If there’s one thing I learned this past weekend, it’s that no matter how far you travel, who you’re with, or the gear and resources you have access to, you can’t always be successful. That much was evident at this year’s ice fishing derby on Sebago Lake, where, although there was plenty of excitement (anxiety at times, even) and fun, I didn’t have much luck at all. Perhaps it was because I spent more time screwing around with faulty or stranded vehicles than actually fishing, or maybe I have the brutal cold and driving winds to blame; whatever the case, this was certainly not my most productive trip to Sebago ever.
Still, the trip was by no means a complete failure. If anything, I learned more during this adventure than I have during any other trip to the big lake. With guidance from Tom Roth of Sebago Lake Guide Service, I learned how to pull start and drive a snowmobile. Later, I learned how to safely cross a pressure ridge on a snow machine (obviously I didn’t learn from this previous pressure ridge lesson). I also discovered that dish soap is a must-have when using snowmobiles on straight ice, as you need something to lubricate the belts without snow to do the job. Although I learned this the hard way after the belt on Tom’s new sled had melted to the rollers, it is certainly a lesson I will never forget.
Not only was the trip exceedingly educational, but also filled with incredible views. Each morning was capped by the rising of the sun over the lake, made even more brilliant with the clear skies we were blessed with (at least at dawn). On the second of my mornings there, I woke up early to fish before my young cousins would arrive later in the day. After skating a half-mile out to the spot in the dark, I witnessed one of the most spectacular, colorful sunrises I have ever seen. Blaze orange slowly crept over the shaded pines, spreading warmth and light to the frozen tundra as it rose higher and higher. On the horizon, a rainbow even formed, though not a true one. The indigo atmosphere bled into a baby blue skyline, which quickly turned into a light emerald, then orange sherbet, and finally a rosy red.
On the first day, I watched as a pair of bald eagles swooped over the ice, one even landing close enough for me to make out its powerful talons and enormous wings.
In the afternoon, I marveled at the spotted, silvery flanks of two small togue Tom caught, each one’s orange fins as bright as the setting sun. Though they were little, each one held the unmatched beauty of even the largest togue caught during the derby (the winning fish was 36.5″ and 15.86 pounds).
Entertainment was in no way lacking either, whether in the form of skating with my young cousins, watching a number of daring individuals take on the polar plunge (a few for 10 minutes!), or simply talking to Tom’s buddy Rene about his fly fishing adventures in Maine, Canada, and beyond.
Lasting memories were no doubt made over the weekend, and though it was lacking in fish, it made up in countless other ways. In the future I’ll use the knowledge I gained this year to hopefully capitalize on some more fish, something I’ve never been able to do in the past while ice fishing on Sebago (save for the time I was surrounded by all of Sebago’s top guides – it would have been a little embarrassing if I hadn’t caught one then).
As a final note, be wary of ice conditions as the mercury creeps into the 50’s and even 60’s this week. Within a 48-hour period, two motorists went through the ice on Sebago, both on opposite ends of the lake and surrounded by nearly a foot of ice. Watching the ambulance, fire truck, and airboat come to the aid of somebody taking an involuntary polar plunge was nerve-wracking enough; I’d hate to read about another incident.