Vermont’s lakes and ponds offer a wide kind of high-quality fishing opportunities, extending from fishing off a guided charter boat for landlocked salmon and trout on 100 mile-long Lake Champlain to hiking with map and compass to a remote beaver pond where the brook trout seldom see more than a few anglers in a season. The choice is yours.
With over 140 state-owned fishing access points on lakes, ponds, and rivers throughout the state, Vermont waters offer accessibility and superb fishing opportunities. Vermont has 288 public lakes 20 acres and larger and hundreds of small ponds, almost all offering some form of fishing to tempt the angler.
Lake Champlain provides some of the best fishing and the greatest variety of freshwater fish in the northeast. While closed seasons are set for a few species on this productive lake, most can be taken year round.
One of the highlights of Lake Champlain fishing is the Salmonid Restoration Program, which began officially in 1974 as a means of restoring landlocked salmon and lake trout fisheries, and now continues with the guidance of a multi-agency lake management team. Through the cooperation of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department of Environmental Conservation, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, substantial numbers of landlocked salmon and lake trout are stocked annually. The fish are doing well, with salmon averaging two to four pounds, and many weighing in around ten pounds.
Good waters for lake trout are from Arnold Bay near Vergennes north to South Hero in the main lake. Salmon are more common from Malletts Bay to St. Albans Bay, especially in the “Inland Sea” east of the Champlain Islands.
Most Lake Champlain lake trout and salmon are taken by trolling between the surface and forty feet deep with balsa minnow lures, silver copper or orange spoons, and streamers. Getting up extra early to be on the lake at dawn is another important key to success. If you prefer shore fishing, try the mouths of the major rivers and smaller streams in spring or fall.
Steelhead fishing has been slow, but experiments with new strains are encouraging. At this time there are small spring spawning runs of steelhead in the Winooski River and Lewis Creek.
Come May and June, Vermont stream fishing for trout blossoms. This is when serious fishermen head to the upper Missisquoi, Black (North), New Haven, Castleton, Saxton’s, Mettawee, Winooski, Lamoille, Waits, and Wells Rivers and, of course, the Battenkill. Bait and lure fishermen do well during May and June, especially with lighter lines and smaller lures. However, aquatic insects become more active then and fly fishermen have luck with imitations of Quill Gordons, Blue Wing Olives, Blue Quills, and Hendrickson.
With the warm days of summer, stream fishing gets tougher, but during the early morning and late evening, the knowledgeable angler can catch trout.
If you don’t have patience for getting a finicky rainbow or brook trout to bite, summer is the time to fish the warmer waters of the major rivers for brown trout and smallmouth bass. Both species are commonly found in the Connecticut River and the big water areas of the White River, from Bethel downstream, and the Winooski River, from Middlesex down. Northern pike and walleyes are also found in the lower stretches of some rivers. Otter Creek from Proctor downstream is often canoed for its unique combination of northern pike, smallmouth bass, and trout. Determine the dam locations before starting.
Fall has to be one of the best times to fish in Vermont. Everyone else is off bird hunting or thinking about deer hunting, and you often can have a stream all to yourself. You may even want to combine your hunting and fishing with a bird hunt in the morning or evening and trout or bass fishing during the day. Some anglers plan a fall trip just to be out in the cool air enjoying the brilliant foliage.
Fall is spawning season for Vermont’s brown trout, brookies, and landlocked salmon. In many cases, the
fish will be migrating from lake and ponds into streams to spawn. At this time of year trout can be either spooky and finicky eaters or brash with voracious appetites, so if you come fall fishing, be prepared to try most anything. Although notoriously tough to catch, the big Lake Memphremagog brown trout on their spawning run in the Black River at Coventry are a superb challenge for the expert angler.
Connecticut River: The Connecticut River, which runs the entire length of Vermont, is probably the best-kept fishing secret in the northeast.
From the town of North Stratford north to the Canadian border, the Connecticut offers exceptional brown and rainbow trout fishing. Good fishing for these species continues down to the town of Bradford; below this browns and rainbows can still be found near the mouths of rivers, and in the Summer Falls area near Hartland.
The Connecticut River from the Passumpsic River down to the Massachusetts border is home to an outstanding warm water fishery that includes smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, chain pickerel, yellow perch, and bullhead. Most of the river offers easy canoeing, but consult the A.M.C. River Guide for dam locations and rough water sections.
New Hampshire and Vermont cooperatively manage the Connecticut’s fisheries resources, but New Hampshire regulations take precedence since the river is technically owned by that state.
In addition to exciting warm water fishing, the Connecticut River now provides some shad fishing below the Vernon and Bellows Falls dams. Atlantic salmon fishing may not be that far off in the future either. The restoration of anadromous fish to the upper Connecticut River began in late 1967 when Fish & Game Directors from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut met with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries service and agreed to support a cooperative fishery program. Special emphasis was focused on restoring the American shad and the Atlantic salmon to their native waters.
This tool may help you- Lowrance Hds Gen 2 Touch Fishfinder
Everything is frozen and still. Before you lies a vast expanse of ice. It appears that there is no life anywhere, except for you. But, as a fisherman, you know that below your feet, there is very active life, in the form of perch, trout, walleye, and other fish. Are you ready to do some ice fishing?
