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Green Bay Smallmouth Bass

Fishing Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources held public meetings in 2017, 2019, and 2020 in an effort to engage stakeholders that have an interest in the smallmouth bass fishery in the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. These meetings were structured to bring stakeholders together to discuss the status of the present fishery and its sustainability. Through these meetings we have continued to gain perspective from anglers and special interest groups such as guides and tournament anglers with a goal of providing a fishery that meets the expectations of multiple user groups. Gathering input from stakeholders is important to informing management of smallmouth bass as identified in the Lake Michigan Integrated Fisheries Management Plan, (Vision 1, Goal B, Objective 9).

During these meetings stakeholders have requested the department investigate multiple issues. There is strong interest in continuing the work to identify the cause of lesions seen periodically on smallmouth bass since about 2008/2009. Although largemouth bass virus was isolated from several fish in 2021, it’s role in producing these lesions and how the virus may affect smallmouth bass is uncertain (Press release). Tournaments are always noted as a concern of stakeholders especially when they occur at critical periods such as during the pre-spawn and spawning period. However, the recent increase in the use of “immediate release” formatted tournaments has been encouraging (Press release). Spring and early summer fishing has raised concern due to intense fishing pressure on bedding smallmouth bass. These issues have recently led to rulemaking and in 2020 a new rule went into effect that created a fish refuge in the Mink River which flows into Rowley’s Bay, Lake Michigan. The department is in the process of exploring targeted research projects for smallmouth bass and determining future management options for the fishery in Green Bay and Lake Michigan and will continue to engage stakeholders.

Public Meetings

October 13, 2020 - The Department hosted the third meeting to discuss smallmouth bass management. This meeting focused on a variety of issues, but we expanded the scope to take comments on the fishery throughout Green Bay, instead of focusing only on Door County. This meeting included an update on tournament rules, the rule making process and options, and an update on smallmouth bass juvenile recruitment. As in other meetings there was a great deal of time spent taking comments and questions.

Meeting notes [PDF]

Smallmouth Bass information

Fishing Tournament information

Smallmouth Bass Angler information


October 15, 2019 – The Department hosted a second meeting to once again bring stakeholders together for a discussion of smallmouth bass management issues. The presentations focused on new results from a genetics study on smallmouth bass, a review of regulations in place for bass on all of the Great Lakes, and another report on survey results from the 2018 Rowley’s Bay survey.

Genetic analysis for smallmouth bass [PDF]

Smallmouth bass regulations in the Great Lakes [PDF]

Smallmouth bass populations summary and tournament data [PDF]


October 18, 2017 – The Department hosted the first meeting of its kind in Door County to discuss smallmouth bass management and issues. This meeting focused on an update the most recent smallmouth bass surveys around Door County. We also included a presentation on management around the Great Lakes for bass. We had a presentation on tournament rules 101, but that is not included here, please see the updated tournament presentation from the 2020 meeting.

Meeting notes [PDF]

Smallmouth bass in Sturgeon Bay [PDF]

Smallmouth bass in the Great Lakes [PDF]