Discover
how Wisconsin protects waterways by holding them in trust for everyone to enjoy.
Find
the permits you need for your waterfront property projects.
Learn
about the permit process that protects public waters.
Waterway and wetland information line
Can’t find the answer to your question on our web pages? Call our information line:
920-662-5452

Waterway protection Fish and wildlife habitat structures

Fish and Wildlife Habitat

Fish and Wildlife Habitat Structures

Fish and wildlife habitat structures are devices that are placed on the bed of public waters for the purpose of improving fish and wildlife habitats.

Fish habitat

A Fish Habitat Structure is a device that is that is placed on the bed of public waters for the purpose of improving fish habitat. These devices include things like fish sticks, fish cribs, half-logs, wing deflectors, etc. For some of these structures, placement in public waters may not need any department permits at all if your project meets certain location and construction standards.

Fish sticks are fast becoming a popular type of fish habitat structure placed in lakes. The fisheries program has developed a step by step guide that can help anyone interested in doing beneficial habitat projects get started. Please visit the fishsticks guide for these steps, along with other helpful information.

Wildlife habitat

A wildlife habitat structure is a structure that is placed on the bed of a public water for the purpose of improving wildlife habitat. These structures include bird nesting platforms, wood duck house, etc. For some of these structures, placement in public waters may not need any department permits at all if your project meets certain location and construction standards.

Determine permit required

This is a text link version of our Fish or wildlife habitat structures interactive question and answer module. If you are seeing this message, you currently have JavaScript disabled or are in compatibility mode while using Internet Explorer. This text version is here to help you understand if you need a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for your Fish or wildlife habitat structures project, and if so, which one. Please go through and answer each question. This will help you determine which permit you will need.

Question 1 :

Do you want to undertake a Fish Habitat Project, or a Wildlife Habitat Project? In other words, do you want to place:

If your answer is "A fish crib, spawning reef, wing deflector, or fish sticks that is placed on the bed of public waters for the purpose of improving fish habitat,” go to Question 2.

If your answer is "A nesting structure placed in public water for the purpose of improving nesting habitat for wildlife, including birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles,” go to Question 3.

Question 2 :

You have indicated that you want to do a Fish Habitat Project. Is the public waterway you want to place the structure designated as an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) or located in a Public Rights Feature (PRF)?

If your answer is "Yes,” go to Question 4.

If your answer is "No,” go to Question 13.

If your answer is "I don't know,” :

You've answered I don't know:

Please use the online mapping tool - Surface Water Data Viewer to record any designations your waterbody has and go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our How-To tutorial.

Question 3 :

You have indicated that you want to place a nesting structure to improve wildlife habitat. Is the public waterway you want to place the structure designated as an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) OR located in a Public Rights Feature (PRF)?

If your answer is "Yes,” go to Question 31.

If your answer is "No,” go to Question 32.

If your answer is "I don't know,” :

You've answered I don't know:

You may utilize our online mapping tool - Surface Water Data Viewer to record any designations your waterbody has and go back and answer this question. If you are unsure of how to use this application, please use our How-To tutorial.

Question 4 :

Because the location of your projects is designated as an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) or in a Public Rights Feature (PRF) a permit IS required to place a structure to improve fish habitat. What type of structure are you placing to improve fish habitat?

If your answer is "Fish Crib,” go to Question 5.

If your answer is "Spawning Reef,” go to Question 6.

If your answer is "Wing Deflector,” go to Question 7.

If your answer is "Tree Drop,” go to Question 8.

If your answer is "Half-log,” go to Question 9.

If your answer is "Fish Sticks,” go to Question 10.

If your answer is "None of these,” go to Question 11.

Question 5 :

How large is your fish crib? Will it be Larger than 8 feet tall by 8 feet long by 8 feet wide?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place a fish crib larger than 8 feet tall by 8 feet long by 8 feet wide, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist and also be sure to review the sample drawing [1] or sample drawing [2] for this activity.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

The size of your fish crib is meets the size criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on the General Permit forms below, you qualify for a general permit.

Please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate Habitat Structure - Fish crib general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist and also be sure to review the sample drawing [1] or sample drawing [2] for this activity.

Question 6 :

How large will your spawning reef be? Will it extend longer than 100 feet along the shoreline and be wider than 30 feet perpendicular to shore (100ft long by 30ft wide)? Will the reef be placed more than 100 feet into the water from shore?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place a spawning reef crib larger than 100ft long by 30 ft wide, and more that 100 ft from shore, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

The size of your spawning reef meets the size criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on the General Permit checklist below, you qualify for a general permit.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

If you qualify for a permit, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate Habitat Structure - Fish spawning reef permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Question 7 :

Will you be placing the Wing Deflector structure in a stream?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 22.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently the placement of Wing Deflectors as a fish habitat improvement structure is limited to placement in streams only. If this is the type of habitat structure you wish to place in a Lake, please submit an individual permit application so we can review your project and assess how the structure will be utilized.

