Wild Things: ‘Free’ Fishing a Good Time to Introduce a New Angler

Longtime anglers will tell you that one of the things they love most about fishing is watching the facial expressions and hearing the excited voices of a beginner who’s hooked up for the first time. It’s often a highly contagious mix of surprise, suspense and, finally, satisfaction at having mastered the piscatorial pursuit on the first go-around. 

If you’re looking to get an adult rookie casting this year, Wisconsin’s second free-fishing weekend of the season (June 6-7) would be an ideal time. No licenses or stamps are required on those days, but all other regulations such as seasons and bag limits apply. 

New this year: All tackle-loaner sites in state parks are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Seasoned anglers typically let beginners borrow equipment, explaining the various types and making recommendations. If there’s enough interest, you can also head to a local bait-and-tackle shop to help the novice select his or her own gear.  

Beginners are eligible for a first-time buyer’s license, with discounted fees for both residents and nonresidents. Check out the available licenses and stamps at

June 6-7 is also Wisconsin’s annual free-admission weekend to state parks, forests, recreation areas and trails, and the start of National Fishing and Boating Week. Learn more at and

Take a Kid Fishing

Make lifetime memories and teach valuable lessons about the importance of a healthy environment by taking kids fishing. Those age 15 and younger – residents and nonresidents alike – never need a license to fish in Wisconsin.

Fishing offers an excellent opportunity to connect kids with the wild places right near home: an inland lake, river or creek, private pond or even the vast waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

Whether you gather your own bait or buy it from a local shop, the most important thing is to focus on having a fun, safe outing. Along the way, you may find that life lessons about patience, perseverance and planning for success are being taught in a way that digs deep into the youngster’s heart and soul. 

Early June is one of the best times to feel a tug at the end of the line because many species are finally feeding heavily as the water gradually warms. If you’re not sure where to go or what to use, get tips on some of the best spots, baits and gear at local bait-and-tackle shops. 

Spring Birding at Its Peak

A mostly cold spring delayed leaf development during the peak migration of many colorful bird species. Even now, as the woodlands beef up, sharp-eyed birders can still see dozens of species resting and feeding during their journey north. 

Although avid bird-watchers often take their binoculars and cameras to state parks or properties managed by The Nature Conservancy and the Door County Land Trust, others go no farther than their backyard.

Putting out food such as oil sunflower seed, grape jelly, orange slices and sugar water can attract a wide variety of spring migrants and year-round residents. You can also take it a step further by providing a habitat that welcomes birds.

A new survey conducted for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) showed that about one in every four adults has purchased plants during the past three years because they were beneficial to birds, bees and butterflies. 

This spring, NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program is seeing its highest demand in nearly five decades. Mary Phillips, senior director of the program, said she hopes more people will find solace in wildlife gardening and will “plant with purpose” to create eco-friendly green spaces for relaxation, rejuvenation and some much-needed outdoor time.

Get tips on the best native plants for our area at

Water-Levels Update

As of May 22, Lake Michigan was 36 inches above its 100-year monthly average, eight inches higher than last year and five inches above the previous high for the month, set in 1986. Water levels were up 66 inches from the record monthly low, set in 1964.

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