The author shows off a sleek landlocked salmon taken while trolling at ice-out. Courtesy Tom Roth

This year has certainly been a doozy, so far. We had a brief winter with only Jordan Bay freezing up for a short while, many of us are on lockdown in our homes to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and spring seems to have come early to this part of the world. There’s only one solution to all of this: Go fishing.

Except for the fall, there is no season I wait for with more anticipation than spring. Nothing says more of a final goodbye to winter than a feisty salmon peeling line off a fly rod on a cold April morning. Ice-out fishing can be some of the best fishing of the season, especially for salmon. Despite a downturn in salmon catches the past few years, I am optimistic that this year will be a good one. Call it an educated hunch, but the lake trout we caught this past winter were full of alewives. This is a good sign that this forage base is catching on and becoming established. Stocking efforts continue strongly in hopes of supplementing natural reproduction and although not scientific, we just plain deserve a good salmon year.

The Sebago Lake salmon angling enthusiasts flock to the mouth of the Songo River like Mecca, and for good reason. If you hit it right and the smelt are running, the fishing can’t be beat. Trolling the mouth of the Songo River at daybreak puts you right where the salmon and lake trout are congregating as they stab at the clouds of smelt that run up and down the river. Traditional methods spell success, so slow-trolling sewn-on smelt or jigging streamer flies at a faster pace catch the lion’s share of fish this month.

You can spot an old timer on the lake as they sew on smelt the traditional way. It takes quite a bit of skill and practice to get the “stitching” right so the smelt runs true in the water. I prefer the adjustable bait harness for this reason, plus they are quick to rig and easy to adjust to get the optimum roll on the bait. I while away the long winter nights tying these up to be well stocked and ready when ice-out comes. When the smelt are running, you can’t beat a live smelt for realism. With that being said, I have experimented with the lifelike soft plastic smelt imitations like the Gulp! brand minnow. They seem to work as well as the real thing, so I always carry a pack or two, should I run out of bait.

Once the wind picks up on the big lake, and it always does, it’s difficult to troll slow and control the boat, so most anglers switch to streamer flies. Patterns are as varied as the anglers themselves, but some tried-and-true flies always produce. The gray ghost is one of my top picks, as is the Barnes’ special. Locally inspired flies tied by the late guide, Art Libby, such as the Miss Sharon, Rain and Libby’s Cal are top producers.

April is the best time to target the sleek and sporty salmon on Sebago Lake. Get on the water early, bring plenty of smelt and have a streamer fly rigged and ready. Most of all, enjoy the safety and serenity of our local outdoors as we make our way through this current state of affairs.

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.

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