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Got license?
Give yourself the license to relax and catch some memories while you're at it.
Regulations
Know the regulations to make your fishing more enjoyable.
Places to fish
Wisconsin offers a variety of fishing opportunities. Give them a try!
Get started
Get the basic information you need to get on the water and try your luck.
Contact information
For information, contact:
Fisheries Management

Fishing WisconsinFrequently asked questions

Fishing is family fun

There´s no better time to take to the water.

Collected here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive from Wisconsin's anglers. The questions are sorted by topic.

Since Wisconsin is governed by many different agencies, and programs within those agencies, some questions are followed by a short answer and a second link to an external site (or a different DNR program).

Question topics

Boating

  • Where can I find information on boating in Wisconsin?

    The DNR's Bureau of Law Enforcement maintains a Boating in Wisconsin page that details boating regulations, registration, safety tips, training classes, and more.

  • I am interested in fishing via motor trolling in Wisconsin's waters. What exactly counts as motor trolling, and where am I allowed to do it?

    As described by the Wisconsin Administrative Code, motor trolling describes the process of fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by a means other than drifting or rowing. Anglers are permitted to fish via motor trolling on selected Wisconsin waters only. For more information on why motor trolling is limited in Wisconsin, check out the history of motor trolling in Wisconsin.

  • What if I don´t have a boat?

    No problem! You don´t need a boat to go fishing - you can fish from shore or have fun wading in the water! Check out our shore access inventory to find a place to fish near you. Shore fishing is available year-round on Lake Michigan.

  • I want to fish from a boat, what do I need to know?

    Fishing from a boat can be a lot of fun because it allows you to cover larger areas of water. When fishing slows down for the day you can always enjoy other activities such as tubing or just relax in the sun.

    Boating does require more preparation. Life jackets, emergency supplies and knowledge of laws, regulations, and boating safety are all important parts of a happy boating experience.

    Check out Boating in Wisconsin, so you know before you go and also find boat a boat launch in your area. Additional boating resources [exit DNR].

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Catching a tagged or marked fish - what should you do?

Eating fish

  • Are the fish I caught safe to eat?

    We maintain Fish consumption advisories that alert the public to areas which may produce fish that are potentially unsafe for human consumption (due to disease, water contamination, and so on).

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Employment

  • How can I learn about permanent and/or temporary employment opportunities with the Bureau of Fisheries Management?

    DNR maintains Employment Opportunities information on current vacancies throughout the department, including all bureas and office locations.

  • How can I find out about internships with the Bureau of Fisheries Management?

    At the moment, there are no active internship programs.

Fish species of Wisconsin

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Does my lake have jellyfish?

Information on what you are seeing in your lake - Jellyfish or Bryozoans.

Fishing equipment and bait - consider using safer tackle

tacklebox

Fishing tackle can be simple

  • How many poles, rods, lines, hooks, baits, and lures are allowed at once?
  • Can I use other fish as bait?
  • What is chumming, and is it legal in Wisconsin?

    Chumming refers to the process of scattering ground up fish (known as chum) in the water as bait, and is illegal in Wisconsin, since it would result in waste being deposited on a stream or lake bed.

    However, chumming is acceptable if the angler can retrieve the fish attractant/bait after he or she is done fishing (such as fish parts in a mesh bag). Remember that depositing any sort of fish entrails into the water is illegal! All waste should be thrown into the trash, not the water.

  • Can lighted lures be used in Wisconsin?

    Yes, lighted lures or lighted attractants may be used. Currently there are no restrictions on the use of lighted lures or attractants with the exception that sturgeon spearers are prohibited from using or possessing artificial lights to shine into the water 48 hours before and continuing through the open sturgeon spearing season.

  • What equipment do I need?

    It can be overwhelming to look down the rows of fishing tackle and try to figure out what you need. Between bobbers, baits, reels and rods, the decisions might seem endless. No need to worry.

    Just visit Fishing equipment [exit DNR] to set your mind at ease. You'll find everything you need to know for the kind of fishing you plan to do. We also loan out fishing gear and tackle at 49 locations statewide, including many state parks. Remember to try to choose safer tackle and refrain from using lead.

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Fishing in Wisconsin

Fishing safety precautions

  • Although fishing is not a dangerous sport, be prepared for bad weather, pesky insects and accidents to keep your family safe and comfortable if the unexpected happens.
  • Be careful with your fishing equipment. Don't leave tackle lying on the ground and always look behind you before you cast to make sure it's clear.
  • Wisconsin weather can be unpredictable so plan ahead. Wear proper clothing to protect you from the heat or cold and bring an extra set of clothes and rain gear. Make sure to bring sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and plenty of drinking water to prevent dehydration.
  • Don't let the insects take a bite out of your fun. Dress appropriately and use insect repellant if necessary.
  • Don't forget to bring a first aid kit and other safety items such as flashlights, maps, and a cell phone or radio.

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Fishing the Great Lakes

Hatcheries and stocking

  • Visiting a state fish hatchery in Wisconsin. Where are they located?
  • I am interested in stocking fish in Wisconsin. What do I need to do?.
  • How often does the DNR survey lakes for a specific species? And how do they decide to stock an existing or new species?

    DNR fisheries staff typically have a scheduled interval at which they survey their most important waters and a mix of the other lakes. Large comprehensive surveys can only be done on about 6-7 lakes per year by a biologist and we have thousands of lakes, so not all lakes are surveyed. Usually these surveys look at walleye, musky, bass, or pike as a main species and then the panfish community and other fish. Surveys include fyke nets, electroshocking, seines, etc, each of which capture a different subset of the fish species in the lake.

    Depending on the management goals for the water and the status of the game fish, the biologist has a management plan which includes potential stockings for a variety of reasons for his or her waters. We do not stock fish into waters with healthy naturally reproducing fish.

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Kids and fishing

fishing memories

Learn to fish

  • Learn how to fish and fish for free Wisconsin's free fishing weekend.

    Each year, dozens of free fishing clinics are offered at state parks and other locations, statewide. If that weekend doesn't work for you, DNR, along with local park departments and fishing clubs, host a variety of fishing clinics and events for all ages. Visit Fishing clinics for upcoming events.

  • Here´s some additional tips, techniques and lessons on how to fish [exit DNR]

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Licenses, permits and fees

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Record fish

  • How much does my fish weigh?
  • Could my fish be a state record?

    Information on Wisconsin state fishing records is contained on our Record fish page. You can compare your fish to our established records, and if you think you have caught a record fish, there is an application available on that page.

Rules and regulations

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Season dates and times

  • What are the dates of next year's fishing season?

    The Wisconsin's Fishing Seasons page contains general information about the dates for different species of fish, although these dates are given for general reference only, and anglers should always refer to the current season's guidelines for actual dates.

  • Are there year-around fishing opportunities in Wisconsin?

    Some Wisconsin waters are open to year-round hook and line angling, and are detailed in our Year-Round Fishing Opportunities.

Vacations and trips

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Wisconsin's waters

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Last revised: Wednesday September 14 2016