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Burlington, VT: Exceptional Angling Against a Scenic Beauty

Burlington, VT: Exceptional Angling Against a Scenic Beauty
Published: Sunday, June 6th, 2021
Updated on: Sunday, June 6th, 2021

Vermont’s most populous city and the Chittenden County seat, Burlington, is located 45 miles below the United States-Canada border and lies eastward from the Lake Champlain shoreline. The city was built on a 6-mile strip of land south of the Winooski River mouth that drains into this lake. With such a tremendous waterfront area, Burlington is surrounded by scenic spots and recreational opportunities, especially fishing.

The origin of Burlington’s name is officially unsettled whether it carried its name after the third Earl of Burlington (Richard Boyle) or it was called Burlington in honor of the wealthy Burling family who was politically prominent in New York. Even if none of the Burlings are listed as recipients of the town, the family has owned large land lots in the nearby towns. In the 19th century, a large portion of the city, now known as downtown Burlington, was dumped with raw sewage and junks to pave the way to its urban development.

This small, beautiful city sets out a perfect blend of art, cultural and historical scenes of New England. It also offers great educational opportunities and a wide range of outdoor pursuits for locals and travelers throughout the year. Festivals and concerts are up around the streets during summer and spring. At the same time, beaches become crowded and water activities such as paddling, swimming, diving, and fishing are widely explored by warm-weather admirers. Fall is also a good season to rummage through the Burlington Bike Path and admire the colorful autumn scene. Unlimited adventure in Burlington doesn’t end here because winter is the season for adrenaline rush seekers to head to nearby ski resorts.

Burlington Fishing

With manifold water bodies in Burlington, including Lake Champlain on its west, the city offers exceptional angling opportunities. It is also considered among the cities with the most diverse fisheries in the States. From its glacially-formed waterways, cast ashore, wade a stream, or launch a boat from any of its access areas to find various freshwater species.

The deep, clear waters of Lake Champlain draw attention from anglers because of the world-class fishing opportunities it offers. This mighty lake is ranked among the top bass fisheries in the country and is known for hosting yearly smallmouth bass fishing tournaments throughout the summer and fall. These “smallies” are taken up to 40 feet along the edges of drop-offs and reefs.

By deep-jigging or trolling spoons with downriggers from a low-speed boat, you will be able to catch lake trout in the deepest part of the lake. Take note of the spot once you successfully catch one because you will likely catch a bunch more. Northern pike that are as big as 20 pounds can also be found here, along with sunfish, yellow perch, and pickerel that normally live in shallow weed beds. Take these fish using silver spoons, grubs, and worms.

The tributaries of Lake Champlain, such as the Winooski River, also hold top-notch fishing opportunities on many species, including brown trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, largemouth, and smallmouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, and landlocked Atlantic salmon, among many others. The river’s sandy and muddy bottom, overhanging trees, and undercut banks are some of the aquatic structures that provide quality habitat and forage for these fish. Cast your lure at different levels at the Colchester Point Fishing Access Area along the Winooski River to catch any of this target. This area is just a short walk from downtown Burlington.

The same groups of fish, primarily bass, pike, and perch, can be spotted too at the two “fills” in Colchester Causeway Trail. These fills connect the outer Malletts Bay to Lake Champlain’s main lake area, and they serve as natural funnel points to force fish of all sorts to convey between the bay and the lake. Featuring rock and sand bottoms and banks, the Colchester fills bring forth a habitat as good as that from the shore, thus supporting the life of many fish that pass through. Go there by foot if going to the southernmost fill or by boat or swimming if going to the northernmost to drag bait rigs and catch bass and occasional northern pike. This fishing area does not just offer fishing, but you can enjoy a great biking tour along the Burlington Bike Path.

Also, just a few miles from downtown Burlington are Shelburne Pond and Oakledge Park, recreational gems that offer great fishing in a beautiful setting. Oakledge Park, which is just below the downtown, is situated nearby a diversely shallow and deep aquatic habitat that is home to smallmouths and panfish. At Shelburne Pond, fishing can be quickly accessed by boats or kayaks, but staying on the shoreline is also possible by walking through the woods, and you will still end with a catch.


Top 10 Fish Species in Burlington, VT

The top 10 fish species in Burlington are rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, landlocked Atlantic salmon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, pickerel, northern pike, and yellow perch.

Burlington, VT: Exceptional Angling Against a Scenic Beauty Fish species
American Yellow Perch
American Yellow Perch fish

Habitat: River, Lake, Backcountry

Weight: 1 - 4 Pounds

Length: 1" - 10"

Rainbow Trout 
Rainbow Trout  fish

Habitat: River, Lake

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 16" - 34"

Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass fish

Habitat: Lake, Pond, Rivers

Weight: 2 - 22 Pounds

Length: 15" - 32"

Chain Pickerel
Chain Pickerel fish

Habitat: Lake, River, Pond, Bogs, Swamps

Weight: 3 - 5 Pounds

Length: 14" - 39"

Northern Pike
Northern Pike fish

Habitat: Onshore

Weight: 2 - 34 Pounds

Length: 16" - 29"

Brown Trout
Brown Trout fish

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 2 - 40 Pounds

Length: 13" - 39"

Smallmouth Bass 
Smallmouth Bass  fish

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 1 - 4 Pounds

Length: 12" - 27"

Atlantic Salmon 
Atlantic Salmon  fish

Habitat: Onshore, Lake, River

Weight: 8 - 12 Pounds

Length: 24" - 32"

Burlington Seasonal Fishing

Often patrolling the deep waters of Lake Champlain, lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon sometimes show up closer to the surface after the ice is out post-winter. This is the occasion in spring when shoreline and pier fishermen often succeed in hooking these cold water species out. Just when the weather gets warmer again, they move back until 35 feet down.

When fall arrives, these cold-water species as well as the warm water species feed heavily to increase their nutrient supply for winter. Thus, the chance of catching them in great numbers is higher. And since this is an off-season for most anglers, boat traffic on different water bodies in Vermont is lower so you will not have to contend with many other anglers.

Fishing in Lake Champlain doesn’t go off-season during winter. Many ice fishing opportunities are available for lake trout, landlocked salmon, yellow perch, and northern pike from the third week of January until half of March.

Bass fishing is allowed for a quick catch-and-release only throughout the year. The best months are between April and May because bass migrate towards and congregate on the bottom of shallower areas for spawning. With the heat of the sun warmer in these areas, spawning here is favored.


Best Outdoor Pursuits in Burlington

1.Fishing Charters

Not only will you be guided by the best anglers in the city, but you also don’t have to worry about the techniques to be used or bringing the right equipment and tackles to land your trophy fish. Most fishing charters offer guide service, accompanied by free rentals of tackles and equipment.


2. Mountain Activities

From hiking to running, biking, and climbing, Burlington has got you covered. With the mountains built with long-distance trails and limestone rocks, any of these mountain activities will lead you to the top to enjoy the scenic views of Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains.


3. Golfing

With various courses found everywhere in the city, Burlington is a good option for a golfing trip. You may choose from standard public or private courses, all with picturesque views. Whether you are coming with friends or family, it is easy to access all these courses that are only a few irons away from each other.


4. Paddling

The wide and long shoreline of Lake Champlain offers different adventures for every paddler. The parks and public beaches of downtown Burlington are a quick-access for launching canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and dragon boats.