View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
Wisconsin's 2016 inland game fish season opens this Saturday with unseasonably warm weather in the forecast. While conditions may be great for open water fishing, state forestry officials are cautioning that there are very high fire danger conditions in northwestern Wisconsin and high fire danger conditions across about half the state. Much of the southern half of the state, where vegetation is nearing full green-up, has decreased to moderate fire danger.
Forestry staff, in consultation with the National Weather Service, have issued a "red flag alert," for the region on Thursday, May 5 through 8 p.m. Friday May 6, under which all burning permits are suspended and the public is asked to refrain from all outdoor burning, including campfires, outdoor grills and smoking, and to be extremely careful with other possible sources of ignition including chain saws, off-road vehicles and other small engines that could spark a wildfire.
In the north, walleye have completed their spawning activity on all but the largest of the lakes. With a continued warming trend, look for an excellent opening weekend walleye bite with both live and artificial baits likely to produce good action. With water temperatures nearing the mid-50s, both smallmouth and largemouth bass have started to show up in shallow water.
For panfish, perch have their completed spawning, crappie are about a week or two away from starting spawning, while bluegill and pumpkinseed are about three to four weeks away. Some nice crappie and bluegill have been showing up in the shallow, warmer bays.
On Green Bay, boaters reported good numbers of walleye, pike and a few brown trout being caught from Oconto to the Pensaukee River. High winds from the northeast last week limited fishing pressure along the east shore of the bay. Anglers who braved the waves managed to get a few walleyes. A few steelhead were still being found upstream in the West Twin and Branch rivers but the fish remaining have been tough to catch. On Lake Michigan, the strong winds and high waves also kept fishing effort relatively low. Most boats have been trolling inside harbors due to the winds and large waves. Some brown trout were landed near the mouth of the Milwaukee River. When the winds are favorable, boats have been out targeting coho and brown trout out of Racine and Kenosha.
Turkeys are very active now, with many hens already sitting on nests. Turkey hunters continue to report success, with some nice birds being harvested in the third period. Sharp-tailed grouse are dancing in the early mornings. Saw-whet owls were calling and short-eared owls are present. Hummingbirds, orioles, whip-poor-wills, bobolinks and barn swallows, rose-breasted grosbeaks have returned. Great blue herons, green herons, osprey and bald eagles are on their nests.
The choruses of spring peepers and chorus frogs have quieted some, but American toads and tree frogs have begun to sing.
Pasque flower, kitten tails, golden Alexanders, and prairie buttercup are blooming in the prairies and oak savannas. In the woodlands, there has been a profusion of wildflowers, including hepatica, bellwort, and bloodroot. In the wetlands, the marsh marigold and willows are blooming. Trilliums are blooming in the south but are just emerging from the leaf litter in the north. Fiddleheads of ferns are up and soon they will develop into fronds. Morel mushrooms are being found.
The first black flies are out, a few deer flies and mosquitoes have been seen. Make sure to do a tick check when you are done hiking because the ticks are out and abundant.
The 19th annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival is this weekend, with guided hikes, bird banding, boat tours, speakers and more. Visit Horiconmarshbirdclub.com for more details and a list of all the amazing bird related events. This is also the last weekend to get out for a Work*Play*Earth Day event.
In the past week, 50 wildfires burned in DNR protection areas (approximately half the state). One building was destroyed and 4 others were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance. The main causes were debris burning (16) and equipment (12). As the vegetation dries out on the days we don't receive rain, expect fire danger to increase, particularly in areas where standing dead grass and other dry vegetation remains. As vegetation greens up, people often become complacent and conduct their burning projects during the day instead of following the time restrictions on burning permits. In DNR protection areas, if you do choose to conduct outdoor burning, remember that a free annual burning permit is required to burn small piles of debris and to burn in a burn barrel. Burning permits are frequently suspended this time of year due to high fire danger. You must check the day's burning restrictions every day you intend to burn by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or by checking online at dnr.wi.gov (search fire danger). Larger piles and daytime burning requires a special permit from a DNR Ranger. Piling your debris in a campfire pit does not make it okay to burn during the day. If your property is outside a DNR protection area, check with local officials for burning restrictions.
