List of Sebago Lake Fish Species 2023 [Updated]
Sebago Lake is a rich watershed community in the heart of Cumberland County, Maine. Boasting over a hundred miles of shoreline, it is a premier spot for summer tourism and sport fishing. The lake is home to dozens of economically important game fish, which thrive in its clear cool waters. Several river systems and tributaries drain into the depths of this large lake, providing continuous sustenance and aeration for its diverse aquatic communities.
With an area of 28,700 acres and a maximum depth of 316 feet, Sebago Lake has several features that make it an ideal home for a diversity of freshwater species. Its numerous islands and coves contribute to a wide variation of depth and temperature properties that support the life cycles of its valuable fish. Due to its importance to local fisherfolk, it is strictly managed and monitored for anthropogenic disturbances that may result in a collapse of fish populations.
Several fishing guidelines are strictly implemented in order to prevent overfishing. Fishermen visit the lake all year round, as even ice fishing is a popular activity here during winter. The lake has a rich history of state-record salmon and pike catches, hooked by passionate anglers from all over the country. There’s no denying the excitement that stirs every visiting fisherman. With dozens of highly sought-after fish species, each and every pull on the line is a reason to be hopeful!
List of Fish Species in Sebago Lake
1) Landlocked Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar sebago)
Also known as Sebago salmon, landlocked Atlantic salmon is one of the most prized fish species found in Lake Sebago. It also happens to be the species the lake is named after. In 1907, a 22.5-pound salmon was caught in this lake by Edward Blakeley. At the time, this held the world record. It still remains to be the state record for the largest salmon ever fished in Maine!
Landlocked salmon are fairly similar to their non-landlocked counterparts, except they don’t grow as large. The Sebago variety grows to a length of 12 – 20 inches, on average, and has the characteristic dark spots and silvery coloration that anglers keep an eye out for. These fish prefer to swim in cool waters and gravitate towards deeper parts of the lake during summer. Adults feed on smaller fish and may occasionally forage for protein-rich insects on the lake’s surface.
2) Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)
Lake trout is also commonly known as mackinaw, lake char, and togue. This game fish is remarkably slow-growing and is thus highly susceptible to overfishing. Individuals can reportedly live up to 40 years and can even reach a shocking weight of 102 pounds (46.4 kg). This species has a preference for deep cool waters that are free of pollutants.
Characterized by cream-colored spots on a dark brown to grey body, the lake trout has a long-rounded body and a deeply forked tail. It is not considered “true trout” as it is part of the Salmonidae family. Lake trout are closely related to Arctic char and are known for hybridizing with brook trout to produce sterile offspring, referred to as “splakes”.
3) Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
Known for their beautiful coloration and fantastic taste, brook trout are highly beloved by the angler community. These attractive fish are distinguished by a striking gradient of orange to red along their sides. They are speckled with yellow markings and red spots that are bordered by blue rings, and their lower fins are marked with white and black streaks.
Brook trout can grow to a length of 9 – 10 inches (23 – 25 cm), on average. These fish prefer the clear cool water of streams and creeks, but may also venture into highly oxygenated lakes. Young brook trout feed on plankton and insects. In adulthood, they are more adventurous with food and eat an assortment of worms, crustaceans, fish, amphibians, and even small mammals.
4) Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
So popular that it was once illegally introduced by anglers into lakes and tributaries all over the US and Canada, the smallmouth bass is known for being a tough fighter. These fish are not normally sought after for their meat, but for the unforgettable experience they give anglers. Known for being “the gamest fish that swims,” smallmouth bass are often caught and then released in fishing tournaments.
In lakes, this species is highly sensitive to water quality and can serve as an indicator of a healthy ecosystem or the absence of pollutants. It thrives best in cool water environments and can survive in streams and rivers with relatively strong currents. Smallmouth bass are carnivorous fish that get their energy from a protein-rich diet of smaller fish, crayfish, aquatic insects, and amphibians. Occasionally, they may cannibalize on the offspring of other conspecific parents.
5) Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
Though not native to the US, brown trout populations have long been naturalized into the wetland systems of North America. Of all common trout species that are favored for food and game, this one is said to be the most aggressive. Several morphs of Salmo trutta exist, with each having adaptations to varied environmental conditions in relation to their life cycle stages. Purely freshwater populations tend to migrate into streams and rivers to spawn.
Brown trout can grow to be quite large! In lakes and large rivers, they can reach a length of 39 inches (100 cm), a weight of 40 pounds (18 kg) at maturity, and have a lifespan of 20 years! The tastiest individuals are said to be those that are quite small, however. This species has a dietary preference for all life stages of insects, especially the larval stage. This makes them an ideal target fish for flyfishing enthusiasts!
6) Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
An economically important fish species known for its unmistakable overbite, the largemouth bass is the largest species in its genus. Females are normally larger than males, and can reach a weight of up to 25 pounds (11 kg). This fish is said to be the most popular game fish in the US, but is not as favorable as other lake fish species in terms of flavor.
