WI: Early catch and release trout season opens March 5

These are the good old days of fishing: anglers venturing out
for the early catch-and-release trout season that opens March 5
should generally find more fish and more miles to fish than in the
past 60 years.

“Trout abundance is at or near all-time highs on most waters in
western Wisconsin,” says Heath Benike, fish manager for Barron and
Polk counties. “Several good year classes are recruiting into area
trout fisheries and fishing should be good to excellent on many
local waters.”

Fish managers across the state are echoing his assessment, and
now, a new UW-Stevens Point analysis backs that up: Trout
populations have generally increased statewide, and the number of
fish in all sizes examined have increased, since 1950.

And the state has more miles of trout streams to enjoy: 10,631
miles of trout streams, up from 9,562 in 1980, although not all of
them are open for the early season.

“The biggest factor this early season will be anglers’ ability
to get to the streams with the large amount of snow present in
western Wisconsin, but anglers should not get discouraged,” Benike

Until the snow melts, anglers should focus their efforts during
the warmest part of the day, usually around noon to 4 p.m. when
water temperatures are higher and trout are most active. “After the
snow has melted, trout activity will increase considerably and in
mid-late April some of the biggest trout of the season are caught
as the fish become more active and aggressive,” he says.

Season details

The early catch-and-release trout season opens at 5 a.m. on
March 5 and runs until midnight May 1. Most trout streams are open
to early fishing with the exception of most Lake Superior
tributaries and most streams in northeast Wisconsin; check the
current trout fishing regulations pamphlet for specific waters.
Anglers are required to use artificial lures and flies; barbless
hooks are not required.

More trout waters to fish

Wisconsin’s official list of classified trout streams was
updated last year and contains 58 more streams that have been
classified as trout waters since 2002. Most of those 260 miles are
found in west central and southern Wisconsin counties and will be
open for the early season.

Online maps and interactive maps will make all of the trout
waters easier to find and provide other information to increase
anglers’ success. The maps, along with other information to help
you find easy public access to trout waters and some new places to
fish, are available on DNR’s Early Trout Season web page.

Public lands provide easy access

To help provide easy access to trout streams and to protect
critical trout habitat areas, the DNR has invested in acquiring
property and securing permanent easements. Statewide, land
acquisitions have protected more than 107,000 acres of sensitive
fish habitat areas since 1960, the vast majority of them for trout.
DNR also has secured permanent easements along nearly 13,000 acres,
a cheap and effective way to protect critical habitat and provide
fishing access because the property stays in private hands.

Find these public fishery areas online on the DNR Fisheries
Areas web pages.

See all DNR publicly owned lands, easements on private lands
allowing for public access, and trout stream classifications by
using interactive maps on the DNR Managed Lands web pages:
http://dnrmaps.wi.gov/DNRManagedLands/. From the “More” drop-down
menu, check “DNR recreational lands” and from the “tools” drop-down
menu, check “legend.”

Stream access rules on private lands

Trout anglers are reminded to follow Wisconsin’s law when
fishing public streams on private property. That law is
essentially, “keep your feet wet.”

Navigability determines whether a water is public or private and
navigable streams are public waters. Because navigable waters are
public, they may be used for fishing, provided public access is
available, or provide you have permission of the landowner to cross
their property to reach the water.

Anglers may use any exposed shore area of a stream without the
permission of the riparian (i.e., landowner) only if it is
necessary to exit the body of water to bypass an obstruction. In
addition, a member of the public may not enter the exposed shore
area except:

from the water,

from a point of public access on the stream, or

with the permission of the riparian (i.e., landowner).

Obstructions could consist of trees or rocks, shallow water for
boaters or deep water for wading trout anglers. The bypass should
be by the shortest possible route.


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