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Contact(s): Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director, 608-267-0796,; Karl Scheidegger, DNR fisheries biologist and state record fish coordinator, 608-267-9426,; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications, 608-770-8084,
March 21, 2017

MADISON -- Dedicated catch and release anglers know there's little that equals the joy of releasing a healthy musky, northern pike or even a walleye with the hope that it will spawn again and perhaps provide excitement for another angler.

But what if the fish is really big - possibly one for the record books?

A new live release record fish program being rolled out by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources aims to end the dilemma and provide anglers with the win-win satisfaction of achieving a state record and a successful live release. The new program is part of a larger effort to promote quality fishing and encourage the careful release of trophy-size popular sport species. Similar efforts have found success in other states and among some national record-keeping organizations.

"As anglers, part of what we enjoy is the thrill of the unknown - the thought that the fish on the end of our lines could be a trophy catch or even a new record," said Justine Hasz, DNR fisheries bureau director. "What we've seen with musky populations in areas where there is a strong catch and release ethic is that the fish are reaching larger sizes and providing more anglers with the experience of a lifetime. Since it can take 10 years or more for walleye to reach trophy size and 15 years or more for musky, our new catch and release record option means Wisconsin's legendary fish will create even more memories."

Hasz said the program also is expected to increase public awareness and encourage protection of fisheries habitat. Efforts to market the new program are expected to draw more non-resident anglers into the state and improve retention among anglers who participate only sporadically.

It's also hoped that the new format will attract younger anglers, who may be quick on the draw with cell phone cameras and able to quickly land, measure and photograph their fish, said Karl Scheidegger, DNR fisheries biologist and state record fish coordinator. When it's officially rolled out on May 6, here's how the program will work:

Figure 1. Fish should be measured from the snout to the tip of the compressed tail.
Figure 1. Fish should be measured from the snout to the tip of the compressed tail.

Eligible species and minimum qualifying lengths for Wisconsin state record fish Live Release category. Lengths should be recorded by total length measured to the nearest 1/4 inch (longest measurement from the snout or nose to the tip of the compressed tail). To be certified, new live release records must exceed the existing record by at least 1/4 inch.

SpeciesLength (in.)
Bass, Largemouth23
Bass. Rock10
Bass, Smallmouth22
Bass, White17
Carp, Common35
Catfish, Channel35
Catfish, Flathead40
Crappie, Black15
Crappie, White15
Drum, Freshwater35
Muskellunge, Tiger45
Northern pike 40
Perch, Yellow13
Salmon, Chinook40
Salmon, Coho35
Sturgeon, Lake70
Sturgeon, Shovelnose24
Sunfish, Green8
Trout, Brook (inland)15
Trout, Brook (Great Lakes)20
Trout, Brown (inland)24
Trout, Brown (Great Lakes) 34
Trout, Lake (inland)34
Trout, Lake (Great Lakes)34
Trout, Rainbow (inland)24
Trout, Rainbow (outlying)36
New license year starts April 1

Anglers are reminded that the new license year begins April 1 for waters or species with a continuous open season. Licenses and stamps for the 2017 year are on sale now through GoWild.Wi.Gov. Fees for the 2017 license year remain the same as last year.

Anglers fishing Michigan and Minnesota boundary waters, as well as the Great Lakes, are again reminded they must possess a paper copy of their license to be legal. The paper printouts are needed because law enforcement officials in the surrounding states do not have access to the Wisconsin database. Wardens say that having the paper license handy will expedite license checks and allow enthusiasts to stay focused on their outdoor activity.

More information about length and bag limits as well as places to fish can be found on the DNR website, by searching "Fishing Regulations."

Last Revised: Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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