Getting a Wisconsin Fishing License: A Quick Guide
May 3, 2019 | 5 minute read
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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