Firewise Tip: Homeowners are encouraged to make weekly checks around your home or cabin for windblown leaves and needles on your roof, around your foundation, and under decks and elevated porches; keep these areas clean. The debris that collects in these places could be easily ignited by flying embers produced during a wildfire. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madsion
Enjoy the spring weather at Observatory Hill State Natural Area during a workday Saturday, May 7. A large-scale restoration is taking place here and new gaps in the canopy have been created. Native seed has been spread but invasives like garlic mustard are threatening to take over. We will be spraying garlic mustard to encourage native plants to fill in the gaps. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Click for more information .
This weekend and the next, volunteers can get the training they need to become a rare plant detective for Wisconsin - hot on the trail of some of the state's most unique plants. In recent years, these volunteer detectives have discovered a rare yellow water lily not seen in southwestern Wisconsin in 42 years, and unearthed rare orchids in a location where state biologists could take action before the orchids died out. Such volunteer help has dramatically increased DNR's ability to collect information about rare plants hidden around Wisconsin and enabled the state to target management activities to help the plants survive as an important part of Wisconsin's natural heritage, according to Kevin Doyle, Wisconsin's Rare Plant Monitoring Program coordinator. Spaces are still open for this year's rare plant monitoring training sessions at Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area on May 7; Vilas County Courthouse in Eagle River on May 8; and Kohler-Andre State Park on May 14. Sign up by contacting program coordinator Kevin Doyle by phone (608-267-9788) or email (email@example.com).
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Burnett County - The water is rather high and dirty due to the recent heavy rains. Panfish are starting to show up in the shallows. We are starting to see goslings tagging behind the adult geese. - Dustin Gabrielson, conservation warden, Webster
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Most of the waterfowl migration is over, but there are still a lot of ducks and geese around. Many of them are nesting. Broods of young Canadian geese appeared this week. Very few songbirds have arrived yet. Red-necked grebes are nesting. Sharp-tailed grouse are dancing in the early mornings. White pelicans are present. Saw-whet owls were calling and short-eared owls are present. - Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator
Straight Lake State Park - Spring wildflowers can be found throughout the park. Marsh marigold, large-flowered bellwort, jack-in-the pulpits, violets, and trilliums can all be seen right now. Trumpeter swans have been feeding in Straight Lake and the Straight River. Bald eagles and osprey have been seen hunting for fish on the lakes. Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, and loons have been seen on the lakes and ponds. Frogs have emerged and can be heard nearly anywhere there is water. Turtles and snakes can be seen warming themselves in the sun. Hikers should expect spring conditions on the Ice Age Trail with most areas being dry, but there are a few muddy and wet spots as well. Make sure to do a tick check when you are done hiking because the ticks are out. Rainbow Lake has been stocked with trout again this year. The season dates for trout fishing on Rainbow Lake have changed this year and will now run from first Saturday in May though the first Sunday in March. Access to both Rainbow and Straight Lakes is carry-in only and no motors are allowed. - Matthew Densow, ranger
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Most lakes and flowages in the Upper Chippewa Basin have free of ice for almost three weeks now and water temperatures have warmed into the low to mid-50s. Walleye have completed their spawning activity on all but the largest of the lakes, tho many males are still being found along spawning areas such as rocky shorelines and islands. Most of the larger females have retreated to deeper water for a short recovery period, but a few are starting to show up in the shallow, mud-bottom bays and flats. With a continued warming trend, look for an excellent opening weekend walleye bite with both live bait and artificials likely to produce good action. Northern pike are also well past their spring spawning ritual and musky are about toward the end of theirs. Northern pike action should be good and plenty of medium-size fish should be found along emergent vegetation lines and over old weeds beds. With water temperatures nearing the mid-50s, both smallmouth and largemouth bass have started to show up in shallow water in increasing numbers and both species have been observed around woody structure and rocky shorelines. Opening weekend action for bass should be good if water temps rise another couple degrees. For panfish, perch have their completed spring spawning period and their ribbons of eggs can be seen along shore in 2 to 5 feet of water. Crappie are about a week or two away from starting their spawning activity, while bluegill and pumpkinseed are about three to four weeks away. Some nice crappie and bluegill have been showing up in the shallow, warmer bays and action should be fair to good on opening weekend. Trout stocking has been completed on all managed trout lakes and most of the prescribed streams, and anglers should find good action on Saturday morning. Most streams in northwest Wisconsin are a few inches above normal but levels should drop down to normal without any additional rain during the week. Mayfly nymphs have been seen moving in many waters so that may be a clue as to the type of lure to use (small spinners, as well as the usual