Freshwater fun on Maine Lakes, Photo by Stillman Rogers Photography

Freshwater Fun on Maine Lakes

Maine’s 228 miles of Atlantic shoreline, which expands to 3,500 miles if you count all of the bays, coves, and inlets, make it a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. But not all Maine’s water sports are in the sea: lakes offer boating, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, swimming, and other ways to play in the water.

Cobbosseecontee Lake. © Stillman Rogers Photography

The largest is Moosehead Lake. With more than 75,000 acres of water in northwestern Maine, its shoreline is marked with bays and islands that make it a favorite for kayakers and canoeists. Northwoods Outfitters rent canoes and kayaks or you can rent a boat from Wild One Rentals to fish for smallmouth bass, land-locked salmon, and lake trout. Northwoods also offers guided canoe and kayak trips, family fishing adventures, and moose safaris.

If you want to see Moosehead from a different vantage point, take a floatplane ride with Currier’s Flying Service or a scenic cruise on the century-old Steamboat Katahdin, both in Greenville.

Closer to Portland and easier to reach, Sebago Lake is perhaps Maine’s most popular body of water. Surrounded by resorts, campgrounds, and rental cottages, Sebago has sandy beaches, including Songo Beach, whose half-mile of sandy shore is backed by giant pines and hardwoods. Nason’s Beach & Campground  has its own beach and lakeside campsites. To enjoy the lake’s more than 30,000 acres of water, stop at Sebago Lake Boat Rentals for kayaks, pontoons, motorboats, paddle boards, water trampolines, slides, canoes, fishing boats, floats, tubes, and water skis.

At nearby Long Lake, in Naples, you can rent pontoon boats and deck boats with waterslides at Long Lake Marine  or tour the lake onboard the Songo River Queen II, a replica of a Mississippi paddle wheeler. For aerial views of both Long and Sebago lakes and the Songo Locks that connect them, take a seaplane ride with Naples Seaplane Adventures in Naples.

Rangeley Lake, in western Maine, is renowned for fishing, well known for its 12- to-18-inch brook trout and four-to-six-pound landlocked salmon. Rangeley Region Sports Shop  is a good place to find fishing gear and flies and Green Farm Guide Service  can provide guided fishing trips to the best spots.

Damariscotta Lake State Park. © Stillman Rogers Photography

Both Rangeley Lake State Park, on the southern lakeshore and the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust have waterfront campgrounds.

Rivers Edge Sports Shop in Oquossoc maintains a large rental fleet of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards, which you can launch right from their dock or have delivered and picked up at your favorite put-in. The lake’s three public boat launches are located at the Rangeley town park, at the state park, and at the outlet in Oquossoc.

South of Baxter State Park, Millinocket Lake is blissfully remote, entirely surrounded by forest, and with very limited access. The minimal roads to its shore have preserved a pristine lake that’s perfect for exploring by canoe or by kayak. A boat is the only way to get to the sandy beaches of the north shore. Lakeside lodging is at Twin Pines Cabins, a series of log cabins and campsites owned by the New England Outdoor Center, and at Big Moose Inn, Cabins & Campground.

Book a three-hour moose cruise on Katahdin Princess from the inn to visit moose-feeding areas around the lake and watch for eagles, loons, and other wildlife. A public boat launch is on the southwestern shore, just off the Golden Road.

Don’t confuse Millinocket Lake with the even more remote Lake Millinocket, north of Baxter State Park. It, too, has very limited access and only one place to stay. For more than 130 years, Libby Camps have offered fly-fishing packages at Millinocket Lake with accommodations in cabins.

Well-known to locals for its sandy beaches and exceptional fishing, Damariscotta Lake is close to the busy seacoast routes, but little used by tourists. Damariscotta Lake State Park, at the northern end in Jefferson, attracts families to its long sandy beach. The water is shallow for quite a distance into the lake, making safe wading and play space for young children; lifeguards are on duty during busy seasons.

At the lake’s southern end, Spectacle Islands are locally popular for swimming and have a few campsites managed by the Midcoast Conservancy. Reservations are required. The islands are easy to reach by kayak, canoe, or small boat from the nearby public boat launch on Bunker Hill Road in Damariscotta.

Great Pond, Belgrade. © Stillman Rogers Photography

Near Augusta, Cobbosseecontee Lake is known to fishing enthusiasts as one of Maine’s best places to catch smallmouth and largemouth bass. Hopeful anglers can launch at either of two public ramps, one off Route 202 near Manchester at the north end of the lake, and the other on the west side near Camp Cobbossee Boy’s Camp.

Lakeside Lodge & Marina has an extensive selection of tackle and also rents pontoon and fishing boats. Maine Premier Boat Rentals will deliver rental pontoon boats, fishing boats, pontoon boats, or canoes to a camp or public launch on this or any other lake of your choice.

Just north of Cobbosseecontee Lake, Great Pond is one of the seven Belgrade Lakes. On its western shore, Great Pond Marina rents boats for fishing and waterskiing, as well as paddleboards, and the marina store carries everything from wakeboards and water skis to sunglasses.

This is only a sampling of the more than 6,000 lakes and ponds in Maine. Those traveling with a kayak, canoe, or small boat will have no trouble finding ramps and put-ins all over the state where they can chart their adventures.

Story by Bobbie Randolph. Bobbie is a New England native who writes about camping and outdoor adventures on the water, on the snow, and on the trails.

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