For a definition of terms used in this section, see Definitions.
Anyone fishing, in possession of, or transporting fish taken in Vermont waters or the Vermont/New Hampshire waters of the Connecticut River must be properly licensed and must carry the license on his/her person. The license must be shown on demand of a State Game Warden or other enforcement officer, or at the request of the owner of the land on which he/she is fishing.
See Table 4 for specific Connecticut River fishing license requirements.
Lake Champlain Reciprocal Fishing
A person holding a New York fishing license may take fish from the Vermont portion of Lake Champlain only as far east as a line starting on the north shore of the Poultney River where it empties into East Bay, proceeding generally northerly along the shore to the old Rutland Railroad fill on Colchester Point, then following the western side of the old Rutland Railroad fill to Allen Point on Grand Isle, continuing northerly following the western shore of Grand Isle to Tromp Point, then across The Gut to Bow and Arrow Point, then continuing generally northerly along the western shore of North Hero to Pelots Point, then across the Alburg passage to the Point of the Tongue, and then along the western shore of the Alburg peninsula to the United States Border with Canada. When this line crosses a tributary to Lake Champlain, the line shall proceed from the downstream most point of land on one side of the tributary to the downstream most point of land on the other side of the tributary.
Holders of Vermont fishing licenses may fish Lake Champlain west of the Vermont/New York border to the New York shore. They may not fish in South Bay or New York tributaries to Lake Champlain.
Caution: Some fishing season dates, length limits, daily creel limits and other regulations are different in New York and Vermont. When fishing in Vermont, anglers must observe Vermont regulations. When fishing in New York, anglers must follow the regulations that apply in New York. Be sure to obtain copies of each state’s fishing regulations.
Shooting or Spearing: Shooting or spearing fish of certain fish, where allowed, requires a hunting or combination license.
Bow and Arrow Shooting of Carp: Where allowed, requires a fishing or combination license.
Open & Closed Seasons
It is illegal to take fish of a species unless the season for that species is open on those waters.
It is illegal to fish in waters when no season is open in those waters, or if those waters are posted as closed by regulations of the Fish & Wildlife Commissioner or Board.
A person shall not transport fish taken by another except in the presence of the person who took that fish.
A person shall not transport fish during closed season for that fish. Generally, a person shall not transport more than the daily limit for a fish.
A person traveling on land between a temporary abode such as a camp and that person’s residence may transport the possession limit for that fish.
A person on the waters of Vermont may transport more than the daily limit of fish only if it is frozen, processed and packaged for storage.
No person shall have live fish in their possession that are transported in a manner which attempts to keep them alive when leaving waters of the state [10 V.S.A. § 1251(13)].
A person fishing by angling or ice fishing must have immediate control over his or her lines.
Fish Length Restrictions & Filleting Fish
If there is a fish length restriction on a species of fish, it may not be filleted or altered while on any body of water to restrict the determination of fish length. Fish with a length restriction may be filleted or consumed on the water so long as the head, vertebrae and tail are retained and remain intact to enable determination of fish length.
Angling & Foul Hooking
A person fishing by angling shall not take any fish unless it is hooked in the mouth. Any fish not hooked in the mouth shall be immediately released without unnecessary injury.
Baitfish Use & Restrictions
The baitfish regulation below was enacted in 2008 in response to fish diseases such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) that threaten Vermont’s fisheries. This regulation was under review by the Fish and Wildlife Board when this lawbook went to press. Changes in the regulation may be enacted in 2013. For the most current information, please check www.vtfishandwildlife.com and look for Baitfish under the Fishing menu.
A summary appears below.
Personal Baitfish Harvest
- Personally harvested baitfish may be used only on the same waterbody from which they were collected.
- A “waterbody” is defined to include all tributaries of lakes and ponds up to the first barrier impassable by fish. For rivers and streams it includes all tributaries to that river or stream up to the first barrier impassable by fish. Anglers can freely move up and down connecting streams and rivers to fish with live bait, provided they don’t pass a barrier (dam or waterfall for example).
