Common Name: Landlocked Atlantic Salmon
Other Names: Sebago Salmon, Quananiche
Scientific Name: Salmo salar
Adult Size: Average size is 16-18 inches and 1-1 1/2 pounds, but 3-5 pound fish are not uncommon.
Identification: Adults are generally silvery with a slightly forked tail and small X-shaped markings on the back and upper sides. Juvenile salmon have a dark red spot between each pair of parr marks. Mature males develop a "kype", or hooked jaw, during the spawning season.
Landlocked salmon are a freshwater form of the sea-run Atlantic salmon.
Prior to 1868, salmon populations occurred in only four river basins in Maine: the St. Croix, including West Grand Lake in Washington County; the Union, including Green Lake in Hancock County; the Penobscot, including Sebec Lake in Piscataquis County; and the Presumpscot, including Sebago Lake in Cumberland County.
Cathance Lake in Washington County was probably the first Maine lake to be artificially stocked with salmon. This occurred in 1868 using salmon eggs obtained at Grand Lake Stream the previous year.
Maine now supports one of the largest sport fisheries for this species in the world. Salmon provide the primary fishery in 201 lakes, and they provide incidental fisheries in an additional 103 lakes. They also provide good fisheries in 50 rivers and streams totaling about 320 miles.
Hatchery stockings maintain fisheries in 137 lakes - these lakes do not have sufficient amounts of suitable spawning and nursery areas to produce wild salmon. Without regular stockings, salmon in these lakes would disappear entirely, or their numbers would be very low.
Natural reproduction supports wild salmon fisheries in 57 lakes. These lakes have sufficient spawning and nursery habitat to produce enough salmon to support good fisheries. Most of these waters are located in western and northern Maine.
Wild salmon spawn in lake outlets or inlets from mid-October to late November. Eggs are buried in gravel from 4 to 12 inches deep and remain there until hatching early the following spring. Young wild salmon spend 1 to 4 years in a stream environment prior to migrating to a lake. Recent studies in Maine show most wild salmon (about 75%) spend 2 years as stream dwellers.
In wild salmon populations, males usually spawn for the first time when they're 3 or 4 years old. Females usually spawn for the first time at ages 4 and 5.
Salmon may spawn more than once, but most salmon observed on spawning runs are spawning for their first time. Salmon may spawn in consecutive or alternate years; some may spawn in consecutive years then skip a year; and some may skip 2 or 3 years between spawnings.
The oldest landlocked salmon on record in Maine was 13 years old.
Rainbow smelts are the principal forage species for salmon in Maine lakes. Salmon growth is poor without adequate numbers of smelts, markedly reducing their value as a sportfish. Maintaining adequate numbers of smelts for forage is the most important part of managing salmon in Maine.
Extensive studies conducted in Maine clearly show that salmon growth rates, and consequently the size of fish available to anglers, is best in lakes that have excellent water quality and do not have large populations of other smelt predators, especially togue.
"Catch and release" of salmon has improved fishing in many lakes, but in others it has resulted in depressed smelt populations and smaller salmon, because there are too many salmon. Maine fishery biologists respond by reducing the number of salmon stocked, or by adjusting fishing regulations to restore the balance between numbers of smelts and salmon.
The average size of salmon harvested from Maine lakes is 16-18 inches and 1.5-2 pounds, but 3 to 5 pound salmon are not uncommon.
Salmon fishing in lakes is most productive from ice-out to early summer, and again in September. During these times most anglers troll near the surface, around rocky points or shoals, and near the mouths of tributaries or thoroughfares. Sewn smelts or artificial lures that imitate smelts are effective baits. Fly-casting can be productive in lakes during insect hatches, and is the preferred method for catching salmon in rivers.
Ice fishing for salmon is popular in Maine. Winter anglers fish a few feet under the surface with various models of "tip-ups" or by "jigging" natural baits or artificial lures.