Fishing in Wisconsin

How Much Is a Fishing License in Wisconsin? (Regulations and More)

Wisconsin has one of the countries highest concentration of natural lakes. With more than 43,000 miles of river and 15,000 lakes, this state has the making of a great fishing destination. My last visit to Vilas County in 2015 left me speechless and yearning for more. After all, I didn’t have enough time to explore the over 1,300 lakes in the region.

Vilas County is one of the American counties with the most lakes. During my visit to Wisconsin, I caught some of the biggest largemouth bass (4 to 5 pounds). Compared to most places, you are likely to catch a trophy bass at Vilas County.

How to use poppers to catch bass
How to use poppers to catch bass

Unfortunately, accessing some largemouth lakes is more of an issue than catching a trophy bass. Therefore, the idea of kayak fishing has made me add Wisconsin waters to my bucket list. And being an outdoors person, combining the two things I love while on holiday is intriguing. So after doing thorough research, I compiled the following article on the cost of Wisconsin fishing licenses and more.

  • Resident annual fishing license: $20.00
  • Non-resident annual fishing license: $50.00
  • Resident Junior fishing license (16-17 years): $7.00
  • Resident senior citizen (over 65 years): $7.00
  • Non-resident 1-day fishing license: $10.00

Here’s a link to the Wisconsin website to learn more about these licenses.

Guide Tip: Download these two FREE PDFs to your phone. They’re the fishing regulations for Wisconsin πŸ‘‡
Wisconsin Hook and Line Regulations PDF
Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations PDF

Does Wisconsin Have Free Fishing?

Yes, Wisconsin has two free fishing weekends, generally held on the first weekend of June and the third weekend of January. The following free fishing weekend will be June 3 and 4, 2023. So if you missed the January event, you should mark the June weekend on your calendar and prepare your fishing gear for a unique fishing experience. (source)

Can Non-residents Fish for Free on Free Fishing Days?

Yes, during the free fishing weekends, residents and non-residents can fish without salmon/trout stamps or a fishing license. (source) They need one to free on a pond on private property.

Types of Fishing License in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, everyone over 16 needs a license to fish in all the state-managed water bodies. Fortunately, the state has permits for different age groups, persons with disabilities, and military personnel numbers. Therefore, when applying for a license, you’ll require social security, mainly when opening your account and purchasing your first license.

So before we talk about the exact price of each license, we need to elaborate more on the different types of fishing licenses for both residents and non-residents. Some of these licenses include:

Resident Fishing License

As residents, you’ll need a license and some permits to take fish by line, hook or hand; and this doesn’t exclude spearfishing. So depending on your needs and schedule, you can purchase an annual, resident combo, junior sport, and one-day fishing licenses. And to encourage fishing, all the first-time buyers and those who haven’t bought one in a decade can get a resident’s license at a reduced price.

A legally married couple can apply for the resident combination license at $31.00. On the other hand, the Junior resident licenses are ideal for kids between 16 and 17 years old. Kids below 16 don’t need a permit to fish, but they need to be in the company of an experienced adult with a fishing license.

Another special license found in Wisconsin is the resident reduced-rate license. This license is ideal for anglers between 16 and 17 years and over 65 years old seniors. And if you were born before 1927, you qualify to fish without a license. (source)

Resident Conservation Patron Licenses

This permit was designed to be a perfect substitution for stamp privileges and separate licenses for annual salmon fishing, Great Lake trout, inland trout fishing, and annual fishing. With the conservation patron license, you can also hunt deer, pheasant, small game, and waterfowl. You will also get an admission sticker for the state trails, forests, and parks and a year subscription to the Natural Resources magazine.

With this license, you can fish and hunt all year round using various hunting and fishing techniques. Plus, you won’t need to carry several licenses and permits every time you explore the outdoors. And in a way, it can help you save money in the long run.

Non-resident Fishing Licenses

For non-residents over 16 years old, the state requires you to have a non-resident fishing license to fish with lines and hooks. You’ll also need a license to spearfish where it is legal or catch fish by line, hook, or hand. All non-residents, irrespective of age, require a license to catch spearfish, smelt, or take minnows using traps and nets. Unfortunately, non-residents can’t sell smelt and minnows even with a fishing license. 

If you’re visiting the region for a few days, you can purchase the 1-day, 4-day, or 15-day non-resident fishing licenses. You can even get a single 15-day family license for the entire family at $40.00. Remember, the family license includes kids between 16 and 17 years old, so everyone can have fun using the family license when traveling with their kids. Remember, it includes your kids and not your grandchildren around the same age. 

