Mike Brown has worked for the state of Maine for 33 years. He started in college as a park ranger at Popham Beach State Park, and has served as the director of fisheries for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

But for most of his career he has worked for the Department of Marine Resources, recently as the scientist studying striped bass.

A Bath native, he remembers fishing for stripers in the Kennebec River in the late 1970s and ’80s when the population was extremely low. Back then he watched expert fishermen land 40-pound stripers off Popham Beach. Then he watched as conservation efforts helped bring the population back in the late 1990s and anglers were landing more than 100 stripers a day.

“It was truly amazing,” Brown said. “Anglers were catching fish everywhere in the Kennebec and surrounding waters. The waters were alive with anglers and there was a sense of community growing around the fishery.”

Q: What work do you do with striped bass?

A: We conduct an annual survey to locate juvenile striped bass, those presumably spawned in Maine. For the past 30 years the department has monitored the numbers of juvenile striped bass in the Kennebec River and Merrymeeting Bay. Acoustic tags in the Kennebec River help the department to track tagged striped bass that we suspect may be native striped bass and contribute to Maine’s native population.


Q: Are you a bass fisherman?

A: I have fished for striped bass for as long as I can remember. Fishing in my early years I targeted schoolie stripers. Back then we could use live bait early in the year, and I would fish from shore and catch fish in the 18-to-25-inch range in the lower Kennebec. Fish would typically arrive in early to mid-May depending on the year. We would often catch fish tagged by the Hudson River Foundation and return the tags for a $5 reward. The foundation would send back a certificate indication when and where the fish was originally tagged along with its length.

Often novice anglers do not realize that almost all the striped bass we catch in Maine come from either the Hudson River or Chesapeake Bay populations. In the mid- to late 1990s when the coast-wide striped bass population increased both in population and size, I targeted Maine’s smaller coast rivers. I enjoyed getting away from the larger crowds at some of the more popular fishing locations in Maine.

Several of the smaller rivers still hold quality striped bass and often you may be the only angler on the water.

Q: Why did you become a fisheries biologist?

A: I was very fortunate having grown up in Maine surrounded by all of Maine’s natural resources. Like a lot of youth who enjoy hunting and fishing, I wanted to become a biologist and work for the state of Maine.


Q: Why do you think the striper is such a popular game fish?

A: The striped bass is a truly remarkable fish. They inhabit most of the Atlantic seaboard and are accessible to just about anyone who wants to angle for them. You don’t need to have a boat or expensive gear to angle for striped bass, so there’s a lot of appeal for a wide range of anglers whether they fly fish, spin cast, troll or fish with live bait.

But beyond that there’s a mystic about striped bass. The larger fish can be 20 years old and have migrated up and down the East Coast several times. These are savvy fish, and have seen it all when it comes to fishing pressure and life along the coast and coastal rivers. They present a challenge and catching the larger fish can become an obsession.

Q: Is there any chance the striper population could ever get back to what it once was?

A: While we are way down from the 4 million fish caught in 2006, last year we did see the most number of fish caught since 2008 and reports from anglers were positive. We saw a large number of fish in the 10-to-12-inch range in 2016 and that may be a good sign that we have a large year class in the pipeline. Signs are looking up, but a lot will depend on the spawning success and environmental conditions in the mid-Atlantic where most of our fish originate.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:


Twitter: FlemingPph

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