We are lucky to live in a city surrounded by lakes and close to many streams. I myself have enjoyed kayaking on many of them, and especially love watching the sun set over Lake Mendota. I do not fish them, however. So I’ve consulted my husband, an avid fly fisherman who bravely takes our toddler sons fishing, to bring you the most kid-friendly fishing spots in and around Madison. He also grew up here fishing with his twin brother.


These are his tried-and-true favorites:

Memorial Union: Utilize the docks to fish for bass, bluegill, and crappie in Lake Mendota or take a walk down Lakeshore Path to find a more secluded spot to cast your line. After your fishing adventure, treat yourself to something sweet at the Daily Scoop and enjoy some Babcock Hall Dairy ice cream.

Picnic Point: Take a pleasant hike and scout out different spots on either side of the peninsula to fish. And, just to be on-theme, bring a picnic basket filled with lunch goodies. Enjoy it at the end of the point where you can sit and eat on rock formations.

Wingra Park & Boat Livery: Rent a small boat with a motor to zip around looking for bass, musky, or panfish. There’s a nearby playground and large field, so bring a soccer ball, frisbee or other outdoor games to play.

Brittingham Park: With easy access to Lake Monona, this is a great panfish and largemouth bass area. There’s a nice pavilion where you can enjoy your pre-packed lunch or dinner (and bathrooms too!) and a recently updated all-inclusive playground.

H.M. Zander Community Nature Park (in Cross Plains): Fish for trout on Black Earth Creek. The park has a newly constructed path for easy hiking and two ADA accessible fishing stations. The park is near Main Street which offers coffee shops, bars and restaurants.

What to Know Before Fishing with Kids

  • Children under 16 years of age don’t need fishing licenses, but you will! Visit Wisconsin’s DNR website for more information.
  • Know your season! There are even some weekends that are “free” and you don’t need to have a permit. Check them out here.
  • Prep your materials the night before. Put your hooks on the line and organize your tackle. If you’re going to fish with worms, have the hook already on the rod and the bobber on the line, so all that’s left to do is to add the creepy crawlies. Rig up your fishing gear so when you get to your fishing spot you can put the lines in the water right away. Kids have a lot less patience than we do, and will be super eager to start fishing immediately!
  • Pack snacks and extra clothes, not only for your child but for yourself. Someone is likely to get really wet or even fall into the water! And you might be the someone who has to jump in after them.
  • Don’t be disappointed if they lose interest more quickly than you had hoped. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a fish right away. But if not, and the trip turns into throwing sticks or skipping stones in the water, go with the flow. They will love just being outdoors and spending time with you.

Tight Lines!

Kim Hinkley
Kim is a mom of two toddlers, Hank and Ike. She's called both Chicago and San Francisco home, but moved to Madison after reconnecting with her college sweetheart (now her husband) after a 9-year hiatus. After a year of staying at home full-time, she's back "at the office" as the Curriculum & Programming Director at The Well Preschool. She periodically guest lectures on the importance of play for adults in UW-Madison's Consuming Happiness course. When she's not chasing after her sons, she tries to relax with pilates, random craft classes, wine and exercises her newfound love of bingo whenever possible.


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