worms and nightcrawlers). - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The lakes and river water temperatures are still pretty cold. The docs are in and ready to go for the fishing opener this weekend, May 7. Some folks have been enjoying paddling canoes and kayaks on the river. The cooler temperatures have delayed leaf-out but the sunshine has turned the grass green under the canopy. There is a green tinge to the tree canopies and the red maples have dropped their flowers and roadways, fields, and lawns are green. The month of May is the Flower Moon month. Many wildflowers are in bloom. Bloodroot is up and blooming, and marsh marigolds are blooming in low areas. Trilliums haven't opened yet but they are up and milkweed seeds are dispersing. Leatherwood is flowering. Cattails with fluffy seed heads can be seen in large marshes and on the edge of ponds, when pollinated these fluffy seed heads can blow seeds for long distances. Fiddleheads of ferns are up and soon they will develop into fronds. Black flies are out, a few deer flies and mosquitoes have been seen. Tics are abundant, especially the wood tics. Does and elk cows are moving around a lot, looking for secure areas to have their youngsters. Bears have been out feeding on grass. Turkeys and turkey hunters have been active. ATV/UTV trails are closed until Saturday May 14. Lake of the Pines Campground is open. It is open on a first come first serve basis with 29 campsites and always seems to have available sites because this campground is one of the best secrets of the Forest. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
This report is for the week of April 24-30. Water temperatures remain cool in the mid to upper 40. Anglers report catch rates starting to improve for walleye, pike, and trout. Angling pressure was light due in part to cool temperatures and high winds most of the week.
Marinette County - Carp have moved up to the Dam in Peshtigo and with the high winds last week fishing pressure was extremely light and no interviews were gotten. Little River anglers report the brown trout bite has slacked off a bit but the fish are still there. Trolling with stick baits in 6 to 12 feet of water is still producing some browns, walleye and pike. Very few anglers were observed on the Menominee River and no interviews were gotten. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Crappie and blue gill are being caught below the Dam at Stiles. Minnows suspended below stick bobbers worked well for crappie with crawler chunks catching blue gill. Sucker and pike fishermen at the mouth of the Oconto River were enjoying some success using three-way swivels tipped with dead smelt or crawlers. Boaters, both trolling and casting report good numbers of walleye, pike and a few brown trout being caught from Oconto Park II to the Pensaukee River mouth. Fire tiger and clown colors along with purple baits have been working well. Most fish are being caught in 4 to 8 feet of water. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Bay Shore Park saw moderate fishing pressure toward the end of the week even with the high winds and colder temperatures. Anglers were trolling with Flicker Shads once again but with minimal success. Many anglers stated that with the high winds it made it very difficult to detect bites with the planar boards being pulled back by the wind. Catch rates were down by a high margin compared to the previous two weeks most likely due to the bad weather. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door County - Little Sturgeon Bay saw a slight drop in fishing pressure this week due to the high winds from the Northeast for much of the week. Anglers that did manage to get out had little success except a few anglers that were able to get on some walleyes during the night time hours. Most of the fishing pressure was out from Carmody boat launch, no interviews or trailers at Sunset Boat launch and one trailer out from Al's private launch. Sawyer Harbor was once again very slow with no trailers or interviews. Chaudoir's Dock also saw a drop in anglers, more than likely caused by the winds that were generating 3-4 foot waves. The fishermen that braved the waves managed to get a few walleyes, with sizes ranging from 22-27 inches. Anglers were reporting a drop in water temperatures from last week due to the wind and cold night time temperatures. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Manitowoc County - Fishing has been slow. The steelhead run is slowing down but fish can still be found upstream in the West Twin and Branch rivers. The fish remaining have been tough to catch with most bites coming on flies and light tackle. Pier fishing has been generally slow with a few lucky anglers catching browns on occasion. North winds have made fishing on the lake difficult. Action on the lake will hopefully pick up when the weather cooperates.- Benjamin Thome, fisheries technician, Mishicot
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Peninsula State Park - On May 7, 2016 the Door County Half Marathon will be run on the roads in Peninsula State Park. Most roads will be closed from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the safety of runners and spectators. Traffic may enter or exit the Group Camp toward the Golf Course on Shore Road all day. Access to the boat launch at Nicolet Bay will be restricted during the Half Marathon. Boaters may launch prior to the road closure (at 8 a.m.), no vehicles may exit the boat launch parking lot until the race has concluded, at approximately 2 p.m. Tennison Bay Campground campers may exit the park until 9:30 a.m. No vehicles may enter or exit Tennison Bay campground between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. At 11 a.m. traffic may enter or exit Tennison Bay campground past the campground recycling station towards Park Headquarters on Shore Road. For more information on the race, visit Door County Marathon [exit DNR].
