Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (May 2, 2015)

Fog does a great job keeping the light levels low

Fog does a great job keeping the light levels low

Ice-out on Sebago Lake in the spring of 2015 occurred on April 21. Shortly thereafter – typically within 10 to 14 days after ice out – the rainbow smelt start congregating at the mouth of the major lake tributaries in preparation for their annual upstream spawning migration. The smelt, which are cold water-loving and pelagic (i.e., deep-water) creatures, are particularly vulnerable to predation during this period. The reason is that they are confined to relatively narrow and shallow areas while waiting for the right conditions to occur before swimming up the tributaries. And just as predictably, the landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout are in hot pursuit to gorge themselves on their favorite prey. This unique set of behaviors creates a golden opportunity each spring, which lasts about two to three weeks after the start of the smelt migration, to catch salmon and lake trout in shallow waters without the need of much specialized equipment. The combination of cold oxygenated water right up to the surface combined with an abundant food source disappears by mid-May, after which both prey and predators continue their endless game of hide and seek in the profundal zones of Lake Sebago where they are much more difficult to find, target, and catch.

 

 

Trolling up Panther Run

Trolling up Panther Run

 

 

My son Joel and I will fish the bay at the mouth of Panther Run (a.k.a. Jordan River). This short shallow stream is the outlet of Panther Pond in Raymond. It passes underneath the bridge over Route 302 (Roosevelt Trail) and flows past the Port Harbor Marina into Sebago Lake (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C2). The dam on Mill Street in Raymond creates an impassible barrier to smelt migration further upstream into Panther Pond, but nonetheless attracts smelt up the stream in response to the large amount of water released through the dam during the spring runoff period (click here). I checked Panther Run the day before just downstream of the dam and noticed several salmon cruising along. Great! That means that the smelt have started to run and that the salmon have followed them upstream. I meet Joel at 6 am at the Raymond boat ramp on Jordan Bay next to Route 302. The conditions are to our liking because the whole region is carpeted in thick fog, which lowers the light conditions. However, it is raw, with temps in the mid 30’s. Good thing we came dressed up for the occasion! The water is also ice cold, coming in at 41°F. It takes us less than 10 minutes to motor up to the small bay in front of Panther Run. Both of us are using a down rigger to place a live 3” minnow 5 to 10 ft down. I also use a trolling rod with lead core to fish with a Grey Ghost streamer fly one color down, whereas Joel deploys a second spinning rod to troll with a “Thin Fish” Mooselook spoon just below the surface.

 

 

This lake trout fought like a fish twice its size. What a treat!

This lake trout fought like a fish twice its size. What a treat!

The bay in front of Panther Run is only between 20 and 35 ft deep, and Panther Run itself is really shallow (3-5 ft). We decide to troll up the stream past the Port Harbor Marina to the Route 302 bridge based on the fact that I saw salmon upstream by the dam. My minnow gets hit in 8 ft of water on our way into the stream channel but does not result in a fish. Our troll up and down Panther Run generates no further interest and so we move back out and focus our attention on the bay. My rod with the minnow attached to the down rigger starts shaking wildly about 20 minutes later. I set the hook and connect with something angry at the other end. The fish stays down and doggedly rips line off my reel. Wow, what a fighter! We surmise it’s a lake trout because he’s not jumping out of the water. It takes about 5 minutes to finally get the fish to reach the surface, even though he was hooked only 10 ft down! It is indeed a lake trout but smaller than what I expected given its spirited resistance. He measures 23” and weighs 3.5 lbs., and very much represents the “typical” size for lake trout from Sebago Lake. We troll around the bay for another 45 minutes but without additional hits.

 

 

The fog lifts on Sebago Lake

The fog lifts on Sebago Lake

So we drift off further along the eastern shoreline and then decide to buzz across to fish the western side of Jordan Bay. Joel recently downloaded an app on his cell phone that contains a detailed depth map of Sebago Lake which interfaces with his phone’s GPS. He really wants to try it out. It’s the kind of feature one gets on expensive depth finders, except that this program can be downloaded for only $15! We locate several drop-offs and sunken islands and troll across these submerged features, but without eliciting a single hit. It’s now 10:30 am. The morning fog has lifted and the sun is blazing high up in the sky. We call it a day, realizing that we made a mistake in our eagerness to try out the new software. We should have continued to focus our attention on the bay in front of Panther Run where we knew the fish were concentrated instead of wandering off to check out areas much less likely to hold fish this time of year. That’s the beauty of fishing, I suppose: we can learn something new every time we wet a line!

 

 

The results: I caught one 23” (3.5 lbs.) lake trout, whereas Joel got skunked in 4.5 hours of fishing.

 

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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One thought on “Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (May 2, 2015)

  1. anyone fished kezar lk in june for lg and sm bass. never been on this body of water. clear or stained waTER .

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