A beautiful brown trout fly fishing
A beautiful brown trout fly fishing

The Great Lake Trout and Salmon/Inland Trout Stamp Privileges

If you plan to fish trout or salmon in the inland water bodies, you’ll need this stamp and a fishing license. The inland waters include all the streams flowing to Superior Lake. You’ll need the Great Lake stamp to cast your line in the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, and Green Bay. (source)

Sturgeon Harvest Tag

Anglers who plan on exploring Sturgeon, irrespective of their physical needs or age, need a fishing license and WI/MI border water tag or an inland tag. The inland tag lets you harvest sturgeon in the Great Lakes. On the other hand, the WI/MI border water tag enables you to explore River Menominee for sturgeon.

Type of licenseResidentNon-resident
Annual fishing license$20.00$50.00
First-time buyer$5.00$25.75
Fishing 1-day license$8.00$10.00
Junior fishing license (16 and 17 years)$7.00N/A
Senior citizen fishing license (over 65 years)$7.00N/A
Fishing, spousal license$31.00N/A
Inland trout stamp$10.00$10.00
Great Lake Trout/ Salmon stamp$10.00$10.00
2-day Great Lake Fishing$14.00$14.00
20 day inland Lake Trout fishing$14.00 
Fishing family annual, including children 16 and 17 yearsN/A$65.00
Fishing 4-day licenseN/A$24.00
Fishing 15-day licenseN/A$40.00

Where Can I Buy a Fishing License in Wisconsin?

Ice fishing in Wisconsin
Ice fishing in Wisconsin

Like the other American states, Wisconsin has created three ways for anglers to purchase a fishing license. First and foremost, you can purchase your license online through their GoWild platform. If you’re purchasing it for the first time, you will need your social security number and photo ID. But if you already have an account, you can log in and make a purchase using your Visa or MasterCard.

If you’re already in Wisconsin, you can get your license from hundreds of authorized license agents. Finding a list of the license agents in your area on their official website is simple. All you have to do is search for the agents in your hometown, find out if they’re open, and go and purchase your license.

Another option is visiting the DNR service center locations and purchasing your license. These DNR service locations are usually open between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM (Monday to Friday). If you’re in Madison, you can visit their offices downtown and purchase your license. 

How Much Is a Wisconsin Fishing License at Walmart?

The price of the licenses at Walmart is the same as at the DNR offices, but you may have to pay a small processing fee.

Where Can I Get the Fishing Regulations in Wisconsin?

Every state has fishing rules and regulations to follow when exploring state-operated waters. They can help you pick the right fishing spots and avoid unnecessary fines and jail terms. Fortunately, you can find this document online by clicking here.

Guide Pro Tip: I’d recommend you “Bookmark” the regulations page at the Wisconsin DNR website. Here’s a shortcut link to get there πŸ‘‰ Wisconsin Fishing Regulations Page

What Is the Fishing License Age Requirement for Wisconsin?

Generally, anyone over 16 years old must purchase a fishing license if they plan on fishing in any of Wisconsin’s state-operated waters. Kids under 16 years don’t require a license to fish in this state. The junior fishing licenses are for kids aged 16 and 17 years old. The adult fishing license is for anglers between 18 and 65 years old. 

When Do Wisconsin Fishing Licenses Expire?

All the annual fishing licenses last for 12 months. They are valid from April 1 to March 31 next year. Therefore, the best time to purchase annual fishing licenses in this state is in April. On the other hand, the short-term licenses have set deadlines; plus, you can get an extension if you wish to continue exploring the Wisconsin waters. (source)

Can You Fish Without a License in Wisconsin?

Other than during the free fishing days, everyone over 16 years old needs a license to fish in Wisconsin. Some people who can fish for free in Wisconsin are kids below 16 years old. The resident armed forces are also allowed to fish for free, but they must exhibit proof that they’re still in active service.

Can You Fish on Private Property Without a License?

Yes, but residents don’t need a fishing license to fish in ponds that are self-contained waterbodies situated entirely on private properties. But they must get permission from the owner and adhere to the set rules if they don’t want to face a lawsuit for trespassing.

World Record Bluegill
World Record Bluegill

What Is the Fine for Fishing Without a License in Wisconsin?   

Fishing without a license is considered a misdemeanor, and the most you can ever pay in fines if you’re a first offender is $1,000. If caught fishing without a license for the second time, you can face a maximum of $2,000. Second-time offenders can even face imprisonment for not more than 90 days. (10)

What Is the Fishing Season in Wisconsin?

