The dropping temperatures and shorter days of fall bring some of the year’s hottest fishing action on Vermont’s lakes, ponds and streams, according to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.
“As water temperatures cool off, many different fish species begin to feed heavily,” said Shawn Good, a fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “From warm water species such as largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, perch, and walleye, to cold water species like trout and salmon, fish feeding activity really picks up and creates exceptional fishing conditions for anglers.”
While the hot temperatures of summer can sometimes make fishing slow, the autumn months represent a transition time when fish become more active and easier to catch. This increase in feeding activity can be attributed to fish boosting their reserves of essential nutrients in order to sustain themselves during winter when their metabolism slows and they feed less.
Fishing pressure on Vermont waters also decreases significantly as the seasons change, so there is less competition from other anglers.
“Fall is one of the absolute best times to be on the water in Vermont – regardless of what species you want to target or where you want to fish,” said Good. “Some of the best days I’ve had on the water have come late in the fall when many other anglers have already put their rods away for the winter. It’s an amazing time of year to be on the water, and you’ll likely have your favorite fishing holes all to yourself.”
One enhanced fall angling opportunity is bass fishing, whether it be on world-renowned Lake Champlain, the diverse Connecticut River or one of Vermont’s many smaller lakes and ponds.
"Fall makes the great bass fisheries of Vermont even greater,” said Good. “Cooler air temperatures bring comfortable fishing weather and less boat traffic, and the bass also know to take advantage of cooling water temperatures by feeding more in shallow water. More bass in shallow water means more exciting bass opportunities for anglers.”
“Vermont has near equally abundant smallmouth and largemouth populations,” said Good. “You can try different fishing strategies for the two bass species during other seasons, but I've found largemouth and smallmouth bass mix together more in the fall when temperatures cool. This makes fall bass fishing even more fun."
“For bass and pike, fishing locations and lure selection are pretty straight forward at this time of year when these species are feeding aggressively. In any lake or pond, focus on fishing around the outside edges of dying weedbeds and shorelines that change from shallow to deep water. If you can find 6 to 8 feet of water along the edge of a thinning weedbed, that’s a great place to start. As the weeds thin out and break down in the colder water, baitfish are left without dense cover to hide in, and predators like bass and pike take advantage of that.”
“Casting large brightly colored lures that have a lot of vibrating and flash will elicit vicious strikes. White or chartreuse spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, or wide-wobbling crankbaits are great choices.”
Other hot fall fishing action includes northern pike and walleye fishing on the Connecticut River and trout, salmon and northern pike fishing on Lake Champlain.
One of the great things about late fall fishing is that there’s no need to get an early start. Being on the water in the early morning isn’t necessary.
“Sleep in and wait until the sun is well up and the surface water temperature has inched upwards a few degrees,” said Good. “With water temperatures hovering in the 40s and low 50s, fish like bass and pike need a couple of extra hours to warm up and begin to feed. You can be on the water by 10 a.m. and off by 3 p.m. These are short days, but possibly some of the most productive of the year.”
To purchase a Vermont fishing license or to find out more about fishing opportunities in Vermont, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.