Trolling on the River

A rule to allow motor trolling while fishing on all inland waters of Wisconsin takes effect July 1, 2015.

Trolling means fishing by trailing any lure, bait or similar device that may be used to attract or catch fish from a boat propelled by means other than drifting, pedaling, paddling, or rowing. Previously motor trolling had been prohibited on waters unless allowed under special regulations.

Under the new rule, in most counties anglers may troll using up to three hooks, baits or lures with no restrictions per boat. However, the rule can vary from county to county waters. For a listing of waters open to trolling with three hooks, search the DNR website,, for “trolling.”

In addition to simplifying fishing regulations, Tim Simonson, a DNR fisheries management specialist, said the rule will reduce confusion that may occur when a technique called “position fishing” is used. The new rule allows anglers to trail at least one sucker, minnow or other bait or lure behind a moving motorboat, regardless of whether the occupants are casting other lures. It also provides additional fishing opportunities for anglers who may have difficulty fishing by other methods and would eliminate the need for disabled anglers to apply for trolling permits.

The rule expires on May 4, 2018, but many anglers have expressed interest in continuing to make the trolling option available. The department will assess trolling over the next couple years and work with anglers to develop another trolling proposal for 2018 and beyond.