Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department news and announcements


Grand Isle Man pleads guilty to fish and wildlife offenses

Ronnie S. Bushway, 60, of Grand Isle, Vermont appeared in Grand Isle Superior Court on April 7 and pleaded guilty to three counts of fishing in closed spawning waters, taking or possessing fish illegally, failure to stop for a game warden, and giving false information to a police officer.

In the early morning hours of November 21, Deputy Warden Ben Rooks observed Bushway attempting to remove fish from Hatchery Brook, the discharge stream that runs from the Ed Weed fish hatchery in Grand Isle to Lake Champlain. The brook is clearly marked with signs stating it is "CLOSED TO FISHING, SPAWNING WATERS."

Rooks approached Bushway, who sped away in his vehicle, nearly striking the warden.

With the assistance of the Grand Isle County Sheriff's Department, Bushway's vehicle was located at the Bushway packing facility in Grand Isle, but there was no indication he was present.

A short time later, Deputy Rooks and Warden Matthew Thiel returned to the packing facility and located Bushway, who acknowledged he was at Hatchery Brook that night and during previous nights. A bucket later identified as Bushway's was recovered, and four salmon were located near Hatchery Brook. Each salmon had puncture wounds indicating they had been illegally speared.

Bushway has been assessed more than $2,000 in fines and restitution, and he has lost his right to hunt, fish and trap in Vermont for three years. Bushway will also need to take a remedial hunter ethics course in order to regain these rights.

"I applaud Deputy Warden Rooks for his dedication in this case," said Col. Jason Batchelder. "Fish and wildlife violations occur every day of the year, and enforcement efforts like these illustrate that through vigilance and determination wardens continue to protect the resources for the people of Vermont."

Hunt safely this turkey season

Hunting safely during turkey season is easy if you follow tips issued by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Vermont's spring youth turkey hunting weekend is April 23-24, and the regular turkey season is May 1-31. While Vermont's spring turkey seasons are safe (Vermont has not had any incidents in the last six years) precautions are needed to ensure they stay that way. Camouflage or drab colored clothing is almost mandatory to outwit a keen-sighted gobbler. Unfortunately, camouflage often makes it just as hard for hunters to spot one another as it does for turkeys.

"Almost all of the incidents during turkey season have been caused by hunters who didn't positively identify the target before they pulled the trigger," said Nicole Meier, with Vermont's hunter education program. "And the person they mistake for a turkey is often a friend trying to stalk a turkey call."

With the opening of spring turkey hunting season near, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department urges hunters to consider these safety tips:

• Never shoot unless you're absolutely sure of your target and what is beyond it. Look for a beard as only turkeys with beards are legal during the spring season. If you're not sure, skip the shot. Lack of positive identification could result in shooting an illegal bird, or worse, another hunter. Be sure to have a good backstop any time you shoot a firearm or bow.

• Never stalk a gobbling turkey. Your chances of getting close are poor, and you may be sneaking up on another hunter.

• Avoid red, white, blue and black in clothing and equipment. A tom turkey's head has similar colors.

• Stick with hen calls. A gobbler call might draw in other hunters.

• Avoid unnecessary movement. This alerts turkeys and attracts hunters.

• Don't hide so well that you impair your field of vision

• Wrap your turkey in blaze orange for the hike back to the car.

• Always sit with your back against a tree trunk, big log or a boulder that is wider than your body. This protects you from being accidentally struck by pellets fired from behind you.

• Place decoys on the far side of a tree trunk or a rock. This prevents you from being directly in the line of fire should another hunter mistakenly shoot at your decoy.

•Wear hunter orange while moving from set-up to set-up. Take it off when you are in position.

"Have fun!" said Meier. "Spring turkey season is one of the best times to get outside and interact with wildlife."

Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival on May 1

If you're a wildlife enthusiast itching for spring then be sure to check out the seventeenth annual Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival on Sunday, May 1, 2016 in Rockingham, Vermont.

Herrick's Cove, on the Connecticut River, hosts one of the most popular festivals in the area, with organizers reporting more than 2,000 people attending last year's event. The festival includes nature walks and live animals such hawks, owls, mammals, and reptiles.

"Vermonters really enjoy the wild animals and wild places that make the state so special," said Forrest Hammond, bear project leader with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "This festival gives participants a chance to experience some of these animals firsthand and learn about the importance of conserving their habitats so future generations can appreciate them as well."

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will host several exhibits at the event, including animal mounts, interactive demonstrations, hands-on fishing activities hosted by the department's Let's Go Fishing program, information on bears and bats, a 4-H shooting event as well as fun games for kids. Other presenters include Jim Andrews on turtles, the Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society, The Nature Museum at Grafton, and TransCanada Corporation.

