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.
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