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Fisheries Management

Wisconsin trout fishingEarly trout waters

"Tried and true" trout waters

These 15 trout waters range from the "tried and true," popular waters that deliver a satisfying experience year-in and year-out to a wide variety of anglers, to the hidden gems that shine in a season filled with solitude and stunning wintry scenery.

Bearskin Creek, Oneida County
Bearskin Creek is probably the most popular trout stream in Oneida County because Bearskin State Trail offers easy access. It has a good population of brook trout along with a few browns, and the early season is the best time to have it all to yourself. - John Kubisiak, fisheries biologist, Rhinelander

Blue River, Grant and Iowa counties
The Blue River in Grant and Iowa counties has had recent habitat work done, and it sits in a beautiful “coulee” in the driftless area. Access is available from road crossings and DNR easements upstream and downstream of Snow Bottom Road. - Larry Claggett, coldwater ecologist, Madison

Early Trout Season
The Namekagon River in Sawyer County is one 15 best bets for the early catch and release trout season.

Little Willow Creek, Price and Oneida counties
Little Willow Creek in Price and Oneida counties is a small stream with a moderate-density, naturally reproducing brook trout population. It is off the beaten path and doesn't get fished overly hard, so it harbors an occasional nice-sized trout. John Kubisiak, fisheries biologist, Rhinelander

Namekagon River, Sawyer County
The Namekagon River above Hayward is a tried and true water. The diamond in the rough is the Namekagon below Hayward, which you don't have to wait for--it is open right now. - Frank Pratt, fisheries biologist, Hayward

North Branch Pemebonwon River, Marinette County
If the early season trout angler wants to catch and release some nice brook trout, they may want to fish the North Branch Pemebonwon River downstream from State Highway 141. The river can be accessed overland by way of Marinette County land or one of the road crossings. Most of the river may be better suited for spinning gear as it is typically too narrow for the fly fishers. - Ronald Rhode, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Peshtigo River, Marinette County
Anglers that desire an opportunity to fish a reach of river that has miles of scenic, undeveloped shoreline may want to direct their attention to the Peshtigo River upstream from County Highway C. Access can be achieved along areas of Benson Lake Road or Goodman and McClintock county parks. Although anglers may have to work for their catch, they'll certainly be able to fish one of Wisconsin's more beautiful rivers. - Ronald Rhode, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Pike River, Marinette County
The Pike River between County Highway V and County Highway K is a wild river that has the width and character to provide opportunities for fly fishermen and women. An angler could fish below Dave's Falls in hopes of hooking a brown trout stacked below it. Recent electrofishing visits have produced some nice catches of brown trout. - Ronald Rhode, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Pine River, Waushara County
This river gets a nice hatch of blue quill mayflies around the same time as the stoneflies. This hatch is matched with a slate colored, size 14, dry fly. The river contains a healthy population of forage minnows and sculpins. Spin fishers should do well using spinners to mimic these. For fly anglers, if nothing is hatching try sculpin or dace patterns sub-surface as well. A large stonefly nymph, size 6-8, with a small nymph trailing behind it works well also. Anglers should fish during the warmest part of the day. No need to get out at the crack of dawn! The water is warmest after 10 or 11 a.m. If there is a lot of snow melt this will keep the water temps low so fish will be less active. - Shawn P. Sullivan, operations supervisor, Wild Rose Fisheries Habitat Station

Early Trout Season
Look for 2,000 to 3,000 brook trout per mile in Pine Creek.

Pine Creek, Pierce County
Pine Creek near Maiden Rock is becoming one of the premier brook trout streams in Western Wisconsin. Trout habitat improvement activities over the past two years by the DNR, various Trout Unlimited Chapters and many other conservation organizations have restored more than 2.5 miles of the fast-flowing stream. Brook trout have responded with numbers ranging from 2,000-3,400 trout per mile. The stream is incredibly clear so anglers need to take a stealthy approach to their fishing. The beauty of the valley and stream make this fishing destination a must for any angler. - Bob Hujik, fisheries supervisor, Eau Claire

Prairie River, Lincoln County
The early season in headwaters can be grueling...lots of cold, snow, and ice to deal with during March. That can be a good thing for anglers wanting to fish entire stretches of streams with little, to no, company. Generally fishing pressure is very light. That being said anglers could give the Prairie River (Lincoln County) downstream of County Highway J a shot. There are Category 4 regulations normally in place there, which afford some protection during the regular season. These regulations, along with a healthy trout population could make for some great early season fishing. Again, snow and ice will potentially be a problem early on. - Mike Vogelsang, fisheries supervisor, Woodruff

South Branch Oconto River, Oconto County
The South Branch, Oconto River downstream from County Highway AA offers the angler an opportunity to catch brook and brown trout. Summer and fall surveys (weir and electrofishing) have observed quality fish of both species. This reach includes access for the angler via road crossings and public lands. The South Branch Oconto Fishery Area and Oconto County forest land are both within the boundary of the early catch and release season. There is anecdotal evidence that brown trout winter in the North Branch Oconto River downstream from State Highway 64 (Oconto County). Anglers may want to try fishing the early season in hopes of catching a large brown trout before warming water temperatures cause these fish to vacate the area. The river can be accessed from areas of Oconto County forest land or a number of road crossings. - Ronald Rohde, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Trempealeau River, Trempealeau County
The North, South and Main branches of the Trempealeau River offer both brook and brown trout, plenty of public accessible frontage, and trout habitat restoration work. - Dan Hatleli, fisheries biologist, Black River Falls

Upper Coon Creek system
Our premier waters have been the upper Coon Creek system (above Coon Valley) for many years. The major streams are Timber Coulee, Rullands Coulee, Spring Coulee, Bohemian Valley and the Coon Creek. Trout numbers in these streams exceed 2,000 trout per mile with good numbers of adult trout (greater than 13 inches). Because this system has been a priority for angler access acquisition, there are more than 23 miles of streams that are open to the public. Anglers can go to the DNR Web site (Bureau of Facilities and Lands) and click on DNR Managed Lands for maps and aerial photos of public fishing areas. Individual properties are also marked with green and white "Public Fishing" signs. - Dave Vetrano, fisheries supervisor, La Crosse

Stone Trout
DNR communication specialist Ed Cuhlane reeled in this 11-inch brown trout from the Waupaca River using a black stone fly imitation.

Waupaca River, Waupaca County
Anglers should try the Waupaca River around County Highways Q or T. If the stream temperatures get above 45 degrees, little black stoneflies will hatch. A dark-colored, trude-style dry fly, size 14-16, works well. Both of these areas have had habitat improvement work done and contain good populations of fish. - Shawn P. Sullivan, Operations Supervisor, Wild Rose Fisheries Habitat Station

Wolf River, Langlade County
The early season and the month of May just may be the best time to trout fish on the Wolf River in Langlade County. That is because the river gets quite warm for trout during the months of June through August. Fingerling brown trout are stocked in the Wolf River in the fall. Our studies have shown that fall, winter, and spring Wolf River water temperatures are more within the range of what trout prefer. This means that the fall stocked fish are more spread throughout the river at these times offering anglers more opportunities at good fishing. - Dave Seibel, fisheries biologist, Antigo

Last revised: Tuesday April 14 2015