- A person may only harvest the following fish species for use as bait:
- Eastern silvery minnow
- Fathead minnow
- Bluntnose minnow
- Emerald shiner
- Golden shiner
- Spottail shiner
- Common shiner
- Mimic shiner
- Creek chub
- Blacknose dace
- Longnose dace
- Northern redbelly dace
- White sucker
- Longnose sucker
- Yellow perch (may only be taken by angling, cannot be transported live from waters where caught)
- Rainbow smelt (may only be taken by angling, cannot be transported alive from waters where caught)
- Anglers may only take baitfish for personal use by the following methods: a) minnow traps no longer than eighteen inches with an entrance not exceeding one inch in diameter, b) dip nets, cast nets, and umbrella nets not exceeding a total of 51 square feet of mesh, or a seine net not exceeding 25 feet in length, c) angling by hook and line.
- The personal harvest of baitfish is unlawful in Seasonally Closed Waters, except by angling or the use of minnow traps as described above, and only during the open season for trout. Most lakes, ponds and streams that follow Table 1 rules are Seasonably Closed Waters.
- All traps, nets, baitboxes or other holding receptacles capable of taking, holding or keeping live baitfish in public waters must be marked with the name and address of the owner and user, unless the owner is present.
- Personally harvested baitfish shall not be transported by motorized vehicle away from the waterbody from which they were collected.
- Anglers may hold baitfish indefinitely on the water in a pen or baitbox not exceeding 25 cubic feet in volume.
- Anglers must discard unwanted baitfish dead in the water or on the ice.
- Anglers may harvest baitfish from a waterbody’s tributaries upstream to the first impassable barrier for use on the same waterbody. Anglers may not transport baitfish upstream beyond the first impassable barrier.
- The personal harvest of baitfish is prohibited on any waterbody of the state that is defined as closed to baitfish harvest. The department will maintain and make available a list of closed waters.
- Fish eggs may be collected from legally angled fish from Vermont waters, and used immediately as bait on the same water where taken unless that waterbody has been closed to baitfish collection. It is illegal to move personally harvested fish eggs to any other waterbody. It is illegal to transport fish eggs away from and return them to the same waterbody for use as bait unless they have been processed in a manner approved by the department. For more information, check the website or contact Fish & Wildlife.
Commercially Purchased Baitfish
- Anglers may not import baitfish into the State of Vermont without a Fish Importation Permit, except as described below for baitfish purchased in New York and New Hampshire.
- A person purchasing baitfish shall retain and show upon request a transportation receipt issued by a state-approved commercial bait dealer, authorizing transportation of baitfish overland by motorized vehicle. The receipt shall contain the following information: 1) A unique receipt identification number, 2) The name and telephone number of the bait dealer, 3) time and date of sale, 4) species purchased, 5) quantity purchased, 6) waterbody (limited to one) on which the baitfish will be used, 7) signature of purchaser.
- A transportation receipt shall be valid for 96 hours from time and date of sale.
- Anglers may purchase baitfish from a New York baitshop for use on Lake Champlain only, provided the baitshop is Vermont-licensed, and the baitfish are accompanied by a Vermont-issued baitfish transportation receipt.
- Anglers may purchase baitfish from a New Hampshire baitshop for use on the Connecticut River and its setbacks only, provided the baitshop is Vermont-licensed, and the baitfish are accompanied by a Vermont-issued baitfish transportation receipt. For the purposes of this paragraph, the Connecticut River is defined as all waters of the river including the bays, setbacks, and tributaries, only to the first highway bridge crossing said tributaries on the Vermont side.
- Anglers shall not transport baitfish away from waters of the state by motorized vehicle. Baitfish may be held indefinitely on the water in a pen or baitbox not exceeding 25 cubic feet in volume.
- Unwanted baitfish shall be discarded dead in the water or on the ice.
- Commercially prepared and preserved baitfish and fish eggs available from retail stores may be purchased and used as bait, and may be taken home and kept for later use, provided they are retained in the original packaging at all times.
