When you think of trout fishing in New England, Vermont has got to be one of the first states to come to mind.
The Orvis Company was founded in Manchester in 1856, and rivers like the Battenkill and the White are almost household names for fishing families across the country.
Our intention here is to share the best trout fishing rivers and lakes in Vermont, including how and when to fish them. To ensure we covered the topic better than anyone, we turned to one of the state’s best anglers, Peter Cammann, who literally wrote the book on Vermont fishing.
After you’ve read through our choices for best rivers and lakes to catch trout in Vermont, check out the link to our all-around guide to trout fishing.
Best Trout Fishing Rivers in Vermont
The following are our choices (with Cammann’s help) for the very best streams you should consider whenever fishing moving water in the Green Mountain State.
Also, studying the regulations before fishing in Vermont or anywhere is always a good idea. For example, some Vermont waters may allow year-round fishing but switch to catch-and-release for part of the calendar.
Cammann’s personal favorite body of water to fish in the state is the Winooski River.
The Winooski flows from Cabot and through the Green Mountains, across Northern Vermont for about 95 miles before dumping into Lake Champlain.
“I’ve been fishing it for 35 years, and I know it pretty well,” Cammann says of the Winooski, which he’s waded and fished out of a canoe.
Nymphs and stoneflies can be successful for fly anglers, and streamers are among the best bets here and in many Vermont streams.
One of Cammann’s favorite fly patterns to fish is the Black Ghost.
Cammann also uses spinning gear when to occasion calls for it. He said small spoons work well in the Winooski and the tributaries that flow into it.
You’ll find plenty of brown trout in the 12- to-18-inch range and on occasion even fish pushing 20 inches.
Fall fishing for big brown trout can be excellent.
“The largest brown I ever landed on the Winooski came in October,” he said. “I fought the fish for more than five minutes, and I’d guess it was longer than 22 inches.”
And not just the browns get big here.
Cammann also remembered a time when a friend brought him to a section of the Winooski that flowed through an urban area. They looked down an incredibly steep embankment into a small, inaccessible pool where a 24-inch rainbow trout patrolled the section.
“It was so weird it just blew my mind,” Cammann said.
When you’ve found a river that holds both browns and rainbows over 20 inches, we don’t blame him for sticking to it.
As you look around the state for great spots to fish, Cammann suggested that the Missisquoi River is well worth your time traveling to the far northern reaches of Vermont.
This 80-mile river flows through the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge right before spilling into the northern part of Lake Champlain.
The Missisquoi is best known for its rainbow and brown trout fishing.
“It’s right at the Canadian border, and it runs through Canada and into Champlain.”
The Battenkill is another renowned Vermont trout stream, thanks partly to Orvis’s naming a reel after it.
The Battenkill is full of natural springs and beaver ponds, making it prime trout water.
Although the brown and brook trout might not be the easiest to fool, there are some beautiful wild specimens of both species for anglers willing to put in the time and effort.
Part of the river (also spelled Batten Kill) flows through the Green Mountain National Forest in southwestern Vermont.
However, you’ve got to be careful on the Battenkill because some prime parts of the river run through private land. Vermont Route 313 West offers public access points before the river flows into New York, where it’s on our list of that state’s best brown trout fishing spots.
Another body of water that offers Vermonters some enormous brown trout is the Deerfield River.
The Deerfield is perhaps better known as one of the best trout streams in Massachusetts, but its headwaters trickle out of the Green Mountain National Forest.
The best fishing in this state, though, is down in the tailwater section below Harriman Reservoir in Southern Vermont, which also collects the North Branch flowing down from around Mt. Snow.
From Harriman to Sherman Reservoir on the Massachusetts border, the Deerfield offers excellent trout angling and some massive fish in a relatively short stretch of river.
Anglers often use drift boats or canoes to chase the Deerfield’s gigantic brown trout.
“It’s a fantastic fishery,” Cammann said.
I have to agree. Having fished the Deerfield farther downstream into Massachusetts, I can testify that this river system holds some brown trout you would never imagine being in New England states.
The Lamoille is another Northern Vermont river that feeds into Lake Champlain, and the Lamoille can also be an excellent stream fishery.
The lower Lamoille River has runs of landlocked Atlantic salmon that, if you time it right, can give you an incredible battle on light gear. Atlantic salmon runs tend to peak in Vermont from mid-September through October.
The river runs through various sections with different regulations that pertain to which species you can and cannot target at various times of the year. But if you understand the rules, and Cammann said the Lamoille is a beautiful body of water to fish.
The Lamoille enters Lake Champlain through what Cammann calls “a gorgeous estuary.” Specifically, the Sandbar National Waterfowl Area is worth a visit just for its beauty and maybe a break from trout fishing.
“You’ll see nesting osprey in there, and the pike fishing can be pretty terrifying,” he said.
The upper branches of the Lemoille River and tributaries like Greensboro Brook can be excellent for brook trout, especially in the fall.
The Mad River flows into the Winooski River near Middlesex and is best considered a small river with a cluster of tributary brooks.
The Mad River and its tributaries are an excellent angling option when you want to catch several species of trout on smaller streams.
Fishing for the river’s char species, which are brown and brook trout, often peaks in the fall season. That’s when char run upriver on the Mad and into smaller creeks to spawn and are particularly aggressive.
The Mad River also has good numbers of rainbow trout, and fishing for those and other species can often be excellent in the spring.
Another nearby Winooski tributary, the Dog River, is a good fishing stream and an excellent place for anglers looking for browns in the fall.
