Fishing … This popular summer thing to do may conjure up a romantic snapshot of a sweet family, sitting in matching lawn chairs lakeside. A boy in a baseball cap or a girl in a tutu with scuffed knees, all smiles and holding a fishing pole, their eyes dancing with the red and white bobber that slowly matches the rise and fall of the waves.
There’s a sweet honesty when we parents think of these fishing moments with our kids. We hold on to these snapshots in our minds, because the ride to the lake, setting up, and then packing back up to head home can be messy. If we only regarded the setup and tear-downs of life with kids though, we probably would never leave the house.
So, you had this idea about fishing and you thought you would start by going to a sports store. Maybe some panic about the details set in down the fishing pole aisle: Do we need fishing licenses? Inland? Big lake? How will I know if we catch a trout?
So, how do you get your family out in beautiful Wisconsin outdoors, and on the way to becoming the capable anglers, you envision? We can help in getting started and to find places to go!
FREE Wisconsin Fishing Days: June 4-5, 2022
The DNR opens up free fishing for all ages twice each year. Generally, those days are the first weekend in June or the third weekend in January.
Dozens of free clinics are offered during these weekends by clubs, local parks, and other community organizations around the state. You can find a list of some here.
We usually take our kids to River Park in Sheboygan Falls where they make it a real event for the entire family. Not only do they have concessions for purchase, prize drawings for the kids, and a playground for kids to play on, but they also have expert anglers there to help teach, guide, and clean your catches! The local conservation club generously stocks the little lagoon to help encourage young anglers.
Don’t have tackle gear of your own? Many of these events will have gear for you to borrow!
Where can we borrow fishing gear?
Want to try things out before you buy? Take a look at the Tackle Loaner sites at several state parks in Wisconsin.
Who needs a fishing license?
There are several ways to purchase a license. If you are new to fishing, you can try the First-time Buyer resident license for only $5. For everyone else, here is more information about purchasing a Wisconsin fishing license. Everyone 16 years old or older will need a license to fish, except for the free fishing days.
I highly recommend using the DNR’s website as a guide to fishing. There are certain rules for fishing depending upon the fish you catch or the season. These rules are created to help make sure Wisconsin waterways and her fish continue to thrive for years of enjoyment to come.
GVK Reader Recommended Fishing Spots for Kids
- Memorial Park, Appleton
- Memorial Park is designated as an Urban Fishing Water and was stocked with 500 rainbow trout in coordination with the Wisconsin DNR. No license is necessary for those 15 and under, disabled anglers need a disabled fishing license and an inland trout stamp. The pond is open for anyone and 16+ need a license and an inland trout stamp. The daily bag limit is 3 trout of any size.
- For more information visit: appletonparkandrec.org
- Jefferson Park
- Menasha, Wisconsin
- Kaukauna Industrial Park
- Sarah, “The pond in the Kaukauna industrial park. Not great eating sized fish, but lots of little ones that are easily caught with a bobber for catch and release. They are hungry little guys, too, so the kids always catch lots.”
- Riverside Park
- Neenah, Wisconsin
- Kimberly Point Park / The Neenah Light
- Neenah, Wisconsin
- Near Riverside Park in Neenah, just down the road a bit.
- Prairie Hill Park
- 2901 N Abendroth St, Appleton, Wisconsin / Town of Grand Chute
- “catch and release fishing pond with dock (handicap accessible)”
- Lutz Park
- Appleton, Wisconsin
- “An ADA accessible canoe/kayak launch was added to Lutz Park to assist those with special needs and river enthusiasts.”
- Sunset Park, Kimberly
- Kelly, “Sunset Park in Kimberly or Lutz Park in Appleton. I always see people fishing in these two parks when we go to play.”
- Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, Green Bay
- Long Lake, Sheboygan County
- Bullhead Lake, Manitowoc County
- Cedar Lake, Manitowoc County
- Manitowoc South Pier
- Hartmann Creek, Waupaca
- Wolf River
- Tonya, “If you want keepers fish the Wolf River in Shiocton, New London, or Fremont.”
- Neenah Slough & Baldwin Park
- Diana, “A lot of people fish in the Neenah Slough and at Baldwin Park; there is a playground too, but no restrooms.”
- Wilderness Springs, New London
- N4923 Lange Drive, New London, Wisconsin
- Wilderness Springs Trout Farm is the perfect option for fishing with your family and is open for public fishing Saturdays and Sundays, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, May thru September from 9 am – 4 pm.
- No fishing license is required! Bait and tackle is provided. There is no limit to what you catch, but catch and release is not allowed. You pay by the pound and they will pack it into ice for free, and for a small fee can even have the fish cleaned.
- Check out the beautiful ponds and learn about where your food is raised. There are picnic areas if you want to pack a lunch and spend the day!
- For more information visit: wilderness-springs.com
June 4, 2022 – Community First FREE Fishing Days at Jefferson Park
Community First’s Free Fishing Day is on Saturday, June 4, 2022. Check-in is from 8 – 9 am. This year, events takes place at Jefferson Park in Menasha and Heckrodt Weland Reserve for all youth up to age 16 years old and their families.
Jefferson Park Event Includes
- Bait and Rods and Reels to Borrow
- Bring your own pole if possible, limited number available for use.
- Fun Activities for Kids
- Free Tee Shirts
- Small Scale Fishing Contest
- Prizes for overall length of fish.
- Lunch will also be provided for all participating kids.
Jefferson Park Event Details
Heckrodt Wetland Reserve Event Includes
- Equipment and bait.
- Assistance from Heckrodt staff.
- Prizes for youth participants
- Free lunch.
Heckrodt Wetland Reserve Event Details
- Location: Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, 1305 Plank Road, Menasha
- Time: 8 am – 12 pm
- Cost: FREE! Register in advance and check in by 9 am.