Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Looks like March, but you can't see the 65 degrees!

80 degrees in Vermont during March… I never would have thought it possible but here we are. Things are happening rapidly. Very, very rapidly. I have been out and about as much as humanly possible and these conditions are making for some incredible early season conditions!

Most of the larger tributaries to Lake Champlain are quite high and unfishable with flies at the moment but the smaller tribs are in great shape. Stoneflies are coming off in droves and temps are in great shape for migratory species. I haven’t chanced into one yet but I feel pretty confident that it will happen shortly, especially after watching two get hooked.  Very odd to be working steelhead in March and to see butterflies flying around…
Sunset on Lake Champlain by canoe in March, no complaints here!

The ice is off all but the most sheltered and shadowed small coves on Lake Champlain. This was the case on at least one area on Monday, but that may have changed since much of the ice I saw was quickly breaking up. In shallow dark bottomed areas the temperatures were in the upper 40’s to low 50’s. This is incredible for Champlain in March. Huge schools of perch were everywhere, as were mammoth schools of minnows and mixed aggregations of panfish, including some real corkers.  I was a bit surprised to see a 14 inch largemouth at one point, but the real shocker was to follow that. I am not normally one to get excited about largemouth. Seeing an 8 lb or bigger bucketmouth… yea, that gets my attention. Especially when that sighting is followed up by a smaller one of 5 pounds or so. Remember that the catch and release season for bass doesn’t begin for another month or so…

Backwater wetland areas are on fire! I found temps yesterday to be in the upper 50’s, maybe even warmer. There were a couple of places that I felt I could have wet waded if the ground was solid enough. Yes, I am serious. Completely insane for March. The fishes love these temps! Not only the fish; painted turtles are everywhere and are performing their mating rituals already. I have never before seen a bowfin this early and yesterday I saw several. They are in pre-spawn mode and I am hoping to get into one or two today. More big bass showed themselves and the toothy critters are on the move. It is actually pretty amazing to see how fast a 40” northern pike swims when you accidently touch it with a paddle… I was not happy about that, but it was nice to see lots of pike this early. The panfish were willing to play but they are also in their schooled-up, pre-spawn, spooky mode that they get into early in the season. Long casts with unweighted soft hackle nymphs did the trick for me. Pretty funny to see a delicate cast spooks a group of pumpkinseed. There were a couple of players in those groups though.
What month is this anyway?

I am going to make a few predictions with these current conditions and the long range forecast that NOAA has made which shows the next month or so to be mostly dry and warm. Expect everything to happen much faster and much sooner than normal. It is quite likely that the pike spawning on Champlain is happening now or may be over in many areas. This could lead to an early bite. Walleye will be in and out of the tributaries before the season opens. Bass will start their spawn in April, as will bowfin, gar, panfish, and a variety of other species.  Cats and dogs will be living together and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man will start warm-water fly fishing this year. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 Fishpocalypse!

I have been fishing out of a canoe in pants and a t-shirt and have been comfortable. It is pretty incredible. Having said that, if you do get out please be careful. The water in many areas is still very cold. A dunking could be deadly.  Be sure you have a life vest on when you are in deeper water. Use common sense. Be safe!

Get out and fish. Take time off work if you can. You are in the midst of unprecedented early season in Vermont. Go chase some fish that you normally can’t this time of year. I certainly am! Warmwater fly fishing is off to an amazing start. If this weather pattern holds for the summer (and we all know it could change very rapidly) it could be a tough summer for trout. Please keep that in mind when planning your fishing outings. I know it is very early to be saying this, but don’t fish for trout when the water is over 70 degrees. Instead, support your local warmwater fly fishing guide!

So was I bummed out that I only caught a few sunfish during this weather? Nope. The season is early, I am in my canoe on Lake Champlain already and never before have I ever caught a pumpkinseed on a fly during the month of March. 

What is with the dead fish picture? It is a tench, a recent invasive on Lake Champlain. It is now in all segments of the lake. I found this yesterday where I was fishing. Its demise was apparent- the lamprey was still on it when I found it. Be on the look out for tench. They were first found here in 2002 by a buddy of mine and I identified it and we turned it into the NYSDEC. They are here to stay, so for what its worth- they are fun to catch!


  1. Welcome back ... hiatus over I hope?

  2. That it is! I will keep everyone updated as much as possible... I should be out again daily through the weekend...