Winter Free Fishing Weekend is Jan. 20-21, 2018

More than 20 DNR sites offer loaner ice fishing equipment

MADISON — Wisconsin’s winter Free Fishing Weekend is set for Jan. 20-21, 2018, and free loaner equipment and ice fishing clinics make it a great time for open water anglers to discover the fun of ice fishing or to introduce family and friends to this hard-water recreation.

Fishing is free for Wisconsin residents and visitors alike on these days. No fishing license or Great Lakes salmon stamp or Inland Trout Stamp is needed to fish all inland waters and Wisconsin’s side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and other boundary waters. Spring trout ponds are not open, however. All other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish anglers can keep and any seasons when anglers must release certain fish species.

“Free Fishing Weekend is a great way to get outside during the winter and have fun with family and friends,” says Theresa Stabo, Department of Natural Resources R 3 coordinator who is working on angling recruitment, retention and reactivation.

It’s also a chance for anglers to try the early catch and release trout season for free. That season opened Jan. 6 and normally requires anglers to have a fishing license and an inland trout stamp to join in.

Stabo says that people interested in ice fishing or trying the early catch-and-release trout season shouldn’t let a lack of equipment stop them. More than 20 DNR tackle loaner sites have ice fishing gear for loan that groups and individuals can use. Ice augurs are not available through DNR but fellow anglers are usually willing to drill a hole in the ice for newcomers or they can use an abandoned ice fishing hole, she says.

So far, DNR is aware of free fishing clinics during Free Fishing Weekend at these locations: Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo; Straight Lake State Park in Polk County; Mauthe Lake State Recreation Area in Fond du Lac County; Perch Lake County Park and Maple Lake Public Beach in Oneida County; Glen Lock in Chippewa Falls; Brittingham Park in Madison and Fireman’s Park in Marshall.

More information on the free fishing clinics, on how and where to borrow ice fishing equipment from DNR offices and parks, and on the weekend itself can be found on DNR’s Free Fishing Weekend webpage. Go to and search “Free Fishing Weekend.”

Fishing groups, local chambers of commerce, outing organizations, recreation departments and others hosting their own Free Fishing Weekend events can fill out an electronic form with their event details so DNR can help publicize events that are open to the public.