Early Season Trout

Early Season Trout

By: Blake Tollefson


It’s been a long winter, and based on the long term forecast, it’s not showing any signs of ending soon. Many anglers are looking to scratch that open water itch, however, most of the state is still ice and snow covered. Fortunately, for Wisconsin fishermen, a large portion of the state’s trout streams are open during the early catch and release season. 

The Badger State’s early season runs from January 5, 2019 to May 3, 2019. Only artificial lures are allowed. 

A light fly fishing set up (4-5 WT) and a series of small assortment of flies will be sure to be put some trout in the net. 

Don’t have a fly rod? Not a problem! Using an ultralight spinning “panfish” set up will suite you just fine. A 5.5 FT to 7 FT ultralight to light rod and reel will suffice. Plastic paddletails and twister tails, along with small crankbaits and inline spinners, are very effective for targeting stream trout year round.

The cooler temps are preventing a lot of runoff thus far. Fish locations can be relatively sporadic throughout the smaller streams, but be sure to focus on areas with some structure. Remember to be mobile; if a spot doesn’t produce within a few casts, move on to the next one. 

With these cold temperatures, be prepared to release fish quickly. Try to keep fish in the water as much as possible. Have a hook remover and camera handy, so you’re able to snap a picture and return the fish to the water quickly. 

Most streams throughout the state are open for the early catch and release season, but be sure to check the Wisconsin DNR website for your area. For more information on the early catch and release season and trout fishing in Wisconsin, see the links below.

Inland Trout Regulations: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/regulations/troutregs.html

The WI DNR provides county maps with all trout steams listed: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/trout/streammaps.html

WI DNR Catchable Trout Stocking: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/trout/CatchableTrout.html


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