$21.7 Million is spent annually to keep Wisconsin a great state to fish!

A guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line

[Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]
Summary of Major Regulations Changes for 1996-1997
Fishing License/Stamp Information
Quality Fishing Opportunities in Wisconsin
Available Fishing Publications
Regulations & Advisories
Inland Game Fish Factsheets
Fish Information
Fishing Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers
Fishing Information for Kids
Fisheries Management Information

Statewide Fishing Restrictions
Angling Methods and Lures
Seasons, Bag Limits, and Length Limit
Restricted Fishing Areas
General Information
Catch And Release
Establishing Residency
Frog, Crayfish, and Turtles
Health Advisory for Eating Fish
Ice Fishing
Indian Reservations
Lake Sturgeon Tags
Measuring Fish
Minnow Regulations
Motor Trolling
Public Access
Record Fish
Rough Fish
Tagged Fish
Urban Fish
Warden Fishing
Special Regulations for Polk County
Season, Length Limit, and Bag Limit Tables
General Inland Waters
Wisconsin- Minnesota Boundary Waters

**This is a summary of Wisconsin's fishing laws and regulations. For complete fishing laws and regulations, consult the Wisconsin Administrative Code of the Department of Natural Resources.

Summary of Major Regulations Changes for 1996-1997

Yellow Perch- The daily bag limit for Yellow Perch in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior has been reduced from 50 to 25. Yellow Perch fishing is prohibited in June on lake Michigan.

Other 1996 regulation changes of more local significance are listed in the section entitled Special Regulations-Listed by County and are italicized .

The regulations in this pamphlet are effective April 1, 1996 through March 31. 1997.

Fishing License/Stamp Information

Wisconsin residents who are 16 years old or older need a fishing license to fish in any water of the state except for taking smelt , rough fish, or minnows using nets, traps, and seines of legal size. (obtain a 1996 Wisconsin Spearing and Netting Regulation pamphlet for additional regulations). Residents need a fishing license to take rough fish by hand.
Nonresidents who are 16 or older need a nonresidents fishing license to fish in Wisconsin's waters with hook and line. Nonresidents also need a fishing license to take smelt, spear fish, or to take rough fish and minnows using nets and seines of legal size. Nonresidents not sell minnows or smelt. Nonresidents need a fishing license to take rough fish by hand.
Fishing license are sold at most DNR offices, all clerk desk offices, and at many bait shops, sporting goods stores, and marinas. All annual license are valid from April 1 through March 31. Groups of disabled persons on fishing excursions conducted by nonprofit organizations may not need fishing license. Contact the License Section, (608)266-2105.

Lost Fishing License/Stamps

If you lose your fishing license, you may obtain a duplicate for $5.00 at DNR and county clerk offices. Duplicate stamps are not available. Lost stamps will need to be replaced by purchasing a new stamp at full price.

Quality Fishing Opportunities in Wisconsin

Some Wisconsin lakes and rivers are for managed for quality fishing opportunities. Based on water productivity and fish growth potential, and facilitated by minimum length regulation, anglers fishing in these waters will have a good chance of catching a "quality" fish.
40'' minimum length limit

Available Fishing Publications

Visit a local DNR service center to pick up any of the free fishing literature listed below.
Regulations & Advisories: 
  Hook and Line Regulations                       FM-301 
  Trout Regulations                               FM-302 
  Spearing & Netting Regulations                  FM-304 
  Boating Regulations                             LE-301 
  Health guide to eating Sport Fish               IE-019 
  Wisconsin Fish Records Ruler                    FM-702 
  (Ruler adheres to your boat to measure your catch) 

Inland Game Fish Factsheets: 
  Lake Sturgeon                                   FM-704 
  Muskellunge                                     FM-705 
  Bullheads                                       FM-706 
  Northern Pike                                   FM-707 
  Walleye                                         FM-708 
  Large Mouth Bass                                FM-709 
  Yellow Perch                                    FM-710 
  Bulegill                                        FM-711 
  Crappies                                        FM-712 
  Catfish                                         FM-713 
  Pumpkinseed                                     FM-714 

