The sea-cret is out. The Lake Champlain Region is home to some of the best fishing around. From deep corners of Lake Champlain to secluded ponds to trout streams, wherever you choose to drop a line, there is a waterway ripe for whichever species you prefer to fish. You don’t want to be a fish out of water, so read on to learn all our region has to offer!
With well over 500 miles of shoreline and depths of up to 400 feet, Lake Champlain has plenty of places for fish to hide. In fact, there are over 80 species of fish in the lake! It might not be one of the infamous Great Lakes, but it is, indeed, a great lake. With more than 400 square miles of surface area, 70 islands, and 120 miles of trolling possibilities, anglers visiting the Lake Champlain Region will never get bored with the possibilities on Lake Champlain, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the country. Not only do they have to grapple with which section of water they want to hit, they also have to decide which species to target; the options are never-ending!
Flanked to the west by the Adirondack Mountains of New York and to the east by the Green Mountains of Vermont, Lake Champlain holds numerous state records for many species. Thanks to a reciprocal license agreement between the states, anglers needn't worry about state lines beneath the waves in the main or south regions of the lake, which are below the Lake Champlain Bridge. The region is also home to many streams, rivers, and other lakes or ponds that are excellent for fishing.
More than a dozen state or municipally owned boat launches are ready and waiting to get anyone in the water and provide ample parking for vehicles. Hard surface boat ramps make for easy lake access. For anyone who wants to give fishing a try, experienced guides are available to introduce techniques and provide all of the appropriate tackle.
First class for bass
Lake Champlain is consistently ranked — on quantity, quality, and scenery — by Bassmaster as one of the top bass fisheries in the nation. In fact, Lake Champlain has ranked in the top 25 several times, and was even awarded the number 5 rank in 2012. But if you speak with any of the pro anglers, you may get an even higher ranking!
The best largemouth territory is roughly defined by the Champlain Bridge, which stretches from Crown Point, New York to Addison, Vermont. From the bridge south, the abundant shallows are full of tournament winning bass. Launch your boat right in the middle of the action from either the Port Henry or Ticonderoga state launch sites. Raise up your gas motor and patrol the sunken debris and plant beds near Fort Ticonderoga. Rumor has it that bass between 15 and 20 pounds can be found here.
The Bassmaster Tournament Series hosts several Pro/Am events on Lake Champlain throughout the year, but casual fishermen and women also have ample opportunity to reel in their fair share of largemouth and smallmouth bass — along with dozens of other fish variations — by land or by boat.
Get hooked on trout fishing
For something completely different, Lake Champlain has a lot of territory for fish species that patrol deeper waters, most notably lake trout and landlocked salmon. After ice out, lakers can be found closer to the surface, but as warmer weather progresses, these fish move farther down the water column. You’ll want to use a downrigger to fish below the thermocline. Shoreline, dock, and pier fishermen often have success in very early spring, before the water warms up. During warm-water summer months, experts recommend you find them below 35 feet down and most often north of Westport, where the water is deeper.
If this is unfamiliar territory, no worries. Hire a local guide to cut your learning curve. But if you’ve got your own boat, you can launch in Westport, Willsboro, or Port Douglas; all three launches will get you to laker habitat quickly.
For stream fisherman looking for the other trout species, the region's numerous streams are stocked with brook, brown, and rainbow trout by both the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Essex County Fish Hatchery. Many waterways in the region also hold wild trout, adding to the challenge.
Big fish, small pond
While Lake Champlain jumps off of the map, we never overlook other hot spots, where the waters are smaller and quieter. We love to fish the Boquet River, LaChute River, Putt’s Creek, the Ausable River, and Ensign and Bartlett ponds in Moriah, among others. Lincoln and Putnam ponds both host Department of Environmental Conservation state campgrounds, but offer wild settings for relaxing trips.
Lake Champlain is famous for its lake monster, but have you ever caught a tiger muskellunge? These lively fish are known to be elusive and a challenge to catch. However, they can be found in Lincoln Pond, along with large and smallmouth bass and northern pike. The pond’s shallow waters are home to an abundance of aquatic plants, which the predatory bass and muskie love. You will too. Anglers can fish from shore or from a boat to catch panfish. For those with a boat to launch, access is easy: there is a causeway dividing the pond, so you can start fishing right in the middle of the pond!
Not too far away is Putnam Pond. This water is smaller than Lincoln Pond but by no means less productive. A few popular species found here are: northern pike, largemouth bass, black crappie, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed, and yellow perch. Crappies are fun to fish for and they can frequently be found near thick vegetation, stumps, and fallen logs, all of which can be found around the edges of Putnam Pond. This location is on the edge of the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness, so, needless to say, the setting is very peaceful.
Local fishing guides
Our local bait and tackle shops are ready and willing to help anyone see the action. Stop by and discuss your target species for the insider’s scoop, the best bait or lure, and some target locations for that particular fish. Here you may find many local sport fishermen sharing stories and acting as ambassadors of the sport. Or, if you really want to accelerate the learning curve, you can connect with one of our experienced fishing guides. They'll point you to the right spots, tell you which lure or bait to use, and you'll have great fishing your entire stay.
Lord of the flies
You don’t need a boat to cast a line in the Lake Champlain Region! Sure, you can fish from shore at many of the lakes and ponds, but for a real adventure, don’t pass up an opportunity to drop a fly in the famous Boquet River. Of course, the brook trout fishing is excellent (along with the brown trout) but the real excitement comes in the spring and fall, when landlocked salmon run.
The landlocked salmon in Lake Champlain have been there for awhile, since the end of the last Ice Age, actually. They became trapped in the large “sea.” Their story has a lot of ups and downs. There are stories of the Boquet River being so full of salmon during Colonial times that horses were afraid to cross. With the construction of dams and spawning habitat dwindling, the salmon began to run less and less. But in recent years, the removal of the Willsboro Dam has opened up miles and miles of river to the fish.
And that’s good for anglers! The best salmon fishing in the spring is below Willsboro; fall runs extend farther upriver. Access is as plentiful as the salmon themselves. In the town of Willsboro, find parking on Mill or School streets. School Street also has a cartop boat launch that provides access to about 2 miles of flatwater, leading directly to the river mouth at Lake Champlain. You can also access the river at Noblewood Park.
For more tips, suggestions, and true adventures of fishing in the Lake Champlain Region, explore these stories:
Take time to explore
Put it all together and it's no surprise that fishermen and women flock to the Lake Champlain Region each year. You'll want to spend more than a day checking out our wide variety and first-class fishing sites, and we have plenty of places to hang your fishing hat at the end of the day.
Leave No Trace and Love Your ADK
The magic of the Adirondacks is the result of previous generations taking a long view and protecting the mountains, lakes, and rivers within the Blue Line. That tradition continues today as we support and encourage everyone to practice Leave No Trace ethics, which help protect the lands and waters of the Adirondacks.
For anglers, that means taking care to not introduce harmful or non-native species to waters, packing out unused bait, and washing equipment between fishing trips.