Getting a Wisconsin Fishing License: A Quick Guide
May 4, 2020 | 5 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Home to two of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, it’s no wonder that 25% of Wisconsin residents love to spend their time fishing. With over 2,500 Trout Streams, there’s certainly no shortage of delicious fish to go after! This helpful guide will tell you everything you need to know to get your Wisconsin fishing license before getting out on the water.

Quick View: Wisconsin Fishing Requirements

Before you step aboard a Wisconsin fishing boat, you’ll need to get your hands on a Wisconsin fishing license. Your license will be valid in any body of water in the state, so there’s no need to worry there. But – and there’s always a but – you may need a certain stamp depending on what you’re targeting.

Graphic outlining the different licenses required for fishing in Wisconsin, including a map of the state and a description of the fish that require an additional stamp to harvest.

If you’re going after Salmon or Trout in either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, you’ll need a special permit. The Great Lakes Salmon and Trout stamp will allow you to fish either lake and take home these delicious species.

Inland, you may also require a separate permit. Wherever you go after Trout, you’ll have to carry with you an “Inland Trout Stamp.” Going after Sturgeon in any of the state’s freshwater lakes or rivers will also require a separate stamp.

Who needs a Wisconsin fishing license?

Everyone over the age of 16 needs a license to catch fish in Wisconsin. This applies to state residents as well as visiting anglers, and you’ll need to apply for a different license depending on your residency. Don’t worry, though, the process is exactly the same. Read on to find out what you need to do.

A resident is considered to be anyone who has lived continually in the state for the last six months or longer. You can prove this through your social security number, state-issued driver’s license, proof of earnings, or utility bills, among more.

Your license will be valid across the state, on all freshwater rivers and lakes. However, if you want to go after Salmon in the Great Lakes, or Sturgeon or Trout anywhere in the state, you’ll need to purchase a separate stamp confirming your right to take home something delicious.

Who doesn’t need a fishing license?

You may be eligible for a free fishing license if you:

  • Were born before 1927;
  • Are an active duty military member who is a Wisconsin resident visiting home on furlough or leave.

Disabled residents and veterans may also apply for a discounted fishing license. If you are a disabled resident, you can apply for a $7 annual fishing license. While disabled resident veterans are eligible for a $3 license.

If you qualify for any of the above, make sure to bring evidence of your status as a resident and of your disability when making a claim.

What if I fish without a license?

Fishing without a valid Wisconsin fishing license carries a penalty of at least $100. Fines vary from county to county, but you can expect to pay a hefty sum for breaking the rules. Follow the instructions here and you’ll have no trouble!

How much is a Wisconsin fishing license?

There’s a range of different fishing licenses to choose from, depending on how avid an angler you are. The options differ from residents to non-residents. Wisconsin natives will be able to take advantage of the scaling price range, with discounts for youth and senior citizens. One-day and two-day permits are available, as well as annual packages for residents.

Table showing the cost of a Wisconsin fishing license for residents of the state, from $7 for 16-17 year olds to $20 for adults.

If you’re from out of state, you’ll have a wider range of packages to choose from. Catering to the tourist market, the Wisconsin DNR offers the same packages available to residents with the addition of a 4-day and 15-day fishing license.

Prices for non-resident licenses are more expensive than for residents, and there are no discounts for people of different ages. However, parents with children aged 16 and 17 can take advantage of the annual family package for $65. This will allow two parents and up to two children to fish throughout the year.

Table showing the cost of a Wisconsin fishing license for non-residents, starting from 1-day licences at $10 to annual licenses for $50.

Any angler fishing any of Wisconsin’s freshwater rivers or lakes for the first time will be able to apply for a special 1st-Time Annual License. This applies to anyone who hasn’t held a Wisconsin fishing license in the last 10 years. With over 50% off for both residents and non-residents, everyone can benefit from this generous offer!

What about fishing stamps?

If you want to take certain species out of the water and home with you in Wisconsin, you’ll have to apply for a fishing stamp. In the Great Lakes, you’ll need a special permit to harvest Trout and Salmon, while going after any Trout inshore will require a separate stamp, along with Sturgeon.

Graphic showing the cost of a Great Lake Salmon and Trout stamp for residents and non-residents, along with the difference in price for Sturgeon spearing and catching on a hook and line.

While a Great Lakes and inland Trout permit will set you back $10 regardless of where you’re from, a Sturgeon stamp can cost non-residents up to $45 more than residents!

The process of obtaining a stamp is the same as getting a license. Apply at the same time with your social security number at hand and a form of ID, and you’re ready to get out on the water.

So where can I get my Wisconsin fishing license and stamp?

You can buy your license directly from the Wisconsin DFW online. Their Go Wild web page allows you to sign up without having to leave home. Sign up with your social security number and print your license as soon as you pay.

If you’ve forgotten to pick up your license online, or just prefer face-to-face interaction, there’s a store around the corner for you. You can pick up your fishing license in a number of hardware stores, tackle shops, Walmart, and many more locations all across the state.

You can even pick up your Wisconsin fishing license in neighboring Illinois or Minnesota.

Can I use my Wisconsin fishing license in other states?

Wisconsin has entered into reciprocal agreements with some of its neighbors concerning fishing licenses. When fishing the border waters of Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota, non-residents may hold a license for either state and fish the other’s waters.

Residents must always hold a license from the state they are from, but may still cross into another state’s waters. Be careful, though, as you must always adhere to size and bag regulations in whichever state you’re fishing. For example, a Michigan-licensed angler would have to obtain a Salmon stamp if they wanted to catch Salmon.

No other agreements have been reached with other states that border Wisconsin on the water, including Canada. It is advisable to purchase a license from whichever state you plan on fishing in.

