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Catch & Release

Fishing Regulations Vermont Freshwater Fishing

Please Release Me–

Some advice on catch and release

Harvesting and eating a freshly caught fish is part of the angling experience. However, catch and release fishing can also be enjoyable.

The Fish & Wildlife Department offers catch and release seasons for multiple species of fish, which create additional angling opportunities while simultaneously protecting fish populations. When releasing fish, it is important to follow these steps to ensure the fish will survive to fight another day:

  • Land a fish as rapidly as possible, because a fish played for too long may be too exhausted to recover.
  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible and gently restrain the fish to minimize violent thrashing while unhooking it.
  • Remove hooks gently and never rip the hook out; use the “hook shake” method. Reach into the fish’s mouth and grasp the hook shank with fingers or pliers. Lift the fish and rotate the hook shank down and shake lightly, allowing the fish to slide off the hook.
  • Barbless hooks can increase the survival of released fish, particularly when fishing with bait. Barbs can be pinched flat with pliers.
  • Cut the line close to the hook on a fish that is hooked in the gills, throat or stomach; leave the hook in. The hook will rust out of the fish within a few months.
  • When fishing with live bait, watch the line continuously and set the hook as soon as possible to reduce the chances of the fish swallowing the bait.
  • When ice fishing, keep the fish in the water while unhooking it, if possible, to avoid exposing it to freezing air. This will prevent the fish’s eyes and gills from freezing.
  • Before releasing an exhausted fish, cradle it in a swimming position and move it gently back and forth to force fresh water through its gills until the fish is able to maintain an upright position on its own. This could take up to 10 minutes for large, exhausted fish.

Hey! Let Me Go! The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department works to protect and restore rare and endangered fish species.
To help us in this effort, we’re asking anglers to learn to identify these species and release them immediately
if caught while fishing.

Muskellunge (or “muskie”)

More than 50,000 muskies have been stocked in the Missisquoi region in an effort to bring this majestic fish species back to Lake Champlain. If these muskies survive and begin reproducing naturally, they will provide an exciting fishing opportunity in Vermont. They are sometimes difficult to distinguish from northern pike or chain pickerel, and the increasingly common pike-pickerel hybrid.

While anglers may legally target muskie statewide with artificial flies and lures, all muskie caught anywhere in Vermont must be released immediately.


The lake sturgeon is listed as an endangered species in Vermont. Biologists have documented spawning activity in Vermont rivers that were historical sturgeon spawning sites, and they are working to restore sturgeon by improving habitat, restoring stream flow, removing obstructions in rivers and lessening the impact of sea lamprey predation. Anglers may not target sturgeon and must release them if caught incidentally. Please report the sighting to the department.


Sauger populations are declining across their range and Vermont is no exception. To help protect this fish, a new regulation prohibits anglers from harvesting sauger. Since walleye and sauger are similar in appearance, anglers should learn how to distinguish between the two. If a sauger is caught incidentally, anglers must release it and should report the sighting to the department.