Category Archives: News

News and events around the Lake Champlain Valley of northern New York and Vermont and southern Quebec

Fishing Access Areas Not Safe for Swimming

Fishing Access Areas Not Safe for Swimming

Fishing Access Areas Not Safe for Swimming
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department reminds the public not to swim at fishing access areas due to safety concerns. The primary use of the fishing access areas is for launching and retrieving motorboats.

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department maintains more than 180 developed fishing access areas on lakes and rivers throughout the state. These areas have allowed uses determined by law, and swimming is not one of them.

The access areas were purchased and are maintained with funds derived from the sale of fishing licenses and motorboat registrations, as well as a federal excise tax on fishing equipment, fishing tackle, and gasoline for motorboats. These funding sources explicitly prohibit activities that are in conflict with fishing and boating.

Fish & Wildlife regulations prohibit certain uses of fishing access areas including, but not limited to — swimming, littering, camping, picnicking, making a fire, parking of vehicles not related to priority uses, and commercial activity.

“It’s great that people want to get out in the water, but a boat ramp is not the right place to go swimming,” said Mike Wichrowski who oversees the Fishing Access Area Program. “There’s a reason motorboats aren’t allowed in swimming areas, and swimming isn’t allowed at fishing access areas — it’s simply not safe.”

Vermont game wardens have responded to several incidents in recent weeks involving people swimming at fishing access areas. In some cases people, including children, were swimming right at the boat ramps while boats were being launched, risking injury or preventing the launching of boats.

“We understand that people want to go swimming, especially during hot weather, but we are urging folks to swim at locally approved swimming areas,” said Colonel Jason Batchelder. “Finding a safe swimming area is easy in most communities. Just ask at a general store or other place where people gather.”

The fine for swimming at an access area is $162.


NYS DEC considering expanding number of free fishing days offered

NYS DEC to consider expanding number of free fishing days offered

Informal Comment Period Open for Proposed Changes to Free Fishing Days

Free Fishing Days

New York’s DEC is considering expanding the number of free fishing days that are offered and wants to set those days in regulation so they are consistent from year to year. This initial public review process will assist DEC in determining if it will move forward with this proposal to formally establish these additional free fishing days.

In addition to Free Fishing Weekend (last full weekend of June), the proposed rulemaking will specifically designate six additional Free Fishing Days that will occur throughout the year.


The proposed Free Fishing dates are as follows:

  • Presidents Day Weekend (February) – Saturday and Sunday before Presidents Day
  • 3rd Weekend in May
  • National Hunting and Fishing Day (4th Saturday in September)
  • Veteran’s Day

How to submit comments

To submit comments regarding the proposal, send an email to with the following subject line: “Possible Amendment to Free Sport Fishing Days.” To ensure we receive and can properly review your suggestions, you must leave the subject line as it appears on the email.

Input will be collected through August 31, 2016

Make an informal comment

Note: Due to the expected high volume of e-mails received, DEC will be unable to reply to individual submissions, but all input will be reviewed and considered towards developing a proposed rule-making that, if accepted, would become effective in 2017.


“Reel Fun Vermont” Program Kicks off 2nd Year

‘Reel Fun Vermont’ Program adds more state parks and fishing clinics for 2016

Reel Fun Vermont

The “Reel Fun Vermont” program is in full swing across Vermont for the second year running, meaning even more fishing opportunities for campers and visitors at state parks throughout the state.

The program was created in 2015 through a joint effort by Vermont Fish & Wildlife and Vermont State Parks. “Reel Fun” is designed to make fishing more accessible to the public by providing park visitors with free, loaner fishing equipment to use at any of the participating state parks.

“Reel Fun” has quickly become a favorite of fishing enthusiasts and novice anglers alike since its inception, and with the addition of two new participating parks as well as various on-site “Let’s Go Fishing Clinics” in 2016, program coordinators are optimistic about its continued growth.

“What makes the ‘Reel Fun’ program great is that it makes fishing so easy to try for park visitors,” said Chris Adams, information specialist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. “The rods, reels, tackle and even informational guides for fishing at each park are all provided, making fishing incredibly accessible and enjoyable to anyone interested in wetting a line.”

With the addition of Button Bay and Burton Island state parks on Lake Champlain, the program is now available at 12 different state parks around Vermont. Other participating state parks include: Grand Isle, Lake Carmi, Stillwater on Groton Lake, Branbury on Lake Dunmore, Silver Lake, Wilgus on the Connecticut River, Half Moon, Lake St. Catherine, Woodford on Adams Reservoir and Brighton on Spectacle Pond.

