Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (July 4, 2015).

Splashing in the water at one of the beaches at Sebago Lake State Park

Splashing in the water at one of the beaches at Sebago Lake State Park

The glorious July 4th weekend is once again upon us all. My family is spending the long weekend camping at Sebago Lake State Park, located at the north end of Sebago Lake (see the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 4 C5). Things are quite hectic at camp, with the grandchildren running around, and the grilling, swimming, and socializing. My son Joel and I decide to get up at 5:30 am and sneak out for a couple of hours of lake trout fishing before the bulk of the family wakes up and gets ready for breakfast. At this time of the year, the lake trout have abandoned the warm shallow waters (click here for details) and seek refuge in the ice-cold waters (< 50°F) found below the thermocline. This layer represents the sharp temperature boundary between the less-dense warmer surface waters and the denser and much colder water in the deep zone. I do not know exactly how far down the Sebago Lake thermocline is located. A high-quality fish finder should show a faint line on the screen representing the boundary where the change in water density is most abrupt; my fish finder mustn’t be sensitive enough because I can’t pick up the thermocline…. Based on the presence of numerous fish marked in 40 to 80+ ft of water this morning, I’m guessing that the thermocline is around 30-40 ft deep, which makes sense based on a review of historic summer water-column temperature data for Sebago Lake published online. Note that the thermocline, once it is fully established in early summer, might move deeper by a few feet but is otherwise extremely stable and constant until late fall (with a few limnological exceptions, which I will not bore you with…).

 

 

The waters off these beautiful islands by Sebago Lake State Park contain lake trout

The waters off these beautiful islands by Sebago Lake State Park contain lake trout

 

 

Our game plan is to troll southwards from the state park along the western (Route 114) side of the lake in 100-150 ft of water. We use two portable downriggers placed at the back of my boat in an attempt to bring our lures down in the 50 to 70 ft depth range. However, even with 4 lbs. weights, these devices are fishing close to their limits. Trolling at about 2 miles per hour, the friction of the water against the metal cable causes our relatively light weights to be pushed backwards at an angle of about 25-30°, meaning that the lures are really fishing in perhaps 35 to 50 ft of water. That will have to do since we do not have heavier gear to go much deeper than that. I note here that fishing with a lead core line isn’t recommended in the summer, because it would require 8-10 colors to get the lures to the required depths. The sheer weight of the 80+ yards of lead core line dragging through the water column would make this fishing technique very unpleasant. Also, a depth finder is not an option when fishing with downriggers, even at great depths. Lake bottoms rise and fall unpredictably. Getting a weight wedged between rocks way down below can spell disaster to the downrigger! Our two rods are set out and fishing by 6:30 am. Joel and I are both using Mooselooks spoons (bronze or silver) fished in tandem with a silver “Thin Fish” spoon; i.e., the Thin Fish is attached to the treble hook of the Mooselook spoon with 2 ft of monofilament. The action of the Thin Fish is excellent. This lure also presents a bigger profile than a typical Mooselook spoon, which is good when going after lake trout.

 

 

Happy 4th of July, Joel!

Happy 4th of July, Joel!

The weather is actually in our favor this morning. The sun is blocked by a low cloud deck. We’re hoping that the reduced light levels will cause the denizens of the deep to swim higher up in the water column, closer to the thermocline and our struggling lures. It is also wind still and the hordes of boaters haven’t started buzzing up and down the lake yet, making for a quiet, waveless morning. The issue with trolling, of course, is that nothing happens until something happens! Fortunately, my son and I have been fishing buddies for many years and we have easy conversations, many of which revolve around past fishing adventures. We chat for about an hour and a half, pointing out the numerous fish marked by the depth finder, anticipating bites that do not materialize. Suddenly, Joel’s line unclips from the downrigger! He immediately grabs his rod and sets the hook. At first, he thinks that he is stuck but I point out that the bottom is 143 ft deep and that his lure is about 90 ft above that! Sure enough, his bend-over rod starts shaking and the line rips off his reel. Fish on! I automatically go into our well-honed routine for a situation such as this one: I place the engine on neutral, bring up his down-rigger weight, retrieve my line, bring up my weight, retrieve the drift sock, and grab the net. The fish struggles hard but is slowly coming to the surface. We’re quite excited when Joel brings it into the boat and we find out that it measures a respectable 27” (6.5 lbs.). While not a monster, this fish handily beats the average Sebago Lake laker which typically weighs around 3-4 pounds. It also fell for the Thin Fish. We high-five each other, take bragging pictures and release the animal back to its habitat. We head back to camp shortly afterwards for breakfast, pleased with this July 4th present!

 

The results: Joel caught one 27” lake trout (6.5 lbs.) and I got skunked in less than 2 hours of early-morning trolling.

 

Was the information in this blog useful? I invite you to share your thoughts and opinions. Also, feel free to discuss your fishing experiences at this location.

 

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