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Lots of bird activity at the bird feeder such as the downy, hairy, red-bellied woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals and chickadees. New at the feeder this week are eastern towhee and chipping sparrows. Red-breasted mergansers were also spotted out in the lake. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Calumet County - The crappie bite at Stockbridge Harbor has slowed and most anglers are only catching a few fish per trip. The sucker run up the Lake Winnebago tributaries along the east shore has ended. Walleye anglers are starting to the fish the evenings along the shoreline using lighted bobbers and leeches. Turkey hunters have been successful in the area with some nice birds being harvested in recent days. Goslings have hatched and have been seen grazing on fresh grass in the road ditches near area marshes. Anglers who fish the inland lakes and rivers are patiently waiting for the fishing opener this coming weekend. - Michael Disher, conservation warden - Stockbridge
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - The Southern Unit has recently hired two assistant naturalist guides. Over the last few weeks, they have observed spring unfold in the prairies, oak savannas, woodlands, and wetlands. In the prairies and oak savannas, we've seen a sprinkling of pasque flower, kitten tails, golden Alexanders, and prairie buttercup blooming to the accompaniment of field sparrows and sandhill cranes and the occasional eastern meadowlark. In the oak woodlands, there has been a profusion of wildflowers, including hepatica, bellwort, and trillium. The red-bellied woodpeckers and ruby-crowned kinglets have been quite vocal, and the broad-winged hawks have recently returned from wintering in Central and South America. In the wetlands, the marsh marigold and willows are blooming. The choruses of spring peepers and chorus frogs have quieted and American toads have begun to sing. On sunny days, painted turtles line up on logs in ponds to bask; the eastern newts remain in the kettle ponds, while the blue-spotted salamanders have left the kettles for drier areas. Meet us at the Forest HQ (Route 59 between Eagle and Palmyra) in May on Saturdays at 10 a.m. for free wildflower walks and on Sundays at 8 a.m. for free bird walks. - Todd Miller, assistant naturalist
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - The Sheboygan and Pigeon rivers are clear and low. Both rivers were in the upper 40s over the weekend. No anglers were interviewed on the Pigeon River this weekend. Trout fishing on the Sheboygan River was slow this week. A good number of anglers were interviewed, but only 3 brown trout were reported caught. Carp anglers were very successful this weekend by the 8th Street boat launch. One angler reported catching two northern pike on Saturday near the Kohler Dam. The South pier in Sheboygan had a few brown trout caught on Saturday. There were two burbot and one lake trout caught on Friday. All the docks by the 8th Street boat launch are in. All Sheboygan fish cleaning stations and bathrooms are now open.
Ozaukee County - Sauk Creek is low and very clear and the water temperature is 51 degrees. Only one angler was interviewed over the weekend and he caught 3 steelhead in 10 hours with many suckers caught in between. Many carp are being caught near the power plant discharge on a wide variety of bait. Anglers targeting carp have been successful with worms and corn, but anglers targeting trout have also been getting a few carp. One brown trout and one coho were reported being caught near the power plant on Saturday with frozen and thawed alewives. Anglers by the marina in the north slip area landed one 16 inch brown trout, one large northern pike, and one smallmouth bass using crankbaits. All fish cleaning stations and bathrooms in Port Washington are now open. The Army Corps of Engineers has started repairs on the breakwall of the north pier in Port Washington, and access to the pier is prohibited. Construction is projected to last until July 3.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee, strong winds and high waves kept fishing effort relatively low over the past week. A couple of anglers on average fished the harbor behind Summerfest with a few small brown trout being landed on fathead minnows and spawn sacks. A few brown trout were caught in the Lakeshore State Park lagoon by anglers casting crank baits and spoons but the catch rate has been spotty. Most boats have been trolling inside the harbor due to the northeast winds and large waves along the lakefront. The majority of the brown trout caught recently were landed near the mouth of the Milwaukee River. Large schools of bait fish were marked recently by boaters at the mouth of the river. The fish cleaning station at the McKinley and South Shore ramps opened for the season on Sunday, May 1.
