Wisconsin’s early catch-and-release trout season, which includes Fort McCoy streams and tributaries, opens 5 a.m. Jan. 5 and continues until 11:59 p.m. May 3.
Only artificial lures may be used during the early catch-and-release trout season, and all fish caught must be released immediately. The appropriate Fort McCoy permit, Wisconsin license, and trout stamp are required.
Access to Fort McCoy’s trout streams and tributaries is fairly easy, said Fort McCoy fisheries biologist John Noble with the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch.
“There are many great trout fishing opportunities available within close proximity of several major roadways at Fort McCoy,” Noble said.
Fishing licenses and permits for 2018 are valid through March 31, 2019. A 2019 Wisconsin fishing license, trout stamp, and related Fort McCoy permit will be required starting April 1.
The 2018 licenses can be purchased from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources online at https://gowild.wi.gov. All prospective anglers have to do is create an account at the Go Wild site, select the licenses they need, pay for the licenses, and print them, all online.
Starting March 1, Fort McCoy fishing permits will only be available through the iSportsman automated permit issuance system at https:\ftmccoy.isportsman.net.
Noble said many larger trout, such as brook and brown trout, have been caught in the approximately 71 miles of installation cold-water streams and tributaries.
“Our trout fisheries produce decent-sized trout and have been fairly resilient to the rainfall succession and extensive stream flooding,” Noble said. “Moderate winter temperatures the last several years have helped trout survival as well as benefiting from the completion of trout habitat improvement projects. Our trout numbers have been consistently good and especially in the lower reaches of Silver Creek, Tarr Creek, and the La Crosse River for bigger trout.”
New for 2019, Fort McCoy hunting, fishing, trapping and firewood permits will be sold on the iSportsman site. Fort McCoy permits will no longer be available through the Wisconsin Go Wild site or its vendors. Further information on the new process will be posted on iSportsman throughout the winter.
Anglers are reminded to read the new Fort McCoy fishing regulation that is on the Fort McCoy iSportsman web site, https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net.
Several changes were made related to access control in regards to fishing, hunting, trapping and firewood cutting activities. Most important is the new requirement for anglers to check in and out of iSportsman each time they go fishing at the installation, beginning in March. The only exception is on the cantonment area and at the Pineview Campground.
“Starting on March 1, 2019, all anglers must sign-in/sign-out daily and select the zone they intend to fish through iSportsman,” states the fishing regulation. “The iSportsman system can be accessed by calling 866-277-1597, visiting https://ftmccoy.isportsman.net online, or at the kiosk located at the Hunter Information Point (just off of Hwy. 21).”
Anglers must establish an iSportsman account, then identify the zone they will be fishing at, and then check in when they start and check out when they leave.
Anglers also are required to keep an activity information card in their vehicle.
“All recreational participants/permit holders are required to display an activity information card on the passenger side of the windshield/dash with the following information: permit holder’s full name (if there is more than one permit holder per vehicle, the names of all permit holders will be noted), activity (fishing), personal cellphone number, and two emergency contact phone numbers for each permit holder in the vehicle,” the regulation states.
Directorate of Emergency Services police and conservation officers are actively checking to see if recreational participants/permit holders are following the guidelines of the regulation. For example, if an activity information card is not displayed in the exact location required and does not have the exact information required, recreational participants/permit holders may be found in violation and ticketed immediately.
Refer to the regulation, available on iSportsman, for more information about violations.
Fishing success can vary due to many factors, Noble said. Early trout anglers who keep track of their success often elect to fish on warmer winter days for best activity.
“Not only is it better for your hands to keep them from freezing, fish feeding activity appears to be tied to stream temperatures when rising above 40 degrees Fahrenheit,” Noble said. “Observant anglers may also find more aquatic insects ... during these days that can inspire more fish feeding activity. So anglers may find optimal fishing action to be in the middle to late afternoon with cloud cover or trees providing shade so trout are more boldly moving about the stream rather than tucked into seclusion of an undercut stream bank.
“Some will say you need to fish with smaller fly patterns or match insect patterns; however, stick baits and spinners can entice trout to be aggressive feeders. If nothing else, create your own experience and just go fishing. The early trout season will help you prepare for the season opener, explore new waters so you are more familiar with these water when the fishing season opens for harvest on May 4, 2019.”
Also, through a number of resources available online, following are some tips on how to properly catch and release trout:
- When catching and releasing a trout, face the fish upstream in gentle flowing water, preferably in the stream water near the shore and not in fast current.
- When releasing the fish, don’t let the fish go until it gives strong tail-swimming movements and swims firmly out of your gentle grip.
- Handle trout gently, keeping it in the water as much as possible. Unhooking the trout without lifting it from the water is best.
- Remove hooks with needle-nosed pliers or forceps. Using barbless hooks makes releasing trout much easier.
- If a trout is hooked deeply, cut the line and release the fish. The hook eventually will dissolve, leaving the trout unharmed.
More information about inland trout fishing is available online at the DNR website at https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/trout. For Wisconsin fishing license rates and regulations, visit https://dnr.wi.gov/permits/residentlicense.html.
Anglers looking for more information about installation fishing regulations should go to the Fort McCoy iSportsman website at ftmccoy.isportsman.net, or contact the Permit Sales Office at 608-388-3337. For more information about police enforcement of regulation and rules requirements, call DES at 608-388-2266 and ask for a conservation warden.