General Restrictions

Prohibited Activities

1. Water Transport Regulations

  • You are forbidden from transporting water using boats, vehicles, trailers, or any other containers when departing from state waters or entering Wisconsin by land for use in any water within the state. However, this restriction does not apply to drinking water or up to two gallons of water designated for holding minnows purchased from authorized sources within Wisconsin.

2. Aquatic Species Transportation

  • It is illegal to transport or operate any vehicle, boat, or trailer on public roadways with any aquatic plants or animals attached. After leaving any waterbody and before exiting any landing or associated parking area, all attached aquatic plants or animals must be removed immediately.

3. Live Fish Transport

  • Live fish or fish eggs may not be transported away from state waters except for minnows acquired from registered Wisconsin bait dealers or fish farms. These minnows can be transported live under specific conditions: either for reuse on the same water body or on other waters, provided they are not exposed to lake or river water, and no other fish are introduced into their container.

Fishing Equipment Restrictions

4. Net and Trap Usage

  • The use or possession of fish traps, trammels, cast nets, gill nets, hoop nets, or any other fishing nets that may catch or kill fish is strictly regulated. Exceptions exist only where explicitly authorized. Possession or use of cast nets is prohibited on state waters, except for taking suckers on Wisconsin/Iowa boundary waters.

5. Fishing Methods Prohibition

  • Firearms, explosives, air guns, or poisons are not allowed for disturbing or capturing fish. Fishing with nets, traps, seines, spears, or by hand is prohibited in refuges, closed areas, or trout streams, except for taking rough fish by hand in a trout stream during specified seasons.

6. Spear and Bow Restrictions

  • The possession or control of bows and arrows, spears, atlatls, or similar devices along water bodies for fishing purposes is restricted, except where authorized during the specified open season for rough fish.

Additional Restrictions

7. Dip Net Regulations

  • Fishing with hook and line from a boat while possessing a dip net is prohibited. Additionally, leaving any dip net or seine unattended within 25 feet of the water's edge is prohibited.

8. Threatened Species Protection

  • Possessing any threatened or endangered species without a permit from the department is illegal. This includes certain species of fish, frogs, mussels, and turtles.

Ice Fishing Limitations

9. Ice Hole Size Restrictions

  • The cutting, use, or maintenance of ice holes larger than 12 inches in diameter or square for fish retrieval through the ice is prohibited, except for specific methods such as dip netting or skin or scuba diving. Certain exceptions apply for spearing on Lake Superior or sturgeon spearing on the Lake Winnebago system waters.

Catfish Fishing Restrictions

10. Catfish Fishing Prohibitions

  • Taking catfish by hand using artificial nests, spawning boxes, ropes, gaffes, hooks, grapples, or similar equipment for snagging catfish is strictly prohibited. Additionally, the use of breathing devices, including snorkels or scuba gear, is not permitted.

Seasonal Limitations

11. Fishing Restrictions in Designated Areas

  • Taking rough fish and catfish by any method is prohibited from September 15 through December 31 in specific water bodies such as Lake Michigan tributaries, major Green Bay tributaries, and all other tributary streams and ditches leading to Green Bay upstream to the first dam or lake during specified nighttime hours.

Spearing Regulations

Definition and Devices

1. Spearing Definition

  • Spearing is defined as fishing with a device comprising a shaft with an attached sharp, barbed point or points. This includes spears, bow and arrow, crossbow, spear guns, atlatls, and similar devices.

Prohibited Areas

2. Restricted Locations

  • It is prohibited to possess any spear or similar device in any enclosure on the ice or waters of the Embarrass River in Shawano County from the Pella Dam downstream, the Wolf River from Shawano Dam downstream to the Fox River, and on the ice of the Fox River from Johnson Creek in Green Lake County downstream through Lake Winnebago and all connecting lakes of both streams, except when authorized during the established sturgeon spearing season.

