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Boat transportation and bait laws

Aquatic invasives species sign
Aquatic invasive species sign placed at landings to alert boaters of the law.

Wisconsin has various laws in place to prevent the introduction and control the spread of aquatic invasive species and diseases in Wisconsin.

Please remember to follow these laws when enjoying Wisconsin's waterways and avoid paying the penalty [PDF].

Transport laws for boaters and anglers

  • INSPECT your boat, trailer and equipment
  • REMOVE any attached aquatic plants or animals (before launching, after loading and before transporting on a public highway).
  • DRAIN all water from boats, motors and all equipment.
  • NEVER MOVE live fish away from a waterbody.
  • DISPOSE of unwanted bait in the trash.
  • BUY minnows from a Wisconsin bait dealer. Use leftover minnows only under certain conditions.*

*You may take leftover minnows away from any state water and use them again on that same water. You may use leftover minnows on other waters only if no lake or river water, or other fish were added to their container (more information below).

Bait laws for boaters and anglers

The following new laws apply to all anglers and boaters in Wisconsin

  • You must drain all water from boats, containers and fishing equipment when leaving any state waters, banks or shores, or entering Wisconsin over land.
    • This does not apply to any drinking water or up to two gallons of water being used to hold minnows that can be legally transported.
  • You may not transport any live fish or live fish eggs away from any state waters. There is an exception for minnows obtained from a Wisconsin bait dealer. These minnows may be transported away live and used again:
    • on the same water, or
    • on any other waters if no lake or river water, or other fish were added to their container.
  • You may not use dead fish, fish eggs, or fish parts as bait. There are three exceptions:
    • you may use dead fish, fish eggs, or fish parts as bait on any waters if they were preserved by a method that does not require freezing or refrigeration, or
    • you may use unpreserved or just frozen dead fish, fish eggs or fish parts as bait on the water from which they were collected or on Lake Michigan or Green Bay (and connecting waters upstream to the first barrier impassible to fish), or
    • you may use live minnows that die during a fishing trip during that fishing trip (they may not be used on later trips unless you meet the two conditions above).
  • You may not possess or use minnows for bait that are obtained outside of Wisconsin. This does not apply if the minnows were imported under a Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) permit, or if they were obtained from Iowa or Minnesota and are being used only “between the tracks” on the Mississippi River.

Laws for seaplane operators

  • INSPECT your seaplane and equipment
  • REMOVE any attached aquatic plants or animals (before landing or taking off).
  • DRAIN all water from seaplane or equipment.

Laws for landowners, nurseries, and water gardeners

Last revised: Friday February 12 2016