Fish Information: 
  Filleting Northern Pike                         FM-401 
  How to skin Bullheads                           FM-412 
  Identification of Muskellunge & Northern Pike   FM-503 
  Sturgeon Sketchbook                             FM-801 
  Watch Out!! (Guide to WI Fish Hatcheries)       FM-815 

Fishing Wisconsin Lakes and Rivers: 
  Wisconsin Fishing Poster                        FM-204 
  Wisconsin Lakes Bulletin                        FM-800 
  Wisconsin, A Great State to Fish                FM-744 
    (Inland Lakes and Fisheries) 
  Ice Fishing-What to know before you go.         FM-751 
  Fishing and Boating on the Mississippi River    FM-745 
  Fishing & Boating, Access For Everyone          FM-757 
  Guide to Wisconsin Aquatic Plants               WR-173 

Fishing Information for Kids: 
  These Are fish... Sometimes they Bite           FM-741 
  Watch Me Grow (child's growth poster)           FM-742 
  Catch'n' Color Coloring Poster                  FM-743 
  Fishing for Fun, Fishing for the Future         FM-754 

Fisheries Management Information: 
  Sport Fish Restoration Pamphlet                 FM-748 
  WI Fishing & Boating Investment Report          FM-749 
  DNR Fish & Wildlife Update Newspaper 

Statewide Fishing Restrictions

It is illegal---
Angling Methods and Lures
Seasons, Bag Limits, and Length Limit
Restricted Fishing Areas

Northern Pike

For Polk County May 4 to March 1 the minimum length of Northern Pike is 14" with a daily bag limit of 5.

General Information

Catch And Release
Fish you wish to release, and fish less than the legal minimum length limit, should be handled carefully with wet hands and played as little as possible. When fish are deeply-hooked, cut the line as closely to the hook as possible and let the fish go.

People who wish to gather more than 50 pounds of clams a day or buy or sell any commercial clamming regulations. For information on these regulations, call or write DNR's Bureau of Fisheries Management, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, (608) 266-1877.

Establishing Residency
You are eligible to obtain a resident license if:

Frog, Crayfish, and Turtles
A fishing or small game license is required to take these species. See separate 1996 Wisconsin Spearing and Netting Regulations pamphlet for open seasons, possession limits, and other restrictions.

Health Advisory for Eating Fish
Fish from most Wisconsin lakes and streams are clean and provide a healthy choice for one's diet.

However, there are some waters where fish contain contaminants that may be harmful to your health.
For public health protection, the DNR routinely monitors chemicals in fish collected from water located throughout Wisconsin. After consulting the Division of Health, this state issued an update fish contaminant advisory each year.

Precautions recommended in the advisory range from advice to remove fat and skin before cooking and eating some fish, to a strong statement advising that you not eat certain fish. Generally, the advice is aimed at protecting children under 18 (including infants), women in their childbearing years, and women who are nursing infants.

For a free copy of a list of waters with fish consumption advisories, contact any DNR office or write to or call: WDNR, Bureau of Fisheries Management, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, (608) 266-1877.

Ice Fishing

Fishing holes cut through the ice must be measure no more than 12 inches across. The doors of enclosed fishing shelters must be readily open from outside while occupied; they may be locked while not in use. The shelter owner's name and address must be permanently attached to the outside of the shelter. Each letter must be at least one inch square in size and and kept legible at all times. After the date for removing shelters from the ice, you may continue to use a portable shelter, but you must remove it when it is not occupied.

All ice fishing shelters must be completely removed from:
Indian Reservations

Indian reservations in Wisconsin are governed by a unique blend of federal, state, and tribal laws. You should find out about current tribal policies for natural resources use at each headquarters before entering a reservation to hunt or fish. Failure to do so may place you in conflict with the law and subject you to enforcement action.