Ice Hole Restrictions

3. Ice Hole Size Limitation

  • Cutting, using, or maintaining an ice hole larger than 12 inches in diameter or square for fish retrieval through the ice is restricted, except for spearing on Lake Superior, skin or scuba diving, or sturgeon spearing on the Lake Winnebago system.

Local Ordinances

4. Public Safety Ordinances

  • There may be local public safety ordinances that prohibit the use of a bow and arrow or crossbow in certain areas. It is advisable to consult with local law enforcement offices for further information.

Time and Season Restrictions

5. Spearing Time Restrictions

  • Spearing by methods other than bow and arrow or crossbow is restricted from sunrise to sunset on all waters and only during the open season for spearing rough fish on those waters.

Bag Limits

6. Bag Limitations

  • There are no bag limits on rough fish, except for suckers, where the limit is set at 600.

Bow and Arrow / Crossbow Fishing Regulations

Prohibited Actions

1. Fishing Method Restrictions

  • Taking rough fish or catfish with a bow and arrow or crossbow is prohibited unless the arrow is equipped with a metal barbed tip attached to the bow with a tethered line, allowing for the retrieval of both the arrow and the fish.

2. Disposal Regulations

  • It is forbidden to release or return any rough fish or catfish taken with a bow and arrow or crossbow, whether dead or alive, to any waters of the state. Similarly, leaving any rough fish or catfish taken with a bow and arrow or crossbow, whether dead or alive, on the ice or banks of any waters of the state is prohibited.

Compliance with Local Ordinances

3. Local Ordinance Adherence

  • Violating local ordinances that prohibit the discharge of bow and arrow or crossbow within their jurisdiction is prohibited. Individuals are advised to check for local ordinances on the use of bow and arrow or crossbow within city, town, or village limits.

Legal Hours and Lighting

4. Legal Hours for Fishing

  • On all inland, outlying, and boundary waters with an open season for spearing rough fish or catfish, the taking of rough fish with a bow and arrow or crossbow on that body of water is permitted at any time of day, including from sunset to sunrise during the open season.

5. Use of Lights

  • Lights, including laser sights, are permitted for use at night for spearing rough fish or catfish with a bow and arrow or crossbow.

Underwater Spear Fishing Regulations

Permissible Species and Methods

1. Allowed Fish Species

  • It is lawful to take the following fish species with the use of spears and spear guns by skin and scuba diving in all waters where spearing for rough fish is permitted:
    • White bass
    • Yellow bass
    • Rock bass
    • Crappie
    • Bluegill
    • Perch
    • Pumpkinseed (sunfish)
    • Bullheads

2. Time Restrictions

  • Spear fishing for the aforementioned species is allowed from sunrise to sunset during the listed spearing seasons.

3. Seasonal Considerations

  • This allowance is contingent upon the season for these species being open on the same water body where spearing occurs.

Bag Limits and Length Restrictions

4. Daily Bag Limits

  • Daily bag limits and length restrictions also apply to the species mentioned above. It is essential to adhere to these regulations while engaging in underwater spear fishing activities to ensure compliance with fishing laws and conservation efforts.

Rough Fish Spearing Seasons

Legal Methods and Seasons

1. Authorized Methods

  • During specified open seasons, individuals are permitted to take rough fish using spears, bow and arrow, crossbow, spear guns, and spears while skin and scuba diving, unless otherwise specified.

2. Continuous Season

  • There is a continuous open season for spearing rough fish in all counties except Ashland, Bayfield, Forest, Iron, Menominee, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, and Vilas counties, and for all Lake Winnebago System waters.

3. April 21 to Feb. 1: Lake Winnebago System Waters

  • Spearing rough fish is allowed from April 21 to Feb. 1 in all Lake Winnebago System waters, including Poygan, Winneconne, Butte des Morts, and Winnebago, along with all their tributaries. This encompasses the Fox River from Lake Winnebago upstream to the dam above Princeton and all its tributaries.

