ORLEANS — One of the state’s premier wildlife watching opportunities is happening right now in Orleans. The steelhead rainbow trout have started their upstream migration, leaping up waterfalls in a spectacular display of determination on their way to their spawning grounds.
The best place to spot steelhead is at Willoughby Falls just outside downtown Orleans. Another great place to see migrating steelhead is Coventry Falls on the Black River in Coventry.
“When people think of wildlife watching, they typically think of moose or birds, but I would guess that most people don’t think of fish,” said Jud Kratzer, fisheries biologist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. “This is a rare opportunity to watch fish in nature. Images of salmon or trout hurling themselves up scenic waterfalls are typical from places like Alaska, but many people may not realize we have these same wildlife viewing opportunities right here in Vermont.”
Steelhead can be spotted moving up the falls during warmer days in mid to late April and sometimes into early May during years with late winters. The best times to spot the fish leaping the falls are in the late morning and early afternoon as the sun is hitting the waters.
Willoughby Falls and a section of river upstream are closed to fishing until June 1 to protect the fish while they are spawning, although there are great fishing opportunities a short way downstream from the falls.