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A Special Message From the Commissioner


New Opportunities for Hunting & Fishing

This past year will be long remembered as a landmark for sportsmen and women in Vermont. A host of new regulations, legislation and Fish & Wildlife Department policies are expanding hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities, enhancing protection for fish and wildlife resources, creating efficiencies for acquiring licenses and permits, and preserving the rights of sportsmen and women across Vermont.

The “Sportsman’s Act of 2013,” passed as H.101, was initiated by the department and supported by a host of hunting, fishing, trapping and traditional interest groups. The bill passed to unanimous acclaim in both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Shumlin.

To better protect wildlife and habitat throughout the state, H.101 prohibits the importation and possession of wild hogs. These insidious critters carry a variety of nasty diseases and can cause significant habitat destruction.

The law also requires that any person taking a nuisance bear must first attempt to make reasonable, non-lethal measures to protect his or her property. Intentionally feeding bears is prohibited as well. More information on the bear regulations and how to avoid issues with bears can be found in Bear Hunting.

In another new provision, landowners now have the opportunity to legally post, or enclose, their property so that hunting, fishing and trapping will be allowed by permission only. This will afford landowners another option for managing these activities on their property without the need to prohibit all trespass.

Additional changes, including the addition of a Free Fishing Day in January, will offer both seasoned anglers and those new to the sport, more opportunities to enjoy the exceptional fishing resources the state has to offer. Lastly, many administrative functions have been made more efficient, including an expedited application process for hunters seeking antlerless deer and moose permits.

Governor Shumlin and the legislature also supported a significant and much-needed general fund increase for the department. For decades, hunters and anglers have provided the lion’s share of financial support for fish and wildlife conservation. Vermont ranks first among the lower 48 states in our rate of participation in wildlife-based recreation, and enhancing support from the general fund ensures that all Vermonters share in the responsibility of protecting and managing wildlife resources.

A host of new regulations are also noteworthy. Over the past couple of years, the department has worked collaboratively with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board—the independently appointed 14 member body that sets hunting, fishing and trapping regulations—to greatly expand opportunities and protect the rights of sportsmen and women.

Highlights include:

  • Opening more than 70 miles of river to year-round catch-and-release trout fishing
  • Providing new year-round bass fishing opportunities all across Vermont
  • Loosening baitfish regulations to allow easier transport on the same body of water
  • Expanding the rabbit hunting season by 2 weeks in the Northeast Kingdom
  • Expanding the late bear season by an additional 4 days
  • Enhancing trapping opportunities for beaver
  • Protecting the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers on department lands

As we head to the woods and waters in 2014, I am grateful for the tremendous resources we have right here in our backyard and for the new opportunities we have been afforded. And as I fished the Winooski River as pictured on the cover—a stretch that is now open to year round trout fishing—I was grateful for the support of the Vermonters who helped make this a landmark year for sportsmen and women across Vermont.

Patrick Berry, Commissioner


Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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