In case you didn’t know already – Wisconsin is a freshwater angler’s dream. With thousands of Trout streams, more than 15,000 lakes, and ready access to Lakes Superior and Michigan, it’s a place for non-stop action if there ever was one. The only downside is that picking the perfect fishery out of all these might give you a headache. But when should you go fishing? In this article, we’ll walk you through the fishing seasons in Wisconsin and what’s biting when.
The short answer is that there’s no wrong time for fishing in the Badger State. You can have a great time whenever you visit, it’s only a matter of what you’re looking for. After all, there’s a reason why almost a quarter of adult Wisconsinites go fishing at least once a year! From conventional to fly and ice fishing, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite techniques and then some.
What to expect from fishing seasons in Wisconsin?
|Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)||Good||Good||Good||Good||Fair||Fair||Fair||Fair||Good||Great||Great||Good|
Judging from the table above, you can see that the absolute best fishing seasons in Wisconsin are spring and fall. That being said, every single month of the year has something going for it. Feel free to take a good look at all of them or jump straight to the one you’re most interested in.
The first Saturday in January is an important day in Wisconsin for one simple reason – it’s the beginning of the early inland Trout fishing season. Thousands of Class 1, 2, and 3 streams will open up across the state, with anglers rushing to make their first casts of the year. This is especially a treat for all you fly anglers out there. Just keep in mind that this early season is catch and release only.
But if you’re looking for a nice meal at the end of the day, ice fishing is a great alternative this time of year. The ice should be thick enough for comfortable fishing in most of the popular locations like Green Bay or Boom Lake, which is also known as the “Ice Fishing Capital of the World.” Expect plenty of Walleye there for all your fishing and culinary needs.
February is your last safe bet for some ice fishing. Apart from the places we already mentioned, be sure to give the Mississippi River a shot. There’s a diverse cast of fish to target here, including Pike and Walleye, plus Bluegill and a whole assortment of Panfish for you to enjoy with all the other bucket sitters.
If you want to kick things up a notch, we’d also recommend checking out the Sturgeon Spearing on Lake Winnebago. This is the biggest winter spear fishery in North America, with an average annual harvest of 1,400 Sturgeon. When you see your Sturgeon come in through that hole, there’s no feeling like it in the world – any Lake Winnebago regular will tell you as much.
As the ice starts to melt, you’ll see Lake Michigan’s tributaries opening up for business. The final refuge for ice fishing aficionados will be at the northern end of the state, where it’s still possible to drill some holes and jig for Panfish. Otherwise, most of the action will be happening east. And when the ice leaves Lake Superior, you’ll see trolling for Trout and Salmon starting off the Washburn and Bayfield landings.
While Steelhead and Brown Trout fishing is quite decent, the real winners now are Perch and Sauger. When going after Perch, you’ll want to pack bright flashy lures or bring live bait. As for Sauger, local anglers advise starting with vertical jigging and moving further upstream with crankbaits on a heavy line, especially if the going is slow.
We hope you’re ready for trophy-sized fish because the springtime peak season in Wisconsin is just around the corner! Everybody knows about DePere dam and the excellent Walleye action there come April. This is your best shot at a trophy Walleye, as long as you can fight through the crowd and find yourself a good spot. Then, all you have to do is get out your pink or orange jigs and get to work. Some other Walleye hotspots include Fox, Oconto, and Peshtigo River, as well as Green Bay.
Another development typical for April is rain which triggers fresh runs of Steelhead on Lake Michigan tributaries. This is every fly angler’s dream, and they’ll be going after them with a variety of large flies on sinking lines as soon as they can. By mid to late April you can expect their spawning run on the Wolf River and other big rivers in Wisconsin. But you also shouldn’t forget about Lake Sturgeon.
Walleye fishing is as strong as ever in May, especially in Green Bay and Lake Winnebago, so there’s no surprises there. The biggest change is that Bass fishing starts to pick up big time. The first Saturday of the month spells the big Largemouth opener up north. Smallmouth will be catch and release until the end of June, but you’re more than welcome to test your skills if that’s not a concern. This is when most people will head to their favorite stream, while some curious explorers branch out to cover new grounds, too.
It’s also the perfect time for a more relaxed fishing experience with the family. Perch, Crappie, and Bluegill are all active in the shallow, warm bays of bigger lakes. In and around places like Lake Winnebago, Perch love to congregate at weedy bays and small river mouths. If it’s been a slow start to spring, they may still be sluggish at first. On the other hand, Northern Pike will be on the prowl and actively feeding.
