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Wisconsin offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Give them a try!
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Theresa Stabo
Aquatic resources educator

Fishing Wisconsin - Angler & aquatic education Free Fishing Weekend - January 16-17, 2016

Winter was off to a fickle start, but the recent plunge in temperatures offers hope for a few ice fishing opportunities around the state. Bundle up and get out there for Wisconsin's Winter Free Fishing Weekend, January 16 - 17, 2016, ice or no ice. The weekend is open for shorefishing open water, too. Residents and nonresidents are welcome!

Ice Fishing Girls just want to have fun! Call up a friend and plan an adventure!

Fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species. So, pack up the family or call your friends and head to the water for fishing fun!

Need fishing gear?

No ice fishing gear? No problem. We have ice fishing tip-ups and jigging rods that you can borrow at many state parks and DNR offices. You will need to either use your own ice auger, claim an abandoned hole, or better yet -- make friends with the anglers at the nearest ice fishing shantytown and ask them to drill you a hole or let you borrow their auger. Check out the list of loaner sites to find out where loaner sites are located. Call the contact person listed for the site near where you plan to fish to learn what specific equipment is available, and arrange to pick it up.

Many loaner sites are at state parks, forests, and recreation areas. You can borrow gear there to take friends and family fishing at those properties even if there is not a formal event planned. January is a great time to get your state park sticker, which you will need to enter these properties. Buy one at the gate!

Host a Free Fishing Weekend event!

Just fill out and return this Winter Free Fishing Weekend Planning Form [PDF] by January 8, 2016 and you'll be good to go! Details are on the form. Remember to plan for adults who may have missed the fishing boat as kids! We’ll post your events as we learn of them.

Attend a Free Fishing Weekend event!

Organizations are busy planning clinics and activities for a fun weekend. We'll post them as we learn about them.

County Fond du Lac
Location: Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit, west of Campbellsport
Date: Saturday, January 16, 2016
Time: 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Place: Meet at the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area Picnic Shelter.
Directions: From HWY 45, take County Road SS through New Prospect to County Road GGG; turn south onto County Road GGG and then drive to the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area entrance road.
Description: Learn the tricks of winter fishing from experienced ice anglers. We will start inside the shelter where it's nice and warm to learn safety tips and how to select and use appropriate gear and tackle. All equipment and bait is provided. A park sticker will be required to enter the recreation area.
  • Beginning anglers over the age of 6.
  • All children must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Adults without children are welcome, too!
Registration: Please register by January 14 by calling 920-533-8322.
Sponsor: Department of Natural Resources, Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit
Contact: Jackie Scharfenberg, Park Naturalist, 920-533-8322.
County Oneida
Location: Rhinelander
Date: Saturday, January 16, 2016
Time: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Place: Julia Lake Boat Landing, just south of Rhinelander.
Directions: Go south on Hwy 17 East, then South on Boyce Drive. East on Timber Lodge Road to the public access.
Description: 4-H and local sponsors will provide fishing equipment, bait and instruction. Free registration with 4-H is required to participate, either on-site or online [exit DNR].
Audience All families of school—age youth are welcome.
Sponsor: Oneida County 4-H, UW-Extension and Department of Natural Resources
Contact: Anne Williams, 4-H Contact, 715-365-2750..

Get a license

New to fishing, but want to make it a habit after Free Fishing Weekend? Try our "First-time buyer" resident license for only $5. Discounts for non-residents too!

Here is more information about purchasing a fishing license so you'll be ready to fish for the rest of the year!

Flag up!

For additional ice fishing information, check out ice fishing in Wisconsin.

More fishing opportunities

The Department of Tourism lists events at The Great Outdoors - Fishing, [exit DNR].

Last revised: Monday January 11 2016