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.




Millers Island at the mouth of Jordan Bay

Tiny Millers Island at the mouth of Jordan Bay



We reach the Sebago Lake boat launch off Route 302 in Raymond at 7:30 am. As expected, the long dock has already been removed and stored on land, but we came prepared. My 12 ft/8 HP aluminum boat has a draft of only about 6” and we brought waders to help maneuver it out of the sandy shallows. The lake water level is also really low, exposing large swaths of the surrounding shoreline. We notice a thin layer of ice right along the water’s edge by the launch. The nights are definitely getting colder! Fortunately, the howling winds from yesterday afternoon have completely died down to a gentle breeze. But the air temperature is in the chilly low 30’s and we dress like we’re going ice fishing! We motor out and reach the general area in front of the Panther Run outlet by 8 am. Joel and I both fish with two rods, each equipped with two lures which we bring down to depths ranging from 10 to 30 ft using portable downriggers and lead core line (note: the fishing rules for Sebago Lake prohibit the use of live bait in the fall). We slowly troll that whole area of Jordan Bay in 30 to 50 ft of water in the hope of enticing a landlocked salmon, but get no takers. One other boat with two anglers is also fishing this area. A quick chat as we pass by each other indicates that these guys have been on the water since sunrise and haven’t gotten a nibble either. Mm, that doesn’t sound good…


A typical-size togue for Sebago Lake. I'm not going home skunked!

A typical size Sebago Lake togue. This fish certainly is no lunker but at least I’m not going home skunked today!

We decide to try our luck in deeper water after 1.5 hours of unproductive fishing. I position the boat in the center of Jordan Bay and move south towards Frye Island. We place our lures 20 to 70 ft down and troll fruitlessly over a huge expanse of featureless water (as indicated by the fish finder) for another 1.5 hours. Clearly, we need to up our game plan if we don’t want to return home skunked…. Joel mentions that he had luck in the past trolling for salmonids around tiny Millers Island, located at the mouth of Jordan Bay. That, then, becomes the plan and we quickly motor our way over. The low lake level shows that the shoreline surrounding the island is all boulders. We stay just offshore in 40 ft of water and start trolling with our lures placed 10-30 ft down. The bottom quickly rises to 20 ft deep as we turn around the southern end of the island. We scramble to adjust the depth of our lures when my rod starts shaking. I set the hook and am mighty pleased to feel angry resistance at the other end. Finally! The fish stays low and fights hard, indicating that it is a lake trout. In fact, it’s your typical Sebago Lake togue, measuring 23” and weighing about 4 lbs. The fish crossed all four fishing lines during the fight and ends up in the net tangled up with seven other lures. What a royal mess!


Returning to the boat launch, with Millers Island in the background.

Returning to the boat launch, with Millers Island way out in the background. Notice the wind-still conditions.

We spend some time with the fish finder investigating the new bottom feature we just discovered: It’s about 20 to 25 ft deep with interesting mounts and valleys, and strewn with large boulders. And the fish finder shows lots of fish down there! Joel and I therefore resolve to spend our remaining hour of fishing time trolling back and forth over this feature. We do so about 10 times, getting lures stuck on the bottom four times, experiencing three more hits, but no additional fish. Regardless, we consider ourselves fully satisfied with our morning: we connected with fish, the weather is gorgeous and wind still, the sun is warm, and the view of snow-capped Mount Washington from Millers Island through the gap between Frye Island and Raymond Neck is simply spectacular!




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View of the white Mountains from Sebago Lake

View of the white Mountains from Sebago Lake


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