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Fishing WisconsinWhat authority does the DNR have over fishing tournaments?

Fishing tournaments in Wisconsin are regulated under Administrative Code NR 20.40 and under Wisconsin State Statutes 29.403

Bass tournament

The legislature by statute required the DNR to make rules governing fishing tournaments. The statute allows the DNR to set rules:

  • for controlling crowding, preventing unsafe conditions, preventing conflicts among users of a body of water or at public access facilities
  • for prevention of waste of a natural resource
  • specifying the number of fishing tournaments that can be held on a body of water
  • governing the frequency with which tournaments may be held and the dates on which they may be held
  • specifying the number of days over which fishing tournaments may be held
  • specifying the hours, species of fish that may be targeted, bag and size limits
  • governing the reporting of results of fishing tournaments
  • specifying fees

The Department may not allow a participant in a fishing tournament to engage in any activity that an angler who is not a participant could engage in at the same time (except for participants in permitted bass fishing tournaments):

  • Any person conducting a permitted bass tournament authorized by the department may allow participants to fish for, and cull, both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Any participant in a permitted bass fishing tournament must have a boat with a functioning live well.

How can the Department minimize negative social and biological issues related to post-release mortality in catch-hold-release tournaments?

If the Department determines that environmental conditions are not conducive to survival of fish intended for release, and release may constitute unreasonable waste of natural resources, the Department may:

  • Restrict the area that may be fished by tournament anglers to reduce the time that fish are held in live-wells and the distance fish are transported to a weigh-in site;
    • DNR consistently restricts the distance tournament anglers can travel in catch-hold-release tournaments targeting bass, walleye, and muskellunge, particularly on large bodies of water like the Mississippi River and Green Bay
  • Require redistribution of released fish;
    • Most catch-hold-release tournaments have excellent release practices that do everything to ensure fish are released safely however DNR will add specific release guidelines if warranted
  • Reduce the daily bag limit (e.g., from the first Saturday in July until the second Saturday in August bass daily bag limits are set at 3 and from the second Saturday in June until the first Sunday in September walleye daily bag limits are set at 3)
    • Post-release mortality increases exponentially with water temperatures therefore the DNR reduces the daily bag limit to 3 fish for tournaments that fall within this warm water period

After April 1, permit applications are accepted for the next calendar year. Applications must be received at least 30 days before the tournament.

For additional fishing tournament information, see Fishing tournaments in Wisconsin

Last revised: Tuesday April 14 2015