Commercial Bait Dealers
- Any person who buys baitfish for resale or sells baitfish is required to obtain a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit from the Commissioner.
- Commercial Bait Dealers may sell as bait only those species of fish above, with the exception of yellow perch. Commercial Bait Dealers may also sell rainbow smelt as bait, provided they are obtained from a fish hatchery approved by the Commissioner, or harvested and sold for use on the same waterbody on which the Bait Dealer is located as per below.
- Commercial Bait Dealers must declare in their permit application if they will be a Statewide baitfish dealer, or a Waterbody-Specific baitfish dealer.
- Statewide baitfish dealers are prohibited from possessing, buying or selling wild-caught baitfish.
- – Baitfish sold by Statewide baitfish dealers must originate from a fish hatchery approved by the Commissioner.
- – Statewide baitfish dealers must hold or keep baitfish in waters drawn from a secure well or municipal water source approved by the Fish & Wildlife Department.
- – Baitfish sold by Statewide baitfish dealers may be used in waters throughout the state, except those waters listed as closed to baitfish use.
- Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers must declare on their permit application the waterbody on which they are located.
- – Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers may harvest wild baitfish only from the declared waterbody, and offer them for sale and use only on the declared waterbody.
- – Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers must have baitfish holding facilities that discharge directly to their declared waterbody. Holding facilities must not discharge to other waters of the state.
- – Waterbody-specific baitfish dealers shall not operate dip nets, cast nets, or umbrella nets exceeding 51 square feet of mesh, or a seine net exceeding 125 feet in length, for the purposes of taking fish for bait, unless otherwise
provided for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit. Baitfish netting is prohibited in all Seasonally Closed Waters, unless otherwise provided for on a Commercial Bait Dealers Permit.
- The commercial harvest of baitfish is prohibited on any waterbody of the state that is defined as closed to baitfish harvest. The department will maintain and make available a list of closed waters.
- A Commercial Bait Dealer shall provide to each customer at the point of sale a copy of a transportation receipt containing the following information: 1) A unique receipt identification number, 2) The name and telephone number of the bait dealer, 3) time and date of sale, 4) species purchased, 5) quantity purchased, 6) waterbody (limited to one) on which the baitfish will be used, 7) signature of purchaser.
- A transportation receipt shall be valid for 96 hours from time and date of sale.
- A Commercial Bait Dealer Permit must keep receipts or records for each lot of wholesaled hatchery-raised or wild-caught baitfish introduced into their shop. Records must include: name, address and telephone number of seller
(for wholesaled baitfish), and date received, species
identification, and quantity purchased or harvested, for wholesaled and wild-caught baitfish. The permit holder shall retain the receipts and records for at least one year after the date of sale or harvest. Receipts or records must be provided to the department immediately upon request.
Sale & Purchase of Fish
Businesses may buy lawfully taken fish, with the approval of the Commissioner, pursuit to guidelines of the Board. Fish species to be bought or sold are restricted to species not protected by Title 10 V.S.A. 4611 – “A person shall not buy or sell a salmon, trout, lake trout, walleye, northern pike, muskellunge or black bass taken in this state, or imported from another state or country where sale of such fish is prohibited, except such fish reared in licensed propagation farms within the state.”
Anadromous Atlantic Salmon
A person shall not take or attempt to take any anadromous Atlantic Salmon from the Vermont tributaries of the Connecticut River. Also, see Table 4, Connecticut River.
Fish Stocking and Use of Imported Commercially Prepared Baitfish and Fish Eggs
It is unlawful for any person to bring into the state any fish that will be introduced into any waters of the state without an importation permit from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
These importation permits also require that the fish come from a fish hatchery approved by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
Before being imported into Vermont, dead baitfish or fish eggs must be commercially processed in a manner that allows the product to be stored without refrigeration or freezing to maintain the unopened product. Imported dead baitfish or fish eggs must be retained in the original package at all times during importation and transportation.
