A happy client with a whopper lake trout he caught while trolling with Tom Roth. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

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.

Right now, fishing on Sebago Lake is for the birds. What I mean to say is fishing is excellent, thanks to the birds. Before you rush to judgment and say this old guide has been out in the sun too long, hear me out. Have you noticed large flocks of seagulls, loons and mergansers dive-bombing the water? We anglers have because that is where the fish are. Large schools of alewives, a baitfish from the herring family, have made their way into Sebago Lake from connected ponds that held them and are being driven to the surface by salmon and lake trout, into the mouths of waiting birds. When we see birds, we troll through that area and bingo – fish on.

Alewives are not the preferred food for salmon and lake trout, the rainbow smelt is their meal of choice, but the increasing number of lakers has driven the smelt population down and alewives are filling the void. Alewives also contain a chemical compound that reduces thiamine in fish, not a good thing. But for now, we are enjoying some good fishing, the fish are fat and healthy and we hope the alewives are taking the pressure off of the smelt.

It would seem logical to use alewives as bait to catch fish, but you cannot. They are not legal baitfish in Maine. I have been trolling exclusively with frozen smelt and doing quite well. Other guides are using shiners and Gulp minnows. All are reporting equally good catches. If I run out of bait, and I have on most trips, I switch to Gulp minnows and still catch fish.

Techniques vary, but most all successful salmon and lake trout anglers troll. I typically set up 4 rods when guiding. Two are downriggers set at or just above the bottom. I run a wobbler ahead of my bait to give the dead bait some action. I also set up two fly rods with sinking line and 30 feet of fluorocarbon leader. The fly line, when trolled at bait speed (1 to 1.2 mph) gets down about 25 feet. This is a great combination as I get lake trout on the downrigger sets on bottom and salmon in the water column. When trolling by flocks of birds, I will typically reel my fly line in so it runs closer to the surface.

While I have been slaying them with bait, lures also work great. The other day, myself and fellow guides CJ Harmon and Dan Hillier went out on my boat for a day of fun, without clients. We showed each other a few of our tricks and I tried out my newly installed paler board system. I ran lures on the planer board and was soon catching fish on those. Right now, the hot lures on the lake are Northeast Troller orange crushed ice and pink crushed ice as top producers. Sebago Outfitters has them in stock on my recommendation. I am also hearing green colored lures and the old standard Wonderbread pattern are on fire right now.

So, the moral of the story is to watch for the birds (I always carry binoculars in my boat), drag live or frozen bait and stock up on the hot lures. I also find fishing is best very early and on overcast days. Tight lines!

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