Dept. of Natural Resources: OutWiGo for free fishing weekend Jan. 20-21

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 20 – 21 to share the fun and excitement of winter fishing. No fishing license or trout and salmon stamps are required.

Anglers can fish in state waters where there is an open fishing season. All other fishing regulations apply, including limits on the size and number of fish that can be kept and any seasons when anglers must release certain fish species.

As a reminder, anglers cannot fish spring trout ponds during the winter Free Fishing Weekend. Please review the trout regulations and the 2023-2024 Hook and Line regulations for more information.

If you plan to keep fish, review the DNR’s Safe Eating Guidelines to stay informed of potential consumption advisories impacting some waterbodies throughout the state.

Winter Fishing Reminders

Remember, no ice is 100% safe. Always tell someone where you are fishing and when you’ll return before heading out on the ice. Also, check in with local bait shops for current ice conditions. If conditions are questionable, opt to cast to open water from shore.

Dress appropriately for the weather, and remember safety gear:

  • Warm layers that are water-resistant
  • Sturdy waterproof boots with spike-style creepers for traction
  • Extra hat and gloves
  • Rescue throw rope
  • Ice claws

Please remember to practice responsible catch and release if you aren’t keeping fish to eat. Some tips for proper release include:  

  • Reduce reel time with fish 
  • Keep fish in the water as much as possible
  • Use a rubber net and wet hands or gloves (if possible) 
  • Keep handling time to 60 seconds or less and keep unhooking tools readily available
  • Cut the line if a fish is deeply hooked
  • Treat fish gently – use both hands when handling fish and place them in the water to recover before releasing

Prepare To Fish

Visit the DNR’s Fish Equipment for Loan webpage to find a loaner site with ice fishing equipment. Locations with ice fishing equipment will have an “IF” next to their name. Essential gear is available; however, sites do not offer ice augers. Hours and available equipment vary, so contact the site in advance and create a plan to pick up the gear.

Host A Community Clinic

Organizations planning a community clinic should complete a planning form to register their clinics with the DNR. The deadline to submit these forms is Jan. 11.

Continue The Fishing Fun

Continue the fishing fun after Free Fishing Weekend by purchasing a fishing license. The next Free Fishing Weekend will take place June 1 – 2, 2024.