Fishing for brown trout on Little Sebago Lake in Windham and Grey, Cumberland County, Maine (July 26, 2021)

 

The public boat launch is spacious and offers plenty of parking.

 

Little Sebago Lake covers 1,898 acres and is located in Windham and Gray, Cumberland County, Maine (see The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer map 5 C2). To reach the public boat launch, drive north through downtown Windham on Route 302 (Roosevelt Trail) in the direction of Raymond. Turn right on Anglers Way at the light by Bob’s Seafood restaurant and Franco’s Bistro, drive past Pettingill Pond and just follow the blue boat launch signs. The distance between Route 302 and your destination is exactly 1.3 miles. The hard-top boat launch is spacious and has plenty of parking. It also offers a convenient porta potty.

 

 

No need to motor any further than 500 ft. off the boat launch dock to start catching trout in the summer!

 

Little Sebago Lake is a top smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing destination in southern Maine, and supports annual bass tournaments. Less well-known and appreciated by the angling public is that this lake also sustains a brown trout fishery. The state releases around 1,000 brown trout each fall, which translates into stocking rate of roughly half a fish per acre, which is sparse. However, those fish that escape the intense competition from other species quickly grow fat and big on the abundant local forage base. It is not uncommon to catch browns in the 4 to 6 pound range, with the occasional 6+ pound fish. These kinds of numbers definitely attract my attention! Ironically, the best time to target this cold-water species is at the height of summer! Here’s the reason why: the warm water temperatures will drive the trout all the way down to the top of the thermocline which is found about 25 ft. or so below the surface. Temperatures down there are typically in the mid 50’s to low 60’s, which is ideal for this species. However, even if they wanted to, the brown trout cannot go any deeper. The reason is that a severe seasonal dissolved oxygen deficiency develops in the cold-water layer below the thermocline in response to excessive bacterial metabolism in the substrate. This peculiar condition “concentrates” all the browns in a narrow band of cool and adequately-oxygenated water only a few feet thick, which makes it much easier to target them. These fish will scatter far and wide throughout the water column, and are therefore much more difficult to catch, in the winter, spring, and fall when the temperature and dissolved oxygen conditions allow them to do so. Click here for a depth map and more fisheries information. General fishing law applies for the summer.

 

That is a healthy-looking 18 inch brown trout.

 

I arrive at the public boat launch at 4:45 am and motor off 15 minutes later. Sunrise this morning is at 5:20 am and I’m glad to be able to fish the “golden hour” (i.e., 30 minutes before plus 30 minutes after sunrise) during twilight when the light levels are low. I’m also glad to see a low cloud deck which will help hide the sun later on this morning. I’m focusing all of my efforts in the basin in front of the boat launch, even though Little Sebago Lake consists of four separate but interconnected basins. The reasons for my choice are as follows: (a) the deep water (30 to 50 ft.) is located right off the launch (i.e., no need to waste time motoring around), and (b) the other three basins are much shallower therefore less likely to hold browns this time of the year. Keep in mind that this lake is a very busy place in the summer, bustling with pontoon boats, jet skis, and speed boats, particularly on weekends. That’s why I’m fishing on a Monday early morning to avoid most of the commotion. Also, before leaving, I printed out the depth map for this lake and drew a circle around the 30-ft. contour line in the boat launch basin. This simple trick avoids wasting precious fishing time blindly looking for the right depth. By the way, this kind of fishing requires a depth finder in order to stay within the required depth zone and avoid getting stuck on the bottom.

 

But this fat 21-inch brown definitely made my morning. The fish weighed a smidgen above 4 pounds!

 

I’m trolling using a portable downrigger and my spinning rod to place two Mooselook wobbler spoons 25 ft. down. I also use an eight-weight fly fishing rod teamed up with lead core line and three double-hook streamer flies tied one to the other; I’m fishing four colors down and constantly “rip” the rod to impart erratic movements to the flies. To make a long story short, over the next three hours I get five hits and four hookups, and land two brown trout. The first hook up occurs on the lead core line 20 minutes after departure (i.e., during the “golden hour”!) and represents a VERY large fish which gives a tenacious fight before unhooking 30 seconds later and getting away. What a bummer, particularly since I never saw it. The two landed fish consisted of an 18 inch trout and a 21 inch trout. The latter was fat and weighed a smidgen over 4 pounds. That one definitely made my morning! I get off the water at 8 am, delighted with the results and vowing to come back for more!

IMPORTANT NOTE: A subsequent review of the published dissolved oxygen (DO) data collected from Little Sebago Lake over the past two decades at “Station #3” (i.e., the basin in front of the public boat launch where I fished this morning) shows that the thermocline in July, August, and September is indeed located at just about 25 ft. below the surface. A severe DO deficiency typically starts developing below the thermocline in late July and can then work its way up through the thermocline in August and September. Based on these insights, I conclude that July is indeed the best month to troll for brown trout in this basin because (a) the trout will seek the cool temperatures at or just above the thermocline and (b) the water down there is still plenty oxygenated. However, as the summer progresses, and depending on the year, DO depressions may break through the thermocline and force the trout further up in the warmer water column. Hence, between early-mid August and late September, I might place my lures up to 3 ft. higher in the water column (22 ft. down) to avoid the lower DO water, but no more than that because any higher and the water would be too warm to hold trout… The bottom line is that success with summer fishing for trout in this lake depends crucially on carefully managing your fishing depth. Placing lures 2 ft. too low or 2 ft. too high could easily result in catching no fish at all…

 

The results: I caught two brown trout (largest = 21 inches) in 3 hours of fun 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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