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Bill Cosh
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Outdoor Report for January 31, 2013

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View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
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For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

This winter has had it all, including snow and cold, rain and warm ups. It has been anything but consistent, making it a challenge to get out, or stay out on the trails or on the ice.

And this week has been no different. A late January storm brought 6 to 10 inches of snow to parts of Wisconsin and strong winds have, and likely will blow the snow around to further hamper travel and outdoor activities.

Temperatures have also plummeted and as the week winds down, highs will struggle to reach single digits and wind chills could be a dangerous -25 to -40. But then expect some warmth to return to by the weekend.

Still, there is winter fun to be had.

A host of candlelight events will occur this weekend in several Wisconsin state parks and forests, including Blue Mound, Peninsula, High Cliff, Interstate state parks and Black River, Flambeau River and Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit state forests.

Candlelight nights have become some of the most popular winter activities in state parks in recent years for many reasons, including they are family friendly and fun. A candlelight snowshoe hike at Rib Mountain State Park drew more than 450 people last Saturday and a candlelight ski and grand opening of a new warming shelter at Blue Mound State Park in January attracted more than 1,000 people.

There is also angling excitement on the state's frozen waters, and for the 2013 sturgeon spearing seasons on the Lake Winnebago system. Prospects are good for spearing record-setting fish, state fish biologists say. The season opens on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 a.m.

In spring 2012, DNR crews captured, tagged and released an 87.5 inch, 240-pound sturgeon below the Shawano Dam and surveys show a large number of trophy fish, those over 100 pounds.

There is also success to be had ice angling, including in Brown County, where whitefish, perch, and walleye were being caught off Door County in the areas of Sturgeon Bay, south to Chaudoir's Dock.

To the west and north on the Upper Chippewa Basin, some nice crappie, bluegill and perch are being pulled in with the best success has come from the deeper water areas with the fish suspended just off the bottom. Walleye activity also clicked up a notch in the last week and the tip-up fishermen were starting to see a little more consistent action on a day-to-day basis.

On the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park, ice anglers have been catching some crappies and bluegills. The anglers are fishing in 10-12 feet of water, downstream from the boat landing. The bluegills are near the bottom, but finicky as to what bait and jigs that they will respond to. A few crappies and small northern pike round out the fishing catch. One young angler reported while fishing in his ice shelter, he was surprised when a dog fish or bowfin jumped through the hole and landed in his shelter. He had occasionally seen a dogfish, come to the surface and look at him, but never jump out of the water.

Sightings at bird feeders include juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays purple finches and, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers.

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - Conditions have been wonderful for skiing at the Afterhours Ski Trail and are considered the best skiing of the year. Excellent conditions for both skate and classic! The entire trail system was re-groomed Wednesday. Another couple inches fell the day before and it was snowing again. Staff utilized the Cragin Groomer that shaves high spots and fills in low spots, now that our base will allow it. It is really nice out there. The Brule Valley Ski Club has a Facebook page for the Brule Valley Ski Club & Afterhours Ski Trail. Ski conditions, events and pictures are posted to this page...check it out and find out what is going on at the trail. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - The park currently has about 3 inches of snow on the ground. The condition of the ski trails has improved with the recent snowfall. The trails were last groomed on Jan. 30. Please call the park at 715-399-3111 for up to the minute grooming report as trails are continually groomed as new snow falls. We have had a few winter campers over the past few weeks. Pattison State Park maintains 1 electric and 1 non electric site for winter campers.- Phillip Brown, ranger

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Polk County - Ice conditions have improved in Polk County with vehicle being observed on most lakes. Ice thickness varies on most lakes form 16-20 inches. Fishing has been slow the last couple of weeks. Some small northern pike were being caught on tip ups using shiner and sucker minnows on the edge of the weed lines. Panfishing has been slow with all the changes in the weather. Anglers have been picking up a few crappies after dark on several lakes but the sized seems to be down on the lakes in northern Polk County. Fishing pressure has been low due to below zero temps the last week. There is only a few inches of snow on the ground and the snowmobile trails remain closed in all of Polk County. There is no measurable snow in the forecast for the next week. If Polk County does get any larger snowfalls this winter snowmobiles are reminded that the trails are opened by the Polk County Parks Department. - Jesse Ashton conservation warden, Luck

Interstate Park - Winter recreation trails are open. The Skyline cross-country ski trail was groomed Jan. 30 and is in fair condition. Hiking is not recommended on the bluff trails as they are not maintained for winter use. Ice conditions are variable. A drive through the park may provide views of winter wildlife or evidence of their presence. Candlelight Night is 6-9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb 9. Ski, hike, snowshoe (available for use, snow conditions permitting), fires, refreshments, and live music.- Julie Fox, natural resources educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With some colder weather in the past couple weeks, ice depths have increased to about 12-15 inches on most lakes across the Northwoods. Recent snowfalls have added 5 to 6 inches of some heavy wet snow and, combined with some drifting, this has started to hinder vehicle travel on area waters. Four-wheel drive has pretty much become a necessity, and there are a lot of rutted and rough spots from anglers traversing the lakes. Well-traveled areas are getting packed down a bit, but there is also some slush starting to show up in spots. For fishing action, it seems that the mid-winter winter doldrums may have passed and success has started to improve for most species. Panfish anglers have still been moving around quite a bit, but many have been able to find some pretty good action. Some nice crappie, bluegill and perch have been showing up in the angler's creels, and the best success has come from the deeper water areas with the fish suspended just off the bottom. Walleye activity also clicked up a notch in the last week and the tip-up fishermen are starting to see a little more consistent action on a day-to-day basis. Some days still produce some real finicky bites (hit & drops with a foot of line out), but other days find the fish to be more aggressive in feeding and more easily hooked. The best success has come in the late afternoon hours just before dark, with a medium sucker or X-large fathead minnow fished just off the bottom in 4-12 feet of water. Northern pike activity has remained fair and some decent catches have been made near weeds in the 4-8 foot depths. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Ski Trail has about a 4-inch base and has been tracked and groomed on Jan. 31 and is in good to excellent condition. Snowmobile trails are opened but not groomed with about a 8-inch base. There is approximately 8 inches of snow on the ground. Looks like there will be snow for the 21st Annual Candlelight Ski. The event will be held Feb. 2 from 6-9 p.m. at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail will be groomed, tracked and lit with over 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food, and hot dogs, chili and spiced tea will be provided. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. The Flambeau Hills Trail Head is located on County Highway "W" 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter. This event will take place regardless of snow conditions. If there is no snow, take a candlelight walk. The North Fork of the Flambeau River still has a bit of open water.- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - As of Jan. 28, all cross-country ski trails had been groomed and are in good condition. McNaughton Trail: All loops leveled and packed. Skaters loop groomed. All other loops tracked. Good conditions. Madeline Trail: All loops tracked. Good conditions. Raven Trail: All loops packed and tracked. A few thin spots on the Red loop. Good conditions.- Tony Martinez, trails coordinator

Escanaba trail: As of Jan. 30 there is finally a base and some snow on top. Groomer was able to mix hard crusty snow from rain Jan. 29 with 2 inches fresh dry snow for a really nice track. Loop closest to Mystery lake is very scenic, narrow and curvy. Beautiful scenery along that stretch of trail right now. - Dan Jacoby - facilities repair worker

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Council Grounds State Park - Ski trails, as of Jan. 26, were groomed, tracked and in fair condition. The campground is closed for the season.

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Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - North of the Peshtigo Harbor people are fishing for northern pike using dead smelt fished on bottom or large shiners. Fishermen on the Menominee River have been concentrated below the Hattie Street Dam with their main quarry being walleye.- Calhoun Derbush - creel clerk

Oconto County - Fishermen at Geano Beach were fishing mainly for white fish and perch, most were setting up about 2 miles south of the landing. Oconto Breakwater Park saw some white fish being caught close to the mouth of the Oconto River. Some small perch are also being caught along with some nice pike. - Calhoun Derbush - creel clerk

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - The beginning of the week was very cold with few anglers. The temperature picked up toward the end of the week into the weekend with snow showers on Sunday. The snow fall made it difficult to make out the ice conditions, but overall it looked rough throughout the shore. Bullhead Point and Bay View Park were very busy over the weekend. At Bay View park was all recreation, using dirt bikes and snowmobiles, while over at Bullhead Point it was all fishermen.

