Vermont fishing opportunities heat up as waters cool down this season

RUTLAND — Despite dropping temperatures and shorter days, the fall season brings out some of the year’s hottest fishing action on lakes, ponds, rivers and streams throughout Vermont, and the state’s Fish & Wildlife Department is urging anglers to take advantage of these prime angling opportunities.

“As water temperatures cool off, many different fish species begin to feed heavily,” said Shawn Good, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “From warm water species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, and walleye, to cold water species like trout and salmon, fish feeding activity really picks up across the board and creates exceptional fishing conditions for anglers.”

While the hot temperatures of summer can sometimes make fishing slow, the autumn months represent a transition time where fish generally become more active and easier to catch. This increase in feeding activity can be attributed to fish boosting their reserves of essential nutrients in order to sustain themselves during the winter when their metabolism slows and they feed less.

Fishing pressure on Vermont waters also decreases significantly as the seasons change, so there is less competition from other anglers.

“Fall is one of the absolute best times to be on the water in Vermont — regardless of what species you want to target or where you want to fish,” said Good. “Some of the best days I’ve ever had on the water have come late in the fall when many other anglers have already put their rods away for the winter. It’s an amazing time of year to be on the water, and you’ll likely have your favorite fishing holes all to yourself.”

One enhanced fall angling opportunity is bass fishing, whether it be on world-renowned Lake Champlain, the diverse Connecticut River or one of Vermont’s many smaller lakes and ponds.

Professional tournament angler Dave Wolak of North Carolina, who has numerous victories and top finishes in Bassmaster and FLW Outdoors competitions on Lake Champlain, relishes fall bass fishing in Vermont.

“The fall makes the great bass fisheries of Vermont even greater,” said Wolak. “Not only do cooling air temperatures make for comfortable fishing weather and less boat traffic for fishermen, but the bass also know to take advantage of cooling water temperatures by feeding shallow in preparation for winter. More and bigger bass in shallow usually means more bass action on the water. I’ve been coming to Vermont in the fall for decades and have always enjoyed the fall bass fishing because Vermont is one of those unique states in which the bass fisheries possess near equally abundant smallmouth and largemouth populations. You can always bounce between different fishing strategies for the two bass species during other seasons, but I’ve found these healthy bass populations mix together more often in the fall when temperatures cool. This effect makes fall bass fishing in Vermont even more fun.”

Other hot fall fishing action typically includes walleye fishing on the Connecticut River, landlocked salmon fishing on the Clyde River, and trout and salmon fishing on Lake Champlain, among various other opportunities.

One of the great things about late fall fishing is that there’s no need to get an early start. Hitting the water at 6 or 7 a.m. for the early-morning bite isn’t necessary.

“Sleep in and wait until the sun’s well up and the surface water temperature has inched upwards a few degrees,” said Good. “With water temperatures hovering in the 40s and low 50s, fish like bass and pike need a couple of extra hours to warm up and begin to feed. You can be on the water by 10 a.m. and off by 3 p.m. These are short days, but possibly some of the most productive of the year.”

To purchase a Vermont fishing license or to find out more about fishing opportunities in Vermont,

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