The first step to successful ice fishing is ensuring that you are on solid ice. During the mid-winter season, you should fish on lakes areas that have approximately four inches of ice. During the later part of the season, you should note that even thick areas of ice can be weak. There are many contributing factors to weak ice, but the ice can look strong, and still be weak. Ideal ice will be clear, with few air bubbles. You should test it with a spud.
A spud is a long chisel that is used to poke through the ice. You can also use an auger, or even a power auger. Most ice fishermen carry their gear in a five gallon bucket, unload the gear at their fishing spot, and then flip the bucket to use as a seat.
For fishing line, look for Cold Weather Trilene, which is a thin and supple fishing line. Depending on the fish that you are trying to catch, you may need anywhere from one to ten pound test weight line.
During the winter, you will want to fish at dawn and just before dark. These are the times when the fish are most active under the ice. Patience is required even more in the winter time, as fish are a bit more sluggish, as they are cold blooded. It is recommended that you use a short flexible rod that is thin, in order to better judge what is going on under the water.
Be very still, and then move your rod around to see if you can entice the fish. Ice fishing is like playing chess – with fish. You have to outwit them. For bait, try waxworms. Trout, bass, panfish, bluegill, and yellow perch can all be caught very well on waxworms.
If you are new to ice fishing, try taking a fishing trip with someone who is experienced the first few times out. This will help you to learn the basic safety precautions, and the best ice fishing techniques for your area. Also, make sure that you dress in layers, with cotton on the inside, and wool on the outside for the best insulation. Cover as much of your body as possible!
Obviously when you are selecting an ice fish finder, portability is essential. There is not the luxury of a boat to mount electronics on. The number one consideration when looking at that various options for fish finders which can be used for ice fishing is the size. The next consideration to look at is the power source.
You will need to find a battery which is small enough to carry around, yet powerful enough to power your unit for a period of time long enough to allow you to enjoy fishing all day long. Once you have narrowed down options you think would work for the size requirements you need, then it is time to consider how to carry it around, and the transducer.
Many of the major fishing electronic companies offer ice fishing packages, paring some of their most popular compact fish finders into a pre made ice fishing setup complete with a carrying case for both the electronics and power source, as well as a portable transducer to put in the water. This is a great way to easily select a small fish finder which has already been proven to be effective.
In fact if you want to get fishing right away, just go to your favorite fish finder company website, and pick out the ice fishing package that fits your budget. Of course there are more consideration which we will detail in the following, as well as explain how you can convert your compact fish finder you use in the summer for ice fishing.
Flasher vs 2d sonar
A major consideration when making your selection is determining what you want to see when reading the water below you. There are the tried and true flasher units, which do not offer a graph of the details below, only a real time look at what lies beneath. Even though this is basic and old technology it still offers an extremely reliable way to look at the bottom and everything in between.
There are still many units being sold and developed with new features, and almost all of them are exclusive to ice fishing use. This is a great option, however not everyone is comfortable with purchasing a unit only for ice fishing, or may not like the way the flasher displays information about the water below.
The next option is to go with 2d sonar. This is a great alternative to the flasher as many of these units can show a graph of what is happening below, or switch to a flasher mode with emulates the look of a flasher unit. In my opinion this is the best option as it gives you the best of both worlds, and allows you to compare what you see between both options. In addition to this it also allows you the option use the unit for summer time best fish finder needs.
With a little planning you can easily switch the unit from your boat to the ice when needed. Beware many of the compact 2d units will not have a flasher option, so you are stuck with a normal graph only, so if it is your intention to find something which can do both, make sure to read the specs of the fish finder which interests you.
Sonar cone size Before you make your final decision, another factor to consider is the size of the sonar beam below you. Since you are in a static position and not moving like you would normally in a boat, a wider beam is very handy. This allows you to not only see right below you, but around the hole the as well. Normally the manufacturer will provide the information on the size of the beam and type of beam you can expect. Use this in your consideration. Look for a wide beam, dual beam, and any other option which may be of use.
Converting a normal fish finder for ice fishing
Many people do not have the budget or the desire to purchase a standalone ice unit. Maybe you are someone who only goes ice fishing a few times in the winter. The good news is that it is easy to convert a normal unit you have on your boat to something which can work on the ice.
The first step to do is look up the company who produces your fish finder. You can then purchase another transducer for your fish finding unit. This is what you will use exclusively for ice fishing. They also sell soft packs where you can fit your fish finder and battery making it one self contained unit which is portable. To setup the transducer for use in the ice you want to make it like a bobber.
This can be accomplished by adding some foam. A great option is a pool noodle that you used as a kid. Just cut a small section from this to resemble a donut. From there you can mount the transducer without worry of it sinking in the water. There are many great tutorials online on how to convert a transducer for ice fishing use.
If you would really like to see what is happening under the water, something relatively new on the market is underwater cameras. This is a great learning tool because it allows you to watch what the fish are doing.
It can tell you how you need to move your lure in a way which makes the fish strike, this information is invaluable on those days you just can’t seem to get the fish to bite. This is also great because anyone can figure out how to use a camera; it just gives you eyes underwater.
A consideration to make with these unites is the brightness of the screen which you view the images on. Some units are not bright enough to see on a sunny day, and are only meant for inside a ice fishing hut. Other units are very bright and can be seen in any condition. I recommend the later.
This is a basic overview on what to look for when selecting ice fishing electronics. You can go much further in depth with certain specs and features; however this is beyond the scope of this article. Perhaps in the future I will analyze these more technical features.