4. Dec. 15 to Jan. 31: Burbot Spearing

  • Burbot may be speared from Dec. 15 to Jan. 31, specifically from sunset to sunrise, only in the Amnicon and Nemadji Rivers, and the Black River upstream to the Soo Line Bridge in Douglas County, as well as the Bad River in Ashland County.

Waters Closed to Spearing

5. Restricted Counties

  • In Ashland (except the Bad River where burbot may be taken by means of spears from sunset to sunrise Dec. 15 to Jan. 31 inclusive), Bayfield, Forest, Iron, Menominee, Oneida, Price, Sawyer, and Vilas counties, along with the Menominee River in Florence and Marinette counties, possessing any spear or similar device for fish retrieval is prohibited on inland waters or shores at any time.

Special Exception

6. Saturday Nearest May 20 to July 1: Fish Creek Slough

  • Rough fish may be taken with a bow and arrow or crossbow only in Fish Creek Slough (Bayfield Co.) from its mouth to the junction of North and South Fish Creeks during the period closest to May 20 to July 1.

Spearing and Netting Regulations in Boundary and Outlying Waters

Wisconsin/Minnesota and Wisconsin/Iowa Boundary Waters

1. Prohibited Activities

  • It is unlawful to use a spear, bow and arrow, crossbow, atlatl, or similar device at any time to take, catch, or kill any gamefish (except for catfish) in Wisconsin/Minnesota and Wisconsin/Iowa boundary waters. Additionally, possessing any fish spear or spring gaff in a fish house (shanty) is prohibited.

2. Rough Fish Spearing Seasons

  • Wisconsin/Minnesota Boundary Waters:

    • Rough fish spearing season: From the Saturday nearest April 21 to March 1.
    • Rough fish may be taken by spears, bow and arrow, or crossbow from sunrise to sunset. Bow and arrow and crossbow may also be used on the Wisconsin side of the river from sunset to sunrise.
  • Wisconsin/Iowa Boundary Waters:

    • Continuous open season for rough fish spearing.
    • Rough fish may be taken by spears, bow and arrow, or crossbow from sunrise to sunset. Bow and arrow and crossbow may also be used from sunset to sunrise.
    • Cast nets no larger than seven feet in diameter or with mesh of more than one half-inch stretch measure may be used to take suckers only.
  • Wisconsin/Michigan Boundary Waters:

    • There is no open season for spearing on the Wisconsin/Michigan boundary waters. However, catfish, rough fish, and bullheads may be taken with a bow and arrow or crossbow during the open season in Wisconsin waters only.

Outlying Waters

3. Spearing Restrictions

  • It is unlawful to spear any game fish in outlying waters except for white bass, yellow bass, rock bass, panfish, and bullheads, which may be speared while skin diving or scuba diving during the open season for rough fish spearing, provided that the season for these species is also open on the same water.

  • Northern pike may be speared through the ice in Lake Superior.

4. Bow and Arrow / Crossbow Usage

  • Taking rough fish by bow and arrow or crossbow is permitted from sunset to sunrise on outlying waters.

Harvesting Catfish and Bullheads by Bow and Arrow, Crossbow, or By Hand

Bow or Crossbow Harvest

1. Open Season

  • Channel and flathead catfish and bullheads can be harvested with a bow or crossbow during the open season for spearing rough fish, which is generally continuous, except in waters with a closed season or fish refuge.

2. Seasonal Restrictions

  • In waters with specific hook and line seasons or minimum length limits, those restrictions also apply for bowfishing.

By Hand Harvest

3. Hand Harvesting Season

  • Channel and flathead catfish and bullheads can be harvested by hand from June 1 to Aug. 31. Only hand methods are allowed; gear such as hooks, poles, grapples, gaffes, artificial nests/spawning boxes, snorkel, or scuba gear are prohibited.

4. Length Limits

  • In waters with minimum length limits for hook and line fishing, those limits also apply for hand fishing.

Boundary Waters Regulations

5. Wisconsin Side Harvest

  • Channel and flathead catfish and bullheads may be taken by bow, crossbow, or by hand only on the Wisconsin side of the waters if the season is open for spearing rough fish.

