Fishing License Requirements in Vermont

Ensuring compliance with fishing regulations is essential for every angler venturing into Vermont's waters. Here's what you need to know about fishing licenses:

License Obligations

  • Mandatory Licensing: Anyone fishing, possessing, or transporting fish from Vermont waters must possess a valid fishing license. The license must be carried at all times and presented upon request by enforcement officers or landowners.

  • Connecticut River Regulations: Refer to Table 3 in the Connecticut River Regulations for specific fishing license requirements pertaining to the Vermont/New Hampshire waters of the Connecticut River.

  • Reciprocal License Information: Explore Lake Champlain Regulations for details on reciprocal license agreements.

Fishing Methods and License Requirements

  • Bow and Arrow or Spear Gun Fishing: To engage in fishing using hand-held spear, spear gun, or shooting with a bow or crossbow, a hunting or combination license is required. However, an exception applies on Lake Champlain between March 25th and May 25th, where a fishing or combination license is necessary for bow or crossbow fishing, with specific requirements for northern pike and pickerel.

  • Fish Handling: Anglers utilizing hand-held spear, spear gun, bow, or crossbow with line attached to the arrow must keep the captured fish in their possession until permanently removed from state waters and properly utilized or disposed of.


  • Hand-Held Spear: A manually powered spear used from above the water's surface.

  • Spear Gun: A pneumatic or rubber band-powered device, with a line not exceeding 20 feet attached to a spear, used from below the water's surface. Spear guns are to be loaded and discharged only beneath the water's surface, and snorkeling/free diving are the permitted methods. Scuba diving for spearing is prohibited.

Exploring Fishing Methods in Vermont

Discover the diverse methods of fishing embraced by anglers across Vermont's waters, each offering a unique experience in pursuit of the catch:

Angler: Master of the Waters

Defined as any individual engaged in the take or attempted take of fish, an angler embodies the spirit of exploration and patience in their quest for aquatic treasures.

Open-Water Fishing: Casting into the Depths

Engage in the art of open-water fishing, where the tranquil rhythm of casting or trolling baited hooks, artificial flies, or lures dances upon the surface of the water. Anglers are limited to not more than two lines under their immediate control, each adorned with a maximum of two baited hooks, three artificial flies, or two lures with or without bait.

Ice Fishing: Embracing the Chill

Embrace the winter wonderland with the art of ice fishing, as anglers venture onto frozen lakes and ponds, seeking their bounty through holes in the ice. Utilizing hook and line in hand or attached to various apparatus, anglers are permitted up to eight lines, or fifteen lines on Lake Champlain, with immediate control over each. Whether fishing from the ice or an object supported by it, the thrill of the catch awaits beneath the frozen surface.

Catch and Release: Conservation in Action

For species with defined harvest seasons, indulge in the practice of catch and release (C&R) angling, where the joy of the sport meets the commitment to conservation. Using artificial lures and flies, anglers engage in targeted C&R angling outside of harvest seasons, ensuring the sustainability of our precious fish populations. Explore the waters with reverence, releasing each catch back into its watery domain to thrive and flourish.

Fishing Tools Defined

Gain insight into the tools of the angler's trade, each serving a unique purpose in the pursuit of the perfect catch:

Baited Hook

A versatile tool featuring one, two, or three points, ready to be adorned with natural or artificial bait. From live worms to synthetic imitations, baited hooks entice fish with irresistible allure.


A mechanical marvel employed to precisely deliver fishing lines to desired depths. When deployed, the downrigger ensures optimal positioning of bait or lures, enhancing the angler's chances of success without being classified as a fishing line itself.


A delicate creation, consisting of a single pointed hook embellished with feathers, hair, or other materials. Crafted with meticulous care, flies mimic the appearance of natural prey, enticing fish with lifelike allure.


An artfully crafted device designed to tempt fish with its tantalizing allure. From gleaming spoons to vibrant plugs, each lure is engineered to captivate its quarry, offering the promise of a thrilling encounter with a single fish at a time.

Planer Board

A strategic tool utilized to deploy fishing lines to specific locations with precision. Acting as a silent sentinel on the water's surface, the planer board ensures strategic positioning of bait or lures without being classified as a fishing line itself.

Legal Fishing Seasons and Hours

Understand the regulations governing fishing seasons and hours to ensure compliance and responsible angling practices:

Seasonal Restrictions

  • It is unlawful to harvest fish of a species unless the season for that species is open on the respective waters.

