The tools of the trade for a successful ice fishing trip on Sebago Lake. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

I get asked more times in the winter when Sebago Lake will freeze or if it will freeze at all. I don’t claim to hold any power to see into the future, but a look at the past helps to answer the question.

Although the big part of the lake often does not lock up enough to safely use, Jordan Bay is usually frozen and safe by February. This year might see the bay locked up later in the month, but with an arctic blast on the way as I pen this column, I’m readying my gear to chase lake trout on the hard water. If you want to fish Sebago Lake this winter, you should be getting ready as well.

Effectively fishing Sebago lake for lake trout (salmon are closed in the winter months) requires planning if you are going to be successful. To begin with, most lakers are taken by actively jigging, but traps do catch fish. The smart angler has both setups at the ready. I begin my Sebago trips by setting four traps in water depths varying from 40 feet to 80-100 feet. This means making sure your ice traps are spooled with enough line to handle those depths. I run standard ice fishing line tipped with 8 feet of fluorocarbon leader in a 14-pound test. Then I run a slip sinker on the line that allows the bait to swim freely, tipped off with a bait hook. I use either large shiners or 6- to 8-inch suckers for bait. Big bait generally equals big fish and while I get flags and have fish run with the bait, only the larger ones can get the fish in their mouth and get hooked. With suckers, they may be heavy enough to trip your flag so I often use a scissors and trim the fins off so they don’t pull on the line.

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.

Once your four traps are set, it’s time to start jigging. I’ve coined the term, “jigging-on-the-move” and that simply means jigging a hole for about 15 to 30 minutes and moving if you have no luck. Depths really vary for lakers in the winter, so I try them all. A few years ago I was fishing with several other guides and things were slow. One of them moved to a really deep hole off the Standish boat launch and started jigging in 160 feet of water. He soon started pulling fish after fish from the same hole, so we moved and followed suit. I only had one jig rod with enough line to reach that depth. That really opened up my eyes about winter ice fishing depth choice. One the same hand, I’ve caught lakers in 15 feet of water though the ice. It pays to try varying depths.

For jigging, you can’t beat the old standby: the nickel-plated Swedish pimple tipped with a piece of bait. This combination has dragged more lakers up from the bottom of Sebago Lake for me than anything else. Other great jigging lures include the airplane jig and tube jigs. I find that white or green lures work best in the winter. Another way to increase your catch rate is the use of electronics. I use a flasher which will show you when a fish comes near your jig. The most exciting feeling on the ice is when a fish shows up on the screen and then hits your jig. If you are seeing fish but not getting bites, it’s time to change lure type or color.

I’m excited to get on the ice and spend a day chasing lakers. Be certain to exercise caution any time you are on the ice. Conditions change quickly and the wise anglers pays attention to them.

Comments are not available on this story.