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Take a Closer Look

Did you know that Vermont is one of only two states in the country that have both an official cold water state fish and an official warm water state fish? Brook trout is the obvious choice as Vermont’s official cold water fish because they thrive in cold streams throughout the state. Our official warm water fish has a much more limited distribution, but its significance to the state’s natural history, past commercial fisheries, and present-day recreational fishing opportunities have won the walleye this unique honor.

A fish more often associated with the midwestern United States and central Canada, walleye are native to Lake Champlain and the lower ends of its tributaries. In the early 1900’s, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department made efforts to establish walleye populations in waters throughout the state. Most of these waters were not suitable for walleye, but self-sustaining walleye populations became established in waters like Lake Carmi, Salem Lake, and Island Pond, and in New Hampshire’s Connecticut River.

Decades later, the Department continues efforts to manage the state’s walleye fisheries by protecting habitat, implementing and enforcing fishing regulations, and stocking. As with any fish population, habitat is critical. This is why Department fisheries biologists engage in environmental permitting processes to protect walleye and other fish from habitat degradation. Walleye populations can be very responsive to fishing regulations because they are a long-lived, slow growing fish that people love to harvest and eat. The Department’s fisheries biologists develop and evaluate fishing regulations for walleye populations, and the warden service does the work of enforcing those regulations. In some cases, stocking is an appropriate and effective tool for managing walleye populations. For many years, the Department has worked with the Lake Champlain Walleye Association to annually stock walleye in Lake Champlain. Along the way, the Department has continually refined its facilities and techniques to become a world leader in walleye culture. Stocking has enhanced the Lake Champlain walleye fishery by supplementing natural reproduction. Walleye stocking is also responsible for restoring walleye fishing opportunities in the Northeast Kingdom’s Salem Lake and Island Pond, and for establishing a walleye fishery in southwestern Vermont’s Chittenden Reservoir.