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Outdoor Report for March 28, 2013

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There are signs that spring is finally arriving in Wisconsin as the days grow longer and warmer and snow begins to melt, resulting in rapidly deteriorating skiing and snowmobile conditions. Most snowmobile trails close at the end of this month, as that is when trail easements end with most private land owners. Remember, using trails after they close is trespass and jeopardizes future trail easements. Most parks and forests have also ended ski trail grooming for the year.

With warmer weather this past week, and more sunshine in the forecast, song birds continue to arrive, but angling success remains spotty as a change of seasons is underway.

There is still some decent skiing in the north, but trails may be icy in the morning and slushy by aftrnoon. And snowmobilers, who have had a good March, are now on borrowed trail time. The best remaining riding is in Bayfield, Langlade and Oconto counties.

There is, however, still plenty of ice and as it melts, caution should be used because conditions are subject to rapid change. Fishing has been slow for the most part everywhere, but the snowmelt is starting to draw some steelhead up Lake Michigan tributaries. Anglers are reporting decent action on open stretches of the Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Milwaukee and Root rivers but some river sections remain unfishable due to ice.

Walleyes were starting to bite again on the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac dam and on the Fox River, but action has been slow so far on the Mississippi River, which still has large ice flows.

With April only days away, it is also time to talk turkey. The statewide spring turkey hunt for youth is April 6-7. Parents, guardians, and mentors can take any youth ages 10 through 15 who has a tag and license.

The two-day spring youth hunt, successfully initiated in 2007, allows one-on-one mentoring of future hunters in a relaxed atmosphere without competition for hunting spots from regular season hunters.

Youth are allowed to hunt on April 6 and 7 in the turkey management zone for which their permit is valid, regardless of the time period their permit is issued for, and may harvest only one male or bearded turkey during the two-day hunt.

Visitors to Wisconsin State Parks are being reminded they may encounter hunters on park properties this April, under a new state law that went into effect this year. There are limited hunting opportunities available in April, mainly spring turkey hunting.

While the parks are also open for trapping, the only open trapping season is for beaver and otter north of Highway 64. Beaver and otter traps are placed underwater and otter trapping is allowed by permit only.

Special permits for these 16 parks are issued through the same permit application process as permits for regular turkey zones. Hunters had to apply for those permits by the Dec. 10 application deadline, and all available permits for state park units were issued through the application process, so there are no general state parks zone permits available for over-the-counter sales.

Pelicans have been seen in Grant County, sandhill cranes continue to arrive along with turkey vultures. Eagles are incubating eggs in LaCrosse County and where waters are opening, ducks, geese and swans are arriving in numbers. Tukey vultures have returned to Devil's Lake State Park.

Every few years, there is a crash in the populations of small rodents that forces owls to move south in search of food. That is exactly what has happened this year and because of it, Wisconsin is becoming a temporary home to three species not normally seen here: the northern hawk owl, the great gray owl and the boreal owl. People who see a great grey, northern hawk, or boreal owl, are encouraged to fill out a rare bird sighting form wsobirds.org/?page_id=3208 (eixt DNR) on the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology's website.


Statewide Birding Report

Mornings are increasingly filled with the sounds of song birds including cardinals, chickadees, titmice, red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves joining the chorus. Waterfowl are beginning to move again after the recent cold snap. Birders are reporting goose movements including some white-fronted geese moving through south central Wisconsin. Birders should check Lake Michigan and inland open water spots in the next week for concentrated flocks of ducks and geese. Bald and golden eagles are also moving north to breeding areas as well as our first good movements of turkey vultures and some red-tailed hawks and kestrels. American woodcock have now started to trickle into southern Wisconsin. Look for the male's sky dance in the evening at your local natural area that contains a mixture of grasslands and shrubby forested areas. This display can be seen throughout the month of April into early May statewide. Other returning birds over the next week include song sparrow, killdeer, blackbirds and purple finch. Rare birds reported this week include more boreal, northern hawk and great gray owls. Check the DNR press releases and eBird (www.ebird.org/WI) for more information on these recent owl sightings. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - The Bois Brule River will be open to fishing from Highway 2 to the mouth of the river on this Saturday morning. Fishermen will have to trudge through the snow to get to the river this year. There is also a significant amount of shelf ice. As of last Monday, the river was still frozen over from Highway 13 to the mouth. The Afterhours Trail system is considered to be in good to very good condition. Temperatures are warming up into the 30s and 40s during the day creating soft ski conditions during the "heat" of the day. The trails are glazing over later in the day. Recently a few hawk owls have been observed in the Poplar and Maple areas of Douglas County. Northern hawk owls are an uncommon winter visitor to Wisconsin. During years of normal rodent densities they winter north of Wisconsin. However when vole numbers crash in their normal wintering areas, which is usually every 3 to 5 years, some birds disperse southward to Wisconsin. This is one of those years. Other rare owls such as great gray owls and Boreal owls have been sighted around in the state as well. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

