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General Requirements, Definitions & Prohibitions

Fishing Licenses

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 3 in Connecticut River Regulations for specific Connecticut River fishing license requirements.

See Lake Champlain Regulations for reciprocal license information.

Shooting by Bow and Arrow or Spear Gun or Spearing

A person is required to hold a hunting or combination license to take fish by hand-held spear, spear gun, or shooting. A person is required to hold a fishing or combination license to take fish by bow or crossbow except on Lake Champlain between March 25th to May 25. During that period on Lake Champlain a person is required to hold a hunting or combination license to take northern pike and pickerel by bow or crossbow (10 V.S.A. § 4252).

A person who takes a fish by hand-held spear, spear gun, bow or crossbow with line attached to arrow, in accordance with 10 V.S.A. App § 122, shall keep the fish in his or her possession until the fish is permanently removed from waters of the state and used or disposed of properly.

Hand-Held Spear: A manually powered spear used from above the water’s surface.

Spear Gun: A pneumatic or rubber band-powered device, with a line not to exceed 20 feet attached to a spear, used from below the water’s surface. Spear guns shall be loaded and discharged only beneath the surface of the water and shall be used while snorkeling/free diving only. Spearing while scuba diving is not permitted.

Fishing Methods


Any person engaged in the take or attempted take of fish, by any method.

Open-Water Fishing

Fishing by means of hook and line in hand or attached to a rod or other device in open water, or fishing by casting or trolling baited hooks, artificial flies, or lures is considered open-water fishing. A person may take fish only by using not more than two lines of which he or she has immediate control. Each line may not have more than two baited hooks or three artificial flies or two lures with or without bait.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is fishing by means of hook and line in hand or attached to a rod, tip-up, jack, or bob, where the angler is fishing through a hole in the ice, from the ice, or on an object supported by the ice. Fishing by casting or trolling baited hooks, artificial flies, or lures shall not be considered ice fishing. A person may take fish only by using not more than eight lines, except on Lake Champlain where no more than fifteen lines may be used. He or she must have immediate control over all lines. Each line may not have more than two baited hooks or three artificial flies or two lures with or without bait. Six lines are allowed on the Connecticut River.

Catch and Release

For species with defined harvest seasons, targeted catch and release (C&R) angling with immediate release can occur outside of harvest season, using artificial lures and flies except on those waters/areas that are closed to fishing.

Fishing Tools

Baited Hook: A single shank hook with one, two, or three points that may be baited with natural or artificial bait or both.

Downrigger: A device used to deliver fishing lines to a desired depth, and when so used, not considered a fishing line.

Fly: A single pointed hook, dressed with feathers, hair, thread, tinsel, or any similar material wound on or about the hook to which no hooks, spinners, spoons, or similar devices have been added.

Lure: A man-made device designed to catch only one fish at a time, to include a spoon, plug, spinner, bait harness, tandem-hook streamer, or lead head jig.

Planer Board: A device used to deliver fishing lines to a desired location, and when so used, not considered a fishing line.

Seasons and Hours

It is illegal to harvest fish of a species unless the season for that species is open on those waters.

It is illegal to fish 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.

The legal fishing day is the 24-hour period beginning at 12:00 midnight and continuing until the next 12:00 midnight. During the open season, fish may be taken at any hour of the legal fishing day, except where a shorter legal fishing day is specified in the General Fishing Regulations and Exceptions, or where posted otherwise.

Free Fishing Days

Vermont has two Free Fishing Days during which anyone, resident or nonresident, may fish without a license. Vermont’s summer free fishing day occurs each year on the second Saturday in June. Vermont’s winter free fishing day occurs each year on the last Saturday in January. All legal fishing methods and limits still apply.


The daily limit refers to the number of fish legal to keep during the legal fishing day.

The possession limit is the number of fish caught on more than one legal fishing day that an angler or ice fisherman may have in his/her possession; equal to double the daily limit.

Cull Fish

Carp, tench, rudd, shad (alewife and gizzard shad), and goldfish are considered to be “cull fish.” Additional invasive/exotic fish species may be designated by the commissioner as “cull fish.”

