The story of landlocked salmon in Sebago Lake has as many bumps as a Maine mountain road after winter.

And since Sebago is one of the original four drainages within the landlocked salmon’s range in Maine, that’s pretty sad.

Now a study completed last fall by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership at the University of Southern Maine addresses some of the specific difficulties facing the species, namely blocked fish passages which have been an issue for a number of years.

The estuary partnership surveyed 986 square miles of the Casco Bay watershed that included more than 1,400 sites. The results were alarming and have prompted some local fishermen to take action.

“The vast majority of sites block fish passage, and about a third always do,” said Curtis Bohlen, the partnership director at USM’s Muskie School of Public Service.

The study found that 34 percent of all the culverts in the study area severely restricted fish passage. And as much as 90 percent restricted fish passage sometimes, according to the study.

But the fishermen at the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited are not giving up, despite the battles with togue and northern pike, smelt and now blocked passages.

After raising grant money totalling about $10,000 this spring, the chapter is hoping to restore habitat around Swett Brook Bridge in Waterford on the west side of the 28,770-acre lake.

And then they’ll move on to the next blocked passage, one culvert at a time, said the chapter’s project director, Steve Heinz.

It was that study that pointed the way to the Sebago TU chapter to the work that needed to get done immediately.

Swett Brook is a feeder stream to the Crooked River, and primary spawning habitat for the wild landlocked salmon left in Sebago Lake, which the Crooked drains into.

But Swett Brook was compromised about 20 years ago when the bridge there was widened and the revamped culvert allowed only a few inches of water to pass under the bridge, said Heinz.

Swett Brook has the potential to be used for spawning habitat, but not with the impediment of the bridge, Heinz said.

The Swett Brook bridge project will provide fish passage at the bridge and, Heinz said, improve access to 4 miles of river, all of it under-used landlocked salmon spawning habitat.

The chapter will put in some fish weirs to push water under the bridge to help the fish move up river.

The weirs will raise the water to 6 inches under the bridge, and also provide a pool to allow fish to gain momentum before swimming upstream under the bridge.

“If they have room the fish can build speed to jump. If it’s 2 inches deep for 30 feet, they can’t do that,” Heinz said.

Certainly, the salmon population in Sebago Lake has fluctuated for a variety of reasons from crashes in smelt population to the addition of lake trout to the illegal introduction of northern pike.

Heinz points out every bit of aid can help — from smelt stocking to togue thinning to new fish passages.

Regional state fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam agreed and said no one solution is ever going to bring the landlocked salmon back to the heyday in Sebago Lake, but a nice salmon fishery can persist with the help of many efforts.

“The full restoration of salmon is complicated, just because of the obstacles. That doesn’t mean we’re not doing everything we can to maximize recruitment of wild fish into the fishery. I think those kinds of efforts, are another piece to the puzzle,” said Brautigam with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]