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Wisconsin offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Give them a try!
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Contact information
For more information on the panfish project, contact:
Jon Hansen

Fishing WisconsinPlanning for panfish

Do you have a passion for panfish? Read on ...

A pile of panfish

A pile of panfish is a welcome sight to many Wisconsin anglers.

Panfish are the most common fish caught by anglers in Wisconsin.  In a 2006-07 statewide survey, Wisconsin anglers reported catching 88 million fish, of which 57.7 million were panfish (bluegill, yellow perch, crappies). Public concern regarding panfish appears to be increasing and, in recent years, the Conservation Congress (a long-standing DNR advisory organization) has proposed reducing the 25 panfish bag limit on select lakes. Analysis of many years’ worth of fisheries surveys is starting to tell us about the status of panfish in the state, and we would like to share the results.

Conservation Congress concerns, in combination with data analyses and modeling efforts, lead us to believe we should take the next step and develop a panfish management plan. Between 2011 and 2013, a series of public meetings were held and a survey offered to better connect with Wisconsin panfish anglers. Angler input has been very useful and the Panfish Management Team, consisting of DNR biologists and Conservation Congress members, is in the process of drafting a panfish management plan. Once a working draft is complete we will post it here and distribute widely -- we will then hold a series of public meetings and comment period to solicit feedback

During the public input process, one area of focus was regulations. The feedback we received was mixed and while many anglers wanted regulation changes, there was not overwhelming support for sweeping changes to statewide panfish regulations. However, anglers were supportive of experimental regulations to address panfish populations that are not meeting management objectives for average size of fish. Because of a lengthy regulation cycle the department decided to move forward on proposing a suite of experimental regulations on close to 100 selected lakes across Wisconsin that are dominated by small bluegills and black crappie. This regulation package was approved by the Natural Resources Board and will go into effect in 2016.

Experimental panfish regulations

Panfish rule proposal

A bluegill in the hand

Panfish rule proposal

Starting in 2016 one of three regulations will be placed on 94 lakes across Wisconsin in an effort to identify the most socially acceptable regulation to improve underperforming panfish populations. These regulations are intended to increase panfish average size on lakes that are currently not meeting management objectives but have the growth potential to improve. The lakes will be evaluated by biologists and anglers by 2021 and the results discussed with the public. Ultimately, the best regulation will be selected as the standardregulation option for addressing similar issues. For more details and a list of lakes, read the full plan or factsheet

Comments on the rule proposal?

Send your comments to:
Jon Hansen
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 7921
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53707-7921

Public meetings

Public meetings

Public meetings will be scheduled once a draft management plan has been completed.

Initial public input

Panfish survey 2013

Passion for Panfish

Interested anglers who attended panfish public meetings, fishing expos, sport shows and Conservation Congress meetings, in February and March 2013 had the opportunity to complete a panfish survey. The results of the panfish survey were analyzed and are found below:

Panfish survey results [PDF]

Input will help guide the development of a statewide plan for managing panfish populations. We hope to provide our anglers with a variety of panfishing opportunities.

Panfish press

Effects of a reduced daily bag limit on bluegill size structure in Wisconsin lakes [PDF]

Experimental analysis of a reduced daily bluegill limit in Minnesota [PDF]

A panfish reality check [PDF] - a reality check on the misconceptions of panfish management and biology

Sharing a passion for panfish. Natural Resources magazine, June 2013

Last revised: Tuesday September 01 2015