Snow and ice conditions remain marginal. Ice thicknesses vary greatly and the warm weather and high winds have caused dangerous conditions on the bay of Green Bay. Anglers on the west shore have reported catching perch. Snowmobile trails are currently closed. Reminder that the archery deer hunt in metro deer hunting unit 64M closed on Jan. 31. - Andy Lundin, conservation warden, Green Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - In Sawyer Harbor though the ice was very flat and a fisherman reported getting about 10 inches of ice throughout the last week. A fisherman was looking for perch and caught his limit but only kept one. It was about 8 inches. More shanties appeared on the ice toward the end of the week into the weekend on Little Sturgeon. By Lime Kiln Road, there was an open patch of ice a few hundred yards off shore and the ice looked very rough with multiple ice shelves. There were only a few anglers out, fishing about 50-100 yards away from shore. A few caught and kept their whitefish having about their limits. Up by Little Sturgeon, the ice looked rough and there were a few looking for whitefish. Fishermen were also catching whitefish off of Riley Bay Road with a guided tour with getting about their limits as well. Whitefish were ranging from about 12-18 inches. At Cabot's Point, there were a few fishermen getting close to their limits of perch using minnows and wax worms. At Birmingham's, fishermen would park on the ice close to shore and bring their shanties out by ATV/snowmobile. Some even brought their shanties up by Stone Quarry. - Elizabeth Turos, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Fishermen have been accessing the west shore of Green Bay off of Sunset Beach Lane in Suamico as well as off of Hook Road in northern Suamico. Most anglers on the west shore are fishing perch and reporting success but the size of the perch being caught are not that good. The east shore fishermen are accessing at the normal spots and are catching whitefish. The ice is rough and still unstable although satellite images show that Green Bay is frozen tight. What the satellite images do not show is the ice thickness which varies significantly. Caution is still needed when venturing onto the ice. Ice is never safe. The predicted rain and warm temperatures will undoubtedly effect ice conditions be careful out there. - Darren Kuhn, conservation warden, Sturgeon Bay

Several popular ice fishing areas in the southern Door County area have seen increased fishing pressure due to the onset of cold weather last week and the resulting improvement of ice conditions. Whitefish, perch, and walleye are being caught in the areas of Sturgeon Bay, south to Chaudoir's Dock. Fishermen are reminded that previous to the cold weather last week, ice conditions in most areas were unsafe. Therefore, the ice in many areas is newly formed and not the thickness you would expect for late January or early February. As always, physically check the ice yourself, don't bet on others to have checked it before they went out, and be prepared with the proper safety equipment. - Christopher J. Kratcha, conservation warden, Sturgeon Bay

Potawatomi State Park - The park received about 7 inches of new snow this week, so ski trails and snowmobile trails should be in good condition for the weekend. Snowmobile trails were groomed by the Door Drifters Snowmobile Club Wednesday night. Volunteer ski trail groomers are working Thursday morning to get the trails in shape for the weekend. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Winnebago County - Ice anglers are having some success with white bass, as well as panfish and walleye on Lake Poygan. The wardens were happy to see large groups of anglers enjoying themselves on the ice over the weekend. As always, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds ice fishermen and women to be prepared and vigilant while on the ice. Two vehicles were reported to have gone through the ice on Lake Poygan in the past several days, serving as a stark reminder of the dangers of operating vehicles on frozen waters. Please plan ahead, fish with friends, and be careful.- Tom Truman, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Cross country ski trails received up to 4 inches of powder snow on Jan. 30 and were last groomed and tracked that night. The trails are in good condition. Trail passes are not required for cross country skiers at the Pike Lake Unit. When trails are snow covered hikers, snowshoers, and dogs are not allowed on trails east of Powder Hill Road (groomed ski trails). Multi Use Trails: are all open and in good condition for hiking and snowshoeing. Pets are not allowed on the Black Forest Nature Trail and must be on a leash at all times in other areas. The accessible trail pier has been removed for the season. Come and join us for the Pike Lake Unit's annual candlelight ski and hike event which will be held Feb. 9 from 6-9 p.m. at the beach area. Hike our trails with over 350 candles then enjoy a roaring bonfire and some warm refreshments.

Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson, fisheries technician, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - Ice anglers have been in the marina, however brown trout and steelhead fishing has been spotty. The lower Sheboygan River has stretches of open water.

Ozaukee County - Fishing in Port Washington has been slow overall with only a few browns and rainbows being caught by shore anglers fishing off of the Rotary Park rocks or the white railing area. The power plant discharge has also given up a few small browns; spawn sacs fished near bottom or casting bright colored crankbaits have worked best.

Milwaukee County - Fishing in Milwaukee recently has been rather slow. Conditions have been changing daily at Riverfront Ramp and on the Milwaukee River under the Hoan Bridge. Ice floes have been moving through the area, but the river mouth is currently clear. That may change in the next few days as we go from unseasonably warm temperatures to lows back down in the single digits. When boats have been able to get out in the harbor, brown trout have been biting. There is fishable open water on the Menomonee River near the MMSD office, but fishing there has been fairly slow.

Racine County - Harbor ice fishing has been slow recently, but a mix of browns, rainbows, and northerns have all been caught. Spawn sacs and shiners have taken the majority of fish.

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - Grant County received a variable amount of snowfall during this past snowstorm, and the snowmobile trails remain closed. Several clubs reported that the blowing and drifting snow left large areas of the trail without snow cover even with the 4-6 inch snowfall. Ice fisherman this past weekend reported slow fishing, with a few crappies and bluegills caught on the backwaters of the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State park. The anglers are fishing in 10-12 feet of water, downstream from the boat landing. The bluegills are right near the bottom, but are very "tight lipped" and finicky as to what bait and jigs that they will respond to. A few crappies and small northern pike round out the fishing catch. One young angler reported while fishing in his ice shelter, he was surprised when a dog fish (bowfin) jumped through the hole and landed in his shelter. He had occasionally seen a dogfish, come to the surface and look at him, but never jump out of the water and into his "lap." Another new scenario - fish defensively! The large amount of rainfall this past weekend also created poor ice conditions near main channel, and small tributary stream as the "ice has gone out" on the Grant and the Platte Rivers. Caution is advised, especially with the new snow cover, when venturing out on the ice. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville

Blue Mound State Park - Cross-county ski trails are open and in good condition. A track was set on Jan. 31. There are a few icy spots on the track, and section the track was lifted to avoid the ice. For current up to date conditions, please call the park at 608-437-5711. Please note it is prohibited to have pets, hike, bike or snowshoe on groomed ski trails. A separate designated trail is open for these uses. There will be a candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe. 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2. Separate candlelit trail for hikers, snowshoers, and leashed pets. Warm up with free hot drinks inside a heated building, and enjoy some hot food, baked goods and commemorative shirts for sale. Enjoy the bonfire and free marshmallows for roasting. Guided hikes through the illuminated woods with Naturalist Al Swain will be held at 7 and 8 p.m. Supported by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park. - Kevin Swenson, park manager

Wyalusing State Park -Wyalusing State Park is once again a winter wonderland. This area received about 9 inches of snow Jan. 30. At this time, ski trails are not groomed. Please call the park for information about the ski trails at 608-996-2261. Sightings at park office feeders include: juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and purple finches. The Mississippi River level at Prairie du Chien was at 7.5 Jan. 31. The boat landing is a popular place for ice anglers. Based on the number of anglers on the ice earlier this week, the fishing must have been good. Reminder: we do not monitor ice conditions.