6. Reciprocity

  • Anglers from Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan with valid licenses can harvest catfish by these methods in Wisconsin waters during the open spearing season. However, Wisconsin anglers cannot use these methods in the other states' waters under reciprocity rules.

General Limits

7. Daily Bag Limit

  • Channel catfish: Five
  • Flathead catfish: One
  • Bullheads: None

8. Length Limit

  • None

9. Commercial Fishing Prohibition

  • Commercial fishing for catfish or bullheads with these methods is not allowed. Guided fishing trips for the purpose of taking catfish, bullheads, or rough fish with a bow, crossbow, or by hand are legal.

Exceptions to General Limits

10. Special Regulations

  • Lower Wisconsin River from Prairie du Sac Dam to the U.S. Highway 12 bridge:

    • Bow/crossbow season: May 6, 2023, to Nov. 30, 2023.
    • General hand fishing season dates apply.
  • Waters of Green Lake and Marquette counties, Lake Winnebago system waters:

    • Bow/crossbow season: May 20, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2023.
    • General hand fishing season dates apply.
    • Flathead and channel catfish bag limit: Five in total, with only one allowed to be a flathead catfish regardless of harvest method.
  • Tributaries, streams, rivers, and ditches to Green Bay upstream to the first dam or lake:

    • Bow/crossbow season: May 6, 2023, to March 4, 2024.
    • General hand fishing season dates apply.
    • Continuous bow/crossbow season for bullheads on major Green Bay tributaries.
  • Wisconsin/Minnesota boundary waters:

    • Bow/crossbow season: April 22, 2023, to March 1, 2024.
    • General hand fishing dates apply.

For specific water, season, and length limit applications of catfish rules, refer to the Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations, 2023-2024.

Netting Regulations

Types of Nets

1. Dip Net

  • A net suspended from a round or square frame, up to 8 feet in diameter or square.
  • Designed for vertically raising and lowering to catch rough fish or minnows.

2. Landing Net

  • A net suspended on a frame with an attached handle.
  • Used to assist anglers in landing fish caught with hook and line.
  • Authorized for taking rough fish where dip nets are allowed.

3. Seine

  • A net made of circular, square, or long webbing with floats on the top and sinkers on the bottom.
  • Forms a bag near the center to trap fish as it's pulled through the water.
  • Used for taking minnows, whitefish, cisco, and smelt on certain waters.

Netting Restrictions

4. Illegal Actions

  • It is illegal to use traps and nets (except for smelt) in specified waters.
  • Possessing nets or fish traps is restricted in certain counties.
  • Dip nets for rough fish have specific regulations, including time restrictions and possession limits.

Dip Nets for Rough Fish

5. Bag and Possession Limits

  • There is no bag or possession limit for rough fish taken by dip netting, except for suckers (limited to 600).
  • Suckers taken with dip nets or seines cannot be sold or bartered.

6. Operational Restrictions

  • While using a dip net for rough fish, fishing by any other method is prohibited.
  • Fishing with hook and line from a boat while possessing a dip net is not allowed.
  • Only one dip net per person is permitted for taking smelt and minnows.

7. Frame Dip Nets

  • Size restrictions apply for frame dip nets used for rough fish.
  • Specific regulations exist for certain counties and waterbodies.

Nets for Smelt

8. Harvest Methods

  • Smelt may be taken using dip nets, seines, or frame dip nets.
  • Regulations vary by waterbody, including size limitations and seasonal restrictions.

Nets for Whitefish and Cisco

9. Harvesting Regulations

  • Frame dip nets are allowed for taking whitefish and cisco within specified seasons and waterbodies.
  • Seines may also be used for harvesting whitefish and cisco under certain conditions.

Nets and Traps for Minnows

10. Harvesting Methods

  • Hook and line, seines, dip nets, and traps are permitted for harvesting minnows.
  • Restrictions apply in VHS waters and trout streams.
  • Personal harvest of minnows is limited and cannot be transported away alive.
  • Bait dealer harvest requires a wild bait harvest permit and adherence to specific conditions.

