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Fisheries Management

Fishing WisconsinWhy is motor trolling not allowed?

First some history of motor trolling in Wisconsin. From 1923, no motor trolling was allowed on inland waters of the state. Five waters were opened for trolling in 1958. During the next few years a few other waters were opened. In 1964, all waters in seven northwestern counties as well as Racine County were opened. In 1970, many waters larger than 500 acres were added, except for muskellunge waters.

Motor trolling has been a matter of discussion in Wisconsin for many years. There are differences of opinion regarding the sporting aspects of this angling method and its effect upon fish populations. Many people believe trolling depletes fish populations. In some lakes, motor trolling has increased user conflicts because of the increased acreage used by trollers.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources's (DNR) position is that as long as the daily bag and size limits are followed, the method of capture is irrelevant. We have evaluated muskellunge, northern pike, and walleye angling success for anglers casting or still-fishing versus anglers trolling. Based on available creel survey data, we have been unable to identify significant differences in angling success or harvest between the two techniques (i.e, casting versus trolling).

DNR has attempted to address the issue of trolling from a biological perspective. We have made several proposals over the years to allow trolling at public hearings held each year in every county of the state on the same night in April. Formal public input on fishing regulations is taken at these public hearings (i.e.,"town hall"" meetings). At these meetings a slight majority of anglers remain opposed to trolling.

DNR continues to evaluate trolling and educate anglers on the results of these trolling studies.

List of Wisconsin waters where motor trolling is allowed.

Frequently asked questions

For additional information on Wisconsin fishing, (e.g., maps, fish consumption advisories), please see our complete list of frequently asked questions.

Last revised: Friday August 31 2012