Every year, as winter envelops northern New England in its icy grip, shantytowns pop up on our larger lakes, marking the spots where ice fishermen have gathered for generations in pursuit of rainbow smelt. Smelt are the smallest member of the family that includes trout and salmon, but what they lack in size, they make up for in abundance and taste. Smelt are renowned for their delicate flavor, and a successful day fishing for smelt is measured by the pailful. Nowhere is this truer than on Lake Champlain, where ice fishermen annually catch untold millions of the small silvery fish, and jigging for smelt in a cozy shanty is a timeless way to spend a frosty winter day. Host Lawrence Pyne fishes with Denise Gibeault of Shoreham, VT, and visits the Halfway House Restaurant in Shoreham for a sample of these tasty fish.
- Captain Dave: Rainbow Smelt
- eNature.com (National Wildlife: Rainbow Smelt)
- LakeChamplainAngler.com: Ice Fishing Locations
- Nova Scotia Agriculture & Fisheries: Rainbow Smelt
- Halfway House Restaurant
Shoreham, VT 05770
- Shanty Rentals
Mike's Shanty Rentals
(518) 546-7907 - Mike Wright
(518) 546-7414 - Mike Blaise
Norm's Bait & Tackle
286 Bridge Road
Crown Point, NY 12928
Pete Hanson Shanties
P.O. Box 13
Moriah, NY 12960
VOGA lists shanty rental information
on their Ice Fishing in Vermont page
Lake Champlain is the most popular lake in Vermont to come to for bass fishing. But for those willing to explore the Northeast Kingdom, Lake Memphremagog offers anglers an opportunity for some of the best largemouth and smallmouth fishing in the Green Mountain State. Lake Memphremagog is about 25 miles long and straddles the Vermont-Quebec border. It's full of structure, ledges and weed beds that provide a great habitat for bass. The average smallmouth you'll reel in is probably 2 to 2 3/4 pounds. But they can get up in the 4- to 5-pound range. Largemouth bass can get upwards of 7 pounds. Smallmouth BassBill Engelmann of Northeast Kingdom Guide service is convinced that many lakes in that part of Vermont hold trophy-sized small- and largemouth bass. It's all a matter of knowing your bait. Bill says, "You gotta feed them what they're biting on and the color that they want." Bass can be finicky. Sometimes you have to go through a lot of plastic and a variety of colors to hit on the right combination. But for those fisherman who know what they're looking for, the bass in Lake Memphremagog offer a chance to pull in a trophy-sized beauty that's loads of fun to catch. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Bill Engelmann of Northeast Kingdom Guide Service for a day of bass fishing on Lake Memphremagog.
The Rapid River in Western Maine is 3.2 miles long. Forming an outlet of the Rangeley chain of lakes, it begins at Lower Richardson. From Middle Dam to Lake Umbagog, it drops about 180 feet, making it one of the fastest falling rivers east of the Mississippi. It flows constantly, and with the help of the cool, oxygen-filled water released by Middle Dam, it creates the perfect habitat for trout — big trout. Three- to six-pound native brook trout can be found on the Rapid River along with landlocked salmon that were introduced in the late 19th century. It's a difficult river to get to, but for New Englanders used to pulling in ten-inch "brookies," the Rapid presents a rare opportunity to catch the trophy-sized fish of their dreams. From opening day in May until the end of the season in September, Aldro French of Rapid River Fly-Fishing guides trips on the river. The trout fishing on the Rapid is legendary and, being a guide, French is always asked the same questions: "What's the best week in May? What's the best week in June? What's the best week in July?" According to French, "It's the best week when you hit it and … you're in hog heaven when you hit it because you can catch 40 or 50 fish and half of them would be big fish." French lives and works out of his summer home, Forest Lodge, located near the Lower Dam. It's one of two sporting camps on the Rapid River and is the former home of Louise Dickinson Rich. It was there that the Maine author wrote her bestseller We Took to the Woods in 1942. In this segment, host Lawrence Pyne joins Aldro French on the Rapid River in search of trophy brook trout.
