Along with Wisconsin's fishing opener Saturday comes a new option for anglers: a one-day license.
The license is being offered for the first time in hopes of luring new or casual anglers to state waters. It will be good through midnight of the day of purchase and will run nonresidents $10 and residents $8. After the day is up, the license can be turned in for a discount on an annual license.
"It makes it easy for people to give fishing a try," said Ed Culhane, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. "If they have an opportunity to go out on a boat for a Saturday and fish all day ... they can buy a $10 license. It's a nice convenience."
The opener is expected to be a good opportunity to try fishing the state's waters — at least for walleye. Marty Engel, fisheries biologist for the DNR, said the walleye bite in western Wisconsin this weekend "should be ideal."
"The walleyes have been done spawning for probably two weeks, and they should be ready to be on the feedbag, so that should be a good situation," Engel said. After spawning, walleyes typically rest for a couple of weeks before eating heavily.
Recent below-normal temperatures in the region have kept waters cool, which may slow the bass and perch fishing for a time, Engel said. But the opener falls as late as possible on the calendar this year, and that should help those taking advantage of the first couple days of the season.
"The timing is probably good because of the
temperature issues," Engel said. "I think the more the lakes have a chance to warm up, the better the fishing will be."
While most will be going after walleye, trout fishing is expected to be good this season in western Wisconsin. The trout season starts Saturday — a week after the end of the early catch-and-release season.
"Early-season trout fishing reports have been very positive," Culhane said. "They're catching strong, thick, healthy trout."
The Rush and Kinnickinnic rivers should be in good shape this year, despite significant flooding in the fall, Engel said.
"We haven't had a chance to survey those streams ... but people are saying really good things about the Rush and the Kinni," said Engel, adding that flooding likely didn't cause major changes to habitats but favorite fishing holes may have changed.
Culhane said those who don't know the hot spots could save themselves a lot of time and anguish by hiring a fishing guide.
"If you're a new fisherman, there's probably nothing better in the world than to hire a guide," he said. "They're a little expensive, but they're worth it."
A few bucks can be saved, however, with the new license option.
In the past, state residents who wanted to fish on inland lakes for just a day would likely need to buy a $20 annual license, and nonresidents would need to buy a $24 four-day license. An annual license for nonresidents is $50.
After buying the one-day license, an annual license is $12.75 for residents and $40.75 for nonresidents. Those fishing inland trout must also buy a $10 stamp.
"It's really important for Wisconsin to maintain the large number of anglers we have," Culhane said. "That's a big part of the culture here and also it's a huge source of revenue."
Fishing in the state generates $2.75 billion in economic benefits, more than 30,000 jobs and $200 million in state and local tax revenue, according to the DNR.
The Minnesota fishing opener is May 14.