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Togue or Toque?

February 4 - 6, 2000

Been Ice Fishing?

I was filling up the Jeep with gas in Sebago. The other guy at the pump took one look at my vest, woolen toque and Sorell snow boots, and asked, "You been out ice fishing?"

"Nope, just came back from snowshoeing" I replied. "Ice thickened up now enough to get out, is it?

"Yup, running about 10" thick in Jordan and Lower Bay. I've got my ice shack out, and have been doing real good."

"What have you been catching?" I asked.

"Togue, all about 2 to 3 pounds."

"Tip ups or jigging?"

"Some are using tip ups, but I've been jigging - Swedish Pimple and Stinger Jigs, with bait" he offered.

"Minnows or tomcods?"

"Them or shiners, whatever you can get. Either cut or live seems to work just as well." he concluded "It's pretty good this year - you ought to get out and try your hand."

With that my gas tank was filled, I wished him luck and went on my way. Going by Sebago Lake I could see a small cluster of bob houses out on the ice just off Jordan's Store.

The lack of snow until just a couple of weeks ago has really helped freeze up our lakes and ponds. Last year it wasn't cold enough for Sebago to freeze really solid. There were open patches of water on Big Bay, the main body of the lake, most of the winter. This year, however, things started to set up about the middle of January. By the last week, parts of Jordan Bay, Kettle Cove, the areas behind the Dingley Islands were getting a good ice cover. In another week, these areas had 10" or more of ice, and there was up to 3-4" out over the Shoals.

Dick Pinney's Fishing Report has been raving about the "...unbelievable togue fishing that came with the new ice on Sebago Lake..." for a couple of weeks now. John Boland, Regional Senior Biologist who covers the Sebago area was quoted as saying that this was " lake trout fishing...", and raved about anglers all catching their limits of five togue each. John said "There are so many fish stories that I can't pick one, but I can tell you that when we were done with our fishermen census, I took a few minutes to fish for myself. In 20 minutes I had five togue on the ice, and in the process I'd released another six."

Salvelinus namaycush
Togue, or Lake Trout

"Togue" is Mainer for Lake Trout, Salvelinus namaycush. In Vermont it is called the "Longe", and in California it is known as the Mackinaw trout. Originally, so legend goes, "togue" came from the American Indian name for the fish. It ranges throughout the northern US and Canada, through mainly in New England, Labrador, New Brunswick, the Finger Lakes and the Great Lakes, as well as Alaska. Specimens weighing 30 pounds are often caught, and some occasionally go to as much as 125 pounds. It is also called "Grey Trout", "Salmon Trout", "Forktail", and "Laker". "Togue" is pronounced "toe-g", with a soft "g".

"Togue" are not to be confused with the "toque", a knitted cap with no brim. The "toque" (pronounced "too-k") is associated with the French Canadian Voyagers who travelled the rivers and lakes of the northcountry in the 1800's. The English spelling of "toque" is "Tuque" and is pronounced the same way. According to Jeff "the tuque toucher" McKenzie and Matt "who took my tuque" Lachniet, (see A Touch of Tuque), a true tuque is knit, brimless, and may be pointed. It's principal usage is for warmth, not aesthetics.

I usually wear a toque when I go skiing or snowshoeing - it pulls down over the ears when it gets cold, and stuffs easily in a pocket when you get too warm. There are several in the mitten box, but I usually wear a red-and-white one that I picked up at the 1987 North American Wildlife Conference in Quebec City that proclaims "Halt neige acide".

Ice fishing used to be a favorite winter sport of mine, when I was growing up in southern New Hampshire, and then again in Michigan. I haven't been for years, and no longer have any of my gear, except mebbe an ice spud or skimmer. Intrigued by the reports of good togue action on Sebago, and big brown trout catches from Hancock Pond, I've put ice fishing back on my list of things to do, again, before I grow up. Probably not this winter, but certainly next!

Tracks in the Snow

The day was perfect - cold, but not windy - with a bright blue sky. There was a foot or two of snow on the ground, and the winter woods called to me on Saturday. I got out my snowshoes and headed off.

Wild turkeys have been
all around the apple trees

There were wild turkey tracks all around the apple trees in the pasture where they have been looking for feed. The deer pretty much cleaned all of them up before the snows came, so it didn't look as if the turkeys had much luck. Our neighbors Tim and Alan have counted between seven and eleven birds in the flock. Although I've not seen them down back, the tracks in the snow were clear evidence that they've been around our place as well.