The importation and possession of dead fish for personal consumption or taxidermy purposes is exempt from this regulation provided any associated waste products are disposed of to guard against the introduction of fish diseases to state waters. Acceptable disposal methods include:
- placement of all fish waste products in an approved state landfill; or
- incineration of all fish waste products; or
- burial of fish on private land only, no less than one hundred feet from any public water.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CHECK THE WEBSITE OR CONTACT
FISH & WILDLIFE.
In order for a person or organization to hold a fishing tournament on the waters of Vermont, a permit must first be obtained from the Fish & Wildlife Department in Essex Junction (call 802-878-1564). Where appropriate, a fishing tournament permit will contain a provision for live transport of fish by participants during the tournament. An angler may not enter a fish which was caught and confined to an enclosed area prior to the beginning of the tournament.
Fishing houses must have the name and address of the owner permanently and legibly affixed in waterproof paint or rustproof tag in a clearly visible place near the entrance outside of the shanty.
Tents or portable shelters are considered to be fishing houses if used for ice fishing and must be labeled with the name and address of the owner.
A fishing house shall not be placed on the ice before November 20 and it shall be removed with its contents and any surrounding debris before the ice becomes unsafe or loses its ability to support the fishing house out of the water, or before the last Sunday in March, whichever comes first.
Possession of Live Fish
No person shall have live fish in their possession that are transported in a manner which attempts to keep them alive when leaving waters of the state [10 V.S.A. Sect. 1251 (13)] except as follows:
- the person has been issued a scientific collection permit by the Commissioner;
- the person has been issue a fish transportation permit by the Commissioner;
- the person has been issued a breeder/s permit or fish importation permit by the Commissioner.
Aquatic Nuisance Species
It is illegal to transport or introduce into Vermont waters Eurasian watermilfoil or water chestnuts (exotic nuisance aquatic plants) or zebra mussels (an exotic clam-like animal).
Obstruction to Fish Passage
People are prohibited from preventing the passing of fish in any stream or outlet or inlet of a natural or artificial pond on any public stream, by means of a rack, screen, weir or other obstruction, unless authorized by the Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife.
State-Controlled Fishing Access Areas
Commercial Activity is any activity or service that produces income to any entity or individual.
NON-PROFIT CHARITABLE ORGANIZATION means an entity organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Picnicking includes but is not limited to any activity that involves, cooking, grilling, food preparation and, set-up associated with eating (including setting blankets or tablecloths laid on the ground).
Camping includes any activity using a tent, camper, or motor home, any activity involving preparation of an area for sleeping or, any overnight sleeping.
Group use is use actually or potentially involving 10 or more people or 2 or more vehicles at a time.
Parking is the leaving of motor vehicles or trailers unattended in an access area.
Motor vehicles are all vehicles propelled or drawn by power other than muscle power.
Vessel means motorboats, boats, kayaks, canoes and sail boats.
The following are authorized activities in order of priority:
- Angling, ice fishing and the launching of any vessel to be used for fishing and parking of vehicles and trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with these purposes.
- The launching of inboard and outboard motorboats engaging in any activity and parking of vehicles and trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with that purpose.
- Trapping, hunting and parking of vehicles and boat trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with that purpose.
- Launching of all non-motorized vessels not used for commercial purposes and parking of vehicles and boat trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with that purpose. Users shall launch from the designated non-motorized launch site, when such a site is identified.
- ATVs and snowmobiles when being used solely for the purposes of ice fishing.
- Permitted special uses.
- Discarding of bottles, glass, cans, paper, junk, litter, food, or any other garbage or trash.
- Discarding of dead fish, wildlife or portions thereof.
- Washing or cleaning of vehicles and equipment other than for the purpose of removing aquatic plants and organisms.
- Washing or cleaning of fish or wildlife.
- Making or maintaining fire of any kind.
- Use of snowmobiles and ATVs, except for those being utilized solely for the purpose of ice fishing.
- Parking of vehicles and or trailers while the vehicle owner or user is not present at the access area or on the adjacent public waters except as otherwise permitted by the commissioner.
