Fishing Report For Vermont
It’s raining out. A lot. As I sit here writing, the weather forecasters are telling me we’re in the midst of what they are calling a “Bomb Cyclone.” Not sure what that is, but OK. I do know that we could use the rain. Maybe not all at once, mind you. Mother Nature could spread it out a little! Fortunately, the rain and winds are projected to move out by Friday evening, and the weekend forecast looks pretty good. Despite the raging rivers most of you are seeing right now, this pulse of water was what we’ve been waiting for. It will pull salmon up the Clyde River, the Winooski, the Lamoille, the Missisquoi, and a bunch of other smaller tributaries. It should also get browns and brookies moving in the smaller rivers and streams. If rivers aren’t too blown out, this weekend could be a great time to look for salmon and trout. If they’re still too high to fish, give it a day or two.
We’ve got two weeks left in trout season (closes Oct. 31), so as the rivers crest and then subside, the rest of the season should provide some outstanding fishing to close it out. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang up the rods on Halloween. There are 17 trout rivers around the state open all winter to catch and release, bass season goes to November 30 then switches to catch and release, and many species are open year-round.
One note regarding these reports: the frequency may go down a bit in November and December, but we’ll be picking it back up for ice fishing. Stay tuned!
—Shawn Good, Fisheries Biologist firstname.lastname@example.org
Cold Water Species
In the October 4th report, I wrote about trolling for trout and salmon in November and December on Champlain. Well, it looks like things are ramping up a bit earlier this year, according to other department fisheries biologists and members of the Frostbite Fleet.
Bernie Pientka, fisheries biologist for northern Lake Champlain says that Hatchery Cove in front of Ed Weed Fish Culture Station on Grand Isle is really starting to load up with landlocked Atlantic salmon. Raised in that hatchery, the mature salmon cue in on the outflow that enters the cove next to the ferry landing, and make a “spawning run” up this short brook. We’ve got a trap at the top end of the brook where we collect returning salmon to strip their eggs for rearing in the hatchery. Bernie says that as of today, 264 salmon have entered the trap, including this 5.25-lb, 24-inch fish collected this morning. The cove is loaded! The lake trout won’t be far behind (when water temperatures drop below 50°F), and although they don’t run up Hatchery Brook, they can be caught from shore and boats around the ferry breakwall.
Frequent report contributor Ron Winter from Essex Junction VT says the first two weeks of October produced some of the best salmon fishing he’s seen in many years, and says the onset of the “early winter” bite is several weeks ahead of schedule this year. Water temperatures at the surface have dropped to 56°F, and fish are shallow – he’s catching 20- to 25-inch salmon in the Converse Bay area trolling 25’ to 35’ down. Ron says his most productive lure has been the Crazy Ivan Blue Moon spoon, and he sent me this photo of Molly Flint with a 6-lb salmon caught on October 14.
Matt Glebus of Port Henry NY sent in his first contribution to the Vermont fishing report (much appreciated Matt). What gets me excited for Matt’s report is that he’s a shore-based angler that targets trout and salmon on Champlain and its tributaries. Matt finds both trout and salmon cruising the shorelines and around the mouths of rivers, and casts heavy spoons from shore. Since Columbus Day, Matt’s landed several nice brown trout, 5 landlocked Atlantic salmon, and even a couple lake trout right from shore using Krocodile and Honey Bee spoons. If you give it a shot, make sure the spoon has some blue on it. Matt says shore fishing will only get better from here on out, and it’s a ton of fun with minimum gear needs.
Warm Water Species
The bass and pike diehards are still going at it on the big lake as well. Barre VT angler John Rielly wrote in to say he’s found that smallmouth bass in the Inland Sea are moving a bit deeper, towards their wintering areas, but there’s still good action to be had in the 4 to 10-foot depth range. Dragging tubes and twitching jerkbaits, John has been having 40 to 50 bass days targeting rocky flats, points and humps. In the next few weeks John predicts the smallmouth will be grouped up in areas 15-25 feet deep off steep drops adjacent to large flats with structure.
Roy Gangloff was back on southern Champlain over the Columbus Day weekend and fished the Larabees Point area. He was surprised to see the lake level up slightly and found clearer water in most areas, with water temperatures averaging 57°F to 60°F. For you bass and pike anglers, keep in mind that southern Champlain below the Crown Point Bridge is a different animal than the rest of the lake. It warms up first in the spring and cools down last in the fall. The turbid water and shallow weedflats makes it fish much differently, and bass, pike and pickerel action can go much later in the year than even smaller inland lakes.
Roy said he found the bass weren’t overly aggressive, but were willing to eat. Northern pike action was slow in the morning but they became very active later in the day, and chain pickerel were feeding heavy all day long around shallow thick weedbeds. Roy had success on all three species with a variety of presentations, but the best was topwater lures, swim jigs and chatterbaits. White was key for bass while the pike and pickerel tended to hit darker colors like black/blue. Roy found fish on just about every type of cover – inside weedlines, outside edges, open water and on rock shorelines.
