Vermont's Lake Champlain is consistently recognized as a top bass destination in the country, and for good reason.

Smallmouth and largemouth bass are incredibly abundant in this 120-mile long lake that forms the border between Vermont and New York, and extends into Quebec. Not only are the bass plentiful, but they also grow large with bass averaging two to three pounds, and fish over five and six pounds is not uncommon.


VERMONT’S SPRING BASS CATCH-AND- RELEASE SEASON

While bass fishing is great during the whole season, truly exceptional Champlain bass fishing occurs in the early spring.

  • The season runs from the 2nd Saturday in April to the Friday before the 2nd Saturday in June. Check out the dates

  • Angling is catch-and-release only and all bass must be immediately released (after a quick photo, of course).

  • Live bait is prohibited, only artificial lures are allowed.


TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Smallmouth and largemouth bass overwinter in deeper regions of a lake. In the early spring, however, as water temperatures approach the 50ºF, they migrate towards shallow protected spawning areas.


Where Should I Fish?

Bass generally move straight from deep water to the closest shallow shoreline, and then make their way along the shoreline towards spawning sites, resting at predictable locations along the way. This is where you want to fish.

Look for areas with a hard bottom, such as gravel, chunk rock and ledge. These areas absorb the sun’s heat and are warmer than the surrounding waters. Bass will congregate or "stage" on such structure while they wait for adjacent spawning bays to reach the low to mid-60s.


What Lures Work Best? Fishing Lures Unlike bass on a nest, pre-spawn staging bass are hungry and aggressive and will absolutely crush artificial lures. The best bets at this time of year are:

  • Slow, wide-wobbling diving crankbaits

  • Slow-rolled spinnerbaits

  • Jerkbaits

  • Crayfish and bluegill patterns with a splash of chartreuse work the best

How Should I Fish?

Bass fishing this time of year is fun and easy. Find a rocky shoreline or a long tapering point near a potential spawning flat, position your boat a cast-length away, and work your way along, casting tight to shore.


Vary your retrieve until you find what triggers a strike. Use diving crankbaits that run a little deeper than the water depth, so the lure ticks the bottom every once in a while. This will often yields vicious strikes. Letting a lipless crankbait sink to the bottom and reeling it back so it ticks the bottom every few feet also works well.


Busting a Myth

A common assumption of anglers not familiar with spring bass fishing is you're cherry-picking nesting bass. Not true. Nesting bass are notoriously difficult to catch and generally aren't worth the effort targeting them.


Instead, the best fishing occurs before the spawn, when the bass are often found in large groups, staging in the main lake, and waiting to move into their spawning bays.


With two people in a boat, you can expect catches of 50-75 bass per day. Some anglers report having spring days of more than 100 bass. Fishing pre-spawn staging bass can certainly spoil you for the rest of the season.


ACCESSING LAKE CHAMPLAIN

Although phenomenal spring bass fishing is good throughout the entire length of Lake Champlain, the shallower, narrow southern end of the lake is your best bet in the early season. This end of the lake is more like a meandering river, with the widest point less than a mile across. It's highly productive with plenty of rocky shoreline, points, and marshy back bays, and it warms up early, reaching that magical 50ºF to 55ºF mark weeks before the north end.


The last week of April and the first two weeks of May are usually the most productive. The "south lake" officially starts at Chimney Point, where a bridge crosses from New York, and runs south for approximately 40 miles.


The department has several fishing access areas located on the southern section of the lake including:

  • Chimney Point

  • Larabee's Point

  • Lapham's Bay Point  

  • Chipman's Point

  • Benson Landing

Use our Access Area Search for more information on each of these access areas.


OTHER VERMONT LAKES TO FISH

Vermont's early season bass fishing regulation applies to all of the state's inland lakes and ponds, not just Lake Champlain. Bass fishing is exceptional in most waters throughout the state.


For Rutland County in the southern Lake Champlain area, best bets include:

  • Lake Bomoseen

  • Lake St. Catherine 

  • Hortonia Lake

Use our Access Area Search for more information on each of these access areas.

GETTING TO LAKE CHAMPLAIN’S “SOUTH LAKE”

Distances to Vermont's southern Lake Champlain (Shoreham, VT)

Kilometres

Miles

Drive Time

Burlington, Ont.

650

403

6.5 hrs

Cornwall, Ont.

251

155

3.5 hrs

Kingston, Ont.

382

237

5 hrs

London, Ont.

760

472

7.5 hrs

Niagara Falls, Ont.

575

357

6 hrs

Ottawa, Ont.

422

262

4.5 hrs

Peterborough, Ont.

559

347

6 hrs

Toronto, Ont.

700

434

7 hrs

Montreal, QC

230

142

2.5 hrs

Sherbrooke, QC

285

177

3.5 hrs

Albany, NY

172

107

2 hrs

Boston, MA

314

195

3 hrs

Concord, NH

210

131

3 hrs

Hartford, CT

314

195

3 hrs

New York City, NY

402

267

4 hrs

Portland, ME

381

237

4.5 hrs

Scranton, PA

460

286

5 hrs

Springfield, MA

268

167

3.5 hrs



WHERE TO STAY

One of the wonderful aspects of fishing southern Lake Champlain is that the shoreline is practically undeveloped. Most of the shoreline is either densely forested or farmland with rolling fields. However, accommodations for visiting anglers are not far away.


Check out these sites for help finding a place to stay:

Rutland City Chamber of Commerce – find a place to stay close to Lake Champlain’s southernmost fishing access areas, as well as a short drive to Rutland County’s lakes region.


Mid-Vermont Chamber of Commerce – find a place to stay close to Chimney Point Access Area.


Sportsman Campground and Cottages - offer on-the-water accommodations on southern Lake Champlain.


Vermont Vacations – features a searchable list of accommodations statewide.