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Fishing WisconsinMotor trolling

On July 1, 2015, the regulations on motor trolling in Wisconsin changed. 

Trolling defined

According to NR 20.03(40) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, "troll" or "trolling" means 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, pedaling, paddling, or rowing.  Casting and immediate retrieval of a bait, lure or similar device while the motor is running (or “position fishing”) is not considered trolling.

Motor trolling in Wisconsin

Trolling is now allowed on all inland waters with 1 hook, bait or lure per angler (and 2 hooks, baits or lures maximum per boat), unless more hooks, baits or lures are specifically authorized.

In addition, trolling is allowed with up to 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler on the following waters:

Inland Waters - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler

  • All waters of the following counties:  Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marinette, Monroe, Oconto, Outagamie, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sauk, Shawano, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washburn, Waukesha, Waupaca, Winnebago, and Wood;
  • Door County – Clarks Lake and Kangaroo Lake;
  • Florence County – Halsey Lake;
  • Fond du Lac County – Fond du Lac River and Lake Winnebago;
  • Jackson County – Lake Arbutus;
  • Lincoln County - Spirit River Flowage, Wisconsin River from County Highway A downstream, including sloughs, bayous and flowages except Lake Mohawksin;
  • Marathon County - Big Eau Pleine Flowage upstream to the highway 153 bridge, Lake Dubay and its tributaries west of Interstate Highway 39, and the Wisconsin River (including all other sloughs, bayous and flowages and their tributaries upstream to the first highway bridge);
  • Marquette County – Buffalo Lake, Mason Lake, and the Fox River (downstream from Buffalo Lake);
  • Oneida County – Columbus Lake, Rainbow Flowage, Sugar Camp Lake, Thunder Lake, and Willow Flowage;
  • Sawyer County – Chetac Lake, Grindstone Lake, Lac Court Oreilles, Nelson Lake, Round Lake, Whitefish Lake, and Windigo Lake;
  • Sheboygan County - Sheboygan Marsh (including Sheboygan Lake and its tributaries upstream to the first road crossing);
  • Washington County - Big Cedar Lake and Pike Lake;
  • Waushara County – Lake Poygan and the Fox River;
  • All other inland waters not listed above:  Trolling is allowed with 1 hook, bait or lure per angler (and 2 hooks, baits or lures maximum per boat).

Boundary Waters - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler

  • Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters, (except Vilas County boundary waters, where motor trolling allowed with only 1 line per angler and 2 lines maximum per boat).
  • All Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters;
  • Mississippi River

Great Lakes (Outlying Waters) - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Superior

Trolling summary fact sheet

The trolling summary fact sheet [PDF] was developed to help anglers understand the trolling regulations. Tuck it in your tacklebox.

Please consult the current hook and line regulations for the complete list of regulations that apply to these waters.

Frequently asked trolling questions

I routinely fish a lake that crosses county boundaries (One county has a maximum of 2 lines per boat and the other county has a maximum of three lines per person). How is that situation regulated?

Because these are county-by-county rules at this point, they will be enforced by the county line. Rather than having to list exceptions for every water that crosses a county line, the rules follow the county lines.  In this particular case, a maximum of 2 lines per boat anywhere on the lake will keep you clearly within the law, but you could use 3 lines/angler where you cross the county line into the less restrictive portion of the lake.  When the rules between counties differ, you should follow the rules of the county in which you are fishing.

Does this rule override ordinances prohibiting the use of motor boats?

This change does not affect boating regulations, so anglers must still comply with any motor restrictions applicable on the lakes. As before, a person holding a valid disabled permit that authorizes trolling (trolling, Class A, Class B with trolling) would be authorized to use an electric motor on lakes with ordinances enacted that prohibit the use of motor boats on navigable waters.

If I am fishing on a water where I can only use 1 “line” to troll and up to two lines per boat, can I cast with another line?

Yes, the trolling line restriction only applies to the number of lines being trolled. Any person can fish statewide with up to three hooks, baits, or lures at a time. If you are trolling with one line that has one lure attached, you can cast at the same time with another lure. Same goes for boats – if two people are each trolling a line from a boat, they are still allowed to use additional non-trolling lines up to their maximum of three hooks, baits, or lures per person.

Last revised: Wednesday July 01 2015