There is a snowmobile trail that runs behind the Farmhouse, down along the swamp that borders the Northwest River. I headed down through the woods, due east, figuring to cut the trail somewhere north of Folly Road. There is a grove of white pine on the east edge of our property. Although they are all good size, they are clearly second growth from the layout of the stone walls and openings in the stone walls where the lanes used to be. The eastern boundary is marked with a big double stone wall. All the ground within the stone walls used to be cleared, probabably for pasture - but is now reclaimed by forest - like so much of Maine.

The pines transition
to hemlock and beech

East from the pines, the woods transition to a second growth mix of hemlock and beech, with some birch and maple. There were wildlife signs everywhere - mice, rabbit and fox tracks, bits of feathers from a partridge, and a few deer tracks. Here and there were old deer rubs from last fall.

High in a tall white pine there was a nest of sticks and twigs - of what sort, I'll have to report back later. It looks a bit like an osprey nest, but the location and size are wrong. The pine itself is distinctive - it is riddled with cavities from woodpeckers - and is just barely alive. The size of the cavities makes me think that it might be a pileated woodpecker that made them, but that will have to be checked out too. I've put out an e-mail to some wildlife biologist friends to give me some advice.

Woodpeckers have riddled
this white pine

The snowmobile trail I found was not the main one, but it brought me out to Folly Road. From there, it was an easy walk back to the Farmhouse. My plan is to flag a ski track from back of our barn down to the snowmobile trail so that I can cross country ski it. When we lived in Canterbury, NH, I cut a ski trail through the woods to the Snoshakers trail, and had access to nearly 35 miles of great skiing. When the snow is deep, snowmobiles pack a pretty good trail. I've always figured that cross country skiers and snowmobiles could get along just fine.

Progress on the Farmhouse

This trip to the Farmhouse was much smoother than the last couple. We drove over during the daylight hours, and the roads were clear and snow-free. Another load of furniture and stuff made the crossing over Vermont and NH. Paul and I hauled everything from this trip and the last two trips up to Penny's room on the second floor. This is to make room for moving everything from the old barbershop (TV room, future dining room) into the living room - prior to removing the old, water damaged ceiling in the barbershop. The new roof covering has worked well, even with the worst of rain and ice, and so we're ready to replace the ceiling.

The new window for the kitchen had finally arrived at Steep Falls Hardware, and Paul had installed it the day before we got there. It took a very long time to arrive, but really looks nice.

The new back porch is doing its job
of keeping the snow
that slides off the roof
away from the kitchen door

Alan pushed the snow piles back,
getting ready for the rest of winter to come.

It looks like the new porch roof on the back of the kitchen is serving its planned purpose just fine. The snow and ice slides off the main house roof, and has built up a solid pile on the walkway. But, the porch is shielding the back kitchen door, and we can let the dogs out the back without any problems. For some reason, the snow seems to "whump" off the metal roof of the house in the evenings - we'd have thought it would do so during the day when the sun hits the roof and warms it up.

Alan dropped by with his front loader to push the snow banks back a bit. If the groundhog's prediction is correct, we've got a lot more winter ahead of us before spring. We will need the extra space to push snow.

Paul and Penny compared notes on the pantry design, while I downloaded orders from the computer and took care of some office work and calls. Paul then left for home for the weekend. Penny and I were charged with staining the wainscotting in the office and sanding down trim.

A few housekeeping things to take care of - running the generator for its monthly session, repairing a malfunctioning modem line, installing some new software, picking up the Jimmy at Phils, etc. Sonny is due in next week to hook the generator up and rewire the Gentrex panel so we'll be ready with our own power when the winter storms knock down the power lines (it happens every winter, sometimes more, sometimes less).

On Sunday, Penny and I stopped off for a brief visit with cousin Dave and his wife Pam in Standish. Dave repairs old clocks during the winter season, and we dropped off my father's grandfather clock that hasn't run for 20 years or more. Then Jim and Alison met us for lunch, and we transferred to our trailer a new toilet that Jim had at his place - that will go in the new half-bath downstairs. My Christmas present of a new pair of breathable waders has now made it from Orvis to Jim's place in Wells, but he forgot to bring them - we'll get them on the next trip up.

All in all, a very short, but very productive weekend at the Farmhouse.

Here are some good sources of information on ice fishing:

Maine Ice Fishing Regulations from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website

Maine Ice Fishing Regulations in "Fishing in Maine"

Dick Pinney's Fishing Report

The Fishing Report from the Kittery Trading Post

The New England Sportsman

Maine Outdoors Winter Activities

Allen and Penny Crabtree

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Last updated February 12, 2000