Tom Roth spent a successful morning fishing with Devin Libby, left, Randy Robinson and Alal Ward, all of Lisbon. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

I met my three clients at the boat launch at Sebago Lake State Park bright and early. This year the smelt ran hard up the Songo River and I wanted to get in on the early morning run as the fish congregate at the end of the river, along with their predators – salmon and lake trout. I had a supply of live smelt, nice and long, perfect for trolling. After a safety briefing, we headed out on the winding Songo River to the mouth of the big lake. We were one of the first boats, but there would be more.

I motored out past the buoys and set my fly lines first. I love trolling fly rods with sinking fly line, a nod back to the old traditional methods that work so well. Plus, nothing beats a feisty salmon or laker on a fly rod. Next, I set the downriggers to follow the bottom, in hopes of catching a fat lake trout lounging in the depths after gorging on smelt all night.

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.

I timed it right as all the rods were set as we trolled in front of the buoys and the port fly rod started screaming. “Fish on!” I shouted as I handed the rod to my client, Randy Robinson. Randy played the fish, likely a salmon, for a moment and it spit the hook. Oh well, we were in to fish. In no time, the port downrigger popped and it was fish on again. This time, Alan Ward got the rod and successfully brought in a nice laker. As the morning progressed, each angler got to land a laker and they went home with the makings for a great feed. No salmon, but they were around. We could see them breaking the surface chasing smelt.

This is early spring fishing at its finest. Sebago Lake hasn’t seen a decent smelt run in years, but this spring the smelt ran black in the Songo River. This is a good sign for anglers. Fellow guide Dan Hillier of Songo River Guide Service brought out clients a few days later and they really got into salmon, and all were fat, healthy fish. Last season, we were finding the salmon and lakers where the alewife had balled up. It looks like this year a good smelt population will put the fish where the smelt go.

This time of year, you can’t beat live bait, either smelt or shiners. I prefer smelt, but as they get scarce at the bait shops, shiners are a good substitute. Gulp minnows also work well and are easy to keep on the boat. I have a big container in case I run out of live or frozen bait. On some days, I’ll run half Gulp and half live bait and the Gulp typically does as well as the bait.

The bite is on at Sebago and many of the smaller local ponds. May brings warmer water and the start of serious bass fishing for those anglers looking for a shoreline fight with a feisty small or largemouth. Tight lines and smooth waters!

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