The Dog also holds rainbows and some brook trout, but it is particularly known for its bigger browns.
The Blue Wing Olive hatch on the Dog during the fall can entice browns to hit aggressively, as this hatch does on many Northeast rivers.
The Dog is a blue ribbon trout stream in Vermont and should be on any angler’s list if you’re traveling to the Green Mountain State.
The Black River flows through Cavendish and into the Connecticut River near Weathersfield.
This stream is one of Vermont’s most generously stocked bodies of water, getting hatchery-reared rainbow and brown trout every spring.
While spring fishing often brings the highest success rates, consider returning to fish the Black again in the fall.
Not only does the trout fishing perk back up after the summer, but colorful foliage also surrounds the river’s path.
The White is one of Vermont’s more popular rivers, and for a good reason: It is stocked annually with good numbers of rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Like the Black River, the White flows into the Connecticut River.
However, on top of the hatchery planters, the White River is well regarded for the wild brook trout you can find in the stream’s upper reaches.
The stretches between Rochester and Stockbridge and Royalton and West Hartford are great bets for fishing. In addition, the Bethel and South Royalton bridges offer public access points.
Upper reaches and tributaries of the White River can be excellent for wild brook and rainbow trout, including in the fall.
More Champlain Tributary Streams
He added that anglers willing to do a little research can be handsomely rewarded if they’re chasing rainbow trout (steelhead), which run into several tributaries of the state’s largest lake in the fall.
“Look for streams that flow into Champlain,” he said. You don’t have to follow these small streams up very far, and you’ll likely find steelhead feeding on eggs of fall-spawning fish.
Best Trout Fishing Lakes in Vermont
Vermont has plenty of options to fish still waters, ranging from small hike-in ponds to large reservoirs. We’ve curated a list of some of the best and most interesting spots to give you that full Vermont experience.
One intriguing thing about the Harriman Reservoir in the southern part of the state is that it gets an annual stocking of 1,000 brook trout, but there’s more to fishing this large impoundment.
Some people adore the colorful brook trout’s brilliant colors and unique markings, but other anglers are just after giant fish.
For the latter, Harriman features colossal lake trout. Any time you’ve got a chance at a brilliant jewel of a fish like a brook trout and a double-digit weight fish like a lake trout, you’ve got a great body of water.
Waterbury offers a host of opportunities for anglers and can even be fished relatively successfully from shore.
Whether you’re chasing wild brook trout (especially up in the tributaries), rainbow trout, or even smallmouth bass, you’ll have ample opportunity to find them in Waterbury.
Little River State Park and Waterbury State Park offer boat launches for anglers looking to ply deeper water. The lake is more than 100 feet deep in places.
Waterbury Reservoir is located roughly between Montpelier and Burlington.
While tiny native brook trout are a beautiful sight, big brook trout are pretty cool, too.
Now consider that state fisheries biologists believe only five ponds in Vermont have populations of wild brook trout that are significant enough to support angling pressure.
Of the five, only two ponds consistently produce brook trout larger than 15 inches. One of them is Job’s Pond. So if that doesn’t put it on your top-ponds-in-Vermont list, I don’t know what will.
Job’s Pond is near Brighton in the northeastern part of the state.
Bourn Pond in southwestern Vermont is fabled to hold some of the state’s largest brook trout.
The U.S. Forest Service has sampled the pond and reported brook trout of 18 inches or more.
Although there is a state-maintained parking area, it does take a bit of driving followed by a 2.5-mile hike to get to the pond, which is perhaps why the brook trout grow so large.
Martins Pond is a relatively small (77 acres) pond near Peacham that offers anglers a shot at giant brook trout.
Anglers consistently catch brook trout of more than 15 inches in this scenic pond in the Stevens River Watershed.
What would make for a cooler fishing story than catching a wild trout after hiking up 1,000 feet in less than two miles to a pond that is, in fact, named Unknown Pond.
Perhaps only Vermont could name two small lakes “Unknown Pond,” but the one we recommend fishing is the one in Avery’s Gore, located in the northern part of the state just beyond Brighton and the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
You get to it, of course, by hiking the Unknown Pond Trail.
A trout sampling a few years back showed that 90 percent of the trout were wild and had an average size of about 10 inches.
Fishing in Unknown Pond would undoubtedly be a quintessential Vermont experience.
At the other end of the spectrum, Lake Champlain sitting on the northwestern state line with New York is one of the most famous fishing lakes in the Northeast. No list of Vermont trout fishing lakes would be complete without it.
Champlain is a prime destination for anglers year-round, and for a good reason.
Just consider the numbers for a moment. Champlain gets 48,000 brown trout, 57,000 lake trout, and 154,000 landlocked Atlantic salmon stocked yearly at last check. Oh, and let’s not forget about the 58,000 steelhead dropped in each season.
The landlocked Atlantic salmon are not just present in large numbers. They are fast and aggressive fish that will hit trolled lures violently and can be brilliant shades of silver.
Not surprisingly, Lake Champlain also earned a spot on our rundown of New York’s best trout fishing lakes.
Catch More Trout
We have a simple but complete how-to guide for trout fishing in the U.S. Check it out, either if you’re fairly new to trout fishing or you’re ready to try some new techniques and tips.
Thanks to Peter Cammann for sharing his insights into trout fishing in Vermont, especially its many excellent streams. If you want to dive further into this topic in the Green Mountain State, check out his book, Fishing Vermont’s Streams and Lakes.