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Fishing WisconsinMotor trolling

Trolling defined

According to NR 20.03(40) of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, "troll" or "trolling" means fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by a means other than drifting, pedaling, paddling, or rowing.  Casting and immediate retrieval of a bait, lure or similar device while the motor is running (or “position fishing”) is not considered trolling.

Motor trolling in Wisconsin

Motor trolling is legal on all inland waters with either:

  • 3 hooks, baits or lures/person with no maximum number of lines trolled per boat or
  • 1 hook, bait or lure/person with a maximum of 3 hooks, baits or lures trolled per boat

Inland Waters - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler with no maximum number of lines trolled per boat

  • All waters of the following counties:  Adams, Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Brown, Buffalo, Burnett, Calumet, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Door, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Forest, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, Kewaunee, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Monroe, Oconto, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Sauk, Shawano, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washburn, Washingotn, Waukesha, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood;

Inland Waters - 1 hook, bait or lure per angler with a maximum of 3 hooks, baits or lures trolled per boat

  • All waters of the following counties:  Florence, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Sheboygan, Vilas and Waupaca

Specified waters - County with one hook, bait, or lure per person, with a limit of up to three hooks, baits, or lures from a boat, except for waters listed below that allow three hooks, baits, or lures and no boat restriction:

  • Sawyer County::  Big Chetac Lake, Grindstone Lake, Lac Courte Oreilles Chain, Nelson Lake, Round Lake Chain, Whitefish Lake, and Windigo Lake,

Boundary Waters - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler

  • Wisconsin-Michigan boundary waters, (except Vilas County boundary waters, where motor trolling allowed with only 1 hook, bait or lure per angler and 3 hooks. baits or lures maximum per boat).
  • All Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary waters;
  • Mississippi River

Great Lakes (Outlying Waters) - 3 hooks, baits or lures per angler

  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Superior

Trolling summary fact sheet

The trolling summary fact sheet [PDF] was developed to help anglers understand the trolling regulations. Tuck it in your tacklebox.


Please consult the current hook and line regulations for the complete list of regulations that apply to these waters.

Frequently asked trolling questions

I routinely fish a lake that crosses county boundaries (One county has a maximum of 3 lines per boat and the other county has no maximum of the lines trolled per boat). How is that situation regulated?

Because these are county-by-county rules,, they will be enforced by the county line. Rather than having to list exceptions for every water that crosses a county line, the rules follow the county lines.  In this particular case, a maximum of 3 lines per boat anywhere on the lake will keep you clearly within the law, but you could use 3 lines/angler where you cross the county line into the less restrictive portion of the lake.  When the rules between counties differ, you should follow the rules of the county in which you are fishing.

Does the trolling rule override ordinances prohibiting the use of motor boats?

This change does not affect boating regulations, so anglers must still comply with any motor restrictions applicable on the lakes. As before, a person holding a valid disabled permit that authorizes trolling (trolling, Class A, Class B with trolling) would be authorized to use an electric motor on lakes with ordinances enacted that prohibit the use of motor boats on navigable waters.

If I am fishing on a water where I can only use 1 “line” to troll and up to two lines per boat, can I cast with another line?

Yes, the trolling line restriction only applies to the number of lines being trolled. Any person can fish statewide with up to three hooks, baits, or lures at a time. If you are trolling with one line that has one lure attached, you can cast at the same time with another lure. Same goes for boats – if two people are each trolling a line from a boat, they are still allowed to use additional non-trolling lines up to their maximum of three hooks, baits, or lures per person.

Last revised: Thursday April 12 2018