The author shows off a lunker Sebago Lake togue caught whole trolling in the summertime. Photo courtesy Tom Roth

When hot July days and nights send the respectable angler in search of shade, our lake trout seek the cool comfort of deep-water pockets. Maine has some top spots that produce trophy togue, even in the dog days of summer.

Anglers seeking trophy togue can use two basic methods: trolling or still fishing. Trolling anglers fall into a variety of categories, but primarily, anglers either troll bait or they troll lures. Bait anglers, have a simpler choice, shiners or smelt. Many will argue the natural food for togue is the rainbow smelt and opt to use fresh or frozen smelt. This time of year, it is hard to find live smelt, so frozen may be the only choice.

“Plugging” is a time-honored method for taking togue while still fishing with bait. Plugging consists of utilizing a slip sinker rig, also known as a “fish-finder” rig. Today, most anglers use an electronic fish finder to locate a fish or group of fish on the bottom and then anchor within casting distance. As soon as the bait settles to the bottom, anglers leave the bail open on their reel and secure it in a holder. By leaving the bail of the reel open, the baited line can flow freely through the open tube of the fish-finder rig as the bait swims seductively near the bottom of the lake.

Many anglers use lead core line and add a lead rudder to really get the line down fast. Anglers attach the lead rudder to the lead-core line with stainless steel wire.

Other anglers prefer lead core line with a dodger or flasher followed by a leader with a fly, lure or bait fish. You really need the lead core line to get your offering down, but each angler has his or her own method after that. I like the dodger and fly method, preferring to use a Barnes special or gray ghost on any of my togue outings. A bait harness with a frozen smelt or live shiner works well for many other sports. Sewn-on smelt are also popular among those diehards who still practice this art.

Lures are another top way to troll up big togue. Mooselook wobblers, DB smelts and Helin’s flatfish work well when towed behind lead core line and just bumped along bottom. It takes a skilled angler to keep the lure on the bottom without snagging a submerged rock, but those who keep their bait down low reap the benefits of their skill and care.

Downriggers are very popular on Sebago Lake and not only help togue anglers, but summertime salmon anglers, too. Salmon find a certain temperature and hold in that depth. Locating fish with a depth finder and sending lure or bait to that precise depth is a sure-fire way to get a July catch.

I’ve found that copper lures work best so I’ve been running copper Carlson’s spoons or the Williams Bully lure in copper. I’ve also tried the imitation rubber smelts like the Gulp product line. They seem to catch fish every bit as well as the real deal and aside from frozen or pickled smelt, they are the closest thing to a live smelt. Plus, they are much more durable than frozen or pickled smelts.

Early morning outings on any Maine lake will typically help you avoid recreational boaters, especially on Sebago Lake. For this reason, I like to have my morning coffee on the lake as the sun comes up and then I’m off the lake as soon as the first jet-skiers hit the water. Usually I’ve netted a few togue, as well!

Tom Roth is a freelance outdoor writer who lives in Raymond on the shore of Sebago Lake and has been fishing and hunting in this region for more than 30 years.


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