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Top Fishing Charters in Lake Champlain

Fishing in Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain boasts 585 miles of shoreline, shared between New York, Vermont, and Quebec. Affectionately known as “The Sixth Great Lake,” these waters are home to some of the best Bass fishing in the country. In fact, this lake consistently shows up in the Bassmaster Tournament Series’ top 100 Bass fisheries. Lake Champlain fishing charters are about much more than Bass, however. Atlantic Salmon, Lake Trout, Walleye, Muskellunge, and scores of other game fish keep anglers here entertained year-round. If you’re lucky, you may even spot “Champ” while you’re at it, Lake Champlain’s equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster.

Where to Fish in Lake Champlain

It doesn’t take much persuasion to cast a line in Lake Champlain—the fishing speaks for itself! Deciding exactly where to go is another matter, however. Lake Champlain is divided into 5 zones. These areas have less to do with the fishing and more to do with wildlife management and regulations, but you’ll still hear some anglers referring to them by name when they talk about their favorite haunts. Consulting a local guide is always the best way to gain insight, but this brief run-down should help get you started.

Missisquoi Bay

Missisquoi Bay sits at the very top of Lake Champlain and reaches over the Canadian border into Quebec. The water is relatively shallow here and teeming with Walleye, Pike, Perch, and Largemouth Bass. Anglers fishing on the Canadian side of the bay must carry a Quebec fishing license. Those on the Vermont side need a VT state license.

Inland Sea

Below Missisquoi Bay sits Inland Sea, which is shielded on the west by the islands that form Grand Isle County. Here, anglers take advantage of a mixture of shallow and deep water, where Pike, Bass, Walleye, Yellow Perch, and Landlocked Salmon roam. You need a VT fishing license to cast your line in Inland Sea.

Mallets Bay

The waters just off the southeast coast of South Hero are known as Mallets Bay. Here, a long shallow flat is complemented by deep waters which exceed 100 feet in some places. This makes for a dynamic fishery, including Bass, Salmon, Pike, Walleye, and Yellow Perch. Anglers fishing Mallets Bay need to carry a VT state fishing license.

Main Lake

The vast section known as Main Lake includes both the widest and longest portions of Lake Champlain. At the center of Main Lake the water is deep (up to 400 feet) and cold, producing Champlain’s biggest Lakers and Salmon. Anglers fishing on the NY side can enjoy stellar fishing for Bass, especially in the northern part where it’s almost impossible not to catch a Smallmouth (many of them weighing as much as 5 lbs). In spring and fall, you can catch Salmon by fly fishing near shore as they make their way in and out of the tributaries. Anglers can fish in Main Lake with a license from either VT or NY.

South Lake

This narrow, southern portion of Lake Champlain features shallow waters and excellent fishing for Largemouth Bass along the bay and weeds. Anglers also catch Pike, Sauger, White Perch, Walleye, and Catfish in this area. You can fish most of South Lake with either a VT or NY license. The tail end of the lake known as South Bay requires a NY fishing license.

Need to Know

Techniques

The most common fishing techniques anglers use in Lake Champlain include jigging and trolling, mainly for Trout and Salmon. Trolling is most effective in spring and fall when the water surface if cooler.

Lake Champlain Bass fishing techniques vary widely depending on the season and exactly where you cast your line. Jigs, soft plastics, jerkbaits, crankbaits, and many other lures can be successful.

Ice fishing is a popular pastime in winter, especially for Walleye, Pike, and Perch. Lake Champlain ice fishing season typically runs from January to mid March.

Reguations

Lake Champlain fishing charters do not provide a fishing license for customers. Depending on what part of the lake you fish, anglers in your group will need licenses from Vermont, New York, or Quebec.

The Lake Champlain Reciprocal Agreement allows anglers to fish in Main Lake and South Lake with either a NY or VT fishing license. Other parts of the lake are not included in the agreement and anglers need to carry a license from the state they are fishing in.

Budget

Lake Champlain fishing trips range from $250-$550, depending on how long the charter lasts and the size of your group. A half day trip (4 hours) for 4 anglers costs $250-$350, while a ¾ day trip (6 hours) ranges from $325-$450. You can usually expect to pay $400-$550 for a full day trip (8 hours).

Getting There

Lake Champlain is easily accessible from major cities like New York, Boston, Syracuse, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, and more. You can drive to the area from north or south using Interstate 87 and taking exits 28-34. From New England and departure points to the east, the region is accessible via the Lake Champlain Bridge (VT Route 17 to NY Route 185).

Amtrak’s Adirondack Line runs between Penn Station, NY and Gare Centrale, Montreal. You can hop off the train and explore the Lake Champlain area at 4 different places along this route: Port Kent, Westport, Port Henry, and Ticonderoga.
A number of ferries in the region can carry you from Shoreham, Charlotte, Burlington, Port Kent Essex, or Ticonderoga. Some ferries operate seasonally, so be sure to check the schedules ahead of time.

No matter where you fish on Lake Champlain or how you get there, you’re bound to have an action-packed adventure. Come aboard and see what “The Sixth Great Lake” has to offer!

Lake Champlain
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Lake Champlain Fishing Seasons

Lake Champlain is covered in ice at the start of the year. Don’t let that hold you back, though! Walleye, Trout, Perch, and Pike are all accessible with a little ice fishing.

Ice fishing for Smelt reaches its peak in February. Open water season is still weeks away, but you can continue dropping a line for Walleye, Pike, and more until then.

Keep your eye one the shoreline as ice-out approaches. Anglers casting from shore and piers can have great success fishing for Salmon and Trout as soon as the ice starts to melt.

By early April, charter boats are out on the lake reeling in scores of Salmon and Lake Trout. Spring is the season for trolling! Nearshore, the Bass fishing is second to none.

The fishing for Atlantic Salmon and Lakers is hot, hot, hot! Early May is also a great time to score some trophy Pike.

By mid-month, many anglers will stop trolling and start jigging for Lake Trout instead. Those committed to catching Salmon and Brownies will continue trolling, but have to work harder for their reward.

It’s hard to pick a bad place to cast your line on Lake Champlain at this time of year! Everything is biting, from Salmon and Trout to Perch, Pike, and Bass.

August may be your last chance to try jigging for Lake Trout this year, a method many prefer because it’s more hands-on than trolling.

Pike and Largemouth Bass are at their peak, so come hook a trophy! Anglers have started trolling for Salmon and Trout again.

The second wind of Trophy Pike season continues in October. Meanwhile, Smallmouth Bass have reached their peak as the fishing for Salmon and Trout keeps getting better. 

Fly fishermen can get a kick out of the fall Salmon run in the tributaries of Lake Champlain. Just be sure to bring a local guide or check local regulations ahead of time, since these vary by location.

As winter sets in, many species will be harder to reach. Hardy anglers can still count on Pike, Perch, Walleye, and Trout.

Lake Champlain Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Lake Champlain

"Great afternoon on the lake with Captain Bryce!"

Richard F. fished with Eastern View Outfitters on August 15, 2018

If you want to catch large fish go out with someone like Captain Bryce at East Coast Outfitters. He has all the fish-finder equipment and will lead you to the big fish.

Top Targeted Species in Lake Champlain

Lake Trout

Bass (Largemouth)

Bass (Smallmouth)

Brown Trout

Top Lake Champlain Destinations