Your fishing questions answered
Collected here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive from Wisconsin's anglers. The questions are sorted by topic.
Since Wisconsin is governed by many different agencies, and programs within those agencies, some questions are followed by a short answer and a second link to an external site (or a different DNR program).
- Fishing safety precautions
- Fishing the Great Lakes
- Hatcheries and stocking
- Ice fishing in Wisconsin
- Kids and fishing
- Learn to fish
- May I hold game fish in an aquarium as a pet?
- Licenses, permits and fees
- Record fish and estimating the weight of your fish
- Rules and regulations
- Season dates and times
- Vacations and tips
- Wisconsin waters
- Where can I find information on boating in Wisconsin?
The DNR's Bureau of Law Enforcement maintains a Boating in Wisconsin page that details boating regulations, registration, safety tips, training classes, and more.
- I am interested in fishing via motor trolling in Wisconsin's waters. What exactly counts as motor trolling, and where am I allowed to do it?
As described by the Wisconsin Administrative Code, motor trolling describes the process of 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 or rowing. Anglers are permitted to fish via motor trolling on selected Wisconsin waters only.
- What if I don´t have a boat?
No problem! You don´t need a boat to go fishing - you can fish from shore or have fun wading in the water! Check out our shore access inventory to find a place to fish near you. Shore fishing is available year-round on Lake Michigan.
- I want to fish from a boat, what do I need to know?
Fishing from a boat can be a lot of fun because it allows you to cover larger areas of water. When fishing slows down for the day you can always enjoy other activities such as tubing or just relax in the sun.
Boating does require more preparation. Life jackets, emergency supplies and knowledge of laws, regulations, and boating safety are all important parts of a happy boating experience.
Catching a tagged or marked fish - what should you do?
- I caught a tagged fish.
- I caught a fish with a missing adipose (back) fin.
- I caught a fish with a wire antenna.
- Are the fish I caught safe to eat?
We maintain Fish consumption advisories that alert the public to areas that may produce fish that are potentially unsafe for human consumption (due to disease, water contamination, and so on).
- How can I learn about permanent and/or temporary employment opportunities with the Bureau of Fisheries Management?
DNR maintains Employment Opportunities information on current vacancies throughout the department, including all bureaus and office locations.
- How can I find out about internships with the Bureau of Fisheries Management?
At the moment, there are no active internship programs.
Fish species of Wisconsin
- Where can I find information, facts, and illustrations of various fish species found in Wisconsin?
- Where can I find out more about Wisconsin trout streams?
- Is it possible to distinguish between the exotic, invasive white perch and the native white bass and yellow bass?
- Did I catch a bowfin, burbot, or a snakehead fish?
Does my lake have jellyfish?
Information on what you are seeing in your lake - Jellyfish or Bryozoans.
Fishing equipment and bait - consider using safer tackle
- How many poles, rods, lines, hooks, baits, and lures are allowed at once?
- Can I use other fish as bait?
- What is chumming, and is it legal in Wisconsin?
Chumming refers to the process of scattering ground-up fish (known as chum) in the water as bait, and is illegal in Wisconsin, since it would result in waste being deposited on a stream or lake bed.
However, chumming is acceptable if the angler can retrieve the fish attractant/bait after he or she is done fishing (such as fish parts in a mesh bag). Remember that depositing any sort of fish entrails into the water is illegal! All waste should be thrown into the trash, not the water.
- Can lighted lures be used in Wisconsin?
Yes, lighted lures or lighted attractants may be used. Currently, there are no restrictions on the use of lighted lures or attractants with the exception that sturgeon spearers are prohibited from using or possessing artificial lights to shine into the water 48 hours before and continuing through the open sturgeon spearing season.
- What equipment do I need?
It can be overwhelming to look down the rows of fishing tackle and try to figure out what you need. Between bobbers, baits, reels and rods, the decisions might seem endless. No need to worry.
Just visit Fishing equipment to set your mind at ease. You'll find everything you need to know, for the kind of fishing you plan to do. We also loan out fishing gear and tackle at 49 locations statewide, including many state parks. Remember to try to choose a safer tackle and refrain from using lead.
Fishing in Wisconsin
- Where can I go fishing?
- Places to fish that are kid-friendly.
- Places to fish from shore or launch your boat.
- I would like to run a fishing tournament or related event in Wisconsin. Do I need a permit?
Fishing safety precautions
- Although fishing is not a dangerous sport, be prepared for bad weather, pesky insects and accidents to keep your family safe and comfortable if the unexpected happens.
- Be careful with your fishing equipment. Don't leave tackle lying on the ground and always look behind you before you cast to make sure it's clear.
- Wisconsin weather can be unpredictable so plan ahead. Wear proper clothing to protect you from the heat or cold and bring an extra set of clothes and rain gear. Make sure to bring sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and plenty of drinking water to prevent dehydration.
- Don't let the insects take a bite out of your fun. Dress appropriately and use insect repellant if necessary.
- Don't forget to bring a first aid kit and other safety items such as flashlights, maps, and a cell phone or radio.
Fishing the Great Lakes
Hatcheries and stocking
- Visiting a state fish hatchery in Wisconsin. Where are they located?
- I am interested in stocking fish in Wisconsin. What do I need to do?.
- How often does the DNR survey lakes for a specific species? And how do they decide to stock an existing or new species?
DNR fisheries staff typically have a scheduled interval at which they survey their most important waters and a mix of the other lakes. Large comprehensive surveys can only be done on about 6-7 lakes per year by a biologist and we have thousands of lakes, so not all lakes are surveyed. Usually, these surveys look at walleye, musky, bass, or pike as a main species and then the panfish community and other fish. Surveys include fyke nets, electroshocking, seines, etc, each of which captures a different subset of the fish species in the lake.
Depending on the management goals for the water and the status of the game fish, the biologist has a management plan which includes potential stockings for a variety of reasons for his or her waters. We do not stock fish into waters with healthy naturally reproducing fish.
Kids and fishing
- Places to take kids fishing in Wisconsin.
- What should I know before I take my kids fishing?
Learn to fish
- Learn how to fish and fish for free Wisconsin's free fishing weekend.
Each year, dozens of free fishing clinics are offered at state parks and other locations, statewide. If that weekend doesn't work for you, DNR, along with local park departments and fishing clubs, hosts a variety of fishing clinics and events for all ages. Visit Fishing clinics for upcoming events.
- Here are some additional tips, techniques and lessons on how to fish
Licenses, permits and fees
- What type of fishing licenses are available? What do they cost? How can I purchase one?
The Bureau of Customer Service and Licensing's Web site has a good deal of information about fishing licenses for both residents of Wisconsin and non-residents. Try using the links at the left side of their page to find the license most appropriate for you.
- Can I purchase my fishing license online? Yes!
- How do I obtain a fishing license for a disabled angler?
- How much does my fish weigh?
- Could my fish be a state record?
Information on Wisconsin state fishing records is contained on our Record fish page. You can compare your fish to our established records, and if you think you have caught a record fish, there is an application available on that page.
Rules and regulations
- Can I get a copy of Wisconsin fishing regulations online?
Yes, we maintain a comprehensive Fishing regulations Web site that contains the current year's regulations, as well as corrections and new additions to regulations that may have occurred since the publication of regulation pamphlets.
Season dates and times
- What are the dates of next year's fishing season?
Wisconsin's Fishing Seasons page contains general information about the dates for different species of fish, although these dates are given for general reference only, and anglers should always refer to the current season's guidelines for actual dates.
- Are there year-around fishing opportunities in Wisconsin?
Some Wisconsin waters are open to year-round hook and line angling and are detailed in our Year-Round Fishing Opportunities.
Vacations and trips
- I am planning a fishing trip or vacation in Wisconsin. Do you have any suggestions?
- Where can I watch fish in a natural setting?
The Environmental Education for Kids Web site houses a page on Fish watching in Wisconsin that has some great suggestions for times and places for fish-watching.
- Paddling among fish and wildlife: who needs a permit and under what circumstances
- What is the difference between a lake and a river?
- What are Wisconsin's stream access laws, and do they apply to lakes?
- Where can I get real-time data on Wisconsin stream and river conditions? U.S. Geological Survey maintains a Real-Time Streamflow Data
- Where can I find out more about Wisconsin trout streams?