Things have come a long way, in terms of getting more people involved in outdoor activities here in Vermont. And, to a great extent, it is the folks at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department who deserve most of the credit for introducing the public to the world of hunting, fishing, trapping and a variety of other activities — hiking, bird watching, teaching about the outdoor world and much more.
Fish & Wildlife now offers a variety of special seasons for youths, including an annual youth deer season, youth turkey season and a youth waterfowl hunt. These hunts are all designed to attract a new breed of hunter into an older population that is going through a serious decline.
The department’s two youth conservation camps, held at Buck Lake and Lake Bomoseen every summer, have introduced thousands of children to the wonders of Vermont’s natural world.
In addition, Fish & Wildlife offers a week-long course for teachers each summer that focuses on conservation, biology, the roles that hunting and fishing play and how the department works. Commissioner Louis Porter said in an interview, “It’s one of my favorite programs.”
Meanwhile, one of Fish & Wildlife’s most far-reaching programs, the annual statewide Free Fishing Day, will be held on June 8. The day’s highlight will be a free fishing festival in Grand Isle, as well as marking the opening day of the bass fishing season.
“We are constantly looking for ways to reach out to new audiences and one way to do that is to get kayakers or hikers, for example, to think about adding fishing to their outdoor recreation,” Porter said.
Free Fishing Day allows both resident and nonresident anglers the opportunity to fish anywhere in Vermont without a license, Porter said. “Fishing is an activity that can be shared with friends and family,” he said.
One big highlight of the day is the “Grand Isle Family Fishing Festival” held at the Ed Weed Fish Culture Station at 14 Bell Hill Road in Grand Isle. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Porter said he has attended a number of free fishing days at the Ed Weed station and has been impressed by the reaction of children and adults.
“Just to see that look in the kid’s eyes when they catch their first fish — that makes not only new anglers but future mentors,” Porter said. “It’s one of the best days of the year.”
The festival is designed for young anglers and their families, offering basic fishing instruction and the opportunity to catch big trout in a hatchery pond. No prior experience is needed and Vermont Fish & Wildlife will supply fishing rods, reels and bait.
The festival will also offer visitors a chance to visit the updated Ed Weed Fish Culture Station visitor center, where participants can view the educational exhibits and learn how to identify Lake Champlain fish species in the exhibit aquariums.
Fish & Wildlife has also teamed up with Vermont state parks to offer the “Reel Fun Fishing” program on Free Fishing Day and during the summer at selected state parks. The program provides loaner tackle kits and fishing clinics free of charge at the state parks. Fishing licenses are required for anyone 15 or older except on Free Fishing Day. More information can be found at vtstateparks.com/fishing.html.
To learn more about fishing in Vermont or to purchase a fishing license, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Dennis Jensen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.