Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Cumberland County, Maine (November 1, 2015)

The sun playing with shadows and the shoreline of Sebago lake

The sun painting shadows along the shoreline of Sebago lake

Sebago Lake is the Crown Jewel of southern Maine’s lake region. The two key salmonid species in this system are the landlocked Atlantic salmon and the lake trout. My goal this afternoon is to help my 12-year old nephew Christian catch a salmon! I haven’t introduced him yet to salmon fishing, but we’ve talked many times in the past about the exhilaration of hooking one of those beauties: the bite, the fight, the jumps, and the excitement of it all.  I’d love for him to make that experience, because he’s more than ready for it. I’ve trained him for a while now to fish with lead core line for white perch and bass. He has clearly shown the tenacity and shear doggedness required to troll the big water for landlocked Atlantic salmon.



Panther Run salmonBut first we pay a quick visit to Panther Run by Mill Street in Raymond. This road connects Routes 121 and 85 (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C2). Panther Run flows from Panther Pond to Sebago Lake and is one of the many tributaries used by the Sebago Lake landlocked Atlantic salmon for spawning in the fall. Between the end of October and mid-November, when the surface waters have cooled down enough, the landlocked salmon migrate out of Sebago Lake and upstream into their native tributaries. They lay their eggs in “redds”, which consist of depressions in well-watered gravelly substrate. Those eggs are then fertilized by a male and covered over with clean gravel by the female. We park my truck by the Panther Pond dam and walk down past the first big pool to see if the landlocked salmon have arrived on their spawning beds in Panther Run. We immediately see a dozen fish darting around and chasing each other. Great! The landlocks have started to swim up Panther Run, which means that they are likely congregating in the small bay in Sebago Lake at the mouth of this river downstream of the Port Harbor Marine marina. That area will be the focus of our fishing efforts this afternoon. Note for the record that it is illegal to fish Panther Run after September 31.




Beware that the boat launch off Route 302 in Raymond is very shallow in the fall

Beware that the boat launch off Route 302 in Raymond is very shallow in the fall

We reach the boat launch on Sebago Lake off Route 302 at Jordan Bay in Raymond at 2 pm. This place can be a circus during spring and summer weekends. Yet, today the launch is absolutely empty with not a soul in sight, which is exactly the way I like it. In fact, it has always baffled me how the vast majority of fishers stop their favorite pass time as soon as September rolls around. So much fishing still remains to be done between the end of summer and before the water freezes over! I’m glad to see that the long dock that juts out into the water by the launch hasn’t been removed yet for the season. Keep in mind that the water by the Route 302 launch is no more than about 1.5 ft deep in the fall after the lake water level has been dropped. The substrate is also rather silty and soft. Hence, the vehicle that launches the boat needs to drive backwards quite a ways into the water and also requires four-wheel drive in order to get out without becoming stuck.  We push off the dock by 2:15 pm; it takes us just over five minutes to quickly motor to our target area.




Christian's very first lake trout caught in Sebago Lake!

Christian’s very first lake trout caught in Sebago Lake!

The weather conditions are perfect for early November trolling: mostly overcast, with light southwest wind and air temps in the low 50’s. We fish the small bay in front of where Panther Run enters Sebago Lake in 20 to 45 ft of water, with our lures set between 10 and 25 ft deep depending on the water depth. Christian uses lead-core line; I rely on a portable downrigger fastened to the side of my boat. We each fish with three lures tied one to the other by about 2 ft of monofilament. I use a bronze Mooselook wobbler spoon and two different DB Smelt spoons, whereas Christian uses a silver Mooselook wobbler spoon to which are attached two large streamer flies. This set-up creates a small “school” of baitfish. We only have about two hours to make a salmon happen. Unfortunately, nothing occurs for one and a half of those hours: we slowly criss-cross the bay, adjust our fishing depths up and down, zig-zag the boat, vary our trolling speed. Christian is stoic and I try to keep him engaged with fishing stories. And then… BAMM. Christian jolts to life and screams “uncle Stan, I hooked a fish!” He sure did! But that fish doesn’t come jetting out of the water as I was hoping for if it were a salmon, but instead stays down low and pulls hard. Only a lake trout brawls that way. Fortunately, the fish is a brute and gives a good fight. It also tangles itself around the three lures, which makes for a mighty mess. But Christian is in seventh heaven. He’s never caught a lake trout before, and landed one while fishing on Sebago Lake for the very first time.  The landlocked salmon will come next time. We’re savoring his victory and take lots of braggin’ pictures before letting the fish go. Christian won’t forget this trip anytime soon :-))


The results: Christian caught one lake trout (21”), whereas I got skunked after 2 hours of trolling.


A setting sun after a fun afternoon of fishing and making memories

A setting sun after a fun afternoon of fishing and making memories

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