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Free Ice Fishing Day

ice fishing tip-ups on frozen lake at sunset

Always wanted to go ice fishing but couldn’t find a good excuse to get away? Now we have found that excuse for you: a "Free Ice Fishing Day" on the last Saturday in January.

Saturday, January 28, 2023 is Vermont’s next free ice fishing day - a day when anyone, resident or nonresident, may go fishing in Vermont without a fishing license.

Find a Great Ice Fishing Spot

Not Sure How? - No Problem! - FREE Ice Fishing Festival

Come to our FREE Ice Fishing Festival! Vermont Fish & Wildlife staff will be there to help everyone, young and old, learn how to enjoy this unique and popular type of fishing.

Where: Silver Lake State Park, Barnard VT | map

When: Saturday, January 28, 2023 - 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

Get Directions

Event Schedule:

  • 11:00 am - Registration Opens
  • 11:00 am to 3:00 pm - Fun Family Activities
    This year, Fish & Wildlife staff and Let's Go Fishing volunteers will help new ice anglers learn the basics of winter ice fishing with stations including:

    • Ice Fishing Gear Explained
    • Hole Drilling Demos
    • Tip-up Techniques
    • Using a Rod and Jig
    • Ice Safety
    • Fish Identification and Regulations Explained
    • Knot-tying Know-how and tackle craft

Plus enjoy a fish fry and cocoa (bring your own mug if you can)! 

Bring your own ice fishing equipment or you can borrow ours. Be sure to dress warmly (in layers is the best) and wear winter boots. Yaktraxs or ice cleats are also a great idea for traction.

Pre-registration is closed.
Day-of Registration is Available. See you there!

For more information, contact Corey Hart (Corey.Hart@vermont.gov) by email or call 802-505-5562.

Check out the fun everyone had at our last in-person ice fishing festival on Lake Elmore


Can't Make the Event? Check Out Our Virtual Ice Fishing Clinic

Welcome to the department’s Virtual Ice Fishing Festival.  Due to COVID restrictions this year, the department is unable to host the in-person Ice Fishing Festival we would normally offer on Free Fishing Day.  In place of that, we have created a Virtual Ice Fishing Festival that will give you the opportunity to learn about ice fishing basics. 

Using the Virtual Environment

To enter the Virtual Ice Fishing Festival, click the link below, which will take you to a beautiful virtual view of Lake Rescue, in Plymouth VT.  You will see nine learning stations on the ice.  To move from station to station, just click and hold your mouse button, and drag left or right. On a tablet or smartphone, swipe with a finger left or right. Tap on the Play Button above each station to enter the station.

Click for the Virtual Ice Fishing Clinic

We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn about ice fishing, and then go out on Saturday, January 29 and put your new-found knowledge to use on Free Fishing Day. 


Great Ice Fishing Spots for Beginners (or anyone):

Elmore State Park: Lake Elmore has an abundant yellow perch population as well as northern pike.  Walk out from the state park or the Fish and Wildlife Access Area near at the south end of the lake and fish in 10 to 15 feet of water.  Fish small jigs tipped with maggots for yellow perch or minnows under tip-ups for northern pike and bigger perch.  Lake Elmore is often windy.  Choose the end of the lake that offers the most protection from the wind.

Crystal Lake State Park: Crystal Lake has an abundant population of small lake trout.  Walk out from the state park or the Fish and Wildlife Access Area near the south end of the lake and fish in 10 to 50 feet of water.  Try jigging spoons like a Swedish Pimple just above the lake bottom.  Or set minnows under tip-ups and place the bait on or near the bottom.

Maidstone Lake State Park: Maidstone Lake offers good fishing for lake trout.  Walk out from the state park and fish in 10 to 50 feet of water.  Try jigging spoons like a Swedish Pimple just above the lake bottom.  Or set minnows under tip-ups.  Maidstone Lake also has burbot, and you can catch them after dark by fishing a live or dead minnow on the lake bottom.

Molly’s Falls Pond State Park: This pond has abundant northern pike and yellow perch.   Walk out onto the ice from the Fish and Wildlife Access Area near Marshfield Dam and set tip-ups with large minnows off the bottom in 15-40 feet of water.  Jig for Perch using small jigs hooked with maggots or small pieces of worm near flat bottoms with weeds in 10-30 feet of water.  Set tip-ups for larger Perch using small minnows off the bottom in 15-40 feet of water.

Bomoseen State Park: Walk out from the state park beach 40-50 yards, staying along the south shoreline. Drill holes where you can find 5-8 feet of water and scattered weeds.  You’ll find yellow perch, sunfish, black crappie, and bass in this area.  Use jigging rods rigged with small jigs and live bait (waxworms, minnows) or set baited tipups with your minnows set just above the top of the weeds.

Branbury State Park: The waters in front of this state park on Lake Dunmore provides good fishing for yellow perch, black crappie, large and smallmouth bass, northern pike and even lake trout.  Walk out from the state park beach and veer to the right, and set minnows one to two feet off the bottom on tipups in 8 to 12 feet of water along the Route 53 shoreline.  Look for scattered weedbeds in 10 to 15 feet of water straight out from the small boat access at the left side of the state park beach. These weeds will hold perch, crappie, and bass. Going further out into 40-60 feet of water beyond the end of the beach will get you into lake trout territory.  Jig or set minnows right on the bottom.

Knight Point State Park This sheltered bay in the Champlain Islands is perfect for new anglers and young families.  The state park provides easy access to productive shallow waters with lots of vegetation and habitat for perch, sunfish, bass, and pike.  Drill holes in areas that are 5 to 8 feet of water and set up in areas where you can see scattered weeds under the ice.  Small jigs tipped with waxworms and tipups with minnows will catch almost anything in the area.

Sandbar State Park:  Located at the beginning of the Route 2 causeway heading onto the Champlain islands, the waters around this state park provide great fishing for many species.  On the north side of the causeway in front of and west of the state park, deeper water edges are great places to try for salmon cruising the drop along the causeway. Try setting tipups with minnows just under the ice.  You might get some nice pike that hang around the deep weed edges too.  On the south side of Route 2 across from the state park entrance is a the large shallow flat with abundant vegetation and provides great fishing for sunfish, perch, bass and pike.  It offers easy walking access from the parking lot on the edge of the road.  Small minnows on tipups will make for a fun, productive day!

South Bay of Lake Memphremagog: Park at the Fish and Wildlife Access Area at the north end of South Bay.  Walk towards the middle of the bay in search of water that is 10 to 20 feet deep.  Fish small jigs tipped with maggots for yellow and white perch or minnows under tip-ups for northern pike, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass.

Have fun!

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