Warming temperatures throughout Wisconsin this week should make for a great bite when the general inland fishing season gets underway on Saturday, May 7.
Justine Hasz, fisheries director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said spring survey work on lakes and rivers around Wisconsin indicates healthy fish populations and great opportunities for anglers based on the walleye, bass, northern pike, panfish, trout, muskies and even catfish netted and promptly released by fisheries crew members in recent days.
"Wisconsin remains among the top three angling destinations in the nation and for good reason," Hasz said. "Whether you prefer fly fishing, casting live bait, trolling or simply watching your bobber dip, our fisheries offer something for everyone."
While fishing is a passion for many, it is also an economic driver for the state, with an estimated 1.2 million anglers producing a $2.3 billion economic impact, according to the American Sportfishing Association. That impact becomes clear as tens of thousands of anglers take to Wisconsin's 15,000 lakes, rivers and 13,000 miles of trout streams for opening day.
Walleye continue to be an important target for anglers and since 2013, the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative has worked to rebuild and enhance walleye populations throughout the state. The fish that have been stocked should reach legal size over the next two to three years although some anglers have reported increased catch and release activity from the young fish.
In 2015, Wisconsin stocked 760,000 extended growth walleyes, eclipsing the 2014 record of 720,000. For 2016, DNR intends to stock some 827,000 of the six to eight inch fingerlings, including some 229,000 fish from private and tribal fish farms and 598,000 from DNR hatcheries.
The trout population continues to make gains throughout the state and this year anglers will find 14 streams with upgraded classifications as well as 27 that for the first time have been documented as sustaining trout populations. Six of the newly classified streams have earned the coveted Class 1 designation.
Also new for anglers in 2016 will be simplified trout regulations designed to create more uniformity for anglers who fish on different trout streams and within small geographic areas. Under the new system, maps online and in the regulation pamphlet will indicate one of three regulations:
- Green means go fish, with no length limit, a bag limit of five fish and no bait restrictions;
- Yellow means caution, with an 8 inch length limit, a bag limit of three fish and no bait restrictions; and
- Red means special regulations are in place. Anglers are advised to stop and understand the regulations before fishing.
Anglers targeting panfish also will find new, experimental bag limits to optimize panfish size on high potential lakes capable of producing large panfish. On these lakes, identified in the fishing regulations book, daily bag limits reflect efforts to limit harvest during spawning season or prevent overharvest of any one species.