You will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 8 :

Will the tree drop be located in a lake or flowage?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 24.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

You will need to apply for an individual permit to place trees in rivers.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 9 :

Will your half-logs be placed in a stream or a lake?

If your answer is "Stream” go to Question 26.

If your answer is "Lake or Flowage” go to Question 27.

Question 10 :

Are you placing Fish sticks on a lake or flowage?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Your fish sticks project meets the location criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet all of the rest of the standards listed on the General Permit forms below, you qualify for a general permit.

Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist, available sample drawing and How-to manual.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the General Permit forms above, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place fish sticks on streams or rivers, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 11 :

If the type of fish habitat structure was not listed, this means that the type of habitat structure you want to place has not been identified as an exempt activity by the legislature, or a general permit has not yet been created. Please apply for an individual permit to improve fish habitat if you want to use a structure that is NOT a fish crib, a spawning reef, a wing deflector, a tree drop, fish sticks or a half-log.

You will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 13 :

Because the location of your project is NOT designated as an Area of Special natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) or in a Public Rights (PRF) feature a permit MAY NOT be required to place a structure to improve fish habitat. What type of structure are you placing to improve fish habitat?

If your answer is "Fish Crib,” go to Question 15.

If your answer is "Spawning Reef,” go to Question 16.

If your answer is "Wing Deflector,” go to Question 17.

If your answer is "Tree Drop,” go to Question 18.

If your answer is "Half-log,” go to Question 19.

If your answer is "Fish Sticks,” go to Question 10.

If your answer is "None of these,” go to Question 11.

Question 15 :

How large is your fish crib? Will it be Larger than 8 feet tall by 8 feet long by 8 feet wide?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

The size of your fish crib meets the size criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT if you can meet all the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST. If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM.

Question 16 :

How large will your spawning reef be? Will it extend longer than 100 feet along the shoreline and be wider than 30 feet perpendicular to shore (100ft long by 30ft wide)? Will the reef be placed more than 100 feet into the water from shore?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

The size of your SPAWNING REEF meets the size criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT if you can meet all the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST. If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM.

DON'T FORGET! Any person placing a spawning reef shall, within 30 days after placement, provide written notice to the president or chair of any lake association, property owners association or lake district. The notice shall include a description of the spawning reef and include a lake map identifying the exact location of the reef. The person is also responsible for posting a laminated copy of the same map, within 30 days after placement, at all public boat landings on the waterbody, where the reef is located, for a period of not less than one year

Question 17 :

Will you be placing the Wing Deflector structure in a stream?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 23.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently the placement of Wing Deflectors as a fish habitat improvement structure is limited to placement in streams only. If this is the type of habitat structure you wish to place in a lake, please submit an individual permit application so we can review your project and assess how the structure will be utilized. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 18 :

Will the tree drop be located in a lake or flowage?

If your answer is "Yes” go to Question 25.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place trees in rivers an individual permit application will be needed.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 19 :

Will your half-logs be placed in a stream or a lake?

If your answer is "Stream,” go to Question 29.

If your answer is "Lake or flowage,” go to Question 30.

Question 22 :

Will the stream be less than 5 feet wide?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your WING DEFLECTOR is placed in a stream less than 5 ft wide and extends no more than 25% across the stream width you meet the size criteria to be eligible for a General Permit if you can meet the rest of the standards listed on the permit application checklist.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place a Wing Deflector in a stream wider than 5 ft or if the wing deflector extends more that 25% across the stream width, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 23 :

Will the stream be less than 5 feet wide?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your WING DEFLECTOR is placed in a stream less than 5 ft wide and extends no more than 25% across the stream width, you meet the size criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST. If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place a Wing Deflector in a stream wider than 5 ft or if the wing deflector extends more that 25% across the stream width, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

Question 24 :

Will your placement of trees be anchored to the shore at intervals no less than 50 feet apart?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your TREE DROP is placed in a lake or flowage and placed at intervals no less than 50 feet apart you meet the size criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet ALL of the standards listed on the General Permit forms below, you qualify for a general permit.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist and have reviewed the supplied sample drawing for tree drops, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

*Note: Local zoning ordinances may place restrictions on cutting trees in the shoreland zone. The riparian is responsible for ensuring that their tree drop project is in compliance with any local zoning requirements.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place trees closer that 50ft apart as in water habitat for fish, a fish stick general permit will be needed.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist, have reviewed the supplied sample drawing for fish sticks and the Fish Sticks How-to Manual, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Question 25 :

Will your placement of trees be anchored to the shore at intervals no less than 50 feet apart?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

If your TREE DROP is placed in a lake of flowage and placed at intervals no less than 50 feet apart you meet the size criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT If you can meet all of the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST.

