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Fishing tournaments

Fishing Wisconsin

The DNR has established limits on the size and number of permitted tournaments on some lakes and rivers to minimize concerns such as crowding, the spread of invasive species and indirect fish mortality. An application fee for permits is also required to cover the increasing cost of implementing the tournament fishing program.

New for 2024 - Tournaments that don't require a permit - typically tournaments under 20 boats and 100 participants - or those that are statewide/regional in nature, or continuous or seasonal without specified fishing dates will require free automatic registration. 

How does the DNR regulate fishing tournaments?

The DNR has specific regulatory authority over fishing tournaments in Wisconsin.

How to schedule or find a Wisconsin fishing tournament

  1. View a calendar with all scheduled Wisconsin permitted tournaments to make sure your waterbody and dates are available or to find a tournament you'd like to attend.
  2. Register your tournament or apply for a tournament permit.

Do I need a tournament permit or a tournament registration?

You will need a tournament permit in cases where any of the following apply:

  • The tournament involves 20 or more boats or 100 or more participants;
  • The tournament targets any trout species on waters classified as trout streams;
  • The tournament is a catch-hold-release tournament with an off-site weigh-in;
  • The total prize value for the event is $10,000 or greater, or
  • The tournament will have fewer than 20 boats, but you want to allow participants to cull bass.

If none of the above apply, you still need to submit a free tournament registration for your event or series of events. These registrations are required even if the tournament is regional in nature (where specific waters to be fished are not identified) or if participants are not required to register in advance.

If you don't need a permit

While you may not need a tournament fishing permit according to the above criteria, you may need to fill out a restocking permit [PDF]. A restocking permit is needed for any catch-hold-release events that result in an individual angler exceeding any daily bag limits. Please print out the application, fill in the necessary information and mail it to the local fisheries biologist for the county where the tournament waterbody is located.

Aquatic invasive species and tournaments

Tournament anglers: Do your part to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. Be familiar with the rules and follow the prevention measures [PDF]

Green Bay Tournament Boundary Maps for Catch-Hold-Release Bass and Walleye Tournaments

Tournament reports and publications

Fishing tournament questions

How is a fishing tournament defined?

A fishing tournament means any organized fishing activity, on any water of the state, where competition is the primary purpose, and where incentives such as money, prizes or points are awarded.

How far in advance do I need to apply for a tournament or submit a registration?

You should apply at least 30 days before the start date of the fishing tournament. Applicants may apply starting on January 1st of the preceding year for traditional tournaments and April 1st of the prior year for non-traditional(everybody else) tournaments. Applications received less than 30 days before the start of the tournament will still be considered but may not have sufficient time for approval. In addition, applications received less than 30 days before the tournament begins will be charged an additional fee to cover expedited processing.

Tournament registrations should be submitted 72 hours prior to the start of the event. 

What is a traditional tournament?

A traditional fishing tournament is a fishing tournament that was issued permits 4 out of 5 years between 2004 and 2008 for the same water or waters and time period.

How do I maintain my traditional tournament status?

A traditional tournament shall continue to be conducted at least 4 out of 5 years for the same water or waters and time period to remain a traditional tournament.

I am unsure if more than 19 boats or 99 participants will show up for my tournament, should I apply for a permit?

You have two options:

  1. Apply for a permit and indicate the maximum number of participants that would be allowed or
  2. Do not apply for a permit and limit the participation level to less than 20 boats or less than 100 people
Can I include a backup date or backup primary waterbody on my tournament application (often due to unsafe ice conditions)?

Alternate dates and backup waterbodies should be specified in the "Notes" section of the application.

Are there restricted dates on which tournaments are not allowed?

Permitted fishing tournaments (except for traditional tournaments) are not permitted to occur on weekends and holidays, which typically have elevated levels of public pressure. These time periods include the opening weekend of a fishing season of a particular species if the tournament would target that species, the 3-day Memorial Day weekend, the Fourth of July, and the 3-day Labor Day weekend. Tournaments that don't require a permit don't have any date restrictions. 

Can I have two tournaments on the same waterbody?

Yes. However, no person may organize permitted fishing tournaments on the same body of water with starting dates separated by less than two weeks unless at least 50% of the participants in the second tournament are younger than 18 years of age or disabled.

When do I need to return my tournament report?

Permitted tournament organizers must submit a fishing report (provided with the permit) within 30 days of the tournament. Future permits will not be issued if results reports are not returned.

Reports should be sent to:
PO BOX 7921
MADISON WI 53707-7921

Organizers of registered, unpermitted tournaments do not need to submit these reports. 

What information is required on the tournament report?

We need to know what tournament you held, how many people and/or boats participated, the value of prizes given away for fishing, the date(s) and hours fished, what species and how many fish of each were registered, and if the fish were released or kept.

What is a boat day?

For open water tournaments, the monthly size limits are based on the length of the tournament and the number of boats expected to participate, termed boat days. For example, a one-day tournament with 60 boats will contribute 60 boat days to the monthly limits for a waterbody, whereas a two-day tournament with 30 boats will also contribute 60 boat days.

What is a Boat ID method?

Open water tournaments (except for Great Lakes trout or salmon tournaments) must indicate a method that makes tournament participants easily identifiable on the water (e.g., ribbon, sticker, flag, apparel, etc.)

What is an off-site weigh-in?

For catch-hold-release tournaments, an off-site weigh-in means the weigh-in is not located on the shoreline or adjacent to the waters and is generally characterized by the transport of fish via a public road.


Can I tag a fish as part of a fishing tournament?

It is illegal for the public to tag and release fish unless they receive a scientific collector's permit as part of a bona fide research project or in conjunction with a DNR-sponsored management project—it is rare that tournaments meet the necessary qualifications for this option. The only alternative way to use tagged fish in a tournament is by obtaining a stocking permit, purchasing a fish from a licensed fish farm, tagging the fish and then releasing it. To pursue this option, contact the county fisheries biologist.


Contact information

For more information about fishing tournaments, please get in touch with the fish biologist for the county where you want to have your tournament.