MONTPELIER — Always wanted to go ice fishing but couldn’t find a good excuse to get away? The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has found that excuse for you: a “free ice fishing day” on the fourth Saturday in January.
Saturday, Jan. 25, is Vermont’s new free ice fishing day — a day when anyone, resident or nonresident, may go fishing without a fishing license.
“We worked with the Legislature to create a free ice fishing day to encourage individuals, friends and families to get out and try one of the most popular fishing methods enjoyed in Vermont,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry.
“I know some Vermonters who go because they have more free time in the winter months,” he added. “Others go because they enjoy the tremendous fishing opportunities to be found this time of year. And still others simply enjoy getting out together to have fun and catch a few truly fresh fish to bring home for dinner.”
Vermont’s premier fishing destination, Lake Champlain, offers many ice fishing opportunities. Quality fishing for many species is easy to find 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 can 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 at sheltered Lake Champlain bays and shallows as well as on some other Vermont waters.
Vermont’s ice fishing season for trout, salmon and bass starts Jan. 18 and continues through March 15 on 40 large Vermont lakes. For a list of those lakes, go to page 60 of the 2014 Vermont Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Trapping, available where licenses are sold and at 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.”
An Internet search for Vermont Ice Fishing also will yield helpful information from several websites.
To learn more about ice fishing, attend the free fishing day ice fishing festival being held Jan. 25 at the Larrabee Point Fishing Access Area on Lake Champlain in Shoreham. Vermont Fish & Wildlife staff and experienced volunteer ice fishing enthusiasts will be there from 1 to 4:30 p.m. to help everyone, young and old, learn how to enjoy this unique and popular type of fishing.
For more information, contact Nicole Corrao by calling 802-318-1347 or emailing Nicole.Corrao@state.vt.us.