Copyright 2018 James Marsh
Fly Fishing The Milwaukee River
The Milwaukee River begins in Fond du Lac County,
Wisconsin and flows past Grafton to downtown
Milwaukee, where it enters Lake Michigan. There are
three major tributaries of the 104 mile long stream -
Cedar Creek, the Menomonee River and the
Kinnickinnic River. It's the largest of the Lake Michigan
tributaries in Wisconsin. Fly fishing the Milwaukee River
can be an exciting downtown experience.

The river receives a lot of fishing pressure but it's large
enough to accommodate a lot of anglers. It flows right
through the middle of the city of Milwaukee. It's wide,
easy to cast on and if the water levels are right, it's
easy to wade.

The Milwaukee has runs of Steelhead, Chinook Salmon,
Coho Salmon, and Brown Trout. It is also one of the
most heavily stocked streams in Wisconsin. It has
consistent flows and doesn't rise and fall as fast as
many Great Lake tributary streams.

The Milwaukee River flows are controlled by rain and the
flows determine how and where you can fish and as well
as wade. It ranges from shallow summer levels between
100 and 300 cfs, to springtime flows in excess of 7,000

The Milwaukee River provides some good spawning
habitat with many long gravel bars. It also has some
good, deep holding areas for steelhead to hold up in
prior to spawning that are in close proximity to the gravel
bar spawning areas. The best area for steelhead is
probably from Capitol Drive in Milwaukee to Thiensville.

Stream access is plentiful. Estabrook and Kletszch parks
both offer good access. There are many bridge crossing
in Milwaukee and Ozaukee counties where you can
access the river. A dam at North Avenue was removed
and fish can now migrate upstream for a long ways.

Make certain you check the current regulations.
The spring run of steelhead starts in March and runs
through May.
Lake run brown trout start in early July. The peak is from
mid-July to mid-September. Chinook salmon come in the
river from early July and peak mid August to the first of
September. Coho Salmon start moving up the Milwaukee
River in late August and peak in September.
The Fall run steelhead start up the Milwaukee River in
August and continues through November.
Mid-September and late October usually has the best
runs. Lake run brown and Chinook salmon are in the
river through October. Coho are in the river until
Steelhead are in the river during the winter but fishing
depends largely on the weather.
Type of Stream

Brown Trout
Chinook Salmon
Coho Salmon

Medium - large

Southeastern Wisconsin

Nearest Towns


Non-Resident License
State of Wisconsin

National Weather Service Link

Fly Fishing Gear, Tackle and Flies

Stream Flow Data:
Real Time USGS Data
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Milwaukee River Fishing Report:
Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.

2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.

3. Email us (
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.

All orders are shipped free in the
U. S. Orders over $100 are shipped via
Priority Mail.  
09/23/17 The river is running a little high. Lake run brown trout and Kings are coming in the
lower river. This should only get better as the days go by. Be sure to check out the Perfect Fly
Great Lakes
Steelhead flies.
01/09/19  Fishing report at bottom of
10/24/17 Stream levels are up from recent rain and lots of steelhead are entering the river.
Conditions should be very good soon. Send us an email for a fly list.
12/06/17 Stream levels are a little high but our customers are reporting some good steelhead
catches. Eggs, swinging and nymphing methods are working.
10/07/18 The water level is still high but should begin to drop some. There are kings being
caught along with some lake run brown trout when conditions permit.
12/24/18 The steelhead fishing is slowing down some. Get ready for the winter season. They
will be in the river all winter and vary according to water temperature. When it is very cold,
our-zxcbjnm,Perfect Fly steelhead nymphs work best. ][ZXM,./
01/02/19 The stream levels are up a little high but good numbers of steelhead and brown
trout are being caught. Swinging, nymphing and eggs are catching them. Send us an email
for a fly list.
01/09/19 The river is flowing at 2140 cfs at 4.16 ft. which is very high. It should be good
again when it falls back down some.