Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (November 12, 2016)

The water level by the boat launch is really low but fortunately the boat has a low draft and Joel brought the waders!

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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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…).

 

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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.

 

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Smallmouth bass fishing on Sebago Lake – Dingley Islands, Casco, Maine (June 2, 2013)

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Dingley Islands, Sebago Lake, Maine

Dingley Islands, Sebago Lake, Maine

I’m spending the weekend with my family at Sebago Lake State Park, which is located at the northern end of Sebago Lake in Naples. I love camping at this location in early June because we have the camp ground (almost…) to ourselves, yet the weather is warm enough to make an overnight stay a pleasure. It is only later on in the summer that the park becomes crowded and noisy on weekends. My son Joel and I decide to get up at 6 am on Sunday morning to spend two hours fishing for smallmouth bass in and around the Dingley Islands before the rest of the family gets up. The Dingley islands consist of two dozen or so small to large islands located in the northwestern corner of Sebago Lake, near South Casco (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C1).

 

 

 

 

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Largemouth bass fishing on Sebago Lake – Sebago Cove, Naples, Maine (June 1, 2013)


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I’m spending the weekend with my family at Sebago Lake State Park, which is located at the northern end of Sebago Lake in Naples. I love camping at this location in early June because we have the camp ground (almost…) to ourselves, yet the weather is warm enough to make an overnight stay a pleasure. It is only later on in the summer that the park will become crowded and noisy on weekends. Christian, my ten-year old nephew and my latest project for turning another family member into an ardent fisherman, asks me if we can go fishing…

 

View of Sebago Cove on Sebago Lake from Route 114

View of Sebago Cove on Sebago Lake from Route 114

 

I decide to give Sebago Cove a try. I don’t want to drive up to the cove from the state park with my boat because we only have 2 hours to fish. Instead, we leave the state park by car at 5 pm and quickly arrive at the Route 114 bridge over the short thoroughfare which connects Sebago Lake to Sebago Cove in South Naples. We park the car on the “Sebago Lake” side of the road and walk diagonally across the narrow bridge and over the railing to fish the cove by the thoroughfare. Note that this spot is not really “kid friendly” due to its location next to a busy road and the fact that the bridge lacks shoulders to safely walk on. An alternative option is to fish the Sebago Lake side of the thoroughfare.

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Landlocked salmon fishing on Sebago Lake, Maine (April 7, 2013)

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Sebago Lake (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C1) is the largest lake in southern Maine and the second largest one in the state. This body of water is well known throughout the region for its superb landlocked salmon and lake trout fishery. The fishing strategy today is to troll along the northern shore of the lake, between Thompson’s Point and Cub Cove, in the general area of Sebago Lake State Park where the Crooked River enters the lake. The north shore is a popular early-season spot to catch landlocks and lakers: these fish are eagerly chasing after schools of rainbow smelt which are getting organized in that general area to migrate up the Crooked River for their annual spring spawning runs.  Continue reading

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Lake trout fishing on Sebago Lake, Cumberland County, Maine (December 2, 2012)

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A cool, foggy, and drizzly morning on Sebago Lake

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.

 

 

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Landlocked salmon fishing on Sebago Lake, Cumberland County, Maine (October 8, 2012)

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Sebago Lake (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C1) is considered a prime landlock salmon fishery in southern Maine. The state enhances the natural reproduction that occurs in the Crooked River by stocking the lake with juvenile salmon annually in the spring. I arrive in East Sebago off Route 114 at 9:30 am and am picked up at the shoreline by my sons Joel and Jonathan who have been trolling the area since early morning. They have focused their attention above and around the sunken ridge that lays about 1.5 miles to the east of East Sebago. This ridge rises from >100 ft deep and levels off about 35-40 ft below the surface of the water. It’s a fine morning: cool (lower 40’s), mostly overcast with heazy sunshine, and a gentle southwestern breeze. Rain is forecast for late afternoon. The surface water temperature varies from 59° to 61°F, and the fish finder marks fish 15-30 ft down. We’re using downriggers to troll our lures at these depths.  We present spoons of different shapes and colors to figure out what the salmon want today. Jonathan caught an 11” baby salmon on a yellow-colored Mooselook spoon before my arrival. We seriously tease him about it!

 

 

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Largemouth bass fishing on Sebago Lake, Naples, Maine (September 2, 2012)


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I’m meeting up with my family at Sebago Lake State Park in Naples. They are spending the long Labor Day weekend camping. I’m dropping by at 5: 30 pm to go fishing for largemouth bass on Sebago Lake with my son Joel for a few hours. We launch his boat from the beach and motor around Thompson Point, past Witch Cove and towards the thoroughfare to Sebago Cove under Route 114. Our goal is to hit the set of boat docks across from Camp Mataponi. We arrive around 6 pm and start pitching 5” soft stickbaits against and underneath the docks and in the emergent aquatic vegetation which grows abundantly in the shallows on the backside. Joel catches a 15” largemouth on his very first cast, which is quite exciting. We hit the docks pretty hard but do not get another bite for 30 minutes.

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