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Fisheries Management

Fishing WisconsinPlanning for panfish

Do you have a passion for panfish? Read on ...

A pile of panfish

A pile of panfish is a welcome sight to many Wisconsin anglers.

Every year, anglers target¬† panfish (bluegill, yellow perch, crappies) more than any other group of fish in Wisconsin. Despite their popularity panfish have received less management attention than other sportfish like walleye and bass. Beginning in 2011, the Panfish Management Team, consisting of DNR biologists and Conservation Congress members, initiated an effort to develop a strategic management plan for Wisconsin’s panfish. Between 2011 and 2013, more than 30 public meetings were held and a survey offered to better connect with Wisconsin panfish anglers. Using the public input, a thorough literature review, and various data analyses, The Panfish Management Team , ¬†Drafted a Panfish Management Plan that is now ready for public review. See the tabs below for more information about how to provide feedback.

During the public input process, one area of focus was regulations. The feedback we received was mixed and while many anglers wanted regulation changes, there was not overwhelming support for sweeping changes to statewide panfish regulations. However, anglers were supportive of experimental regulations to address panfish populations that are not meeting management objectives for average size of fish. Because of a lengthy regulation cycle the department decided to move forward on proposing a suite of experimental regulations on close to 100 selected lakes across Wisconsin that are dominated by small bluegills and black crappie. This regulation package was approved by the Natural Resources Board and will go into effect April 1, 2016. See the “Experimental panfish regulations” tab below for more information.

Panfish Plan

The new, 10-year panfish plan that focuses on habitat improvements, predator management and revised bag limits to boost panfish management across Wisconsin.

Panfish management plan [PDF]

Initial public input

Panfish survey 2013

Passion for Panfish

Interested anglers who attended panfish public meetings, fishing expos, sport shows and Conservation Congress meetings, in February and March 2013 had the opportunity to complete a panfish survey. The results of the panfish survey were analyzed and are found below:

Panfish survey results [PDF]

Input will help guide the development of a statewide plan for managing panfish populations. We hope to provide our anglers with a variety of panfishing opportunities.

Experimental panfish regulations

Panfish rule proposal

A bluegill in the hand

Panfish rule proposal

Beginning April 1, 2016 one of three regulations will be placed on 94 lakes across Wisconsin in an effort to identify the most socially acceptable regulation to improve underperforming panfish populations. These regulations are intended to increase panfish average size on lakes that are currently not meeting management objectives but have the growth potential to improve. The lakes will be evaluated by biologists and anglers by 2021 and the results discussed with the public. Ultimately, the best regulation will be selected as the standardregulation option for addressing similar issues. For more details and a list of lakes, read the full plan or factsheet


Panfish press

A synoptic review of the ecology and management of bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) with implications for fishery management in Wisconsin [PDF]

A literature review of management approaches based on rate functions associated with yellow perch populations. Niebur et al. [PDF]

A literature review of management approaches based on rate functions associated with black and white crappie populations. Fayram et al. [PDF]

Effects of a reduced daily bag limit on bluegill size structure in Wisconsin lakes [PDF]

Experimental analysis of a reduced daily bluegill limit in Minnesota [PDF]

A panfish reality check [PDF] - a reality check on the misconceptions of panfish management and biology

Sharing a passion for panfish. Natural Resources magazine, June 2013

Last revised: Friday August 18 2017