Bayfield County - Chequamegon Bay ice conditions are still great, but the ice fishing hasn't improved. Ice on Lake Superior outside of the bay has started to move around and open up in some spots. Fishermen are encouraged to go only were they know it is safe. While the ice and snow may be melting in other parts of the state, that's not the case in the Bayfield Peninsula. The snowmobile and cross country ski trails are still in great condition. And some of the trout streams are still frozen over with the opener Saturday. Lake Superior tributary trout stream anglers should dress warmly and be prepared to stand knee deep in snow. - Cara A. Kamke, conservation warden, Bayfield

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - The Grantsburg area snowpack is slowly melting. Wildlife viewing in the area has been very good. Deer and turkeys have been visible along roadsides and south facing slopes, swans and geese are visible in open rivers. Ice conditions vary across the county with 25-30 inches on most lakes. Conditions can change rapidly, so use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes Panfishing on area lakes has been improving. - Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Snow and ice are slowly melting. A couple of local rivers are open which has brought numerous trumpeter swans back to the area. However, rough-legged hawks and other winter birds are still visible. Herds of deer have been spotted near the roadside looking for food. There is an increase in owl mortality due to the extended winter. There may be an increase of visibility of owls around backyard birdfeeders. The owls, (mostly barred or northern saw-whet) are looking for mice that feed nearby. Make sure you keep your distance from the owls to decrease their already high stress levels. Crex Meadows is hosting a Star Party with Mike Lynch on Saturday, April 6 at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.crexmeadows.org/events.htm for more information. - Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator

Cumberland DNR Service Center area

Baron County - Panfish are starting to bite on some area lakes, but overall fishing has been slow. Travel on lakes is still difficult due to the last snow storm, but the ice is still down to the power head of the auger on most lakes. Maple syrup season has begun, but weather conditions remain unfavorable for good sap production however, producers still remain optimistic for better conditions. Songbirds have begun to sing reassuring us that spring is coming. - Phil Dorn, conservation warden, Cumberland

Ladysmith DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Ice conditions have remained relatively stable the last 2 weeks. Ice depths remain in the 18-20 inch range and there is still 8-10 inches of snow and slush on top. The snow has settled a bit in the last few days, but access still remains difficult on most lakes. A crust has developed over the slush on some lakes and this has made foot travel a little easier on those lakes. With the continuing tough travel conditions, ice fishing pressure has remained very light on many lakes. A few lakes have developed some packed and frozen-down trails and anglers have been finding some fair success for panfish. Some nice crappie have been found suspended 5-8 feet off the bottom in deeper water areas, and small minnows have been producing the best catches. Some decent perch have been showing up on the mid-depth mud flats and near old weed beds, with both waxworms and small minnow producing a few fish. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - Ski trails are icy. They still have a solid base but as the temperatures warm up the trail conditions get worse. The classical track is done for the season. There is still a foot or more of snow on the ground. Local maple syrup makers are tapping trees and it appears to be a good start to the process with cold nights and warmer days. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - All cross-country ski trails were cut, tracked March 27 and in good to very good condition. Use caution on the trails. Spring conditions are here. Trails could be icy in the mornings becoming sticky in the afternoon. Bare spots on south facing hills may open up at any time. Grooming will be coming to the end soon with the warmer days ahead.- Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Langlade County - Snowmobile trails are in excellent shape especially for this time of year. The threat of warmer weather will probably put an end to the trails after this weekend. There is plenty of ice for ice fishing, but many lakes have a large amount of slush on them which makes travel tough. - Andrew Dryja, conservation warden, White Lake

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Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Peshtigo River State Forest - Warmer temperatures this week and forecasted for this weekend means the snow will begin its slow melt. There is still more than a foot of snow in the woods, which makes hiking difficult.