- Storage of vehicles and or trailers or placing of vehicles or trailers for sale.
- Withdrawal of water except as authorized under Authorized Users listed below.
- Parking in excess of 72 consecutive hours except that the Commissioner may issue permits for longer parking when the Commissioner determines that there will be no adverse impact on authorized uses found in Authorized Activities listed above.
- Commercial activity except as authorized by Limited Commercial Activity described below.
- Activity that interferes with a priority use, such as, but not limited to the mooring or beaching of boats, using the ramp to rig a boat or boats thus obstructing use of the ramp, and the storing of boats or trailers at an access area.
- Group use not specifically authorized by the Commissioner.
- Launching and recovery of sailboards, rafts, snow kites, and the parking of vehicles and trailers supporting these activities.
- All other activity that is not specifically permitted by this rule unless specifically authorized by the Commissioner.
- Any person who is engaged in any authorized activity.
- Any group that has received approval for group use in accordance with this rule.
- Fire departments that have executed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Commissioner for the installation and use of a dry hydrant. And then, only in accordance with their MOA. Fire departments may also use access areas without dry hydrants as emergency water sources to fight fires and will notify the local warden as soon as practicably possible.
- Individuals participating in a fishing tournament permitted under 10 V.S.A. §4613.
Limited Commercial Activity
Commercial activity at fishing access areas is limited to entities and persons taking part in activities authorized by Authorized Activities 1, 2, and 3 listed above.
UMBRELLA or ALABAMA RIG
The Alabama Rig does not constitute a “lure” in and of itself, since it is hookless. As such, it is considered terminal tackle, such as a wire leader, except with five strands of wire instead of one. The Alabama Rig does not become a lure intended to catch fish until hooks are added. As such, the Alabama Rig is legal to use in Vermont provided no more than two lures with hooks intended to catch fish are attached to it.
Additionally, if an angler were to attach hookless attractors to the remaining three wire strands, such as rotating blades (spinnerbait blades, for example), or hookless soft plastic baits, it would also be legal to fish in this manner.
- The Commissioner may authorize special permits for entities or persons to use an access area for group use when the Commissioner determines that there will be no adverse impact on authorized priority uses.
- The Commissioner may authorize the use of access areas by an educational institution or a nonprofit charitable organization conducting a fundraising event of limited duration, provided that the event will not conflict with a priority use of the access area.
- Special permits shall not be issued and may be revoked immediately for activities that substantially interfere with authorized uses.
- Permit fees shall be in accordance with the schedule of fees established under 10 V.S.A. §4132(e).
The maximum speed on access areas shall be 15 miles per hour.
A person shall not leave trash on the ice, in the water or on the shore or streambank.
It is illegal to sell, offer for sale or use a lead sinker in Vermont. “Sinker” means any device which weighs one-half ounce or less and is attached to a fishing line for the purpose of sinking the line, and does not include other lead fishing-related items such as weighted fly line, lead-core fishing line, downrigger cannonballs, weighted flies, lures, spoons, or jig heads.
Streams Open to Year-Round Trout Fishing
The sections of the streams listed below are open to trout fishing year round according to the following rules:
- Only artificial flies or lures may be used, except during the open season for trout (2nd Sat. in April – Oct. 31).
- Catch and release only (trout must be immediately released where caught), except during the open season for trout.
- During open season for trout, follow normal size restrictions, daily limits and possession limits.
- Black River: The top of Lovejoy Dam in Springfield downstream to the Connecticut River Boundary.
- Lamoille River: From the Lake Champlain boundary (top of Peterson Dam in Milton) upstream to the top of the hydroelectric dam at Fairfax Falls.
- Lewis Creek: From the Lake Champlain boundary upstream to the State Prison Hollow Road (TH#3) bridge in Starksboro.
- Ompompanoosuc River: From the Connecticut River boundary upstream to the Union Village Dam.
- Otter Creek: From the Lake Champlain boundary upstream to the top of Center Rutland Falls.