If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM

*Note: Local zoning ordinances may place restrictions on cutting trees in the shoreland zone. The riparian is responsible for ensuring that their tree drop project is in compliance with any local zoning requirements.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

Currently to place trees closer that 50ft apart as in water habitat for fish, a fish stick general permit will be needed.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist, have reviewed the supplied sample drawing for fish sticks and the Fish Sticks How-to Manual, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Question 26 :

Is the water depth at the location you want to place the half-logs GREATER than 5ft?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place half-logs in water deeper than 5ft you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist and the provided sample drawing.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If your half-log is placed in water less than 5 ft deep you meet some of the criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet the rest of the standards listed on the General Permit forms below, you qualify for a general permit.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist, have reviewed the supplied sample drawing, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Question 27 :

Will the placement of your half-log in a lake of flowage be located GREATER than 100 feet from shore or WITHIN 100 feet of a swim raft?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place half-logs in a location GREATER than 100 feet from shore or WITHIN 100 feet of a swim raft you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist and the provided sample drawing.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If your half-log is placed within 100 ft from shore and not within 100 ft of a swim raft (this means the closest swim raft is greater than 100 ft away) you meet some of the criteria to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on the General Permit forms below, you qualify for a general permit.

If you've met all of the standards listed on the permit application checklist, have reviewed the supplied sample drawing, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Question 29 :

Is the water depth at the location you want to place the half-logs GREATER than 5ft?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

You will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If your half-log is placed in water less than 5 ft deep you meet some of the criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT if you can meet all of the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST.

If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM

Question 30 :

Will the placement of your half-log in a lake of flowage be located GREATER than 100 feet from shore or WITHIN 100 feet of a swim raft?

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place half-logs GREATER than 100 feet from shore or WITHIN 100 feet of a swim raft, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If your half-log is placed within 100 ft from shore and within 100 ft of a swim raft (this means the closes swim raft is greater than 100 ft away) you meet some of the criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST.

If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM.

Question 31 :

Because the location of your projects is designated as an Area of Special Natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) or in a Public Rights Feature (PRF) a permit IS required to place a nesting structure to improve wildlife habitat. "Will the surface area of your nesting structure exceed 25 sq ft?"

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place a nesting structure that EXCEEDS 25 sqt in surface area, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If the surface area of your nesting structure does not exceed 25 sq. ft., you meet the size criteria to be to be eligible for a General Permit. If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on our Wildlife habitat general permit checklist you may qualify for a general permit.

If you do qualify, please visit the General permits page to apply for the appropriate Habitat Structure - Wildlife nesting structure general permit. *Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Don’t Forget: Wood duck houses and nesting platforms attached to or supported by existing trees in their natural condition do not need permits.

REMEMBER: A permit may be needed if the placement of your nesting structure will result in Wetland fill. Check if wetlands are present at your project location

Question 32 :

Because the location of your project is NOT designated as an Area of Special natural Resource Interest (ASNRI) or in a Public Rights (PRF) feature a permit MAY NOT be required to place a nesting structure to improve wildlife habitat. "Will the surface area of your nesting structure exceed 25 sq ft?"

You've answered Yes.

If your answer is “Yes,”:

Currently to place a nesting structure that EXCEEDS 25 sqt in surface area, you will need to apply for an individual permit.*Please note: WAMS ID and password needed to apply. If you do not have a WAMS ID, you must register for one prior to proceeding.

Please be aware there may be additional permit standards you must meet. Prior to applying for a permit please review the permit application checklist.

You've answered No.

If your answer is “No,”:

If the surface area of your nesting structure does not exceed 25 sq. ft., you meet the size criteria to be EXEMPT from permit requirements. This means YOU DO NOT NEED A PERMIT If you can meet all the rest of the standards listed on our EXEMPTION CHECKLIST

If you are unsure if your project plans meet this checklist feel free to submit and EXEMPTION DETERMINATION REQUEST FORM.

Don’t Forget: Wood duck houses and nesting platforms attached to or supported by existing trees in their natural condition do not need permits.

REMEMBER: A permit may be needed if the placement of your nesting structure will result in Wetland fill. Check if wetlands are present at your project location

Please review the Wildlife Habitat Structure Exemption Checklist at exemptions to determine if your project meets the standards to be exempt from permitting requirements. If your project is NOT exempt from needing a permit, please visit Water Permits to apply for permits.

Exemptions


Designated waters

Some waterways have special designation that might affect your permit requirements. Visit our Designated Waters Search, and record any waterway designations that your site may have.

If you have questions about using the designated waters search tool, you may visit our Designated Waters Search Tutorial to learn how.

For projects in designated waters, a permit is needed to place fish and wildlife habitat structures. Please visit Water Permits to apply for permits.

Laws

Applicable statutes and codes include Section 30.12, Wis. Stats. [PDF exit DNR] and Chapter NR 323, Wis. Adm. Code [PDF exit DNR].

Local permits and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations may also apply. We advise you to contact your local zoning office and your regional U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office [exit DNR].

Last revised: Friday October 03 2014