Grab the gear and get fishing during Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 15 and 16. Anglers can fish state waters without a license during the event. (iStock/HappyPhoton)

Free Fishing Weekend returns

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is hosting Free Fishing Weekend Jan. 15 and 16 to share the fun and excitement of winter fishing. No fishing license or trout and salmon stamps are required.

Anglers can fish state waters where there is an open season. All other fishing regulations apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species.

As a reminder, anglers cannot fish spring trout ponds during the Winter Free Fishing Weekend. Review the trout regulations and 2021-22 Hook and Line regulations for more information.

Those planning to keep their catch, should review the DNR’s Safe Eating Guidelines to stay informed of potential consumption advisories impacting some waterbodies throughout the state.

“Free Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to give angling a try, without the added step and expense of getting a fishing license,” said Theresa Stabo, DNR Fishing Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation coordinator. “Fishing is about so much more than the catch. Get out there and enjoy nature, spend time with friends and family and if you’re lucky, bring home some fish for your next at-home fish fry.”

Find Free Fishing Weekend events on the DNR events webpage.


Prepare to fish

The DNR recommends those new to ice fishing, check out the “Ice Fishing Essentials” story in the latest issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine for tips on what’s needed to get started. Go to for more information.

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


Safety reminders

Remember, no ice is 100% safe. Check with local bait shops for current ice conditions in the area you plan to ice fish. Stay safely on shore if ice conditions are questionable and if open water is within casting distance, give that a try.

Always tell someone where you are going and when you’ll return.

Lastly, dress for winter comfort, and don’t forget the safety gear:

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

The next Free Fishing Weekend will take place June 4 and 5.


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