When it comes to fishing, Nolan Raymond puts in his time.
The 17-year-old from Hermon is blessed to have both time and opportunity to hit the water on Sebago Lake, where he spends most of the summer at the family camp in Raymond.
Most summer days, at least a couple of times, Nolan climbs into his grandfather’s 1977 Sears Gamefisher aluminum boat, known affectionately as “the rig,” and speeds off to his favorite fishing areas.
“There goes Nolan,” we often say when the whine of the Evinrude echoes across the cove.
He’s been known to cover a considerable amount of territory in his forays, as evidenced by his frequent refilling of gas containers.
I have witnessed Nolan’s passion for fishing. He is my first cousin once removed and our families share lakeside property. He and I chat occasionally about whether the fish are biting.
Our conversations inevitably focus on what he and his brother Kent have caught recently, while I lament my lack of time and commitment — and corresponding lack of success.
Nolan comes by his love for fishing honestly.
His great-great-grandfather, Dr. William Kendall, holds the distinction of having caught the second-largest landlocked salmon ever out of Sebago. He hooked the 16-pounder on Aug. 1, 1907 — the same day Ed Blakeley landed a bruising 22-pound, 8-ounce salmon that for more than a century was the world record, and remains the state standard, for the species.
Nolan’s maternal grandfather, the late Ken Warner, successfully fished Sebago his entire life and spent 50 working as a respected fisheries biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Nolan has fished alongside his parents, Brian and Kendra (Warner) Raymond, his older brother Kent, and sisters Neily and Kristany.
With the possible exception of Kent, an avid and accomplished fisherman in his own right, Nolan probably spends more hours with rod in hand than anyone in the family.
Nolan will tell you the fishing at Sebago Lake has been slow for him in 2021. In spite of his tenacity, his trolling efforts have yielded only a handful of salmon and togue, all of unremarkable size.
“I’ve put in I don’t know how many hours in the boat, I fish almost every evening,” Nolan said.
His luck changed dramatically in the early morning hours Thursday.
To escape the muggy air at camp, Nolan decided to sleep out on the family pontoon boat, which is moored some 40 yards offshore.
“It was quite warm and the lake was like glass,” he said. “The moon was bright, you could actually see everything.”
Before taking his paddleboard out to the boat, Nolan figured he might as well grab a rod and some frozen shiners and wet a line while he was out there.
His target was cusk, a bottom-feeding species that grows fairly large and is often caught at night. He sliced open a shiner, stuck a hook through it and cast into perhaps 35 or 40 feet of water, letting it sink.
Soon after, Nolan fell asleep.
Nearly six hours later, he was rousted from his slumber by the sound of the screaming drag on his reel.
“It took out a lot of line,” Nolan said.
“It was an unbelievable fight, 10 or 15 minutes. I got it back to the boat two or three times and it kept stripping out line. I got the net under it and he almost didn’t fit, so I had to finagle it,” he said.
When he got the fish on the deck, Nolan couldn’t believe his eyes. It wasn’t a cusk, but a large lake trout.
“It was incredible. I can’t even describe it. I just stood and looked at it. It was a humongous fish,” Nolan said.
The official measurements, taken later Thursday at Jordan’s Store in Sebago, told the tale: 29.75 inches, 8.86 pounds.
The togue is the largest fish Nolan has ever caught and, anecdotally, ranks second only to William Kendall’s salmon as the largest Sebago fish landed by any family member.
That’s a considerable accomplishment, taking into account some 115-plus years of Kendalls, Warners, Raymonds, Kilbys, Savages, Chesleys and Fosters spending time at the lake every summer.
“This isn’t the biggest fish of the family, but it’s certainly the biggest togue,” Nolan said.
He admitted some hesitation when it came time to process the fish and freeze it for a future meal.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to put the knife to it,” Nolan said. “It was too pretty.”
Raymond family fishing bragging rights still appear to rest with dad Brian, who has landed some monster muskies in Aroostook County. In terms of length, Kent has hauled in some 30-plus-inch cusk.
With summer vacation having reached its final days, Nolan can return to Hermon with a memory that will last a lifetime.
Not that he’s satisfied, mind you.
“It makes me wonder, what does a 25-, 30-pounder look like? I can’t even begin to process that,” Nolan said.