Generally, Wisconsin divides into Southern and Northern zone, so before visiting the region, you should find out the fishing seasons of the different fish species. Remember, general fishing is open all year round, so you’re bound to get a place to fish every time you visit Wisconsin. But if you love chasing certain fish species, you must research which species is open at any time of the year.

Catching Bass
Catching Bass

Bass Fishing Season

The bass management zone in Wisconsin has rules that apply to Green Bay and Lake Michigan and their branches.

In the northern zone, the largemouth bass fishing season starts on May 7 and ends on March 5, 2023. During the open season, you’re allowed a possession limit of 5 fish about 14″ long.

Smallmouth bass fishing season in the Northern zone is between June 18 and March 15, 2023. You will also be allowed a bag limit of about 5 14″ smallmouth bass. During the other times, you can only catch and release these species.

In the southern zone, the fishing season for smallmouth and largemouth bass is usually from May 7 to March 5, 2023. But you’ll only be allowed a combined bag limit of 5, and they must be about 14″ long. During the other times, anglers are only allowed to practice catch and release.

Northern Pike and Muskellunge Fishing Season

Highway 10 splits Wisconsin into a southern and northern management zone for northern pikes and muskellunge fishing.

Huge Pike caught fishing
Huge Pike caught fishing

In the northern zone, the muskellunge season starts on May 23 to December 31. And during that time, you’ll be required to keep only one fish, at least 40″. The northern pike season is between May 7 and March 5, 2023. During the open season, anglers have a bag limit of 5.

In the southern zone, the muskellunge season is between May 2 and December 31; (source) plus, you’re only allowed to keep a bag limit of 1. On the other hand, the northern pike’s fishing season is from May 2 to March 7, and you can only keep two fish per fishing session.

Fish speciesOpening dateClosed date
Early inland troutJanuary 1May 6
General inland fishingMay 7March 5
General inland troutMay 7October 15
Northern zone: Smallmouth bass: Largemouth bass:  June 18 May 7  March 5 March 5
Musky: Southern zone: Northern zone:  May 7 May 28  December 31 December 31
Northern pikeMay 7March 5
WalleyeMay 7March 5

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Find Fish in Wisconsin?

The Badger State is home to two of the largest water bodies in the United States that guarantee anglers a perfect fishing experience. If the Mighty Mississippi River and the Great Lakes aren’t enough, then you should try their 2,500 trout streams. The vast amount of water bodies is enough to attract anyone to this state. It’s believed that over 25% of the residents are anglers, so here are some of the best places to fish in Wisconsin:

Lake Michigan

If you love freshwater fishing, you must have dreamt of casting your line into Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan offers hundreds of miles long shoreline that is easy to access. But if you want something to bite your line every time you cast your line, then you should try fishing at Milwaukee. From here, you can catch brown or lake trout and some Chinook salmon come summer. You can also explore Lake Michigan from Racine, Sheboygan, or Kenosha.

Lake Superior

Another Great Lake that you have to explore when here is Lake Superior. Lake Superior is a great spot for everyone exploring the Great Lakes for the first time, but the locals love it. Lake Superior is the best place to fish for salmon, trout, and walleye, among other highly prized fish species. On top of that, the St. Louis River that flows into this lake creates great spawning water for walleye.

Green Bay

If you think Lake Michigan is fertile, you should try Green Bay. Green Bay is home to some exciting colossal species. You can find brown trout at the Marinette and bass, salmon, and trout at the Fox River’s mouth. The rest of the bay has plenty of smallmouth bass, pike, musky, walleye, and perch.

For more details on where to fish in Wisconsin, click here.

Guide Pro Tip: Are you into Fly Fishing? Wisconsin is amazing for casting a fly. Check out my “Where to Go Guide” πŸ‘‰ Best Places to Fly Fish in Wisconsin

Can I Fish at Night in Wisconsin?

Provided you can easily access the state-operated water body at night. There is no law against you fishing at night. But you have to ensure that you’re well equipped for night fishing, which means better visibility and warm dressing. Remember, fishing at dawn and before dusk gives you an excellent opportunity to catch a trophy fish. After all, most species are active a few hours after sunset and at sunrise.

How Many Fishing Poles Can I Have in Wisconsin?

If each line has a single bait, you can fish with a maximum of three poles at any given point. But if you use more than one bait per line, you’ll have to use fewer lines to lure your catch. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not permitted to use more poles like other American states.

Do You Need a Fishing License in Wisconsin if You’re Over 65 Years Old?

Yes, anyone over 65 years needs a license to fish in Wisconsin. The state has a senior citizen annual fishing license for residents for $7. On the other hand, non-residents need to purchase the standard non-resident annual fishing license.

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:

Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


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