Trout and salmon have traditionally been No. 1 in the hearts of Vermont anglers. But over the past several decades, more and more fishermen have begun to appreciate the state's outstanding bass fisheries. In fact, largemouth bass are now second only to brook trout in popularity among Vermont anglers, with smallmouth bass not far behind. And among visiting fishermen, bass are now No. 1. As interest in bass fishing has steadily grown in Vermont, so too have concerns about maintaining a healthy fishery. As part of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Deptartment’s bass management program, biologists annually survey select lakes throughout the state. The surveys are designed to monitor the health and size of their bass populations, and to allow fisheries managers to respond to any changes in this increasingly popular
The Clyde River flows for 34 miles northwest from Island Pond, winding through Charleston, Salem and Derby before finally emptying into Lake Memphremagog near Newport. In the early 20th century the river attracted anglers from around the country, drawn to the population of land-locked salmon that would travel upstream to spawn. Trophy trout weighing upwards of ten pounds were pulled from the Clyde, making it one of the premier fishing spots in the northeast. But in 1957, the salmon run came to an end with the construction of a diversion dam, known as the Newport No.11 Dam. The dam was responsible for blocking the salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, and drying out stretches of the lower river, causing eggs to die. The self-sustaining fishery was virtually destroyed. In the 1980s a group of passionate anglers began a seven-year battle to remove the dam and restore the habitat. They organized the Northeast Kingdom Trout Unlimited chapter, and with help from the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and the Clyde River Committee, they began their David and Goliath battle to shut down the dam as its license renewal date loomed. Nature unexpectedly provided a little help on May 1, 1994 when the Clyde overflowed part of the dam, destroying it. Eventually they won their battle and the dam was destroyed in 1996. Soon afterward the salmon began spawning upstream. Today, in addition to natural reproduction, approximately 30,000 salmon smolts are stocked in the Clyde each spring and fish are now monitored to determine their health. Host Lawrence Pyne joins an old friend for a little fall fly-fishing on the Clyde for salmon. And we join a biologist electro-fishing to examine the health of salmon populations on the lower section of the river.
The brook trout is the official cold water fish of Vermont. It is the only native trout in Vermont streams. Their body is a dark olive color and their sides are pale with small red spots surrounded by light blue halos. Their backs have wavy lines that aid in camouflaging the fish. Brookies like cold, clear water. They are one of the most cold tolerant of trout. And with Vermont's small spring-fed brooks providing thousands of miles of habitat, they are often found in densities rarely seen on larger mainstream rivers. These very waters are collectively the last stronghold of wild trout in the state. Fishing for brook trout can take you deep into the woods for a solitary nature experience. Sometimes there is a lot of hiking and exploration involved. It's not uncommon to park your car and hike a couple of miles through dense woods to find your spot. Once you find the cold, clear water that they love, the rest is up to you. Brookies can be forgiving as far as bait presentation goes. You can fish for them with a spinning reel and worms, but flies are probably the bait of choice. The brook trout's love of cold, clear water is also a good indicator of habitat conditions. Their populations are relatively stable compared to fifty years ago. However, the streams where they live are endangered by development and land use practices that threaten to degrade habitat and take away one of the Vermont angler's favorite fish. In this segment, host Lawrence Pyne joins avid fly fisherman Peter Burton for a day of fishing for brook trout in the Green Mountain National Forest.
From trolling for trout and salmon to jigging for pan fish, Lake Champlain has something to offer to just about any angler. However, one of the big lake's most unique fishing opportunities is experienced by few fishermen — bow fishing for carp, bowfin and long nose gar. These prehistoric fish are seldom caught by anglers, but may be taken year round with a bow and arrow. On calm sunny days, they can be found swimming in shallow shore waters where they provide bow fishermen with exciting and sometimes non-stop action. It's part fishing, part hunting and a great way for bow hunters to keep their shooting skills sharp during the long off-season. Host Lawrence Pyne joins longtime bow fishermen Steve and Mike Beyor on the shallow waters of Missisquoi Bay for an exciting day of bow fishing..
When it comes to trout fishing, the upper Connecticut River is a cut above. As it winds its way south between the rugged mountains of northern New Hampshire and northeastern Vermont, New England's longest river offers miles of lightly fished water home to brook, brown and rainbow trout. And the scenic beauty is almost as good as the fishing. The best way to experience this water is to float the river, as we discovered when we hooked up with the oldest drift boat guide services in the North Country for a wonderful afternoon of trout fishing on the upper Connecticut River.
Rainbow smelt are an important sport fish in the winter as well as the primary source of food for walleye and salmonids. Maintaining the balance between forage fish like smelt and species like walleye, salmon and lake trout is critical to a healthy population of fish. Each summer fisheries biologists trawl portions of the lake to get an estimate of the forage fish populations. The information gathered is just one more piece in the puzzle that determines stocking and daily limit numbers on Lake Champlain.
When the leaves fall from the trees and ice begins to form along the shores of Lake Champlain, most anglers have packed their gear and covered their boat for the season. But there is a small group of anglers that are just getting started. As long as there is open water, no matter how cold, Randy Colomb of Waltham, Vt., launches his boat for a thrilling day of winter fishing for lake trout and salmon.