MADISON, Wis. - While state forests may be showing off their brightly colored fall foliage these days, many Wisconsin trout anglers will be setting their sights on rainbows, browns and the multi-hued spots of brook trout this year.
Thanks to the feedback and support from trout anglers statewide, for the first time this fall, the trout fishing season on inland streams and connected springs has been extended to Oct. 15 from the Sept. 30 closure of previous years. The expanded fall harvest period joins an extended catch and release season that now starts the first Saturday in January and runs through the Friday preceding the first Saturday in May.
Joanna Griffin, trout coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the expanded fishing opportunities, simplified rules and new online TROUT tool to help anglers find places to fish result from growing recognition of the importance of trout fishing to local communities statewide.
"Healthy trout streams draw anglers from a broader region into communities," Griffin said. "We know many anglers enjoyed the opportunity to get out this spring for the early catch and release season and we hope they'll also spend some time visiting our world-class trout waters this fall."
Shared efforts by property owners, angling groups such as Trout Unlimited and DNR have contributed to very real improvements in Wisconsin's current 13,232 miles of trout streams. About 40 percent or 5,289 miles of the state's trout streams carry the coveted Class 1 designation, meaning these streams sustain healthy populations of wild trout through natural reproduction and require no stocking. Brook trout are native to Wisconsin and DNR also stocks rainbow and brown trout.
Heath Benike, a DNR fisheries supervisor based in Eau Claire, said trout populations in Western Wisconsin are strong at this time, providing anglers with ample opportunities throughout the Driftless Area this fall. Anglers who haven't visited the area in some time also may want to check out some of the important habitat improvements that have taken place.
"DNR habitat restoration crews were able to complete numerous stream restoration projects this field season," Benike said. "Anglers who want to check out these areas should venture to Gilbert and Sand Creeks in Dunn County, Fall Creek in Pepin County, Swinns Valley Creek in Buffalo County, Beaver Creek in Trempealeau County and Spring Coulee, Weister and Tainter Creeks in the LaCrosse Area."
The northeast region of the state also promises some great fall fishing. Mike Donofrio, a DNR fisheries supervisor based in Peshtigo who covers the northeast region, said this year's wet weather has been a boon for fish in the rivers of his region.
"Trout populations are doing well in the six county region here in northeastern Wisconsin and I think anglers are excited about the additional opportunities related to the extended season," Donofrio said. At the same time, the simplified rules put in place this year also may be encouraging anglers to participate.
Comments collected as part of an extensive review of inland trout fishing regulations launched in 2011 showed anglers were interested in more quality fishing opportunities, less confusing regulations and fewer special regulations. The resulting new, simplified system, features maps online and in the trout regulation pamphlet that indicate one of three regulations:
Green means go fish, with no length limit, a bag limit of five fish and no bait restrictions;
Yellow means caution, with an 8 inch length limit, a bag limit of three fish and no bait restrictions; and
Red means special regulations are in place. Anglers are advised to stop and understand the regulations before fishing.
In addition to a resident or nonresident general fishing license, trout anglers need to purchase an inland trout stamp or Great Lakes salmon and trout stamp. Licenses are available through more than 1,000 vendors statewide or online by visiting GoWild.wi.gov.