It’s time to reorganize the fly box and dust off your waders: Wisconsin’s early trout fishing season is here. This is a great time to get outside and take advantage of a unique, open water fishing opportunity in the middle of winter. And the best part… there’s a good chance you’ll have the water (and the fish) all to yourself.
Running from the first Saturday in January through the first Friday in May, Wisconsin’s early trout fishing season gives anglers the ability to fish thousands of Class 1, 2 and 3 streams across the state. Keep in mind that all trout caught during this early season must be immediately released – the daily bag limit is 0. Also, you’ll need to save your live bait presentations for another time – trout must be landed on artificial lures, though you are not required to use barbless hooks.
Early Season Trout Fishing Tips
Trekking through a snow-covered landscape can have its challenges, but the peace and solitude you will experience this time of year is worth the effort. Add that you’ll be targeting brown, rainbow and brook trout that haven’t seen a lure in several months, and you have the perfect recipe for one of the best fishing opportunities of the year. Here are some tips that will give you the best shot at landing your next early season trout:
- Don’t be intimated by thinking you need to use a fly rod to fish for trout. Ultralight spinning rods with light tackle can be an easier option, and are often better suited to Wisconsin’s small, narrow streams.
- Trout are cold blooded, and their metabolisms slow down during the winter. You’ll have the best luck fishing in the late afternoon when water temperatures, and fish activity levels, are at their peak.
- Ignore the riffles and fast flowing sections of water typically targeted during warmer months. Instead, focus your casts on slower moving, deeper water areas such as pools. Deeper water offers more protection and slow-moving current helps trout expend less energy.
- In cold conditions, a trout’s gills can be easily damaged when fish are being handled out of the water. A landing net and hemostat are necessary tools to help you quickly release fish back into their underwater habitat.
Before heading out, find which streams are open in your area, check out the Wisconsin DNR’s online T.R.O.U.T. (Trout Regulations & Opportunities User Tool), and use Fishidy’s maps to help narrow down your next fishing spot.