When is Wisconsin’s free fishing weekend?

Twice a year, you’ll be able to fish Wisconsin’s rich waters without any restrictions. On the third full weekend of January and the first weekend of June, licenses and stamps are not needed to go fishing. Make the most of these limited days and save your money, all the while enjoying some thrilling fishing!

All other regulations still apply, however, including length and bag limits.

What happens if I lose my Wisconsin fishing license?

You can always re-print your Wisconsin fishing license. Every angler in the state will be given a fishing license number. Keep this at hand and log into the same portal from which you can buy a license and re-print your fishing license. There’s nothing to worry about and no additional fee, get back on the fish right away!

And that’s it. You’re ready to go fishing on all of Wisconsin’s wonderful waters. Let us know in the comments if you have any experiences of fishing in Wisconsin, or if you have any questions.

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Comments (22)
  • Thomas Wilke

    Jul 21, 2019

    How can I use the number on my license to reprint it when my billfold was stolen and I don’t know the number………thanks

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      Rhys

      Jul 22, 2019

      Hi Thomas,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost your license. In case you don’t have the license number at hand, you’ll have to visit a DNR Service Center or any license store. As your details will be in the system, bring some ID along with you and you can request a reprint. This service is free at a DNR Service Center and will cost you $2 at a license-selling store. I hope this helps.

      Good luck!

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  • billie

    Sep 14, 2019

    I do not have a drivers license but I am a resident and have a Wisconsin issued state ID am I able to still get a fishing license?

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      Rhys

      Sep 17, 2019

      Hi Billie,

      Thanks for reading the post. Any Wisconsin state-issued ID is accepted as a form of identification, so you should have no trouble getting a fishing license.

      Good luck!

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  • Bub

    Oct 18, 2019

    I have a home and property in Wisconsin. Can I apply for a resident permit?

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      Rhys

      Oct 21, 2019

      Hi Bub,

      Thanks for the question! As a home-owner in Wisconsin, you should be able to prove your residence with the deeds or similar documents, meaning you should be fine for a resident fishing license!

      Good luck!

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  • Charles tabor

    Jan 14, 2020

    I am a 100% Disabled Vet and resident of Arizona do I need to purchase a fishing license to fish in Wisconsin

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      Rhys

      Jan 15, 2020

      Hi Charles,

      Thank you for your service and good question. Unfortunately, Wisconsin only provides discounts on fishing licenses to residents with disabilities. You will, therefore, have to purchase a regular non-resident permit to fish in Wisconsin.

      Tight lines,

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  • George Jackson

    Apr 13, 2020

    I am a non resident. Can I fish from a boat dock without having a Wisconsin fishing license?

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      Rhys

      Apr 14, 2020

      Hi George,

      Thanks for reading and for getting in touch. Regardless of where you’re fishing in Wisconsin, you’ll need a valid fishing license. Therefore, we suggest getting at least a 1-day non-resident license for just $10 before casting from a dock.

      Tight lines,

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  • Charlie

    Apr 29, 2020

    With today’s current health issues, will out of state residents be able to purchase licences? Specifically, for after the Memorial Day weekend?

    Thanks,

    Charlie

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      Rhys

      Apr 30, 2020

      Hi Charlie,

      Thanks for reading and I understand that there are plenty of questions around this time. You can still get a non-resident license online here.

      Tight lines,

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  • Jen

    May 2, 2020

    Hello, my husband tried to get a fishing license online, but he only has a state ID and not a license. So even though he is a Wisconsin resident, it would not register that and wants to charge him as a non-resident. How can he get his fishing license since we can’t go in any place right now? Thank you!

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      Rhys

      May 4, 2020

      Hi Jen,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having trouble applying for a fishing license. You should be able to use your Social Security Number or the state ID number to confirm your residency in Wisconsin. If this doesn’t work, then stores deemed “essential,” such as Walmart, should still be open and they will be able to help you.

      Tight lines,

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  • DALE SONNENBURG

    May 12, 2020

    I went to Fleet farm for a fishing license and was told the only way is to go on line.

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      Rhys

      May 13, 2020

      Hi Dale,

      Thanks for your comment. We would expect license-issuing agents to be closed currently in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic. You can purchase a license online here.

      Tight lines,

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  • Tim Frank

    May 13, 2020

    I having a problem getting info on this i read that intra state between mi and wi you do not need two fishing licenses only one ot does not explain what all waters are intrastate.like technicaly bay de noc is michigan waters mouth of menominee river in greenbay yet i hear you need both to fish there and bay de noc.please help.

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      Rhys

      May 13, 2020

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks for reading and good question. You can find all the information on which bodies of water are considered “interstate” where you can fish with a WI license here. I hope this helps.

      Tight lines,

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  • Bill Sund

    May 18, 2020

    I would like to purchase a non-resident family license for Wisconsin for myself, my daughter, and my son. I was wondering if there are age restrictions and would this cover my son-in-law as well?

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      Rhys

      May 19, 2020

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for reading and for your question. Family fishing licenses only cover parents and their children aged 16 and 17. Therefore, your son-in-law certainly won’t be covered, and it depends on the ages of your children whether you would be eligible for a family license.

      Tight lines,

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  • John

    May 22, 2020

    My son is turning 16 on Oct 4th of this year. Can I get a family license for this year?

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      Rhys

      May 24, 2020

      Hi John,

      Thanks for reading and great question. Your son doesn’t need a license to fish in Wisconsin until his 16th birthday, however he will need one from October 4. As the fishing season only runs until March 31, it may be better to wait to get the family fishing license to cover the whole year from April 1 next year, and get him the $7 junior license to cover him from October through March.

      Tight lines,

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