ALTHOUGH Sebago Lake was the home of Landlocked Atlantic salmon, it was stocked with lake trout (Mainers call ‘em togue), as has happened in many of Maine’s big lakes. Togue are a very respected fish in Maine with a very heavy support group, especially ice fishermen, so everything seemed to be going well as the lakers started to thrive in Sebago.

But then came a crash in the smelt population. This was probably caused by water temperatures at the time of the smelt’s spring spawning run. It’s been found that newly hatched smelt need a certain bloom of tiny organisms to hatch at the same time the smelt do. But the whole scheme is very dependent on water temperatures. Without the feed, the newly hatched smelt will just about all perish.

The huge population of lake trout that now had populated the whole of Sebago Lake were also fish that loved to prey on smelt, although their existence is not so linked to smelt as the salmon’s is. So what happened is that the lakers, although they didn’t really thrive and their size was starting to decline, were still there in force but the salmon were getting unhealthy and the state was forced to cut back their stocking program, which accounts for the majority of salmon in Sebago Lake.

One of the management practices that came into play was to increase the bag limit of lake trout and decrease in the bag limit on salmon. A decreased size limit was put on the lake trout and, indeed, some positive signs in the recovery of smelt and salmon were starting to show.

But fall netting studies were showing that the lake’s huge population of lake trout was still more than the forage base could handle, and the quality of the salmon was very slow in recovering.

Then a bright light went off in someone’s head and the Sebago Lake Togue Tourney was spawned. The results were major, both in the boost it gave to the region’s economy that had been hurt by the fisheries decline, and the fact that each Togue Tourney was removing hundreds of lake trout from the lake. This effect is now showing up with a remarkable resurgence in the salmon there, both in health and in numbers.

We love to fish this big lake that is just a nice hour’s drive from our home in southeastern New Hampshire. The launching ramp and parking lot are seldom crowded on weekdays, which we usually choose when fishing some of the more popular spots.

If we have a couple or more guests out with us, we’ll run the legal amount of lines, trying with lures and streamer flies. When we find that there’s some kind of a pattern to what the salmon and togue are hitting, we’ll pull the non-productive rigs and concentrate on the methods that are producing the most action.

On some days, a streamer fly trolled in the slipstream of the propeller will do better than some of the more conventional trolling methods and lures. No doubt it’s more fun to catch a salmon on the fly line fished right behind the boat but it’s usually just another line in the water that is producing about the same amount of action that our other, more traditionally rigged flues or lures that we’ll fish at different depths and line lengths in the water.

We’ve found that Sebago Lake is very hard to anticipate what kind of action you’ll be seeing. We’ve had great days with salmon on surface-fished lines and other days when you’ll not even get a hit unless your fishing lines are dropped down to different depths. But when you find the secrets, it’s smart to concentrate on that activity.

One thing that we’ve found is that, on bright days with little wind, you need to drop all your lines deeper except the one fishing in the slip-stream.

This ultra-clear water demands long and stealthy leaders and can often drive you nuts until you finally find the right combination. Although we’ve found more that enough days when everything we tried didn’t work!

Oh well, that’s why they call it “fishing,” not catching!

Drop us an email at and get out there and “get you some!”

Guide Lines appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email Dick Pinney at