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - The ATV trail on the Wild Goose State Trail closed. Warmer temperatures and forecasted rain put the trail surface in danger of damage from trail riding, therefore the trail has been shut down until colder temperatures return. Colder temperatures are expected by Thursday. The Dodge County Snowmobile Trail System remains closed. Additional snowfall is needed to re-establish a sufficient trail riding base. For a 24-hour trail status message call 920-386-3705. - Bill Ehlenbeck, Dodge County parks and trails manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Jefferson County - Anglers looking for northern pike and panfish should consider trying Red Cedar Lake and Blue Spring Lake. Anglers have reported catching lots of fish including legal size northern pike. - Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden

Lake Kegonsa State Park -The park received 5 inches of snow on Jan. 30. Cross-country ski trails were packed and were left with about a 2-inch base. There was a lot of standing water on the trails left from rain storms earlier in the week. As a result, many areas are icy. Crews were unable to set track due to the thin base and icy conditions. Trails are skiable, but please use caution. All cross country ski trails are closed to hiking, snowshoeing and pets. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

Mirror Lake State Park -Cross-country ski trails received about 8 inches of snow. The goal is to have everything groomed and tracked by the close of business on Friday. Expect excellent ski trail conditions. For the most up-to-date conditions, please contact the park at 608-254-2333. - Becky Green, park manager

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Willow River State Park - All ski trails were groomed and tracked last night. There is a new skate deck and classic track, some of which has started to get blown in. The trail surface remains hard with a crust on the skate deck. Also, bitter cold blew in last night and it continues today. Continuing with the bitter cold topic, please come inside for purchases or questions. The service window will have a sign posted to come indoors on bitterly cold days.- Jeff Bolte, visitor services

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Wildcat Mountain State Park - About 7 inches of snow fell on Wednesday, Jan. 30. Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked on Thursday, Jan. 31. Conditions are generally good for skating. Overall, the classical track is in fair condition (some areas good, some poor) with minimal snow depth. Hikers, snowshoers, and dogs are not allowed on groomed ski trails. - Joseph K Fieweger, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Snow has returned to the state forest. Trails are closed to snowmobiles and open for ATVs, but conditions are poor for ATVing with some icy areas. UTVs are not allowed on the trails in winter. Jackson County Forestry and Parks Department grooms and maintains all winter snowmobile and ATV trails in the state forest. Please check their websites for up to date trail openings and closings. On Saturday, Feb. 2 the Black River Forest Trail Foundation and the Black River State Forest will host the annual candlelight ski and snowshoe hike. The event will be from 6-9 p.m. at the Black River State Forest Smrekar Parking Lot, about four miles east of Millston off County Highway O. About 1.5 miles of trails will be provided. Food and beverages will be available in the heated shelter. Donations are accepted and a raffle offering several prizes will be held. Note: The event will be held with or without snow. If there is not enough snow it will be held as a hike. Come enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the forest, other than groomed trails. A new 1.5-mile snowshoe trail is available at the Smrekar trailhead. Additional trails for snowshoeing include the two mile Castle Mound trail and the five mile trail from Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road.- Peter Bakken, superintendent

Trempealeau County - Although some snow has fallen the past week, snowmobile trails remain closed in both Trempealeau and Jackson counties. Snowmobile trail conditions and status in Trempealeau County may be checked by calling 715-538-2311, Ext. 205, and listening to the recorded message. Jackson County ATV and snowmobile trail conditions and status can be may be checked on the internet at: http://www.co.jackson.wi.us/ ATV trails are open in Jackson County but trail conditions are reported to be icy and caution is advised. Ice fishing activity has been slow. Anglers are reporting some success with catching crappies but the bluegill bite has been sporadic. Tip-up action has been slow as well. Most area lakes and ponds have 12-16 inches of ice, although anglers should always exercise caution while on the ice and be aware of changing conditions. During the next month, many of the area sporting clubs will be hosting their annual ice fishing tournaments. Participating in one of these tournaments is a great way to support your local club, do some socializing with your neighbors, and enjoy some of the great Wisconsin outdoors. It is also a great way to introduce a kid to fishing. - Robin Barnhardt, conservation warden, Osseo

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Last Revised: Thursday, January 31, 2013