Angler Mark Lavigne shows off a Sebago salmon caught while being guided by the author in 2021. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

Recently, I attended a State of the Nation address. Not the whole nation – just my nation, Sebago Lake. The nation that has provided me with so much enjoyment and relaxation, served as a family gathering place, and provided hours and hours of fishing action.

The Sebago Lake Anglers Association, which I’m a member of, hosted Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Fisheries biologist Jim Pellerin at one of our meetings.

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.

Pellerin is the lead biologist for this region and has his finger on the pulse of the lake. He presented a great PowerPoint presentation on how IF&W assesses the fishing quality and what the data shows. The news for Sebago Lake isn’t great, and while I don’t like to share negative information, it’s important for all of us who live, work or play on the big lake to know what’s going on.

Several things are occurring on Sebago Lake that impact fishing for the sought-after landlocked salmon. Primarily, the smelt population is down and that deeply impacts salmon population and health.

The smelt population is strained because of the lake trout that were stocked in the lake between 1972 and 1982. Originally stocked to provide angling opportunity to balance out a decline in salmon, the lake trout decimated the lake’s smelt population. An overabundance of lake trout, or togue as we refer to them, created the current open limit on lakers, with the exception that one fish can be kept if it is 26 inches or longer. Anglers are encouraged to keep and kill all legal lake trout, but they don’t seem to be adhering to that request. Additionally, salmon are now less healthy due to this competition for their feed base, the smelt.

A supplemental food source, the alewife migrated into Sebago Lake from connected ponds after being illegally introduced, but serves as a Band-Aid for the salmon. I and other guides experienced some great salmon angling a few years back when alewives were all over the lake, but alewives don’t have the nutritional value for salmon that they require. Additionally, they can migrate out of the lake at any moment and leave the bait stock depleted. I picture hungry salmon cruising the lake saying, “Where did those yummy silver fish go?”

Despite this sobering news, we still continue to catch good numbers of lake trout and some whoppers. We are catching salmon in decent numbers, but not like in days past. The moral of the story I heard from Pellerin is to keep and kill all legal lakers, release salmon when possible and keep your ears tuned for any new plans the fisheries folks have for the lake. Hoping the 2022 open-water season is a safe, enjoyable season for all.

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