When you think of the best States and Provinces to go walleye fishing, I am guessing that you are like me and Vermont is not one of your first choices. Imagine my surprise when I ran across a guy from Vermont on Instagram with quality walleye pics. I immediately concluded Kyle Richardson was spending a lot of time crossing the border and going on fly-in trips to Canada’s best trophy walleye waters. Well, I evidently was wrong. This guy is catching these big walleye from 2 Vermont fisheries. And Kyle spends a lot of time filling us in on how to walleye fish The Green Mountain State. He also gives a great story about his most memorable catch. Read to the end to hear this amazing fish story.
Vermont isn’t exactly the first place I think of to go for catching big walleye. But you post some impressive fish on your Instagram. What are your favorite Vermont walleye waters?
No, you are correct that Vermont isn’t known for its walleye. Anglers are very limited as to where you can find walleye here in the Green Mountains, I believe there are only 8 bodies of water that hold them. I focus most of my efforts on Lake Champlain and Lake Carmi.
Carmi is a great fishery for multiple species, but it is the only self sustaining walleye population entirely in Vermont. Lake Champlain is making a comeback from its hay day in the 70’s and 80’s.
Lake Champlain can be a very challenging place to fish for many reasons. First off it’s shear size, 490 square miles, and planning around the wind forecast. Also it’s walleye population seems to be always on the move, weather it be due to following its forage base around the massive lake or along their yearly spawning migration. I guess this is what intrigues me so much to continue to pursue them. Also the average size of the walleye are way above any other body of water in Vermont. You may fish many days without hooking a walleye but that next fish has a good chance at being a true trophy.
Lake Carmi is on the opposite side of the spectrum. It has a very abundant population of “Eater” size walleye but rarely will you see a fish over 25″. When I introduce other anglers to walleye fishing I tend to bring them to Carmi as there is always something biting. Be it the walleye, northern pike, bass or the massive yellow perch.
What are your favorite techniques to catch big walleye on these waters?
There are many ways to catch walleye and I feel that the catching is the easy part, but locating the walleye is the truly difficult part. That being said on Lake Champlain I tend to start out the spring using deep diving minnow baits such as Rapala Deep Husky Jerk in size 12. Also Rapala Shad Raps in size 7,9 and 11 can be great lures. On Champlain I like to troll and use Offshore inline planer boards to cover more water. By clipping them onto your line they take your lures off the side of the boat. Essentially they allow you to fish a 100′-200′ wide path in one pass.
As the spring turns into summer and the water temps rise up into the 60’s I start to introduce a crawler harness weighted with a bottom bouncer. At that same time the walleye begin to relate to reefs and weed edges.
Lake Carmi seems to be less of a minnow type lure bite and more of a crawler harness bottom bouncer bite. Also a lead head jig tipped with either a piece of night crawler or a twister tail type plastic work wonders throughout the year. Like I said before Carmi tends to not be a trophy lake but a great place to go catch a meal of fresh walleye and yellow perch. I started fishing Carmi close to 15 years ago and the same techniques still apply today as they have years before I first tried them.
Looks like you are using color electronics on your boat. What brand/model finder are you using?
On my boat I use a Humminbird 899SI unit mounted on the dash as well as a Humminbird 788CI HD on the bow when I am jigging using the bow mount trolling motor. Fishing for a species that can be so structure orientated it is of the utmost importance to have great electronics. The 899 is equipped with Down Imaging as well as Side Imaging, these features allow you to see a picture like view of the lake bottom. Also the SI allows you to scan up to 150′ on either side of the boat, this is very important when trolling. The 788 is used mostly for GPS and at times the 2D sonar is used to vertical jig in deeper water.
What are the keys to reading your electronics for catching walleye throughout the year?
Most of the time I’m looking for changes in the bottom, it may be a transition from hard rocky bottom to soft mud. Also I’m looking at sharp breaks or rises as well. Bottom line though, if there isn’t a food source it doesn’t matter how good it looks it probably isn’t going to hold walleye.
You fish for walleye also on the ice. What techniques are you using when ice fishing?
I started out fishing walleye primarily with tip-ups set close to the bottom or in high percentage areas the walleye move into as the sun sets. These can be shallow weed edges or reefs that tend to be the most productive for me over the years.
These days I’ve started using more of a run and gun type approach to targeting walleye. What I mean is I start drilling a bunch of holes and check them with my Vexilar flasher. If you don’t see fish move on, no need to even wet a line if there aren’t fish around.
Once I find a fish I’ll drop down using either a small jigging spoon or a Rapala Jigging Rap. As you lower your lure to the fish there is a good chance if it’s going to bite it will actually surge up toward your descending bait. If the fish does not bite then slow your presentation to a slow lift, drop jigging cadence. Don’t waste all day on a fish that isn’t willing to bite, your next hole may yield multiple walleye more than willing to bite.
I saw your double up on perch with the big bait. What have been some of your favorite accidental catches while targeting walleye?
I think my most memorable incidental catch while walleye fishing was a big Sheephead, Freshwater Drum, caught from Lake Champlain using a crawler harness and a bottom bouncer. It was probably the longest battle I’ve ever experienced, as it was all of 15-20 minutes on a spinning rod rigged with 8lb mono. I never got any measurements or a weight off it but I would guess it was pushing 20lbs.
What was your biggest walleye on the 2016 season?
I’ve boated a number of trophy sized walleye over the years but this year was all about getting Lucas, my 2yo son some walleye. It didn’t take long as our first trip out trolling I saw one of rods bend. I had my wife grab the wheel and keep us on course as I got Lucas positioned to start reeling with one of my hands positioned on the rod to keep it from going overboard. Lucas had one hand on the rod near mine as the other was turning the handle of the reel.
As the fish began to pull I could tell it was all there and things were going to have to fall into place to get this fish in the net. The distance between Lucas and his very first walleye closed with every turn of the reel, my excitement was building to a whole new level. The fish came to the surface behind the boat and I instructed my wife to get the net ready as it was a beauty! The massive walleye began to splash and roll in the prop wash as well as produce some intense head shakes capable of tearing the hooks from its mouth. Luckily Lucas and I closed the distance and my wife was able to slide the net under the golden scales of Lucas’ first walleye. Not only was this his first walleye but it was a chunky 27″ fish. He was as excited as a 2 yo could be but I was on cloud nine, suddenly all of those fish I’ve caught over the years just couldn’t compare to this one.
I can’t wait to interview Lucas in 20 years as he tells me about his special dad who took the time to introduce him to the love of fishing. Thank you Kyle for being that kind of dad! I also would be remiss not to mention that mom, Katrina, also holds her own in catching big walleye. This Vermont walleye fishing is truly a family affair for the Richardson’s. Check out the impressive proof of everything from this article by visiting Kyle on Instagram.