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Brookfield is a charming rural town in Orange County located in the Woodstock-Quechee region of Vermont. It was officially created via a state charter on August 5, 1781, and is known for its beautiful landscapes and autumn foliage. Measuring a total of 41.7 square miles, this town is predominantly composed of land with only 0.65% or 0.3 square miles of water.
According to Edward Payson Wild, a resident and pastor commissioned to write about the town’s history, suggested the name originated from the great number of “rills and brooks” or smaller bodies of water found through the landscape. His history book “A History of Brookfield” was donated to the town’s library, which is also the oldest library in the entire state, operating since 1791.
However, Brookfield is best known for its Floating Bridge, which was originally built in 1820 by Luther Adams. It measures nearly 300 feet in length and was “buoyed” by tarred oaken barrels that acted as pontoons over Sunset Lake (formerly known as Colts Pond), allowing it to adapt to the water level. It was originally built this way because the lake was too deep to put traditional pilings in. It went through seven reincarnations and started to deteriorate until residents raised funds to have it repaired between 2010 and 2015. Its eighth version now has fiber-reinforced polymer pontoons and remains as a beloved landmark of the town, where local anglers often converge to cast their lines into the calm waters.
The state of Vermont is well known for its wild trout populations which in turn indicates a healthy ecosystem. These fish need a cold, clean environment and a network of connected bodies of water. This abundance of trout has fueled the local’s passion for fishing, which is a common way for families and friends to spend quality time together in Brookfield. Vermont has even awarded two free fishing days on January 30 and June 12 wherein anybody can go fishing anywhere in Vermont without a license.
Residents of Brookefield often flock to Sunset Lake, a narrow body of water that has a surface area of 25 acres and a drainage basin of 2,664 acres. It has a maximum depth of 32 feet with dark, sandy bottoms. During the summers, its waters become moderately turbid and a dense blanket of algae can grow in certain areas. However, this lake’s waters are enriched with nutrients that allow fish to flourish particularly largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch. Around 500 individuals each of rainbow trout and brook trout are also stocked annually in Sunset Lake.
The largemouth bass here loves structures and cover, which make it a prime catch, especially during the summer between June and September, as it finds cover beneath vegetation. Presenting your live bait or lure near the structures of the Floating Bridge has been known to be successful for local anglers. Smallmouth bass, on the other hand, gravitates towards cooler and deeper waters, but it will also be near the clearer and cleaner parts of the lake. Just like largemouth, it prefers to feed on crayfish and baitfish like yellow perch, which are both plentiful in Sunset Lake. Smallmouth bass will also go after insects, so a tackle full of artificial lures that imitate bugs would be useful along with wobbling diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and jerkbaits with bluegill patterns and chartreuse color.
The regular season for largemouths and smallmouths is from the 2nd Saturday of June until the end of November. You can take home fish smaller than 10-inches with no minimum length, but you can only bring home up to 5 largemouths and smallmouths combined. Length limits are relaxed though during the catch-and-release season, which begins in December until the regular season begins again in June. However, only artificial lures and flies are allowed during this time.
If you’re going after rainbow and brook trout in Sunset Lake, the season runs from the 2nd Saturday in April until the end of October with a total limit of 12 fish combined. You’ll have luck with trout in clearer parts of the lake near the cover of overhanging trees and drop-offs, using flies or jigs that imitate insects as well. Weighted nymph rigs (especially patterns that mimic large stoneflies), San Juan worms, and streamers on a sinking-tip line have also been proven to be effective. Local anglers testify that spring is the best time for trout before the waters become warmer, which is between March and June.
There is no public boat launch on Sunset Lake, but anglers often cast their lines from the shores or the Floating Bridge. You might even spot several bobbers and jigs wrapped around telephone lines suspended above the lake from anglers that miscalculated their casts. Residents are known for gathering around the lakeshore during the summer, frolicking in its shallow waters under the shade of its picturesque willow trees.
However, if you want to fish from a boat, you can head over to Baker Pond nearby, which is owned by The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Spanning over 35 acres with a maximum depth of 10 feet, this shallow pond has a gravel boat ramp that can accommodate small boats.
Although there’s no dock, you can virtually fish anywhere along the pond’s shores. The best time to go fishing here would be spring, summer, and fall (June to December) where largemouth bass and pumpkinseed are plentiful because the pond is not plowed during the winter.
While pumpkinseed doesn’t grow very large in general, it’s a favorite of anglers because of its flavor. It’s common around the state of Vermont, preferring small shallow ponds with aquatic vegetation or sunken trees. Anglers usually present small live bait such as worms, but can also use flies, spinners, poppers, tube jigs, and grubs.
If you’re looking for winter fishing between December and March in Vermont, you can head on over to Rood Pond, which also has boat access for a small vessel. With an area of 23 acres, this is a deep pond that reaches up to 52 feet in depth and has a universal shore fishing platform. Here you’ll find brown bullhead, largemouth bass, and it’s also stocked annually with around 500 brook trout.
While there’s plenty of yellow perch in Sunset Lake, which the black bass feed on, they’re most popular during the winter in Rood Pond. It can be found near sunken structures such as trees or stumps and under the cover of overhanging trees or man-made platforms. Local anglers often bait yellow perch by structures near steep drop-offs using jigs with maggots or perch-eyes. It will also attack live worms, small minnows, grubs, tubes, flies, and spinners. You can only take home up to 50 yellow perch per day, which speaks for itself how abundant they are in Vermont.
Allis State Park was founded in 1928 and is the state’s second state park. It offers picturesque views of central Vermont from a tower that was used as a lookout for forest fires. The property used to be a farm owned by Wallace Allis, who sold it to the state for the public to enjoy the wonderful views.
Serving as a gateway to Brookfield Village, also called “Pond’s Village” by the locals, the Floating Bridge on Sunset Lake is a must. It’s one of the last remaining floating bridges in the entire country and is the town’s main tourist draw, especially between September to December, when the autumn foliage is in full picture-perfect bloom.
Vermont is famous for its maple syrup and a trip to the state would not be complete without seeing how it's made. Sillowy Maple in Brookfield offers guided tours to watch how their syrup is made and you’re more than welcome to hike around the surrounding sugar woods and marvel at the miles of saplines and maple trees. Don’t forget to bring home a bottle before you leave!