Compared to May, Wisconsin fishing in June is more of the same in the best possible way. Panfish and Bass fishing is on fire as these species continue moving into shallower waters to nest and spawn. This is the ideal time for sight fishing, which promises to be a blast as long as you don’t spook the fish. All the while you can marvel at the beautiful scenery and nature’s gifts around you.
A lot of anglers believe June is the best time for fishing in Lake Michigan. Warmer water levels mean the local Trout and Salmon populations will be more open to taking your bait. We’re talking big Coho and Chinook Salmon along with Lake and Rainbow Trout – how’s that for a productive day on the water?
July is the perfect time to talk a little about Muskellunge – Wisconsin’s very own state fish. Muskies are strong, fast, and stubborn, which is why they’re jokingly called the “fish of ten thousand casts.” They like clear and shallow waters, and you can find plenty of those at Big St. Germain, Boom, and Boulder Lakes, among others. Gear-wise, we recommend topwater lures and bucktails.
If Muskies aren’t your thing, that’s absolutely fine. Head out to the Great Lakes for some world-class Trout and Salmon trolling action. And of course, let’s not forget the fantastic Bass fishing this time of year. Summers in Wisconsin (especially up north) are on the short end, so you’ll want to make the most of it while it’s there!
August is similar to July in many ways. The Muskellunge bite is going strong and will continue in that stride for the next few months at least. As many as 100,000 of these beauties are caught here every year, so saying they’re popular is almost an understatement. Expect to see a lot of anglers trolling with spinner rigs along the shore.
The Walleye bite starts to drop off around this time, but you should still have decent luck in Lake Winnebago if you’re dead set on nabbing some. Otherwise, we’d suggest focusing your attention on Panfish and Bass instead. It gets really hot in August so an evening Bass trip is an excellent option to avoid the heat and treat yourself to a delicious dinner at the end of the day.
A lot of anglers think fall is the best fishing season in Wisconsin, and it’s easy to see why. It’s not just the fish, but the fact that there are generally fewer anglers around than in springtime. This means you can cover more ground with less hassle, and have a more relaxing time overall. To see this in action, start with the Steelhead and Brown Trout bite in Lake Michigan.
Another fun fall option is the Mississippi River. Get ready for huge Northern Pike all over its backwaters, sloughs, and side channels. They rely on their sight, so you’ll need to go after them during daylight for the best results. Besides Pike, you can also target Largemouth Bass and Bluegill. Just beware that it gets chilly out there, so be sure to dress in layers.
The inland Trout fishing season is usually over by this time, but should it be extended you’ll want to get on those streams while you still can! On the bright side, you can make the switch to top-notch Walleye fishing all over Wisconsin. The DNR ran the numbers and found that local anglers spend about 1.8 million hours going after this species every year. It’s as good a time as any to add your own contribution to that number.
By October, Muskies will head for deep water. Lakes of the Madison Chain are as productive as ever, especially Lake Monona and Lake Waubesa. Look for them in the weed lines and make sure you’re stocked up on bucktails and jerkbaits – you’re gonna need them. Start casting over the deep weeds and you could feel a Musky on your line in no time.
Sadly, Muskellunge season comes to an end on the last day of November. What better way to say your goodbyes than with a trip to some inland lakes or the Fox River? The tail end of the season still means great fishing, so don’t miss out!
Likewise, the Walleye bite in November is something you’ll want to see for yourself. Spend the evening on Lake Wisconsin and chances are it’ll be well worth the effort. Walleye tend to school up this time of year, so prepare for an action-packed time as you reel in one after another in quick succession.
Winter is coming, and so is thick ice on a lake near you. What better way to celebrate the end of the year than with ice fishing for a number of different Panfish and Trout? It’s not your typical Christmas dinner, but delicious all the same. Those of you fishing in the south should check out Devil’s Lake – the only inland fishery in southern Wisconsin where you can target Rainbow and Brown Trout under the ice.
If the southern lakes haven’t been covered by ice yet, you can still treat yourself to some Muskies. A lot of them will also be moving up the Wisconsin River, looking for staging areas where they can spend the winter. There’s no need to make big changes to your technique, jigs and minnows will continue to get the job done just as well.
Wisconsin Fishing Seasons: No Stops on This Train!
That about covers it for our overview of all the fishing seasons in Wisconsin. It’s easy to see why half a million people come from out of state every year. Who knows, you may just become one of them yourself soon enough. And if you happen to already be a proud Cheesehead, then we’ve hopefully given you some new ideas for a day on the water!
What’s your favorite fishing season in Wisconsin? Any tips or other noteworthy locations you’d like to share with our readers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!