License for Lake Fishing in Wisconsin

Do You Need a License for Lake Fishing in Wisconsin?

Fishing in Wisconsin is a popular pastime that attracts both residents and visitors alike. But before you cast your line into one of the state’s many lakes, it’s important to know the rules and regulations. One of the most common questions asked is: Do you need a license for lake fishing in Wisconsin? The answer is yes, with a few exceptions.

Who Needs a fishing license?

In the beautiful state of Wisconsin, known for its abundant lakes and rivers, fishing is a popular pastime. But before you cast your line, it’s important to know the rules. Anyone aged 16 and older needs a fishing license to fish in any waters of the state. This applies to both residents and non-residents. However, there are exceptions. Kids 15 and under can fish without a license every day, as can anglers born before 1927.

License for Lake Fishing in Wisconsin
License for Lake Fishing in Wisconsin

Types of Fishing Licenses

Fishing is a beloved pastime for many, and the state of Wisconsin offers a variety of fishing licenses to cater to the diverse needs of its anglers. Whether you’re a resident or a non-resident, a seasoned angler or a first-time buyer, there’s a license option for you.

Resident Fishing Licenses

For Wisconsin residents, the Annual General Fishing License costs $20. This license allows you to fish for a full year from the date of purchase. If you’re a junior angler aged 16 or 17, or a senior citizen aged 65 and above, you can get your annual license for just $7.

For those who love to fish with their spouse, there’s a Spousal Fishing License available for $31. This license allows both spouses to fish under one license, making it a cost-effective option for couples who enjoy fishing together.

If you’re only planning to fish for a day, the 1-Day Fishing License is a great option. It costs $8 and can be upgraded to an annual license for an additional $12.75.

Non-Resident Fishing Licenses

For non-residents, the Annual General Fishing License costs $55. There’s also a 1-Day Fishing License available for $15, which can be upgraded to an annual license for an additional $40.75.

Non-residents also have the option of purchasing a 4-Day Fishing License for $29 or a 15-Day Fishing License for $33. These licenses are perfect for those planning a short fishing trip to Wisconsin.

Special Licenses

Wisconsin also offers special licenses for certain groups of people. For instance, non-residents who are full-time students at a Wisconsin college or university can purchase certain licenses at resident prices. Similarly, non-residents who are active in the US armed forces and are stationed in Wisconsin can also get certain licenses at resident rates.

For disabled veterans, there’s the Wisconsin Resident Disabled Veteran Fishing License. Veterans who are rated with a service-related disability of 70% or more can purchase this annual license.

First-Time Buyer Discount

If you’re a first-time buyer or haven’t purchased a license in over 10 years, you can get a major price break. For Wisconsin residents, an annual license costs just $5. Non-residents also qualify for discount rates.

Special Licenses and Discounts

Wisconsin offers several options for reduced rate fishing licenses based on age, military service, or disability credentials. For instance, Purple Heart medal recipients are eligible for reduced license fees, and certain Wisconsin resident disabled veterans and former prisoners of war are eligible to receive waivers of vehicle admission and trail pass fees.

How To Purchase A Fishing License

Embarking on a fishing adventure? Before you cast your line, you’ll need to secure a fishing license. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to purchase your fishing license, whether you’re a resident or a non-resident, a first-time buyer or a seasoned angler.

Online Purchase through GoWild

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has made it easier than ever to get your fishing license through their online platform, GoWild. This platform offers key licenses and registrations all in one place, 24 hours a day. A valid driver’s license or social security number will be needed to purchase your license online.

Purchase at Sales Locations or DNR Service Centers

If you prefer an in-person transaction, you can purchase your fishing license at various sales locations or at one of the DNR Service Centers. These centers are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can find a DNR Service Center in various locations across Wisconsin, including Madison, Eau Claire, Fitchburg, Green Bay, Janesville, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Rhinelander, Spooner, Waukesha, and Wausau.

License Options and Costs

Whether you’re a resident or a non-resident, there are various license options available to suit your fishing needs. Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

Resident Fishing Licenses

  • General Fishing: $20.00
  • First-time buyer: $5.00
  • 1-Day (Can be used towards an upgrade to an annual license for $12.75): $8.00
  • Junior (16 & 17 years old): $7.00
  • Senior Citizen (65 years & older): $7.00
  • Spousal: $31.00
  • Inland Trout Stamp: $10.00
  • Great Lake Salmon/Trout Stamp: $10.00
  • 2-Day Great Lakes Fishing (includes Great Lake Salmon/Trout Stamp): $14.00
  • 2-Day Inland Lake Trout Fishing (includes Inland Trout Stamp): $14.00

Non-resident Fishing Licenses

  • Annual: $55.00
  • Family Annual (primary) (includes children 16 & 17 years old): $70.00
  • First-time buyer: $25.75
  • 1 day (can be used towards an upgrade to an annual license for $40.75): $15.00
  • 4 day: $29.00
  • 15 day: $33.00
  • 15-day Family (includes children 16 & 17 years old): $45.00
  • Inland Trout Stamp: $10.00
  • Great Lake Salmon/Trout Stamp: $10.00
  • Great Lake Fishing, 2 days (includes Great Lake Salmon/Trout Stamp): $14.00

One-Day Fishing License

If you’re new to fishing or just want to try it out for a day, Wisconsin offers a one-day fishing license. This is an excellent entry-level license that lets you do everything but fish for premium species like trout and salmon (an additional stamp is needed to fish for these species). The cost of the one-day license is $8 for residents and $15 for non-residents. If you enjoy your fishing experience and want to fish more, you can upgrade to an annual fishing license at a reduced rate at any time during the same license year.

Fishing Regulations in Wisconsin

Fishing in Wisconsin is a popular activity, but it’s essential to be aware of the state’s fishing regulations to ensure a responsible and enjoyable experience. The Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations and the Guide to Wisconsin Trout Fishing Regulations provide detailed information on fishing rules, including general inland waters, special county regulations, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Winnebago system waters, tributary streams, and boundary waters.

Seasons and Bag Limits

Fishing seasons and bag limits vary depending on the species and waterbody. It’s crucial to check the season dates for your favorite species and waters before heading out. For example, the early inland trout season runs from the first Saturday in January to the Friday preceding the first Saturday in May, while the general inland fishing season starts on the first Saturday in May.

Fishing Methods

In Wisconsin, it’s legal to fish with a maximum of three hooks, baits, or lures per angler. Fishing methods other than hook and line are not permitted. It’s also illegal to move live fish away from the water, except for minnows purchased from a bait dealer. Releasing unused bait into Wisconsin’s lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams is prohibited.

Boating and Environmental Regulations

When removing a boat from any water, be sure to clean off any vegetation or animals clinging to the vessel before leaving the site. After leaving the fishing site, pick up and properly discard any fishing line, damaged lures, or other trash.

License Requirements

All residents and non-residents aged 16 and older must possess a 2023-2024 general fishing license to fish in Wisconsin. Annual resident licenses cost $20, while non-residents pay $55. Fishing licenses can be purchased online via GoWild, at a registered sales location, or at a DNR Service Center.


So, if you’re planning to go lake fishing in Wisconsin, make sure you have the appropriate license. Not only will it keep you on the right side of the law, but it will also contribute to the conservation efforts in the state. Happy fishing!

For more information on fishing licenses, check out our guides on fishing license types, how to apply for a fishing license, and fishing destinations. You can also explore fishing licenses in other states such as Florida, Alabama, and Alaska.

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