11. Bait Dealer Regulations

  • Bait dealers are subject to additional regulations, including gear disinfection and fish health inspections.
  • Limits apply to the number of minnow traps allowed in trout streams during the open trout season.

Frog Harvesting Regulations


  • The open season for taking frogs extends from the Saturday nearest May 1 to Dec. 31.

Prohibited Methods

  • It is illegal to take frogs using firearms or airguns.

Possession Limit

  • A possession limit of five frogs of each species is enforced, excluding those listed as threatened or endangered.
  • Exceptions exist for bait purposes, allowing unlimited possession for up to 24 hours.

Commercial Sales

  • Frogs may be sold exclusively for fish bait under a bait dealer's license.
  • Selling frogs for purposes other than fishing bait is prohibited, except for northern leopard frogs under specific licensing conditions.

Crayfish Harvesting Guidelines


  • Wisconsin/Minnesota Boundary Waters: May 1 to the following March 1
  • Rest of the State: Continuous open season


  • Possession of live crayfish and angling equipment simultaneously is prohibited on any water, except specified locations such as the Mississippi River and certain lakes.
  • Rusty crayfish are classified as a restricted invasive species. Transportation is allowed for control or disposal purposes, ensuring no individuals or eggs escape.
  • Crayfish traps set in trout streams must adhere to minnow trap dimensions.


  • A valid fishing license or small game license is required, except for individuals under 16 years old.

Methods of Capture

  • Permissible methods include hand capture, use of minnow seines and dip nets (where permitted for minnows), and crayfish traps.
  • Crayfish traps must have an entrance not exceeding 2-1/2 inches in the greatest diagonal measurement.
  • Traps must be labeled with the owner's name and address or DNR Customer ID number and emptied daily.
  • Fish parts and by-products are only allowed as bait if obtained from the water being trapped, acquired from a bait dealer, or used with written authorization from the DNR. Other meats such as chicken and beef livers are acceptable bait options for crayfish.

Trap Marking

  • Floats or markers used to identify traps must:
    • Not exceed 5 inches in size.
    • Extend no more than 4 inches above the water surface.
    • Display the owner's name and address or DNR Customer ID number in English.
    • Not be fluorescent orange or any other bright color.

Turtle Harvesting Regulations

Licensing Requirements

  • Residents and nonresidents collecting or possessing native Wisconsin turtles must hold a valid approval for hunting small game or fishing, unless exempted due to age.
  • Residents under 16 years old do not need a license but must adhere to size, possession, and season limits.


  • Open season: July 15 to Nov. 30
  • Turtles or turtle eggs may not be taken during the closed season.
  • Endangered species such as Ornate Box, Wood, and Blanding’s turtles require an Endangered Species permit for collection or possession.

Possession Limits

  • Snapping turtles and softshell turtles:
    • Statewide: Three each
    • Mississippi River: Snapping turtles - 10, Softshell turtles - 5
  • Other turtle species: Five in total, except in licensed bait dealers and registered fish farmers may possess more.
  • Sale of native amphibians and reptiles is prohibited, except under specific licenses.

Size Limits

  • Snapping turtle: Minimum carapace length of 12 inches, maximum of 16 inches.
  • No size limits for other turtle species.

Harvest Methods

  • Allowed methods: Hand capture, dip net, hook and line, set line, set or bank poles, hooking or hoop net trap.
  • Hoop net trap specifications:
    • Made of stretchable fabric with a minimum mesh stretch of 6 inches.
    • Each trap must have a metal tag displaying the operator's information.
    • Hoops must be exposed a minimum of 2 inches above the water's surface.
    • Traps must be checked daily and emptied.

Additional Regulations

  • Turtles may not be taken by hook and line from trout streams during the closed trout season.
  • Licensed, tagged set or bank poles must comply with fishing regulations.
  • The number of hoop traps allowed varies by location, with a maximum of 10 in boundary waters and three in other state waters.
Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.