Cross country ski trails are no longer being groomed for the season. - Sara Pearson, Ranger/Assistant Manager

Oconto County - Some brown trout are being caught in the Oconto River near Stiles and an occasional rainbow trout as well. Anglers are casting and using spawn. The ice on the bay is still pretty tight, but with the warmer weather the northern pike run should be starting soon. Many waterfowl species can now be found on the Oconto River in open water. More should be arriving shortly. Snowmobile trails in Oconto County are still open with only Oconto Falls and chase being closed at this time. All trails will close Sunday at midnight. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Shawano County - Ice conditions are still good enough that fishermen are venturing out onto the ice and catching some panfish. Some of the birds that leave for the winter can be seen in the area. Robbins and Sandhill Cranes have returned. Turkeys and deer are starting to move around and Turkey hunting is just around the corner. Bare spots are starting to show up in local fields so spring can't be too far away. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Overall, fishing pressure along the West Shore of the Fox River was very high. The water is open from the mouth of the Fox River up to the dam in De Pere. Fishing on the west shore of the bay was very slow with the bay still being covered in ice.

On the Fox River, there were many fishermen targeting walleye. The main baits used were various kinds of minnows, and plastics. Fishing depths ranged from 8-20 feet. The fishing boats were very concentrated just off of the docks at Fox Point. Other species caught were sheep head, carp, catfish, white bass, and several kinds of suckers. - Elizabeth Turos, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Manitowoc County - Fishing success has dropped along with the water levels. An occasional steelhead is being caught on fly and spinning tackle, but it is thought most fish that were up river have receded back downstream or have been harvested. Many stretches of area rivers are still iced covered with exceptions near Shoto, Mishicot, Clark Mills, and faster flowing areas of the Branch and Manitowoc rivers. The stretch of the Manitowoc River west of Rapids Road down to the harbor is still almost entirely ice covered. Fish have been caught on egg patterns, yarn flies, and spawn, generally fished under a float. Water temperatures are in the mid-to upper-30s. Angler pressure is light. There has been some activity on open water sections near piers and harbors. Browns have been caught on spawn with some anglers also using shrimp, though the recent cold weather has slowed the bite. Manitowoc Harbor has been more productive than Two Rivers. The ice fishing in Manitowoc Harbor has been slow. The water is reported to be very muddy, probably because of carp activity. None of the area landings are useable yet because ice. The piers in Two Rivers and Manitowoc are ice free. - Thomas Gerbyshak, fisheries technician, Mishicot

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Marguett County - Ice conditions are still good on area lakes and fishermen are catching some nice size bluegills on Harris Pond. Turkeys are getting more active and beginning to gobble and strut. Robins are returning to the area along with other songbird species.- Judi Nigbor, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waupaca County - Very little fishing pressure for both panfish and the early trout season has been observed - probably due to the deep snow and cold temperatures. Spring migrants are starting to show up in the Waupaca area, including turkey vultures, sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, and northern harriers to name a few. All snowmobile trails in the county are closed for the season. A Learn to Turkey hunt in Waupaca was a success. Twenty-two new hunters enjoyed their hunt despite very cold temperatures and almost 2-feet of snow in the woods. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Sandhills are trickling back, geese are paired off and setting up nesting territories. Deer and Turkeys are sticking to south slopes and roadsides in search of food. Ice fishing has been slow and there is no open water fishing happening right now. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Waushara County - The turkeys and deer are out and about along road sides, fields, and anywhere they can get access to food. Vehicle/animal collisions have been on the increase as a result, so be careful on the roadways. There have been folks ice fishing the late ice, but fishing is slow. The quality of the ice along some lake edges is starting to deteriorate, so be cautious when traveling onto local lakes. Tom turkeys are starting to strut in a few areas. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Fond du Lac County - Looks like spring might actually come with the recent return of the sandhill cranes, swans, and migrating geese and ducks. The ice and snow is melting and the streams are rising and warming up. - Ben Nadolski, conservation warden, Waupun