Lake Sturgeon Tags

If you fish for lake sturgeon with hook and line, you must first obtain a free tag. You are allowed one tag for inland waters. After you catch a lake sturgeon of legal length that you wish to keep, immediately attach your tag to the fish, just in front of the sturgeon tail, then register your catch at the DNR registration station no later than 6p.m. the day after you caught the fish.

Measuring Fish

Fish must be measured in a straight line from the tip of his snout to the end of the compressed tail.

Minnow Regulations

It is illegal for anyone to possess more than 600 minnows except licensed bait dealers and residents younger than 16 years of age. It is also illegal for nonresidents to sell minnows, frogs, or craytfish as bait. Residents more than 16 years old must have a bait dealer's license to sell minnows, frogs, or crayfish for bait. Residents under 16 years old can possess no more than 5,000 of species and sell less than $500 dollars worth annually without a bait dealers license. Unless you have a permit from the DNR, you may not use minnows seines or minnow dip nets of any type or description in inland trout streams or tributary spring ponds. During the open trout season, people who do not possess a bait dealers license can't use more than three minnows traps to remove minnows from trout streams.

Bait minnows may be taken, where allowed, by the following methods only:
Motor Trolling

"Motor trolling" is trailing a lure, bait, or similar device used to attach or catch fish from a boat while being propelled (forward or back) by a motor or a sail or while being towed by a boat being propelled by a motor or a sail. Motor trolling is illegal except in same counties and waters as listed in the section titled Special Regulations for Polk County. Casting and immediate retrieval of a bait or lure while positioning a boat is not trolling. "Backtrolling" is only legal; in waters where motor trolling is allowed. "Position fishing" is fishing from a boat where the fishing line extends vertically into water while the boat is maneuvered (forward or back) by a motor used to position the boat over underwater structure. Position fishing is allowed statewide in all waters.

Public Access

Many public fishing piers and boarding docks are now wheelchair-accessible. To receive information regarding barrier-free public access sites on Wisconsin waters, contact your nearest DNR service center. Each service center has a copy of Fishing and Boating, Access for Everyone. Copies of individual location maps with descriptions of the amenities available at that site can be provided for you. This information may be especially useful for anglers with disabilities and other looking for good shorefishing opportunities.

Record Fish

If you think you or someone else has caught that may be state record, here's what to do:
Rough Fish

Suckers, redhorse, carp, and other rough fish may be taken by hook and line or by hand. (See separate 1996 Spearing and Netting Regulations pamphlet).

Tagged Fish

DNR fisheries biologists attach tags to many fish for research purposes. If you catch a tagged fish, please notify the nearest DNR office with the tag number, when and where the fish was caught, it's length, and its weight. If you keep the fish, send in the tag; if you release it, leave the tag on the fish but be sure to record the tag number. Your help will make fishing in Wisconsin even better!

Urban Fish

Urban waters are small lakes and ponds which are intensively and cooperatively managed with a municipality. They are posted with signs and have a large part of the shoreline open for public access. Counties that have urban waters are mentioned in the Special Regulations for Polk County. A complete list of waters is available from the Southeast District office. All urban waters are open all year with no length limits. There is a daily bag limit of 1 gamefish (largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, sauger, and northern pike) and 10 panfish (bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, and bullhead). For more information, call the Urban Fishing Hotline (414) 163-8484 or (414) 263-8614.

Warden Fishing

Conservation wardens performing their duties may enter private land at any time. Wardens may also seize as evidence all fish taken or possessed in violation of the law, and any equipment used in connection with a violation.

Special Regulations for Polk County

Polk County is in the ceded territory. Motor trolling is permitted county wide.