Immediate Control

Open-Water Fishing

A person fishing by open-water fishing must have immediate control over his or her lines. Immediate control refers to such constant control as would enable an angler to respond without delay to a fish taking his or her bait, lure, or fly.

Ice Fishing

A person ice fishing shall, at all times, have immediate control over all lines they operate. A person ice fishing shall be able to visually observe lines they operate. Any line that indicates a fish shall be tended within 30 minutes.

Fish Length Restrictions and Filleting Fish

Fish with a length restriction may be filleted or consumed on the water so long as the head, vertebrae, and tail are retained intact to enable determination of fish length. The length of a fish is considered the longest straight line and flat distance from the tip of the fish’s snout to the tip of the longer lobe of its tail when the two lobes are forced together.

Foul Hooking

Foul hooking (PROHIBITED) is hooking a fish in any other part of the body than the mouth with a hook or hooks, or manipulating hooks to hook a fish in a body part other than the mouth. A person fishing by open-water fishing or ice fishing 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.


Taking or attempting to take fish by snagging is PROHIBITED in all Vermont waters. Snagging shall mean the intentional hooking of a fish in a place other than the inside of the fish’s mouth. No person shall pull, jerk, or otherwise purposefully and/or repeatedly manipulate a hook, or hooks and line, to snag or hook a fish in any method other than to entice a fish into taking, by mouth, a hook, lure, or fly. Repeated and/or exaggerated jerking or pulling of the fishing line and/or hooks in any attempt to snag fish, whether it results in physically snagging a fish or not, shall be prima-facie evidence that snagging has taken place. This shall not apply to the use of a gaff to land a fish that has been legally hooked.

Fish Stocking

A person shall not introduce fish into any public waters without a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Department.

Note: Updated requirements for persons stocking fish into private ponds and public waters took effect in 2018. Permit requirements have changed. Please consult the Fish & Wildlife Department website for more information.

Fish Importation

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.

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;
  • Incineration of all fish waste products;
  • Burial of fish on private land only, no less than one hundred feet from any public water.

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Fishing Tournaments

Fishing tournaments are contests in which anglers or ice fishermen pay a fee to enter and in which the entrants compete for a prize based on the quality, size, or number of fish they catch. 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 Vermont Fish & Wildlife 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 that was caught and confined to an enclosed area prior to the beginning of the tournament.

Fishing Houses

A fishing house is a fishing shanty, bob house, smelt shanty, tent, or other structure designed to be placed on the ice of the waters of Vermont for fishing or to be occupied for other purposes. These 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 that 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 issued 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 possess or transport an aquatic plant or aquatic plant part, zebra mussels, quagga mussels, rusty crayfish, Asian clam, spiny water flea, fishhook water flea, or other aquatic nuisance species to or from any Vermont waters on a vehicle, boat, personal watercraft, trailer, or other equipment.

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 Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

State-Controlled Fishing Access Areas


Commercial Activity is any activity or service that produces income to any entity or individual.

Nonprofit 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 setup associated with eating (including setting blankets or tablecloths laid on the ground).

Camping includes any activity using a tent, camper, or motor home, or 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 two 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 sailboats.

Authorized Activities

In order of priority:

  1. Open-water fishing, 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.
  2. The launching of inboard and outboard motorboats engaging in any activity, and parking of vehicles and trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with that purpose.
  3. Trapping, hunting, and parking of vehicles and boat trailers necessary for and contemporaneous with that purpose.
  4. Launching of all nonmotorized 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 nonmotorized launch site when such a site is identified.
  5. ATVs and snowmobiles when being used solely for the purposes of ice fishing.
  6. Permitted special uses.

Prohibited Activities

  • 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.
  • Camping.
  • Picnicking.
  • Making or maintaining fire of any kind.
  • Water skiing.
  • Swimming.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Authorized Users

  • 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.

Special Permits

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).

Speed Limit

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 stream bank.

Lead Sinkers

It is illegal to sell, offer for sale, or use a lead sinker in Vermont. “Sinker” means any device that 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.