The water level by the boat launch is really low but fortunately the boat has a shallow draft and Joel brought the waders!
Mid-fall is a great time to troll for landlocked Atlantic salmon and lake trout in southern Maine. The surface water temperatures in the larger lakes have dipped into the mid- to upper-40’s and the cooling temps allows these cold-loving fish to emerge from the depths to partake in their annual breeding efforts. The salmon congregate in the shallows to migrate up their spawning rivers, whereas the lake trout assemble along bouldery shorelines to deposit their eggs. And, as an added bonus, most open-water anglers have closed up shop for the season, meaning that no one else is on the water! My son Joel and I decide to take advantage of these conditions to fish Sebago Lake, with a particular focus on the area in front of where Panther Run (i.e., the outlet of Panther Pond) enters Jordan Bay. A few days earlier, I walked down a small stretch of Panther Run downstream of the dam on Mill Street in Raymond and observed spawning landlocked salmon, meaning that they’ve started swimming up from the lake. Beware that the direct tributaries to Sebago Lake (including Panther Run) are closed to fishing from October 1 to March 31.
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.
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…).
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.
A cool, foggy, and drizzly morning on Sebago Lake
(see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C1) is considered a prime landlocked salmon fishery in southern Maine. The state enhances the natural reproduction that occurs in its main tributary, the Crooked River, by stocking the lake with juvenile salmon annually in the spring. I arrive at East Sebago off Route 114 at 7:10 am to meet up with my son Joel. We are going to troll for landlocked salmon and lake trout above and around the sunken ridge that lays about 1.5 miles due east of East Sebago. This large structure, which rises from >100 ft deep and levels off about 35-40 ft below the surface of the water, is a well-known “fish attractor”. The morning is cool, foggy, and drizzly, which suits us just fine. The air temperature is in the low 30’s but there’s hardly any wind. We don’t see another soul on the lake. It looks like everyone else has stored their rods, even though there is still plenty of opportunity for open-water action even this late in the season… We select slender silver-and-blue DB Smelt spoons which have worked well for us on Sebago Lake
in the past, and use downriggers to bring them to the right depth.