Season, Length Limit, and Bag Limit Tables

For theses Tables you may need to widen your screen.
General Inland Waters

FISH                               OPEN             DAILY              MINIMUM 
SPECIES                           SEASON            LIMIT              LENGTH
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass Inland Waters May 4-March 1 5 of each 14 inches Northern Zone May 4-June 21 0 (catch & release) June 22- March 1 5 of each 12 inches Rock, Yellow (striped) and White Bass Open all year none none Bulegill, Pumpkinseed (sunfish) Crappie and yellow perch Open all year 50 in total none Bullheads and rough fish Open all year none none Catfish Open all year 10 none Cisco and whitefish Open all year 25 pounds plus one none more fish of either species in total Muskellunge (including Hybrids) Inland waters north of May 25-Nov. 30 1 34 inches HWY 10 Northern pike Inland waters May 4-March1 5 none Paddlefish (spoonbill catdish) CLOSED all year-no fishing for paddlefish. Ruffe, White Perch CLOSED all year-none may be possessed. Lake sturgeon ST. Croix R., from Upper CLOSED all year-no fishing for lake sturgeon. St. Croix Lake to NOTE: Spearing lake sturgeon through the ice may Minnesota by allowed on on this water.See 1996 Spearing and Netting Regulations for more information. Shovelnose sturgeon Inland waters Open all year 25 none Walleye and sturger May 4-March 1 5 in total 15 inches (including Hybrids)

Wisconsin- Minnesota Boundary Waters

Applies to the stretch of the Mississippi River shared by Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Pepin and Lake St. Croix; the St. Croix River from Burlington Northern railroad bridge at Prescott north to the point where the river is no longer a boundary between Wisconsin and Minnesota; and the St. Louis River, including St. Louis Bay and Superior Bay.
Fishing Restrictions on Wisconsin-Minnesota Boundary Waters
FISH                               OPEN              DAILY            MINIMUM 
SPECIES                           SEASON             LIMIT            LENGTH
Species not listed are governed by inland regulations
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass
     St. Louis R. and St. Croix       May 25-March 1        5 in total           12 inches
     upstream from Hwy 70 
     St.Croix. from Hwy 70            May 25-March 1        5 in total           14 inches
     downstream to Hwy 10 at 
     Mississippi R.                   Open all year         5 in total           14 inches

     St. Louis R. and the St.         Open all year         10 in total          none 
     Croix R. downstream to Hwy.   
     10 at prescott
     Mississippi R.                   Open all year         25 in total          none

Muskellunge (including Hybirds)
     St. Louis R., St. Croix R        May 25-March 1        1                    36 inches
     and Mississippi R. Below 

Northern pike
     St. Croix R. Downstream          May 4-March 1         5                     none
     to Hwy 10 at prescott
     Mississippi R.                   Open all year         5                     none
     St. Louis R.                     May 11-March 1        2                     none

Yellow perch, rock bass,              Open all year         25 of each            none
     and crappie

Bluegill,and pumpkinseed              Open all year         25 of total           none

White bass and yellow bass            Open all year         25 of total           none

Lake Sturgeon (if taken with 
hook and line it must be tagged 
and registered. More info.)
     Mississippi R, St Louis R,         CLOSED ALL YEAR
     and St Croix R upstream from 
     St. Croix Falls
     St. Croix downstream             Sept 7-Oct 15         1 per person          50 inches
     form St. Croix Falls

Shovelnose sturgeon
     All Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary CLOSED all year
     waters above the Red Wing Dam on
     the Mississippi R, St. Louis R, 
     and St. Croix R.
     All Wisconsin-Minnesota boundary  Open all year        10                     none
     waters below the Red Wing Dam on
     the Mississippi R.

Walleye and sturger
     St Croix R downstream to Hwy 10    May 4-March 1       6 in total             none for sauger;
     at prescott                                                                   15 inches for walleye
     St. Louis R.                       May 11-March 1      2 in total             none for sauger;
                                                                                   15 inches for walleye
     Mississippi R. downstream from     Open all year       6 in total             none for sauger;
     Red Wing Dam                                                                  15 inches for walleye

Ruffe, White Perch                    CLOSED all year-none may be possessed.

Trout and salmon---see trout regulations pamphlet.

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