An angler jigs for lake trout on Sebago Lake, ready to move to another spot if his lure choice is ignored. Photo by Tom Roth

As I pen this column in early January, I have to admit I am a little worried about the big lake (Sebago) freezing. My cove skimmed over a few times only to be broken up with wind and mild temperatures. I can only recall two years where I didn’t ice fish Sebago Lake, and I’m hoping this year isn’t another.

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

More dismal news: My bait trapping has been slow, to say the least. Ponds that typically produce a bounty of shiners are giving up a handful of fish each pull. Other ponds that were slow but steady aren’t producing any bait at all. I spoke with a few bait shops and other bait trappers and they said the biologists told them there was an algae bloom in many of the small ponds that wiped out much of the bait stock. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it may account for my lack of stellar success. In any case, I’ll keep the traps soaking to see what they produce.

Even if the big lake doesn’t lock up good, it’s rare that Jordan Bay doesn’t freeze. Assuming there is enough ice (I prefer at least 6-8 inches to snowmobile on), anglers will be jigging and setting traps for lake trout. This year they increased the slot limit size, to the partial delight of most anglers. I say partial delight because most all of us wish they would remove the slot size altogether and promote the removal of togue, which compete with our salmon. This year, the slot size went up from 23 inches to 26 inches, so that means you can keep any and all lake trout up to just under 26 inches, you must release any fish from 26-33 inches and you can keep one fish over 33 inches.

Sebago produces some good lakers and this summer I saw a good amount in the 5-6 pound range. While participating in the Trolling for the Troops function this summer, a whopper 37-inch 15-pounder was netted. In the winter, they still take the bait, so to speak, but this angler has better luck fishing actively by jigging compared to fishing sedentary traps. That’s not to say I don’t set traps – I do, to increase my odds of catching a fish – but jigging just seems to produce better results.

One of the best techniques for fishing Sebago Lake through the ice is to drill a hole and jig over it for 15-30 minutes. If you don’t see any results, move on to another spot. We all have our favorite jig lures, but I prefer a Swedish pimple tipped with a piece of sucker or shiner. Others espouse the airplane jig. Other swear by tube jigs. Whatever your lure of choice, jig it just off the bottom and hold on!

This year I invested in a Jaw Jacker style trap with the motor that jigs the bait for you. The electric motor lifts and drops the bait, hopefully giving it a more active appearance. If the fish takes the bait, the action of the Jaw Jacker sets the hook. I will be sure to report how this contraption works! Exercise caution anytime you are on the ice as conditions change – Sebago is known for some large pressure ridges and spring holes can create thin ice spots.

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