A proposed rule allowing anglers to troll for fish on inland waters statewide was modified by the Natural Resources Board.
Beginning in 2015, trolling would be legal with at least one line per angler on all inland waters in Wisconsin.
In 55 counties in the state, all inland waters would be open to trolling with up to three lines per angler.
In the remaining 17 counties — on waters not currently open to trolling — trolling would be allowed but would be limited to one line per angler and no more than two lines per boat, which means no more than two anglers trolling at a time (Door, Florence, Fond du Lac, Iron, Jackson, Lincoln, Marathon, Marquette, Menominee, Milwaukee, Oneida, Ozaukee, Sawyer, Sheboygan, Vilas, Washington and Waushara).
The board also added a three-year sunset clause meaning the new rule, which would take effect in 2015 pending legislative review, will revert to the current rule in 2018 unless the board takes additional action.
This action will give the DNR and the Wisconsin Conservation Congress time to engage anglers and explore issues related to trolling in counties where the proposal was opposed during the spring fish and game hearings.
"Trolling" means trailing a lure or bait from a boat under power by means other than drifting or rowing.
The proposal to allow trolling statewide with at least one line per angler was supported at the spring fish and game rule hearings by a majority of individuals — 3,646 to 2,250 — and by 61 of the state's 72 counties.
One key goal of the proposal, sought by musky anglers, is to legalize the practice of trailing live bait behind a boat, while casting with another rod. Under current rules, trailing a sucker or other minnow behind the boat while under power, however briefly, is considered trolling.
Trolling is currently allowed on all waters in 18 counties, on one or more specific waters in 45 counties (105 total waters) and on the boundary waters with Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, except on Vilas County boundary waters. Trolling is not allowed on any other waters, except certain disabled anglers can troll anywhere by special permit.
DNR biologists told the board Wednesday that years of data have shown no harmful biological effects to fisheries in lakes where trolling has been legal. Trolling is broadly allowed in surrounding states and in Canadian provinces.