Early Trout Season Offers Angling Alternative to Ice Fishing

Anglers have a great reason to celebrate the New Year thanks to the return of early trout season. The season began Jan. 7 and runs until midnight May 5.

Joanna Griffin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trout specialist, said the early catch-and-release season offers opportunities for everyone willing to wade or walk a stream bank in winter.

“Last year was the first year for the extended early catch-and-release trout season. We received very favorable feedback from anglers,” Griffin said. “The extended trout season is generating new interest in trout fishing and encouraging more people to take advantage of our world-class trout streams. In addition to the exhilaration of the experience, there’s also a beneficial economic impact since dedicated trout anglers are willing to travel to new streams in pursuit of great fishing opportunities.”

The unique challenge of trout fishing in winter has led to spirited discussion about whether fly rods or spinning rods are best suited for frosty conditions. The consensus of DNR fisheries biologists? Both work just fine as long as anglers are able to maintain enough dexterity to target their casts accurately and change things up when a chosen lure or fly is not producing action, Griffin said.

Helpful information on whether to spin or not to spin can be found at on the early trout season webpage.

As for where to fish, Wisconsin’s official maps of classified trout streams have been updated and feature more than 41 additional streams that have been classified as trout waters since 2014. Additional information about where to fish and local regulations can be found using DNR’s TROUT tool, which was designed to help trout anglers find places to fish including classified trout waters, public land and DNR fishing easements. To learn more about the regulations, visit and search “trout regulations.”

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