With the nice foliage, good lake conditions and lack of fishing pressure the next few weeks could be the best of the year.
And Now For Something Completely Different …. (any Python fans out there?). Zach McNaughton of Proctorsville VT says that trolling for catfish will be at its peak in the next few weeks. Umm, what? Yep, you heard right. While most anglers think of catfish fishing as a hot weather summertime activity, cats put on a fall feeding binge like most other species, and you can catch them right now trolling or drifting cut bait down in the narrows of southern Champlain. Zach’s also the creator of a video series he calls Vermont Master Anglers, and he filmed an episode last year on this very tactic. Check it out here: youtube.com/watch?v=pIyalVO2KoY
While Roy Gangloff spends a lot of time on Lake Champlain, he actually lives on the Connecticut River side of the state and knows the river as well as anyone. One of Roy’s favorite fish to target in the fall on the CTR are walleye, and he says they too are beginning to feed hard for winter, as you can see by this nice chunky fish he caught the other night. Roy suggests focusing around the mouths of tributaries, culverts and dam tailraces. His go-to lures are stickbaits, rattle baits and swim baits, but nothing beats a jig head tipped with a live minnow. Fish the last hour of light and first hour of dark for the best action.
Northeast Kingdom (NEK)
Department fisheries biologist Pete Emerson who works in the St. Johnsbury office says there’s been a good number of anglers chasing salmon on the Clyde River, but low water levels haven’t really made for good runs. This rain is poised to change that, and Pete says this coming week should bring prime conditions. There’s also been a couple dozen lake trout and steelhead seen at the Clyde Fish Ladder. When the heavier runs start, the department will start moving fish upstream, and fishing opportunities for salmon above and below the Salem Lakes will improve dramatically.
Pete also says that anglers should check out Lake Memphremagog, as bass, pike and perch fishing has been really good lately. Finally, Pete’s been catching beautiful brook trout in the tributaries of the Passumpsic River with his boys. He’s using ice fishing rods and they are having a blast catching 8” to 10” brookies in small pools.
A couple weeks left, so get out there and catch some fall glory!
Streams & Rivers
Brandon VT angler Al Moorhouse is excited for all this rain we’re having. He says the small amount we got last week made a world of difference, and he was seeing good movement of brown trout in Otter Creek tributaries, and saw lots of signs of spawning activity. This weekend he tied into (but lost) a Vermont Master Angler sized brown trout, and landed a 15” female brown trout. While exploring some smaller brook trout streams, Al ran into another angler who was catching a lot of smaller trout on nymphs.
South Pomfret VT angler Ron Rhodes wrote in to say he had a good Columbus Day weekend on a small Rutland County trout stream catching brown trout on wooly buggers, while Lunenburg MA angler Steve Cummings visited Vermont and fished the Waits River with his sons last week and caught a number of bright rainbow trout. The trout are so pretty at this time of year.
Al echoed my earlier sentiment about the rain we’re having right now. It’s going to make river fishing really good, drawing them upstream to spawning areas. Al says waters levels in the smaller rivers tend to drop fast after a rain, so he recommends fishing them as soon as possible after rain events to find less spooky fish. Once the water is low and clear again, the fish can become quite skittish.
The inland waters still seem to be fishing good as well, and I’ve received some great reports. Nate Olson from Barre VT says most of the lakes and ponds in Central VT have fallen below 60°F and he’s consistently catching good fish along steep drop offs and humps using jigs, crankbaits, dropshot rigs, and Texas-rigged soft plastics. Nate says if you find any remaining green weeds deeper than 10 feet, they tend to hold quality fish right now. You only have to check out this 6-lb 10-oz largemouth he caught this past weekend to know he’s giving you some good advice.
Captain Matt Trombley of Third Alarm Charters is still chasing fall bass and pike on Champlain from Vergennes to Shelburne as well as on lakes Dunmore, Bomoseen and Hortonia, and he says he’s not seeing a lot of people out there, which is a shame, because he’s catching great fish. Matt’s targeting weed edges in 10 to 15 feet of water around rocky points and humps, and has been catching some really nice smallmouth and northern pike. Matt says the water isn’t quite cold enough yet to really get the jerkbait bite going strong, but lipless crankbaits have been on fire for bass. Pike are liking white and chartreuse spinnerbaits and Keitech paddletail plastics on ½-oz swimbait heads. Move regularly and cover water, and you’ll find active fish.
For you careful readers and observant folk, you may have noticed an inconsistency between Roy’s advice for pike lures and Matt’s, so let me clear that up for you. Roy’s fishing on southern Champlain in stained, colored water (even though he said it was “clearer”, that’s a relative statement. Clear water on southern Champlain would still be considered dirty anywhere else). On the other hand, Matt’s fishing the main basin part of Champlain where the water is clear. Dark lures tend to work better in dingy water while clear water calls for something a lighter in color like white and chartreuse. Lesson of the day!