Racine County - The fairly strong north and northeast winds of recent days has made nearshore water clarity fairly poor. When the winds are favorable, boats have been out targeting coho and brown trout on peanut flies and flicker shads. Shore fishing in Racine has been slow but should pick up with a couple of days of west winds to improve nearshore water clarity. The Root River is low and clear, and fishing effort has been minimal. A few steelhead could still be seen, especially from Colonial Park to the Horlick dam. A few suckers are lingering around as well.
Kenosha County - The fairly strong north and northeast winds of recent days has made nearshore water clarity fairly poor. When the winds are favorable, boats have been out targeting coho and brown trout on peanut flies and flicker shads. Shore fishing in Kenosha has been slow, and the Pike River is low and clear with a water temperature of 51 degrees.
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Iowa County - Turkeys are very active now, with many hens already sitting on nests. Numerous bird species are nesting, with reports of goslings being seen. Painted turtles are beginning to lay eggs. Hummingbirds, orioles, whip-poor-wills, bobolinks and barn swallows have returned. Toads, tree frogs are calling along with spring peepers and chorus frogs. Violets and jack-in-the-pulpit are blooming, and morels are being found. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Celebrate birds by coming to the 19th annual Horicon Marsh Bird Festival! Guided hikes, bird banding, boat tours, Bird Lab, expert speakers and so much more! Keynote speaker, Sandy Kamito, will entertain participants with the story of his "Big Year" which inspired the movie starring Jack Black and Owen Wilson. Visit Horiconmarshbirdclub.com for more details and a list of all the amazing bird related events. The new Horicon Marsh Explorium, interactive exhibits chronicling the story of Horicon Marsh are open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. Special early hours for the bird festival. Opens at 7 a.m. - Liz Herzmann, natural resources educator
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -Anglers and boaters are having a great time catching a variety of fish on area lakes and rivers. Anglers are reminded that water levels on the Eau Claire River and Chippewa River can rise quickly during rain events. Anglers are catching some nice sized crappies at the north shoreline of Big Falls County Park. Anglers on Lake Altoona have been getting some limits (10 panfish) of perch and crappies at the east end of the lake. Recently, a fisherman at the Lake Altoona boat landing was draining water from the boat live well into a plastic bucket containing the fish he had caught on the lake. The angler was reminded that he was in violation of the VHS rules. You must drain all water from boats, containers and fishing equipment when leaving any state waters, banks or shores. This does not apply to any drinking water or up to 2 gallons of water being used to hold minnows that can be legally transported. You may not transport any live fish or live fish eggs away from any state waters. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire
Lake Wissota State Park - With the spring bird migration underway we have been seeing or hearing several species including: rose-breasted grosbeaks, loons, robins, red polls, a variety of wrens, phoebes, Canada geese, northern juncos, pileated woodpeckers, eagles, osprey, orioles and belted kingfishers. The great blue herons, green herons, osprey and bald eagles are on their nests. We have seen the first hatch of Canadian geese. The maples have begun to leaf out. Marsh marigolds, hepaticas, bellworts, and the false rue anemones are in bloom. Trilliums are emerging from the leaf litter. Area open water panfishing action has been fast with warm temperatures or very quiet during cooler days in the sheltered bays and lagoons. The campground is open year round with electric sites and pit toilets available. The campground showers and dump station will open in mid-May. - Dave Hladilek, park manager
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Sandhill cranes, osprey and spring peepers have been seen and heard around the park as well as grouse, bald eagles, bats, and dragonflies. Hunting in the state park and Buckhorn Wildlife Area closed for the season as of May 3. Periods 4-6 for spring turkey will be in the Yellow River Wildlife Area only. Check at the park office for availability for camping as there are some reservations for campsites during the week and on weekends. All campsites are now open. The dump station is open, most water is turned on, showers/flush toilets will be open by May 15. Please do not leave campfires unattended and make sure they are out before leaving. Accessible fishing pier and boat boarding piers are in. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate will open on Friday, May 6. There is still some clean up to do from winter. Mark your calendar for the annual Work & Play Day. May 7 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Call the park office at 608-339-6881 to sign up. Bring leaf blowers, rakes, work gloves and water bottles to help clean out campsites to get them ready for use. - Heather Wolf, park manager