Winnebago County - It appears the season is swinging and with that comes a change in tactics for fishing. The ice will begin to thin and this is a great time to prepare your boat with all the safety equipment and get it up and running. This is when we all need to look at our boat registration and make sure it is valid before putting it on the water. Now is the time to work out the bugs and not on your first journey out onto the lake. Also, anglers are reminded that fishing licenses expire March 31. New fishing license are needed and the 2013 license can be purchased at any ALIS agent, DNR Service Center or online. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - The Sheboygan area had low angling pressure this past week due to wintery weather, and the Sheboygan harbor is now mostly free from ice. Angling effort on the Sheboygan River appears to be concentrated around the Sheboygan Harbor and South Pier area and upstream at the Kohler Dam. The occasional steelhead or brown trout has been the reward for the few anglers that have braved the winds and cold temperatures. Much of the Sheboygan River remains unfishable due to thin ice.

Ozaukee County - The Port Washington boat ramps remain out of the water, but there have been a few boats seen fishing in the harbor area out by the lighthouse. Jigging, casting, and trolling have produced mostly browns with some lakers; boat anglers are seeing one to two fish per several hour trip. Anglers fishing in the Port Washington harbor, on the shorelines, and off the pier saw better success over this past weekend. Brown trout made up the majority of the harvest, but the occasional steelhead or lake trout is also being caught. Most anglers were seeing one to two fish caught over a several hour period. Action for steelhead in Sauk Creek is still poor. Flows on Sauk Creek are starting to rise and will likely continue with warmer weather in the forecast for late this week and into the weekend.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee strong northeast winds on Sunday limited the boats willing to go out and troll due to rough waves. McKinley Harbor is still completely frozen, but the Riverfront boat launch is clear of ice and is open for launching. The south shore boat launch recently opened up with the withdrawal of the ice pack. When the wind has been light, boats were reporting a good number of lake trout and brown trout being caught either jigging or trolling the gaps. Summerfest was reporting good numbers of browns and rainbows caught by using live bait such as medium golden shiners under a float, but using spawn sacs on a three way swivel was producing the most fish by far. A few fishermen were under the Hoan Bridge at Jones Island fishing for browns, but no fish were reported. No one was seen perch fishing in the area. There were some people fishing for rainbows at Oak Creek, but fishing was very slow with only a fish seen in the creek. Anglers at the Oak Creek power plant reported good numbers of browns and rainbows being caught on either live bait under floats or pitching white gulp into the current. The Milwaukee River is at moderate levels with fairly good water clarity. The water temperature was approximately 33-35 degrees with sections of the river still frozen over. Fly fishermen below the North Avenue dam were reporting some number of steelhead being caught on spawn sacs. However, upstream of the dam did not produce many fish. The Menomonee River remains at a normal level with decent clarity. A few fishermen were seen fishing at MMSD for perch but with no luck. The only fly anglers were seen at Miller Park but only reported a few Rainbows being caught upstream of the stadium under the I-94 overpass.

