The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says recent cold weather has made ice fishing a viable Vermont outdoor activity several weeks earlier than in recent years.
At least six inches of solid ice is recommended for safe ice fishing, and that much ice hasn’t been present for some time on most lakes until late January. But ice fishing enthusiasts are now finding ample ice on many smaller lakes and the bays of larger lakes. Ice safety precautions, however, are still very important according to Fish & Wildlife.
Vermont’s premier fishing destination, Lake Champlain, offers many ice fishing opportunities. According to Vermont Fish & Wildlife, ice anglers can find quality fishing for a variety of species on this 120-mile long lake, including landlocked salmon, lake trout, northern pike, yellow perch, white perch, walleye, and crappie.
“Lake Champlain attracts twice as much fishing activity during the winter as during the summer, particularly in the northern third of the lake,” said State Fisheries Biologist Brian Chipman. “The plentiful yellow perch is the mainstay of the winter fishery, but many ice anglers also find good fishing for other species.”
Traditional northern pike hotspots include Lake Champlain’s Kelley Bay, Missisquoi Bay, Dillenbeck Bay, Carry Bay, Keeler Bay, St. Albans Bay, the shallow flats south of the Sandbar Causeway between Milton and South Hero, and the area south of the Champlain Bridge from Addison to Benson.
Later, as more ice forms, landlocked salmon will be caught in the Inland Sea north of the Sandbar Causeway. There is no closed season for trout and salmon on Lake Champlain.
If cold weather provides good ice on the deep-water areas of the lake, lake trout will be found off the west shore of Grand Isle and in Outer Mallets Bay, Shelburne Bay, Converse Bay, and Button Bay south to the Champlain Bridge. While walleyes can show up anywhere in Lake Champlain, the most consistent winter action can be found in the southern end of the lake off Benson and Orwell, as well as the northern end in Swanton and Alburg.
Yellow perch and other panfish are being caught throughout Lake Champlain in the bays and shallows as well as on many other Vermont waters.
Vermont’s ice fishing season for trout, salmon and bass starts January 20 and continues through March 15 on 41 other large Vermont lakes. For a list of those lakes, go to page 36 of the “2018 Vermont Fishing Guide and Regulations” available where licenses are sold and digitally on Fish & Wildlife’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com).
To locate places to stay and help on the latest fishing activity, go to the Vermont Outdoor Guides Association website (www.voga.org) and click on “ice fishing.”
Baitfish information and a list of Vermont approved bait dealers are available on VTF&W’s website here: http://vtfishandwildlife.com/cms/one.aspx?portalid=73163&pageid=132485.
And Fish & Wildlife provides these important safety tips: https://www.takemefishing.org/ice-fishing/ice-fishing-basics/ice-fishing-safety/