Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is known for many things. Two of which are Yankee ingenuity and great trout and salmon fishing. The two came together when we fished gorgeous Lake Willoughby with fishing tackle innovator, Keith Chamberlain.
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.
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.