Activities are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The suggested donation is $2.00 for an individual and $5.00 for a family. Pets are not allowed.

Herrick's Cove is located just off Route 5, less than three miles north of Bellows Falls.

For more information, visit the Herrick's Cove Wildlife Festival's Facebook page or the website at

Winooski fish lift now open for spring season

The fish lift at the Winooski One hydroelectric facility on the Winooski River is now operating for the spring season, and that means expanded fishing opportunities for anglers.

"The Winooski One fish lift typically opens in mid-March and operates through mid-May, with the purpose of allowing steelhead rainbow trout to make their natural spring migration, along with helping to support quality fishing opportunities for anglers," said Brian Chipman, fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish & Wildlife.

Steelhead that are collected by the lift are released into the 1.3-mile section of river above the Winooski Dam and below the next dam, also known as Gorge 18.

"Lifting steelhead above the Winooski Dam enables anglers to fish for them in a section of river that is legally open to angling," said Nick Staats, fisheries biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

While the section of river between the Winooski Dam and Gorge 18 is open to fishing, between March 16 and May 31 fishing is not allowed on the section of river below the Winooski Dam downstream to the first railroad bridge.

This section is closed to fishing in order to protect spawning walleye and endangered lake sturgeon.

"The Winooski River provides important habitat for a range of Lake Champlain fish species throughout the year, and we try to protect fish at sensitive times," Staats said.

In addition to steelhead, anglers also have the chance to catch any landlocked Atlantic salmon that may still be in the upper sections of the river as a result of last fall's spawning run.

The Winooski River is stocked annually with 20,000, 7 to 8-inch steelhead, in addition to 30,000 yearling salmon.

The Winooski One fish lift is operated annually through a joint effort between Vermont Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power.

To purchase a fishing license or learn more about fishing in Vermont, visit

Anglers encouraged to buy 2016 habitat stamp

With the arrival of spring comes the time of year many anglers look forward to most -- the open water fishing season. As anglers prepare for that first cast, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is encouraging them to pick up a 2016 Vermont Habitat Stamp while they are buying their fishing license online.

Launched in 2015, the Habitat Stamp has already seen tremendous success thanks in large part to the support of Vermont's hunting and angling community. The stamp helps the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department conserve land for wildlife and public access, including land that is important habitat for many fish species.

"Anglers have historically shown tremendous support for conservation," said Eric Palmer, fish division director for the Fish & Wildlife Department. "Vermont's fishing community helps pay for the conservation of fish populations and habitats every time they buy a fishing license. The Habitat Stamp gives them an additional opportunity to contribute directly to habitat improvements for fish and other wildlife."

Habitat stamp funds have already contributed to the conservation of land in Addison, Vermont in 2015. The Fish & Wildlife Department is anticipating several additional land conservation and management efforts throughout Vermont in 2016 using Habitat Stamp funds. This includes land along the famous Clyde River in the Northeast Kingdom, a well-known trout and salmon river.

"Healthy fish populations require healthy habitat to thrive," said Palmer. "The Habitat Stamp provides anglers, hunters, birders and others with a great opportunity to support the fish and wildlife they enjoy."

Wildlife photography seminar on May 14

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department photographer Tom Rogers will give a workshop on wildlife and nature photography on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. to noon. at Elmore State Park in Elmore, Vermont. The event is co-hosted by the Vermont Woodlands Association.

The workshop will begin with a brief presentation on the basics of proper exposure, depth of field, and use of camera equipment, followed by a field session in the state park. Vermont Fish & Wildlife bird biologist John Buck will also be on hand to help find wildlife and to provide a naturalist's prospective.

Rogers is a trained wildlife biologist and photographer, who has photographed in 29 countries. Examples of his work are available at

"Our abundant wildlife is one aspect of Vermont's special landscape. This workshop offers a chance to learn how to frame and capture wildlife through the lens of a camera," said Rogers. "From a bull moose surrounded by colorful fall foliage, to a songbird in a tree or a winding mountain stream, we'll review the basics to taking beautiful wildlife and outdoor images."

The workshop is geared for beginners who want to get the basics of wildlife photography and for intermediates who want to take their skills to the next level. The event costs $20, which goes to park entrance fee and towards the Vermont Woodlands Association's programs. Participants should bring their own camera equipment, including a tripod and binoculars if they own them.

"Wildlife and nature photography can present some of the most challenging conditions for a photographer, between difficult weather conditions and wildlife that never holds still," said Rogers. "But with an understanding of a few basic techniques, along with some patience and luck, the results can be stunning."

To sign up or for questions, contact Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Woodland Association at by May 10, 2016. The event is open to the first 20 registrants.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions