Expanded Early Trout Season Announced

An expanded early trout season that opens Jan. 2 will give Wisconsin anglers one more reason to love winter.

While ice fishing will still rule the day on most inland waters, rivers and streams with strong groundwater flows should be open and ready to greet anglers interested in catching and releasing trout.

The expanded early catch and release trout season runs from 5 am on Jan. 2 until May 6, 2016, on waters where the early season currently exists. The regular trout season opens May 7, 2016.

Joanna Griffin, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trout specialist, said the expanded early season was developed in response to feedback from anglers and the resulting rule received extensive public review.

“We appreciate the angler interest in our world-class trout waters and we believe the early catch and release season will provide exciting opportunities while protecting the resource,” Griffin said. “We hope that by providing more opportunities we will recruit more people to trout fishing and the extended seasons will have a positive impact on the local economies.”

Since 2011, the department has held more than 30 public meetings, conducted three surveys and convened additional task force meetings to develop the trout regulations.

Following the early season, anglers will see simplified regulations during the regular season. The regulations were developed 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 which regulation is in place: 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.

In addition to the early spring season, the fall harvest season will extend from the current Sept. 30 to Oct. 15 in 2016. To learn more about the regulations, visit and search “trout review.” Early season anglers must have a valid fishing license and a trout stamp; licenses are valid from the start of the license year in early March through March 31 the following year. Access DNR’s online licensing system by searching for “licenses, permits and registrations.”

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