Racine County - Strong winds, high waves, and cold temperatures kept fishermen away from the shoreline and piers on Sunday. At Reefpoint Marina, brown trout are still being taken through the ice, but pockets of open water along the docks and shoreline are making travel on the ice risky. There have been reports of fishermen stepping through the ice near the docks. The Pershing Park and Meyers Park boat launches are not open at this time. More information on the official opening will be announced by the Racine Parks and Recreation Department after April 1. On the Root River fly anglers had limited success at the Horlick Dam, but a few steelhead were taken using floating spawn sacks. The flow and water level at the dam have been steadily rising due to recent melting of ice and snow. Fishermen at Quarry Lake Park reported nice catches of steelhead from the northern fence line at Quarry Lake downstream to the first bridge. The majority of fish ranged between three to six pounds. Successful anglers drifted spawn sacks across the deeper holes in slow water. Light fishing pressure was reported at Colonial Park, and the water temperature ranged from 31-34 degrees. Early morning fishing at Lincoln Park proved difficult as small chunks of ice and slush flowed down river and ice formed on bait and tackle. When the river cleared, fishermen reported catching a few steelhead and brown trout using floating spawn sacks. Fly fishermen had limited success. At Island Park, anglers landed a few steelhead and browns from deep holes along the river bends. Successful anglers used a small jig tipped with a small white plastic worm and a wax worm under a slip bobber. Anglers working the river bend below the cable bridge in Washington Park used the same jig and worm combination to land a few browns and steelhead. The Root River Steelhead Facility is currently running, and our first spawning day is tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 1.

Kenosha County - Anglers stayed off the shoreline and piers on Sunday due to high winds and breakers coming off the lake. The Simmons Island boat harbor offered some protection from the weather, but fishing pressure there was light. The boat ramps in the harbor are technically open but the docks are out of the water and there is still ice in the harbor. A small boat was seen motoring in the harbor on Saturday. The ramps will be staffed starting April 15. Fishing pressure on the Pike River was low on Sunday. The water was fast and muddy due to recent melting of ice and snow. One angler reported that the water looked like chocolate milk. The water temperature ranged from 33-35 degrees.

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - Fishing on the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers is still slow. Small panfish were being caught, but not in good numbers. With the warming weather ice is becoming less safe in more and more areas. The inland trout streams however, were very busy with the catch and release season, with anglers reporting many catches. The weather was much cooler this past weekend. - Martin R. Stone, conservation warden

A lot of ice remains on the Mississippi River and backwaters, much of which is in poor condition and the edges have opened near shore making access difficult. Individuals have been attempting to ice fish on the remains of the ice on O'Leary Lake which one angler noted as 10 inches or more. He was trying for northerns with a sucker minnow with no luck. Several sauger and walleye fishermen have been fishing below the Dubuque Lock and Dam #11 catching a large number of small male saugers indicating the fish are just beginning to move into the area. One angler reported catching and releasing a 14-inch walleye with several more in the 8-9 inch range. There were several 13-14 inch sauger caught from the Eagle Point Fishing Barge as well as from the rip rap below the dam at the entrance to O'Leary Lake. Anglers have been having similar success with three way rigs using minnows as well as a rubber bodied jig with and without a minnow. The fishing success has been good early, on the Wisconsin side below the fishing barge - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville

The Lower Wisconsin River has opened up again, and the birds are returning. Sandhill cranes were some of the first to return to the marshes, probing around where the snow and ice had melted. Canada geese and trumpeter swans soon followed. Mergansers have been around for a few weeks. Wood ducks have recently returned as well. Great blue herons and pelicans were spotted in Grant County, and also blue birds, robins and red-winged blackbirds. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

Green County - Ice appears to be off all larger rivers and streams. Fishing activity has been minimal due to cold temperatures and expected worsening of ice conditions. Coyote hunters have been taking advantage of the last bit of winter and have had success. Reminder that early trout season is open until April 27 and all licenses expire on March 31. Leftover turkey tags are still available for time periods D, E, and F. - Ryan J. Caputo, conservation warden

Iowa County - Walleye fishing has been slow on the river in the past few days due to the colder weather. The turkeys are starting to show signs of spring and have been heard gobbling in eastern Iowa County. Some waterfowl are starting to come back to the area, including common merganser, bufflehead and mallards Crappie have been biting at Blackhawk Lake and bluegill have been biting at Twin Valley and Cox Hollow lakes. - David Youngquist, conservation warden, Dodgeville

Richland County - Sandhill cranes are gradually migrating back into the area. Areas with snow still exist, but ice fishing activity along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway is still possible in areas not affected by flooding. Late fishing ice fishing is normally productive but caution should exist when venturing out on late season ice. Ice picks and ropes are good tools that can assist if someone was to fall in through the ice. - Michael Nice, conservation warden, