The last, best fishing month of the year

By Shawn Good

Special to the Observer

I love hunting season. I get the fish, and the water, all to myself. You’ve probably heard that old adage before, but it’s not far from the truth. 

Right now, in Vermont, archery season is in full swing for turkey and deer. Goose season is on, and the duck opener is this weekend. There’s a lot going on, and hunters and anglers are faced with tough choices when deciding what to do with a free day.

Most folks opt to hang up their rods now and shift their focus to hunting — to the benefit of those who still want to wet a line. This makes October a great time to be on the water. You’ll find plenty of action, and practically no competition for spots.

For me, I’ll sneak in a few hunting hours later in the month, particularly for turkey or on deer youth weekend with my son. But it’s likely I’ll put in more hours fishing this month than I have in any other month since May.

The question will be, what to fish for? Bass? Pike and pickerel? Stream trout? Migrating salmon?

On second thought, a summer of fish fries have pretty much wiped out my freezer stash of panfish, so maybe I should get after some perch or crappie to tide me over until the hardwater season sets in.

This is where I tend to fail, in epic fashion. My FADD (fishing attention deficit disorder) will kick into overdrive, and I’ll bring too much tackle and too many rods, and have contingency plans for everything. I just can’t focus!

But I’m sure you’re all more disciplined than I am. Just get outside, enjoy the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, and take advantage of the last best fishing month of the year.

Landlocked Atlantic salmon

What a difference two weeks make. I wouldn’t say we’re out of the woods just yet in terms of the drought we’ve been facing, but the recent rains have brought some welcome relief to streams and rivers around the state. And nothing is more relieved than the trout and salmon that live there.

Up in the Northeast Kingdom, the Clyde River salmon run got off to a slow start this year due to the low water conditions, and by last week, only 15 or so Atlantic salmon had made the journey from Lake Memphremagog to the Powerhouse Dam. But in the last few days, department fisheries staff have captured 50 salmon at the trap and trucked them upstream for release into Clyde Pond. This is more fish than any of the previous four years, and the run is continuing. It should be a good October for Clyde River salmon fishing.

If you’re interested in giving salmon fishing a try, it’s worth noting that only a small percentage of the salmon that migrate from Magog up the Clyde River ever enter the trap at the powerhouse dam and are moved upstream. Most stay in the lower river, and your best bet to catch one is between the Clyde Street bridge and the dam.

The salmon released in Clyde Pond have miles of river to spread out in, and can go as far upstream as the West Charleston dam. But if you’re adventurous, want to get away from the crowds, and know how to read a salmon river, head upstream. There’s plenty of holding water to fish upriver.

Clyde River salmon fishing between Sept. 1 and Oct. 31 is catch-and-release only, and anglers must use artificial lures or flies. Fly anglers should consider big streamers, or traditional salmon flies like a Royal Wulff, Gray Ghost or Mickey Finn. Or, use spinning gear and cast and swing spoons like Krocodiles or Little Cleos along current seams.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a salmon this year, pay attention to its fins. The department is conducting an evaluation of two strains of salmon to determine which one performs better and provides a better fishery. Equal numbers of Magog strain (the traditional strain used for Clyde River stocking) and Sebago strain (the type used on Lake Champlain) have been stocked with different fin clips. If you catch a salmon with the adipose and right ventral (pelvic) fins clipped, that’s a Magog strain fish. If the fish has an adipose/left ventral fin clip combination, or no clip at all, that’s a Sebago strain fish. You may encounter a department employee on the river who will ask you about clips on any fish you catch. Your cooperation will help us improve salmon fishing for the future.

There are some other waters to consider on the Champlain side of the state as well. Salmon can be caught on Otter Creek below Vergennes Dam, Lamoille River below Peterson Dam, Winooski River below the Winooski-One Dam, and Missisquoi River below the Swanton Dam. A few fish showed up at the salmon trap on the Winooski this week, but there’s definitely fish in a holding pattern in the salmon hole and the fast water be