  • Fishing is prohibited in waters where no season is open or where closure is indicated by regulations set forth by the Fish & Wildlife commissioner or board.

Legal Fishing Day

  • The legal fishing day spans a 24-hour period, commencing at 12:00 midnight and concluding at the subsequent 12:00 midnight.

  • Fish may be taken at any hour of the legal fishing day during open seasons, unless specified otherwise in the General Fishing Regulations and Exceptions or posted restrictions.

Free Fishing Days

  • Vermont offers two Free Fishing Days annually, permitting both residents and nonresidents to fish without a license.

  • The summer free fishing day falls on the second Saturday in June, while the winter free fishing day occurs on the last Saturday in January. All legal methods and limits apply during these free fishing days.

Limits and Possession

  • Daily limit: Specifies the number of fish permissible to keep during the legal fishing day.

  • Possession limit: Dictates the quantity of fish caught over multiple legal fishing days that an angler may possess, equal to double the daily limit.

Cull Fish Identification

  • Certain species such as carp, tench, rudd, shad (alewife and gizzard shad), and goldfish are designated as "cull fish." Additional invasive or exotic species may be identified by the commissioner for culling purposes.

Immediate Control in Fishing

Understanding the concept of immediate control is essential for responsible angling practices in both open-water and ice fishing scenarios:

Open-Water Fishing

When engaging in open-water fishing, anglers must maintain constant control over their lines. Immediate control entails vigilant oversight, allowing anglers to promptly respond when a fish takes the bait, lure, or fly. This ensures a timely and effective reaction to potential catches.

Ice Fishing

During ice fishing expeditions, anglers are required to maintain immediate control over all lines they operate at all times. This involves visually observing the lines and being prepared to respond swiftly to any indication of fish activity. Additionally, any line signaling a fish must be attended to within 30 minutes to uphold responsible fishing practices and ensure the welfare of the catch.

Fish Length Restrictions and Filleting Fish

Understanding regulations regarding fish length restrictions and filleting procedures ensures responsible angling practices:

Length Restriction Guidelines

  • Fish with specified length restrictions may be filleted or consumed on the water.
  • To comply with regulations, the head, vertebrae, and tail must be retained intact to enable determination of fish length.
  • Fish length is measured as the longest straight line and flat distance from the tip of the fish’s snout to the tip of the longer lobe of its tail when the two lobes are forced together.

Foul Hooking Regulations

  • Foul hooking, which involves hooking a fish in any other part of the body than the mouth, is strictly prohibited.
  • Anglers must ensure that fish are hooked in the mouth when caught by open-water fishing or ice fishing methods.
  • Any fish not hooked in the mouth must be immediately released without causing unnecessary injury.

Snagging Prohibitions

  • Taking or attempting to take fish by snagging is strictly prohibited in all Vermont waters.
  • Snagging refers to the intentional hooking of a fish in a place other than the inside of its mouth.
  • Manipulating hooks to snag fish, whether physically successful or not, is considered illegal.
  • The use of a gaff to land a legally hooked fish is permitted and exempt from snagging regulations.

Fish Stocking Regulations

  • Introducing fish into public waters requires a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Department.
  • Updated requirements for fish stocking, including private ponds and public waters, were implemented in 2018. Permit requirements have changed, and anglers are advised to consult the Fish & Wildlife Department website for updated information.

Fish Importation Regulations

Understanding the regulations surrounding fish importation is crucial to safeguarding the integrity of state waters:

Importation Permit Requirement

  • It is unlawful to bring any fish into Vermont for introduction into state waters without obtaining an importation permit from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.
  • Importation permits necessitate that the fish originate from a fish hatchery approved by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Exemptions for Personal Consumption or Taxidermy

  • Importation and possession of dead fish for personal consumption or taxidermy purposes are exempt from this regulation.
  • However, proper disposal methods must be followed to prevent the introduction of fish diseases to state waters.

Acceptable Disposal Methods

  1. Placement of all fish waste products in an approved state landfill.
  2. Incineration of all fish waste products.
  3. Burial of fish on private land only, with a minimum distance of one hundred feet from any public water body.