- West River: From the Connecticut River boundary upstream to the Townshend Dam to the Connecticut River boundary.
- White River: From the Connecticut River boundary upstream to the bridge on Route 107 in Bethel.
- Williams River: From the Connecticut River boundary upstream to the top of the dam at Brockway Mills Falls in Rockingham.
- – Winooski River: From the Lake Champlain boundary upstream to the Bolton Dam in Duxbury and Waterbury.
Ice Fishing for Trout, Salmon & Bass
Ice fishing for trout, salmon and bass is allowed on the following lakes from the third Saturday in January to March 15. Length limits and daily limits are found in the Indexes and Tables.
- Big Averill Lake, Norton and Averill
- Big Salem Lake, Derby
- Caspian Lake, Greensboro
- Chittenden Reservoir, Chittenden
- Crystal Lake, Barton
- Echo Lake, Charleston
- Echo Lake, Plymouth
- Eden Lake, Eden
- Elligo Lake, Craftsbury, Greensboro, Fairlee and West Fairlee
- Glen Lake, Castleton, Fair Haven and Benson
- Harriman Reservoir, Whitingham and Wilmington
- Harveys Lake, Barnet
- Island Pond, Brighton
- Joes Pond, Cabot and Danville
- Lake Bomoseen, Castleton and Hubbardton
- Lake Dunmore, Leicester and Salisbury
- Lake Fairlee, Thetford, West Fairlee, Fairlee
- Lake Hortonia, Sudbury and Hubbardton
- Lake Memphremagog (including South Bay and the connecting waters), Coventry, Derby, Newport City and Newport
- Lake Morey, Fairlee
- Lake Rescue, Ludlow
- Lake St. Catherine, Wells and Poultney
- Little Averill Lake, Averill
- Little Salem Lake, Derby
- Maidstone Lake, Maidstone
- Marshfield Reservoir (Mollys Falls Reservoir), Cabot
- Miles Pond, Concord
- Nelson Pond (Forest Lake), Calais and Woodbury
- Newark Pond, Newark
- Norton Pond, Norton
- Parker Pond, Glover
- Peacham Pond, Peacham
- Pensioner Pond, Charleston
- Seymour Lake, Morgan
- Shadow Lake, Glover
- Somerset Reservoir, Somerset
- Sunset Lake, Benson
- Wallace Pond, Canaan
- Waterbury Reservoir, Waterbury
- Willoughby Lake, Westmore
- Woodbury Lake (Sabin Pond), Calais and Woodbury
Caution: It Is Unlawful To —
- Take fish except by angling unless otherwise stated.
- Take trout and salmon through the ice during the regular season when fishing for these species is limited to angling.
- Take fish in waters closed by regulations of the Fish & Wildlife Commissioner or Board. Such waters are posted.
- Buy or sell salmon; brook, brown, lake, or rainbow trout; largemouth or smallmouth bass; walleye; northern pike; or muskellunge taken in Vermont or imported from another state or country where such sale of fish is prohibited. The exceptions to this rule are for the purpose of a game supper authorized by a permit, or when the fish are reared in a licensed propagation farm in this state.
- Prevent the passing of fish in any stream or outlet or inlet of a natural or artificial pond on any public stream by means of rack, screen, weir or other obstruction. The exception to this rule is if obstruction is authorized by the Commissioner of Fish & Wildlife.
- Use a spear gun to take any kind of fish from any waters.
- Take or kill fish by shutting off or drawing off water.
- Use explosives to take fish, use explosives in any waters, or possess explosives in any waters or on their shores or islands, except for mining or mechanical purposes.
- Place in any waters lime, creosote, coculus indicus, or any other drug or poison destructive to fish.
- Use, possess, or furnish to another person for use in taking fish any of the following devices: a pound net, trap net, seine, snare, gill net, set net, fyke net, set line, fishing otter, trawl, grapple or similar devices, except as provided otherwise.
- Take sturgeon or spiny softshell turtles.
- Leave trash on the ice, in the water, or on the shore/streambank.