On the border of New York and Vermont, with a small portion crossing the Canadian border into Quebec, lies Lake Champlain, one of the top sportsman’s lakes of the Northeast, and an especially popular destination for ice fishermen in the winter.
At 490 square miles, Lake Champlain is the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States, surpassed only by the five Great Lakes. (It’s a distant sixth; it is less than 10% the size of even the smallest of the Great Lakes.) In fact, in 1998 the United States Congress designated it the sixth Great Lake, a move that was met with howls of protest from various Great Lakes organizations and geography purists, and hastily rescinded three weeks later.
Usually by early December it is possible to ice fish in the northern bays and passages of the lake. Prime early season spots include Catfish Bay, Kings Bay, Missisquoi Bay, and the Hog Island Bridge in New York, and the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Rouses Point, New York and Alburg, Vermont.
By mid to late December the ice fishing season should be in full swing, as the frozen portion of the lake expands southward and toward the center of the lake. Spots that become popular as they freeze include the cliffs around Alburg, the Isle La Motte Bridge, Algonquin Bay, Bulwagga Bay, Converse Bay, Deep Bay at the Point Au Roche State Park, Monty’s Bay, and Whalons Bay.
Yellow and white perch are the most common fish caught, especially in the shallower areas. Pike, salmon, walleye, and lake trout are also plentiful.
The smelt fishing is excellent in the deeper water areas, including Port Henry, Westport, and Willsboro Bay. As the deep water freezes, little ice shantie towns of smelt fishermen spring up, with a taxi service transporting people to the prime smelt areas from Port Henry.
Only some years does the lake freeze at its deepest point, between Burlington and Port Kent. This is considered a prime ice fishing area, when it can be fished at all. The deeper, midlake areas are especially promising for salmon and lake trout.
Large areas of the lake remain sufficiently frozen for ice fishing through at least late January. So most years you can get in two months or so of good ice fishing.
The Lake Champlain area has plenty of motels, lodges, and bed and breakfasts for out of towners, on both the New York and Vermont side. Burlington, Vermont is the largest city on the lake, followed by Plattsburgh, New York, and Colchester, Vermont.
Lake Champlain is even reputed to have its own Loch Ness Monster type creature, nicknamed “Champ” or “Champie.” It is not known where Champ spends his time when the lake is frozen over in the winter, but it is not considered likely that your fishing will be interrupted by a sea monster bursting through the ice and swallowing you up.
Keiichi Ishizuka, “Fishing from the Hole.” All Points North.
Jordan P. Niednagel, “Mission: Lake Champlain.” True Authority.
“Ice Fishing Locations.” Lake Champlain Angler.
“Lake Champlain: The Sixth Great Lake.” NY Traveler.