Reel Fun Vermont

“Reel Fun Vermont” will be bolstered this summer by expanded instructional fishing clinics which will be held at many of the participating parks by “Let’s Go Fishing” program instructors and trained park staff.

The family-friendly program also continues to benefit from the excellent fishing locations offered by the 12 state parks.

“Vermont is fortunate to have incredible fishing for a wide range of fish species, and these quality opportunities can be found right at the twelve ‘Reel Fun’ parks,” said Adams. “From bass, pike, panfish and trout, to non-traditional species like bullhead and freshwater drum, you just never know what you might catch at many of these fishing spots.”

Similar to 2015, the program will also include a “Reel Fun VT” photo contest where visitors can submit photos of themselves fishing at state parks to either Vermont State Parks or Vermont Fish & Wildlife. At the end of the summer, three winners will be chosen and will receive prizes ranging from complete starter fishing kits to Vermont State Parks camping and season passes.

“We’re excited about another great summer of fishing fun in Vermont State Parks,” said Rochelle Skinner, park sales and service manager with Vermont State Parks. “Whether you want to fish from shore or take out one of our canoes, kayaks or paddleboats, we think you’ll really enjoy fishing at a Vermont State Park.”

Visitors can submit “Reel Fun VT” photos via email to or, or can use #ReelFunVT to tag photos on Twitter.

To find out more about Vermont State Parks, make a camping reservation or learn about day use, visit

To learn more about the Reel Fun program, fishing in Vermont or to purchase a fishing license, visit


Judge’s Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Judge’s Decision on Cormorants Leaves Biologists Feeling Helpless

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless

Biologists have been working to reduce the populations of the birds in the nesting grounds on the islands in the lake. But a federal judge’s decision suspended efforts to control the bird on Lake Champlain and in 24 eastern states.

Biologists are worried that a federal judge’s decidion to block programs that control double-crested cormorants in 24 states could set back their efforts on the birds, blamed for despoiling islands in Lake Champlain where they nest.

In other areas of the country, cormorants — sea birds with long necks and hooked bills — are blamed for eating thousands of sport fish favored by anglers and preying on fish in farms.

Vermont officials, who this time of year are usually overseeing control programs that include oiling eggs to prevent them from hatching, and shooting the birds or scaring them away, worry that even one year without the control program could see the number of cormorants on the lake increase by 21 percent.

“It will not take very long for that number to double without some active management,” said Mark Scott, wildlife director for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages about 20 islands and some sections of shoreline that have been known to host cormorants.

Judge's Decision on cormorant control has Biologists feeling helpless


The March decision by a judge in Washington determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t do its homework before issuing a pair of orders that let people kill thousands of cormorants each year to preserve vegetation in some areas and protect sport fish in 24 states and farmed fish in 13 of those states.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Laury Parramore said the agency is studying its next step.

Cormorants, which winter in the South and spend summers on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, have nested on Champlain for at least a century. They were brought to near-extinction by the pesticide DDT, and no one is sure why the numbers have increased dramatically over the last quarter-century.

Dave Capan, a retired University of Vermont biologist who is managing a cormorant program on the Four Brothers Islands, estimates there are about 1,600 breeding pairs of cormorants on the lake, down from a peak of about 4,000 about 15 years ago. The islands lie in the middle of the narrow, 120-mile long lake, are owned by the Nature Conservancy and are off limits to the public.

“They nest in very large numbers, and they kill trees on islands in the lake,” Capan said. “There are at least five or six islands in this lake that have lost most of their trees and vegetation.”

Capan disagrees with Scott’s assertion that the birds would increase by 21 percent in one year without control. He said he feels that as long as the control programs resume by next spring, there shouldn’t be any long-term setback to the control efforts.


Biologists Working to Save Lake Champlain's Young Island from cormorants

Cormorants have a long history of being hated by humans, said Ken Stromberg, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist from Denmark, Wisconsin, who was among those who filed the lawsuit against the service that led to the March decision blocking the control programs.

“A cormorant is a scapegoat for everything that consumers are unhappy about,” said Stromberg, who isn’t opposed to cormorant control programs but feels the Fish and Wildlife Service must do the required studies before issuing orders.