Lake Champlain Lake Trout Fishing
Lake Champlain lies between New York and Vermont with a small portion of the lake extending into Quebec. The lake historically supported an abundance of lake trout which were extirpated by the late 1800s. Lake trout are again present due to management by the DEC, Vermont, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Stocking and control of sea lamprey are the primary management activities to re-establish lake trout in Lake Champlain.
Much of the lake trout fishing in Lake Champlain occurs from the Westport area north to Cumberland Head near Plattsburgh, extending over roughly 35 miles of the lake. Lake trout prefer cold water and are likely to be found deep during warm summer periods. Smelt are the primary forage for lake trout in Lake Champlain. Therefore, long narrow spoons and plugs are preferred lures. Angling techniques here are typical for lake trout in other waters. Down-riggers and lead core lines are useful for getting deep when surface waters are warm. During spring and fall when surface waters are cold, the lake trout may be near the surface. Slow trolling is the generally preferred method. However, some anglers catch lake trout by still fishing with smelt or other fish as bait on the bottom where temperatures are favorable for lake trout.
Times of Year to Fish
Surface waters may stay cold well into May, allowing fishing shallow with light tackle. The lake trout move into deep water as summer proceeds. A thermocline is likely to form in June and last into September. As surface waters cool during the fall, lake trout will return to shallower water. Lake Champlain may or may not freeze over completely during winter. Even if ice forms over the whole lake, much of the ice may be thin and unsafe. Strong winds can break up sections of seemingly solid ice. Ice ridges, that can be dangerous to cross, can form as the wind presses sections of ice together. Alternatively, areas of open water can form as sections of ice are pulled apart by the wind. Nevertheless, bays and protected areas may be suitable for ice fishing. In most winters "towns" of ice fishing shanties grow on the ice off of the Port Henry and Westport area. Many of those anglers are targeting smelt, but catches of lake trout are common in many winters.
Lake Champlain is a very large water body that can quickly develop treacherous waves. Anglers using small craft need to stay vigilant for changing weather. Depending on wind direction, the Willsboro Boat Launch and Willsboro Bay frequently provide a sheltered area when much of the lake is rough. Similarly, the Peru Boat Launch and Valcour Island may provide sheltered water during windy conditions.
The following state-owned boat launch sites provide public access to the lake. Each of the sites listed include hard surface or concrete ramps suitable for launching trailered boats. View the Lake Champlain Boat Launch Site Overview Map for the locations listed below.
- Great Chazy River - Off Route 9B, 1/4 mile south of Coopersville at mouth of river. Parking for 66 cars and trailers.
- Point Au Roche - Off Route 9, 6 miles north of the City of Plattsburgh on the Point Au Roche Road. Parking for 40 cars and trailers.
- Point Au Roche State Park - Off Route 9 north of the City of Plattsburgh, in State Park. Parking for 21 cars and trailers.
- Peru Dock - On Route 9, about 3 miles south of Plattsburgh. Parking for 50 cars and trailers.
- Port Douglas - On County Route 16, 3 miles southeast of the village of Keeseville. Parking for 20 cars and trailers.
- Willsboro Bay - On County Route 27 on east side of bay, 3 miles north of the village of Willsboro. Parking for 100 cars and trailers.
- Westport - On Route 22 in the village of Westport. Parking for 35 cars and trailers.
- Port Henry - Off Route 9N in the village of Port Henry. Parking for 45 cars and trailers.
- Ticonderoga - On Route 74 at Ticonderoga Ferry. Parking for 55 cars and trailers.
- South Bay - On Route 22, 2 1/2 miles northwest of the Village of Whitehall. Parking for 50 cars and trailers.
The Adirondack Northway (Interstate Route 87) parallels the New York Shore of Lake Champlain and provides easy access to the fishing communities of Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Port Henry, Westport, Willsboro, Port Douglas and Plattsburgh. You'll find good boat launch sites at all of these locations along with facilities such as gas-stations, motels, restaurants, tackle shops, marinas, etc.
*Trout = brook, brown and rainbow; and hybrids of these species including splake
Reciprocal License With Vermont:
The New York State fishing license year for is from October 1 through September 30. New York State has a reciprocal license agreement with the State of Vermont concerning Lake Champlain.
Management of the Fishery:
The lake trout fishery, and sea lamprey control on Lake Champlain, involve intensive management efforts by the DEC, Vermont and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. An experimental sea lamprey control program was initiated in 1990, and the salmon and lake trout fishery improved dramatically. Federal funding and staff involvement were not available after the experimental program ended in 1997, and some treatments could not take place. However, expanded sea lamprey control efforts resumed in 2002. Also, certain rivers in Vermont and Quebec need to be added to the control program. Consequently, the abundance and size of lake trout have not reached their full potential. With increased sea lamprey control efforts, the fishery is expected to improve.
The NYS Department of Health (DOH) issues advisories on the consumption of fish caught in Lake Champlain. View the Adirondack Region Fish Advisories on the DOH website (leaves DEC website) to determine which fish are safe to eat.