Gary Theriault has been dedicating a lot more time this year to fishing on Sebago Lake.
He grew up in Naples and spent many days targeting the signature fish of Maine’s second largest lake, which is referred to as “the home of the landlocked salmon.”
It also proved to be the home of the biggest fish Theriault has ever caught. On Aug. 25, he pulled in a lake trout (togue) that measured 38 inches and weighed 18.69 pounds.
“It was pretty exciting,” Theriault said. “I guess it was meant to be.’’
The bruiser is the culmination of renewed efforts to fish more often and to expand his horizons. Last year, he got himself a boat and this year he decided to alter his tactics and pursue togue.
“This year I wanted to get serious about it and I started out fishing salmon a little bit, but the size of them isn’t what it was back when I was young, in the ’80s,” Theriault said.
Motivated to catch a bruiser, Theriault spent much of the last month hitting the water early in the morning and learning how to use Flatfish lures, rather than sewn-on bait, to pursue togue.
He recently seemed to be getting the hang of catching fish on a Flatfish, although it wasn’t necessarily all smooth sailing.
On Aug. 24, he took an unscheduled morning off from fishing.
“My girlfriend (Gayle Guerard) got mad at me and we ended up having a little fight and I ended up staying home that day,” Theriault said with a laugh.
He knew she was justified in her concerns and his small sacrifice did not go unnoticed.
“I gingerly asked her if it would be OK if I go out in the morning and she said, yeah, go do it,” he said. “She was a good sport.”
The one-day hiatus set the stage for a memorable day. Theriault hit the lake, let out his lead core line and hooked up with a nice salmon before he could even get his line attached to the downrigger clip.
The one-day hiatus set the stage for a memorable day. Theriault hit the lake, let out his lead core line on one rod and before he could even get his downrigger clip attached to his other line, a nice salmon pulled it out of his hands.
He caught another salmon before his lead core setup, which featured 10 colors of line and a 2-ounce weight, got down into togue territory. With his depth finder reading 111 feet of water, he got a big strike.
Theriault, who was fishing alone, sprang to the front of the boat and threw the motor into reverse to give himself enough slack to get some line back on the reel, then went forward again, then back, then forward a handful of times.
“Finally when it got to where it was pretty much going straight down, I just put the boat in neutral and kind of worked it to the surface,” he said.
He tried to capture the event on video to document the catching of the “sea monster,” but each attempt was quickly thwarted by the fish making another run that forced him to put the phone down.
Ultimately, the net wasn’t even big enough to allow him to get the fish efficiently into the boat. When the treble hook on the lure got caught in the net, Theriault improvised.
“I reached down while it was flaring its gills and I got my hand behind its gill plate and then lifted it up,” he said. “I was like, oh, yeah, you’re mine now!”
He took the fish to be weighed and measured at Jordan’s Store in Sebago. It will be among the new members of The Maine Sportsman’s “The One That Didn’t Get Away Club,” which recognizes lake trout of 15 pounds or more.
“I call it an act of God,” Theriault said of overcoming all of the challenges.
“Every morning I go out fishing, I pray for God’s good grace and His blessing. I got it,” he said. “That was quite the story, quite the adventure.”
Theriault later dropped off the trophy at Dick’s Taxidermy in Lisbon to have it mounted for all to eventually see on his wall.
In comparison, the largest togue caught at last winter’s 21st Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby was 15.86 pounds and 36 1/2 inches and the top togue from the Standish Fish and Game Sebago Lake Trout Shoot Out in May was 12 pounds, 1.9 ounces and 30 1/2 inches.
Theriault is hoping to go even bigger in the future.
“There’s some huge fish in that lake,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Gary Theriault’s hometown.