For further details and inquiries, visit the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department website at

Fishing Tournaments and Houses Regulations

Understanding the regulations governing fishing tournaments and fishing houses is essential for anglers and ice fishermen:

Fishing Tournaments

  • Fishing tournaments involve anglers competing for prizes based on the quality, size, or number of fish caught, typically with an entry fee.
  • A permit from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in Essex Junction is required to host a fishing tournament in Vermont. Contact (802) 878-1564 for permit inquiries.
  • Tournament permits may include provisions for the live transport of fish by participants during the event.
  • Anglers are prohibited from entering fish caught and confined to an enclosed area prior to the tournament's commencement.

Fishing Houses

  • Fishing houses, including shanties, bob houses, smelt shanties, tents, or similar structures placed on Vermont's ice for fishing or other purposes, must display the owner's name and address visibly near the entrance.
  • Tents or portable shelters used for ice fishing are also considered fishing houses and require owner labeling.
  • Placement of fishing houses on the ice is restricted to after November 20, and they must be removed, along with any debris, before the ice becomes unsafe or by the last Sunday in March, whichever comes first.

Live Fish Possession Regulations

Understanding the rules concerning possession of live fish:

  • It is prohibited to possess live fish in a manner attempting to keep them alive when leaving Vermont waters.
  • Exceptions include possession with:
    • Scientific collection permit.
    • Fish transportation permit.
    • Breeder/s permit or fish importation permit.

Aquatic Nuisance Species Regulations

Regulations regarding the possession and transportation of aquatic nuisance species:

  • Unlawful to possess or transport:
    • Aquatic plants or parts thereof.
    • Zebra mussels, quagga mussels.
    • Rusty crayfish, Asian clam, spiny water flea, fishhook water flea.
  • Prohibited on vehicles, boats, personal watercraft, trailers, or equipment.

Obstruction to Fish Passage Guidelines

Rules concerning obstruction to fish passage:

  • Prohibited to obstruct fish passage in:
    • Streams, outlets, or inlets of natural or artificial ponds on public streams.
  • Unauthorized use of racks, screens, weirs, or other barriers unless authorized by the commissioner of Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

State-Controlled Fishing Access Areas Regulations


  • Commercial Activity: Any income-producing activity.
  • Nonprofit Charitable Organization: An entity operating exclusively for tax-exempt purposes.
  • Picnicking: Activities related to food preparation and eating.
  • Camping: Overnight stays in tents, campers, or motor homes.
  • Group Use: Involvement of 10 or more people or two or more vehicles.
  • Parking: Leaving vehicles or trailers unattended.
  • Motor Vehicles: All powered vehicles except muscle-powered.
  • Vessel: Includes motorboats, kayaks, canoes, and sailboats.

Authorized Activities:

  1. Open-water fishing, ice fishing, vessel launching, and associated parking.
  2. Launching motorboats and associated parking.
  3. Trapping, hunting, and related parking.
  4. Nonmotorized vessel launching and associated parking.
  5. Use of ATVs and snowmobiles for ice fishing.
  6. Permitted special uses.

Prohibited Activities:

  • Littering.
  • Discarding dead fish or wildlife.
  • Washing vehicles except for removing aquatic organisms.
  • Camping, picnicking, or making fires.
  • Water skiing and swimming.
  • Excessive parking or vehicle storage.
  • Commercial activity without authorization.
  • Interfering with priority uses.
  • Unauthorized group use.
  • Launching sailboards, rafts, etc., without permission.

Authorized Users:

  • Individuals engaged in authorized activities.
  • Groups approved for group use.
  • Fire departments with agreements for specific purposes.

Limited Commercial Activity:

  • Restricted to activities listed under Authorized Activities 1, 2, and 3.

Special Permits:

  • Issued for group use with no adverse impact.
  • Educational or nonprofit events with limited duration.
  • Revoked for substantial interference with authorized uses.

Speed Limit:

  • Maximum speed is 15 miles per hour on access areas.

Littering Regulations

Littering Prohibition:

  • Prohibited actions include leaving trash on the ice, in water bodies, or on shorelines or stream banks.

Lead Sinkers Ban


  • Lead Sinkers: Devices weighing half an ounce or less attached to fishing lines to sink them, excluding other lead fishing items.


  • Selling, offering for sale, or using lead sinkers in Vermont is illegal.
  • Exclusions: Weighted fly lines, lead-core fishing lines, downrigger cannonballs, weighted flies, lures, spoons, or jig heads.
Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.