When it comes to fishing in New England it’s tough to beat the opportunities that are offered by Lake Champlain. But when the ice goes out early and you’re still looking to catch fish you don’t have to wait long or look very far. On Vermont’s east coast the Connecticut River offers some of the best walleye fishing in the northeast and in the spring the fish start biting in mid March. The walleye fishery is so good on the Connecticut that even if you miss the peak by a day or two you’re still going to get into fish especially if you’re with someone who knows where to find them.
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."