SEBAGO LAKE – Rumors of a real Loch Ness-type monster in England’s Lake Windermere swept through the media in Great Britain this winter, but Maine has its own stories brewing about a behemoth of a fish.
Around Sebago Lake lately, big fish tales abound. Eleven years after the Sebago ice fishing derby started, the big prize was pushed to $100,000 for a togue caught during the derby that topped the state’s 53-year-old state record — 31.8 pounds.
The derby, which drew about 3,500 ice anglers a few weeks ago, now has an epic hook. This year’s $100,000 prize raised the stakes and sent the legend of the big fish running like a bass on a line.
Someone, some year, somehow could take home $100,000 — or more — by hauling in a state-record togue. Fishermen either curse the likelihood of this event or swear it will happen.
“Certainly they’re in here. The togue is a very long-lived fish, it could be 50 years old or more. And we know it is a voracious forager, with all the fish we’ve seen inside of togue,” said Mike Brown of Arrowsic as he fished from his shack.
Southern Maine regional biologist Francis Brautigam said it’s possible there is a state-record togue swimming around Sebago, but state biologists don’t know for certain.
A lake trout in excess of 30 pounds is the size of a small dog.
The state record fish — caught at Beech Hill Pond in Otis and hauled in by Hollis Grindle of Ellsworth — made history back in 1958.
But derby founder Tom Noonan wanted to secure an insurance policy this year that would offer a $1 million prize to the angler who broke the state record for togue. He only could get a payout of $100,000 — but the large reward created a buzz, nonetheless.
Noonan said it doesn’t matter that the largest togue taken in the derby was only 14.14 pounds. Or that a togue weighing more than 20 pounds has been caught only once since the derby began in 2001.
“People have had big fish on that they just didn’t land,” Noonan said.
Chris Robinson of East Sebago thinks such a fish exists in his home lake, maybe two. Jaime Meservey of Burnham agrees.
“The first time I ever fished this derby, I had a big fish on, big enough to make me swear there are big fish in here,” said Meservey sitting next to his ice shack at the annual derby.
And Jim Farrell of Westbrook, who hauled in an 18.05-pound togue to win the derby in 2009, is certain such a fish is out there.
“My wife said don’t come home unless I have it,” said Farrell, 81, inside his shack, chuckling as he hunched over a jig line.
Farrell, who has fished the lake for 50 years, says a state-record togue is out there.
“Oh yes. They’ve had a chance to grow, and especially in Sebago where there is a lot of feed,” he said.
But fishing from the Raymond side during the derby, camp owner John Postemski of Windham, Conn., said there’s no chance of it.
Postemski said there are no big fish in the lake since it’s been fished so hard by so many ice fishermen for so many years. And he said even if there were a granddaddy of a togue in Sebago, all the ATVs and snowmobile commotion during the derby would make a big one impossible to catch.
“The fish hear all that and they go and hide,” Postemski said. “I don’t think there are any big fish in here. I have fished it since 1969. I don’t think it’s like they say it is.”
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: