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Mississippi River fish

The Upper Mississippi River is home to over 119 species of fish -- more species than are found in any of Wisconsin’s inland lakes. Favorite sport fish include walleye, sauger, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel catfish, northern pike, bluegill and crappies. On the Mississippi River, you don't necessarily need a boat to catch them! The species list also includes riverine species such as catfish, blue sucker, shorthead redhorse and bigmouth buffalo that are typical of large rivers in Wisconsin as well as some ancient fish such as paddlefish, lake sturgeon and shovelnose sturgeon.

Management of Mississippi River fisheries

Biologist weighing Shovelnose sturgeon
Wisconsin DNR Fishery Biologist weighing shovelnose sturgeon for survival assessment in Pool 10.

Management of the Mississippi River’s natural resources often is accomplished through interagency cooperation, especially since there are often overlapping and shared responsibilities and authorities for fish and wildlife resources. While much of the Mississippi River that borders Wisconsin is part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Wisconsin retained title to, custody and protection of the fishery in the river and adjacent waters.

Survey results and reports

Wisconsin fishery biologists conduct fish and habitat surveys on several navigation pools of the Mississippi River. The reports are categorized on a county basis as follows:

  • Pool 7 - La Crosse County
  • Pool 8 - La Crosse and Vernon counties
  • Pool 9 - Vernon and Crawford counties 
  • Pool 10 - Grant County

Mississippi River fishing information

Although the Mississippi River can be intimidating for anglers, its mix of backwater lakes, running sloughs, tailwaters and main channel habitats offer spectacular fishing opportunities.

For more detailed information on fishing on the Mississippi River including maps, safety tips for boating and river habitats for fish see the Fishing and Boating on the Mississippi River guide, also available at the Wisconsin DNR - La Crosse Service Center.

Special rules, regulations and agreements apply when fishing the Upper Mississippi River. Reciprocity agreements between Wisconsin and the states of Iowa and Minnesota allow a person to fish the boundary waters on the Mississippi River providing they have a valid fishing license from one of the adjacent states.

The boundary waters area is defined by the railroad tracks that parallel both sides of the river. However, residents must possess a resident license when fishing in their own state's boundary waters. Regulations between Wisconsin and the other states differ so anglers must obey the regulations in the state they are fishing.

Fish consumption advisories on the Mississippi River

For public health protection, the Department of Natural Resource routinely monitors chemicals in fish collected from waters throughout Wisconsin. After consulting with the Division of Heath the state issues fish contaminant advisories each year. Precautions recommended in the advisories range from advice that you remove fat and skin before cooking and eating some fish to a stronger statement that advises that you should not eat certain fish. You may also want to consult the fish consumption advisories from Iowa and Minnesota which also border the Mississippi River.