When many people think of ice fishing they think perch, crappie and other panfish that are popular with winter anglers. But from the third Saturday in January to the second Saturday in March on Lake Whiloughby in the Northeast Kingdom, fishermen turn their attention to bigger game under the ice. That's when lake trout season has anglers dreaming of twenty-pound-plus lunkers being pulled through the ice. The lake is famous for producing some of the largest trout in New England. A good-size laker trout in Whiloughby is between eight and ten pounds. But in 1986, Barry Cahoon of Danville went into the record books by pulling a twenty-six pounder out of the lake. Going after trout in January isn't for everyone. You have to be willing to dig through two feet of ice and put in some long hours watching your tip-ups in cold conditions. But for many New Englanders a day on the lake is more than just fishing. It's a chance to catch up with old friends, experience nature in the winter and, for a moment, dream a little of a big one on the end of your line. Host Lawrence Pyne joins Barry on a brisk February morning of fishing for big lake trout on Lake Whiloughby.
The Lake Champlain Basin is home to more than 70 species of fish, including the greatest assemblage of panfish in New England. Yellow perch, pumpkinseed, bluegill, smelt, bullhead and other panfish have long been popular targets for anglers both young and old, and in recent years crappie have been growing in popularity. Lake Champlain is home to two species of crappie, the common black crappie, or calico bass, and the white crappie, or silver bass. Black or white, crappies are fast becoming a lake favorite.
At one point walleye were the most popular game fish for recreational anglers in Vermont. A thriving commercial fish market existed for these toothy members of the perch family into the early 1960s, with as many as 65,000 harvested annually. During the late '70s and early '80s the population dwindled and concerns grew that overharvesting or environmental issues were responsible for the decline. In 1984, the Lake Champlain Walleye Association was formed with the goal of restoring, preserving and protecting the walleye fishery in the Lake Champlain Basin. The Association has worked closely with the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife to monitor walleye populations. In the tributaries of Lake Champlain, fish are caught, measured, sexed and some tagged for research purposes. The Department also collects eggs for fertilization. Over the last six years they have collected 64 million walleye eggs, which has resulted in over 40 million fry being stocked in Lake Champlain. The first Saturday in May marks the opening day of walleye season on tributaries flowing into Lake Champlain. Host Lawrence Pyne heads out with walleye enthusiast Cubby Smith on the Lamoille in search of "Old Marble Eyes."
With more activities available to kids than ever before, fewer are taking advantage of the wonderful fishing in their own backyard. The best time to get someone interested in fishing is when they're young, and Vermont offers dozens of events to help introduce your child to the ancient art of angling. One of these events is the Gunner Brook Fishing Derby held in Barre, Vermont. Created over 70 years ago, It's the first fishing derby just for children in the United States. It's traditionally held on the Saturday before Father's Day and attracts children from all over the state. It's organized by the Barre Fish and Game Club. Participants must be 14 years or younger and there is a 3-fish limit per angler. We visit the 2003 derby and host Lawrence Pyne heads out on Monkton Pond with his kids to share some tips on how he keeps fishing fun and exciting for his family.
- Bare Fish & Game Club
PO Box 130
Barre, VT 05641
When the first settlers arrived in Vermont, Lake Champlain teemed with lake trout and land-locked Atlantic salmon. But by the early 1900s, over-fishing, sea lampreys and degraded spawning habitat had wiped out the lake's once great trout and salmon fishery. Thanks to a 30-year cooperative program involving the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, New York DEC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the big lake's trout and salmon have come back in a big way. Today, Lake Champlain is one of the country's top producers of lunker lakers and trophy landlocks. Of the two, lake trout are particularly abundant, and they provide a high-quality, year-round fishery. Host Lawrence Pyne heads out onto Lake Champlain with Captain Dick Greenough of Sure Strike Charters in search of lakers. Dick is also the creator of the Hot Item Lure, which can be found at your local bait and tackle shops in the Champlain Valley.
In Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts, when you see birds on the water in the summer, they're chasing bait fish, and so are the Striped Bass that are running along the coast. Inland-based anglers come from all over New England to fish for Stripers, making it the number one game fish in Plymouth Bay. Stripers are for all kinds of fishermen. They're a great fish for kids to catch off of docks. They're for people who want to go out and dunk bait. You can dress sea worms for them, use a fly rod, soft plastics or stick bait. Stripers can weigh upwards of 60 to 70 pounds, and thanks to strict conservation measures, the fishing seems to get better every year. Host Lawrence Pyne joins guide Randy Julius of Misty Morning Charters on Plymouth Bay for a day of fishing for stripers.
Arch Tilford created the Green Mountain Grabber fishing lure around 1956. It was a simple lure made from three hooks strung together on monofilament, a few red beads and a spinner blade. The grabber went on to become one of the most popular lures of the mid- to late-1900s for catching walleye, bass and pike in Vermont. In fact, you'll still find them in many tackle boxes today. They're now distributed by Green Mountain Tackle, and most bait shops in the Champlain Valley carry them. Host Lawrence Lawrence Pyne hooks up with Arch, who at age 93 is still going strong at his summer camping retreat where he shares some great stories and shows us how to catch some Silver Lake rainbow trout.
- Green Mountain Sporting Supplies
174 Manley Road
Milton, VT 05468
Vermont's Northeast Kingdom abounds with brook trout, in large part because of the helping hand played by a local sportsman's club. Volunteers with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Conservation Group refurbished the former state fish hatchery in Morgan, where they now annually raise thousands of brook trout fry. They oversee an annual program called "The Morgan Hatchery Project" that involves getting members of the community to fan out across the Northeast Kingdom on cross-country skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles to stock local beaver ponds and other remote waters with these colorful, native fish. On a good day volunteers can distribute 60,000 fry to throughout the Northeast Kingdom. Though the stocking benefits the fishing community, the real satisfaction comes from practicing responsible habitat stewardship, and giving back to nature. We follow the brook trout journey from incubation to release on a wintry spring day in Morgan.
For information about volunteering for the Morgan Hatchery Project or for stocking location information, contact Byron Fish at (802) 723-6385.
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.
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