There are some tried and true methods to catch lake trout in Sebago Lake.
Modern togue anglers use different tactics, including trolling sewed-on smelts or shiners, or dragging Flatfish lures along the bottom.
Pursuing large lunkers means dredging Maine’s second largest and deepest (316 feet) lake, located in Cumberland County. Aiding that effort is modern technology, including fish finders, GPS systems and automated downriggers.
Dean Ferris of Westbrook prefers to take a more traditional approach in his quest for Sebago’s trophy togue.
Seven years ago, Dean Ferris and his wife Becky parked their motorcycles after 20 years of summer travel and bought a seasonal camper at the Naples KOA Holiday on Trickey Pond.
Ferris wanted to get back into boating and fishing. His father, the late David “Red” Ferris, was a diehard salmon fisherman and his brother, Dave Ferris Jr., is an avid togue angler who often fishes Sebago.
“I started doing some bass fishing on Trickey Pond and around the area,” Dean Ferris said. “I really started picking my brother’s brain about how he fishes.”
Ferris bought a lead core trolling outfit at Cabela’s and made his first solo togue fishing foray on Sebago — in the kayak. He chose a calm day, letting out eight or nine colors with a Flatfish twitching at the end.
“I caught about a 22-inch togue. It kind of towed me around a little bit,” Ferris said, chuckling. “I landed it myself in this little kayak and ever since I’ve been hooked.”
Ferris knew he would need a sturdier fishing platform for the wind and waves on Sebago, and now has an 18-foot Bass Buggy.
The 55-year-old Ferris, who works for Casella Waste Systems, has for years spent weekend hours fishing. But the togue fishing has been unusually slow during 2021.
“This year has been so frustrating. I’ve lost a lot of gear,” said Ferris, whose trolling method is to repeatedly let out and then retrieve enough lead core to keep his size T4 or U20 Flatfish on the bottom.
His persistence paid off.
On Saturday, Ferris struck out alone just after 5 a.m. in calm conditions that were not too hot, and not productive.
Five hours later, fishing west of Frye Island, Ferris switched to a silver and black Flatfish. He trolled through in 45 feet of water down to 105, then up slightly to 97.
A fish appeared on the fish finder, and a few minutes later, his rod tip dipped and he wondered whether he had hit bottom again. But when he grabbed the rod, it was obvious it was a fish. Ferris reeled for a short time before the line went slack.
“I thought I lost it, so I started reeling really fast,” he said, beginning to retrieve the 600 feet — or to fishermen 20 colors — of line he had let out. “When it was about 100 feet from the boat, [the fish] finally started pulling.”
The fish put up a last-ditch fight before Ferris got it close to the boat. He knew it was a good one and opted for his rubber net.
“I got it in the net and flipped the pole of the net on the railing and pushed down to lift him up out of the water and it bent my net in half,” Ferris said. “Then I was like, ooh, yeah, this is a big fish.”
Ferris took a few pictures with the fish on deck and called Becky to share the news. The togue was by far his personal best: 38 1/2 inches, 18.58 pounds and 20 1/2 inches in girth.
He headed to Jordan’s Store in East Sebago, a popular lakeside establishment, where he had the fish officially weighed and measured by Greg Cutting.
“It was just a big, ol’ lunker hanging out on the bottom,” Ferris said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
Landing the big togue was a nostalgic moment for Ferris. He recalled his father’s love for fishing and the constant guidance and support provided by his brother Dave.
“I wish my dad was here. He was a huge fisherman. He would have been tickled if he had been around to see this fish,” Ferris said.
Ferris has eagerly sought the help of veteran fishermen like Dave Ferris and Ted Reny, both of whom have willingly shared their experience and expertise, along with some friends who are guides.
Ferris said his guide friends on Sebago rely heavily on modern techniques to help ensure their customers’ success. He sometimes uses a downrigger on one side of his boat, but for him it’s more rewarding to use a big reel, lots of lead core, a long nylon leader and a variety of Flatfish to get the job done.
Even if the results are less frequent.
Ferris happily shares his methodologies — including locations, depths and equipment — with any angler who asks how he is able to pull up big lake trout.
“It doesn’t catch a lot of fish and it’s not for everybody, but it will produce giants,” Ferris said.
Last fall Ferris reconnected with Reny, a Westbrook resident who is among Sebago’s most successful trophy togue anglers, for the Standish Fish and Game Club Lake Trout Shootout. They hooked two fish simultaneously, Dean boating an 8 1/2-pounder that won the tournament for heaviest fish.
“I’d love to catch the state-record [togue],” he said. “I can’t even imagine a 39-pound fish, a fish twice the size of mine. That’s got to be like reeling up a bucket of cement.”