Discussing story angles with my contact at the Maine Office of Tourism, I mentioned that I had editorial outlets for magazine articles on pontoon boats and trout fishing. Hailing from the Midwest, where trout fisheries can be few and far between, fishing for salmonids has always held a special appeal for this angler, so I jump at every opportunity to experience it. As for the pontoon subject, well, you’ve got an example of that outlet in hand.
When I inquired about combining the two activities in a mid-summer visit to Maine, Charlene Williams, representing the Maine Office of Tourism, said, “We can do that.”
Four months and an 800-mile road trip later, we were doing just that aboard a Sweetwater pontoon from Godfrey Marine, cruising atop Maine’s deepest lake, the namesake for a famous boat shoe manufacturer named Sebago. Situated about 30 miles inland from Portland (and the outlet shopping Mecca of Freeport) in south-central Maine, Sebago Lake has been a popular family vacation destination for generations.
The state’s second largest – and fourth clearest – lake, Sebago’s average 100-foot-deep waters not only hold a healthy population of lake trout, they are also famous as the home of the landlocked salmon, one of four lakes in the state that support indigenous populations of Atlantic salmon. Beyond the notable fishing opportunities, which include several warm-water species such as smallmouth bass, panfish and northern pike, Sebago offers 45 square miles of surface water surrounded by 105 miles of shoreline to explore, which hold a mix of summer homes, state park land and beaches and waterfront resorts that cater to boaters.
Point Sebago Resort
The latter included our home base at Casco, Maine’s, Point Sebago Resort, a popular place for vacationers – as witnessed by the scores of families enjoying the waterfront that includes a mile-long sandy beach onsite. The 775-acre property offers a variety of lodging options from RV sites to vacation homes, resort cottages and fully-equipped park model units, which is what we chose, literally steps from a launch ramp.
Sebago Lake Marina offers slip rentals in one of the most sheltered areas on the lake, for boats up to 24 feet. Offering exclusively pontoon and deck boats for rent, the rates average $300 for a half day and $350 for a full day’s rental, depending on the boat model.
The Popularity Of Pontoons
We arranged to explore Sebago aboard a late-model Sweetwater Tuscany 2486 pontoon powered by a 60hp Yamaha outboard, which proved perfect for cruising and fishing the lake. What we didn’t expect was the high ratio of pontoon boats and, to a lesser extent, deck boats, among the watercraft plying the waters of Sebago. Then again, we are witnessing the growing popularity of pontoon boats firsthand on practically every water we visit these days, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
My wife Maria, our 20-year-old son Ethan, and I decided on a counter-clockwise cruise of Sebago’s hundred-mile shoreline, taking in its sights and hoping to hook a few fish. The entry-level rental Sweetwater was equipped with the basics for comfortable, roomy cruising, if not angling. There was more than enough elbow room for the three of us, a boarding ladder for our frequent stops to swim or wade ashore, and a Bimini top offered protection from the elements. I missed having a depth sounder and a VHF radio, which would have been welcomed, as would a more detailed paper lake chart than offered. However, because we didn’t specifically request a boat model outfitted for fishing, we couldn’t expect the boat to be equipped with angling amenities such as rod holders, a fishfinder or a landing net.
It helped that early in our stay we had booked a day of fishing with a guide who took us out and showed us the techniques for taking salmon and lakers, as well as places to wet a line for same, so we knew where to go despite not having an underwater view via sonar. And the water was so clear that at idle speed we had no trouble negotiating the boulder-strewn shallows by sight alone. That said, at cruising speed, we kept well offshore.
As it worked out, there were so many interesting places to visit and sights to see – including the foothills of the White Mountains and New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington on the distant horizon, that we didn’t do much fishing. Instead, using a couple of inflatables we brought along (tubes and tow lines are available to rent at the marina), we hopped from one anchorage and beach to another, exploring the shore and relaxing under the sun while bobbing about in the shallows.
Destinations such as Big Bay and the mouth of the Songo River at Sebago Lake State Park are favorites among local and visiting boaters alike.
No matter where we stopped, we were careful to drop the provided Danforth only on sandy bottoms, as the granite rocks that dominate Sebago’s are a snag threat to anchors – as well as propellers and related rental boat damage deposits.
We packed a picnic and, among several other boats there for the show, during lunch break drifted to some sheer cliffs popular with younger and/or braver folks who climb the granite and leap from ledges of various heights into the deep waters below.
Known as “Frye’s Leap,” jumping from the 50-foot-plus outcropping served as a rite of passage for local youths back in the day. The practice has since been banned, following some accidents, although we witnessed several leapers who made a splash thumbing their noses at the law during our cruise.
A popular boat-accessible, seasonal dining option is located a few hundred yards directly across the bay from the Leap. Aptly named, Frye’s Leap and Café serves a limited menu of favorites among the families who rent houses on the summer resort island. We learned that it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure the café is open and to place your order early should you want take-out. It’s one of a handful of small eateries on the boat-accessible-only island, which is served by a ferry.
More To Explore
Boating isn’t the only attraction to the greater Sebago Lake area, and although we were blessed with fair weather throughout our visit, we always make a point of exploring options for readers who may follow in our wake and face a weather day that forces them off the water. What we learned is you actually don’t have to leave the family-friendly resort to fill a few days with land activities. At check-in, guests are presented with that week’s Activities & Entertainment Guide, a detailed, four-page listing of the daily activities that are offered, organized by age group, as well as that week’s live entertainment. A free, on-site mini golf course is a popular destination, and shuffleboard, pickleball, corn hole, horseshoes, tennis, ping-pong, an Xbox Challenge and soccer competitions – and more – are organized practically daily. Most afternoons there is a live band at the beachfront Tiki Bar and live music is a regular offering atop a large waterfront stage, where guests of all ages enjoy alfresco dancing. If it sounds like we were impressed with all the things to do at the resort – we were.
Point Sebago is celebrating its 51st season in 2021, and in that half a century has become an annual summer vacation destination for families from across the northeast, most of whom stay for a week. There are plenty of other accommodation options in the area as well, and public launch ramps and docking options for visiting boaters. For example, Sebago Lake State Park spans 1,400 acres and offers boaters easy access to Big Bay and the mouth of the Songo River, as well as 250 campsites. The park is open May 1 to Oct. 1, and is on U.S. Route 302 between Naples and South Casco.
Just be sure if you trailer your own boat to Sebago Lake that before launching you wash it and the motor thoroughly to eliminate the possibility of transferring invasive species, and make sure you purchase a Milfoil Sticker ($35), available at locations across Maine and valid statewide. The funds generated from the sticker sales go toward protective measures for waters across the state, including Sebago which, as any boaters who follow in our wake will clearly see, is a special lake whose waters are worth every effort to protect.
If You Go to Sebago
Frye’s Leap Café and General Store
Maine Office of Tourism
Naples Bait and Tackle
38 Harrison Road
Point Sebago Resort
Rocky Ridge Guide Service
Capt Carl Bois
Sebago Lake State Park