube.

All you have to do is look at his thumb to see how devoted he is to the pursuit of Maine’s most popular saltwater gamefish.

“This is what you call striper thumb,” he said while showing his tattered digit.

Earlier this month, after wading into the mouth of a river in the dark, Korenkiewicz caught one small striper after another in the surf. He laughed and released the fish he called “stripers in diapers.” They were not what he was after.

So Korenkiewicz moved to a rocky outcrop where turbulent waves crashed down.

“This is my honey hole,” he said.

Korenkiewicz landed larger stripers here, but he didn’t count how many. He didn’t keep any, either, even though many were between 28 and 30 inches and of legal size. Instead he kissed every one before releasing it.

“I want to thank it for giving me that opportunity,” he said.

This day, Korenkiewicz used a Salt Pro Minnow for a lure and – his secret weapon – a Van Staal reel, which is not your grandfather’s fishing reel. The $800 piece of titanium and solid steel tackle looks more like a finely engineered musical instrument.

“It’s pretty much the Cadillac of fishing reels,” Korenkiewicz said. “Guys see it and say, ‘Must be nice to have that.’

“But you saw how many waves hit me. To be successful you have to be willing to put yourself in situations where you’re going to be rough on gear.”

Korenkiewicz, 33, has been fishing since he was a boy in Berlin, Connecticut. He came to Maine in 2002 to go to Unity College and has fished all over the state. When he came to Kennebunkport four years ago and landed a 43-inch striper, everything changed.

“I was hooked on stripers,” Korenkiewicz said. “To think that fish traveled from North Carolina up here. She’s been some place I’ve never been.”

Korenkiewicz’s success is in the preparation. He spends his free time researching and taking precautions, from swapping out the hooks in new lures to considering all the variables the ocean presents. He studies the tides, the wind, the moon, the clouds, and those dead giveaways: the voracious seabirds.

“I’ve learned when he says it’s the last cast, it’s rarely the last cast,” McKeen said. “But it’s his therapy. It helps him unwind from life. It frees his mind from everything.”

Last year Korenkiewicz attempted to catch a striper off the coast in every town from Portland south to Kittery. He landed one in nine out of 13 towns.

His fishing buddy Justin Cooper has fished for stripers every day since April. And Cooper said Korenkiewicz fishes more.

“He will put in a few hours before work or after work,” said Cooper, a Biddeford firefighter. “He’s way more into it. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

Korenkiewicz misses fishing with his dad in Connecticut, but he doesn’t miss his home state. The striper fishing is faster in states to the south, especially around Long Island Sound. But to Korenkiewicz, Maine is better.

“The pressure on them there is crazy,” he said. “It’s why I love fishing in this state. Down there it’s shoulder to shoulder. And God forbid you should stand on someone’s rock.

“Here you have all of this,” Korenkiewicz said, and looked around at a rocky shoreline where he alone stood casting.

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

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