Due to their large mouths, this formidable bass can be quite intimidating to other fish and will often take on the role of apex predators at maturity. They maintain a carnivorous diet of fish, crawfish, amphibians, small birds, and even small mammals. Largemouth bass are capable of consuming prey that are up to 50% of their own body length! In bodies of water that provide little cover for potential prey, this vigorous species can wipe out entire communities of fish.
7) White perch (Morone americana)
Though smaller than many game fish species, white perch must not be underestimated. These silvery fish, which usually grow to just 8 – 10 inches and weigh no more than a pound at maturity, are able to colonize entire freshwater systems! They do this by feeding on the eggs of other fish species, slowly wiping out their populations. If fish eggs are unavailable, this sly species can also feed on other aquatic invertebrates and smaller fish.
Predatory fish can help control populations of potentially invasive white perch. In ponds and lakes where this species is excessively abundant, larger game fish tend to target them as prey. In areas where communities can thrive without much threat, some fish can live for up to 17 years! White perch can effectively be lured by using minnows as bait. Several states advise anglers to avoid releasing this fish, once caught, as a means to help control their dispersal.
8) Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
Known for having nutritionally valuable meat, black crappies are often targeted by anglers for their sweet taste and pleasant texture. This freshwater species is best caught early in the morning, during which they tend to school and feed. In lakes, they prefer to stay in areas with ample cover, such as shallow pools with vegetation, fallen logs, and numerous boulders.
On average, black crappies grow to just 10 inches (27 cm) and weigh up to 4 pounds (1.8 kg) at maturity. They are easily distinguished by their dorsal ray-fins, which have 7 – 8 spines. Their coloration is similar to that of many other game fish – black to dark olive along the dorsal areas and speckled bright silver along their sides. They subsist on a diet composed of insect larvae, crustaceans, and small fish.
9) Chain pickerel (Esox niger)
Chain pickerel belongs to the pike family (Esocidae) and is also commonly referred to as southern pike, grass pike, or jack fish. This torpedo-shaped species is yellow to olive green in color and is distinguished by a pattern of dark lines that can have the appearance of a chain. The position of its fins (both dorsal and anal fins are situated close to the tail) allows it to move in rapid bursts. This lithe species generally weighs less than 1.5 kg (3 pounds) at maturity.
Anglers wishing to catch this sport fish have higher chances of success in shallow areas, where chain pickerel tend to ambush smaller aquatic invertebrates and fish. This species is solitary in nature – only tolerating others of its kind during the mating season. Multiple rows of sharp teeth along the roof of its mouth make it a tough predator that may even cannibalize on other pickerels when food is scarce.
10) Brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus)
Brown bullhead is a type of catfish that is also commonly known as hornpout or mud cat. It thrives in low oxygen areas of freshwater systems with muddy bottoms. This hardy species can survive in heavily polluted waters, such as drainage ditches. Largely nocturnal, the brown bullhead is known for being an opportunistic bottom-feeder with a preference for snails, clams, leeches, insects, small fish, and even aquatic plants.
On average, brown bullheads grow to a length of 10 inches (25 cm) and weigh less than a pound. Larger individuals have been caught but are quite rare in Maine. Anglers are able to catch this deceptively delicious fish by using chicken liver or worms as bait. Though not as aggressive as other game fish, they must be handled with caution. Their large barbels and spines can cut through skin and unfortunately cause nasty infections!
11) Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax)
The rainbow smelt is a small freshwater fish that grows to just 8 inches (20 cm) and weighs approximately 3 ounces (0.2 pounds) at maturity. Many larger game fish prey on rainbow smelt populations, which stay in shallow water areas no more than a mile away from the shoreline. These fish are normally found in ponds and rivers and can travel between interconnected lakes. They are weak swimmers, however, and are unable to navigate through fish ladders around dams.
Rainbow smelt travel and forage for food in schools. Their diet consists of small crustaceans, fish, and shellfish. Similar in appearance to Alaskan smelts, this species is distinguished by its prominent teeth, eye-catching iridescent body coloration, colorless fins, and dorsal black speckles. Unfortunately, it can grow to be invasive in some areas and is now illegal for commercial purchase or bait use in several Canadian fisheries zones.
12) American eel (Anguilla rostrata)
With a complex life history that begins in the Sargasso Sea (an ocean gyre in the Northern Atlantic), American eels are catadromous species that undergo life-threatening migrations at the beginning and towards the end of their lives. Among all fish, it is likely that eels live through the most diverse of habitats. Those that eventually settle in lakes stay for up to 25 years, after which they must leave once more to reproduce.
During the freshwater stage of their lives, American eels are nocturnal fish that feed at night. They reside along the lake floor, where they prey upon an assortment of shellfish, crustaceans, insect larvae, fish, and crayfishes. This species is the only freshwater eel found in North America. It has a snake-like body that can reach a length of 20 inches (50 cm). Though edible and effective as bait for other game fish, it would be wise to steer clear of wild-caught eel. Populations are rapidly declining from freshwater systems all over the US.
13) Longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus)
Longnose suckers are bottom-feeders that thrive in cool, clear freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers, streams, and pools. These omnivorous fish have toothless mouths and feed on small benthic invertebrates, algae, and aquatic plants. They have large lips that specialize in creating suction to ingest food particles. This species is sexually dimorphic, with males having red bands along their sides during the breeding season.
Not typically sought after by anglers, longnose suckers are sometimes viewed as a nuisance due to their consumption of fish eggs spawned by other economically important game fish. Moreover, their white flesh is edible and is sometimes consumed as fillets, though it is reportedly quite bony and difficult to eat. In lakes, this species can grow to a length of 25 inches (63 cm), yet it is preferred for its effectiveness as bait rather than food. Common predators of this fish include bass, northern pike, and trout.
14) Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis)
Lake whitefish is a freshwater species with well-known commercial value. Chances are you’ve come across its vacuum-packed white fillets at your local grocery! Also known as Otsego bass, humpback whitefish, or gizzard fish, this highly sought-after game fish may be an easy target for beginner anglers, especially throughout the summer months. Catching this species in the winter can be a fulfilling activity, as simple ice-fishing techniques can lure them in quite effectively.
As a nutrient source, lake whitefish ticks all the boxes. It is a rich source of healthy fats and selenium, which can help protect the body from oxidative stress. This species thrives best in cool deep waters and maintains a diet of small fish, fish eggs, and small crustaceans. It’s no wonder why their meat is packed with Omega fatty acids! Retreating up to depths of 200 feet, lake whitefish is a highly important resource across the entire Great Lakes region.
15) Common shiner (Luxilus cornutus)
Common shiner is a small freshwater fish that is often used by anglers as bait. In some areas of the US, it is known as skipjack, dace, horny head, or silver shiner. Common predators of this fish include chain pickerel, bass, and several fish-eating birds. It has a preference for mild water temperatures and gravitates toward the shallow pools of rivers, creeks, and ponds. In these relatively calm areas, they feed on vegetation, aquatic insects, and small fish.
At maturity, common shiners typically measure just 4 – 8 inches. Once they reach sexual maturity, the males of these species develop tubercles or tiny bumps on their heads. The species epithet, “cornutus”, is Latin for “horns” and is in reference to this peculiar feature. Males are also notable for the pink tint that appears all over their bodies, as though a light blush, during the breeding period.
16) Lake chub (Couesius plumbeus)
Lake chub belongs to the Leuciscidae family of true minnows. Populations of this species can be found all the way up to the Arctic Circle, where they thrive in cold-water lakes, rivers, and streams. In these cool water systems, they are often found swimming along the shallows. Males may even break through the water’s surface as they charge towards females during the breeding period. In the summer months, however, warm surface temperatures force them towards deeper cooler water. In recent years, increasing temperatures have caused several populations of this species to decline.
In the wild, lake chubs tend to grow to just 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10 cm). Their small mouths permit a diet of plankton, algae, and tiny aquatic invertebrates. With elongated, grey-silver bodies, this species is distinguished by its slightly speckled appearance and rounded snouts. Individuals are seldom found on their own, as lake chubs are social minnows that travel in schools during the day. They can shift to a nocturnal habit if predators, such as larger game fish and birds, are lurking about.
17) Cusk (Brosme brosme)
Cusk are quite similar to cod, but are easily differentiated from them by their single dorsal fins. Also often used as a substitute for cod in many dishes, cusk are cold-water fish that can weigh up to 20 pounds (9 kg) at adulthood and reach a whopping length of 3 feet (91 cm)! They mature at a relatively late age and are believed to live for as long as 14 years or more. This slow-growing species is currently a candidate of the Endangered Species Act, as there are concerns over the state of its populations.
Also known as tusk or torsk, cusk prefer to stay in deeper areas of lakes and coastal shelves. They are bottom-feeders that favor crustaceans and mollusks. In winter, they may venture to shallower near-shore areas in search of small fish and crayfish. Anglers traditionally yearn for them at this time of year, during which they employ night fishing techniques and specialized devices for attracting cusk under the ice. Though often fished for sport via hook and line, the majority of cusk catch is accounted for by commercial line trawls.
18) Pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)
The pumpkinseed sunfish is an attractive freshwater species that tends to be ubiquitous in lowland lakes. Commonly referred to as pond perch, this fish is active throughout the year in clear, non-flowing, warm waters. Individuals tend to travel in schools along shallow areas with high structural diversity (for shelter and protection). Afternoons are their favorite time to feed on a variety of aquatic insects, small mollusks, worms, larvae, and tiny fish.
With vibrant scales that range in color from orange to yellow and green to blue, pumpkinseed sunfish are easily one of the most colorful lake fish species in North America. All too easy to catch and sometimes considered a nuisance by anglers, this fish can be aggressive and may outcompete native species. In Europe, where it was initially introduced by the ornamental fish industry, naturalized populations are unfortunately growing to be invasive. This sunfish can survive in poorly oxygenated waters and has mechanical receptors that make it quite adept at anticipating predators!