A gray squirrel swims on Sebago Lake. Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Carter

In his years of tournament bass fishing, Jonathan Carter says he has seen all kinds of critters paddling around on the state’s lakes and ponds.

“I’ve seen a moose, a deer and a bear,” said the Orrington native, who now lives in Portland. “And [in the southern U.S.], there’s always snakes around.”

But up until this year, he’d only seen a single gray squirrel scooting around in a lake.

This is the 6th squirrel I’ve seen swimming on Sebago this summer. I also have heard many other people are seeing them…anyone know why so many are taking up the hobby??

Posted by Jonathan Carter Fishing on Thursday, 6 September 2018

This year, that has changed drastically. Carter said that on one lake alone — southern Maine’s Sebago — he has seen six swimming squirrels this summer.

Motorists in Maine have also been overwhelmed by squirrels this year, a situation that biologists say exists because of an abundance of food that has led to a population increase.

In recent days, while Carter was prefishing Sebago in advance of last weekend’s state championship bass tournament, he was finally able to capture some video of a swimming squirrel.

On Monday, Carter — the first Mainer to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic — was back on the road, heading to Tennessee to fish another tournament.

Carter said he has heard various theories about the swimming squirrels but isn’t sure what would entice one to hop in the water and go for a swim.

“It looked like they were just going across [a cove]. I don’t know why they would,” Carter said. “All the people on Facebook say they’re searching for food, but that doesn’t make much sense to me. Swimming across the cove couldn’t give you much food difference, I wouldn’t imagine. “

During the weekend’s tournament, Carter said the squirrels were out in force.

“They were all over the banks this weekend. Other guys saw two or three on people’s docks and stuff. I assume they were getting ready to go in. I don’t know,” he said.

Carter said he thought briefly of offering a helping hand to the squirrel that he videotaped, but ultimately chose to leave it be.

“I kind of wanted to pick it up and help it across. But I figured it wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do,” Carter said. “It would have been easy to pick it up by that tail and put it in the boat, but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated it.”

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John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...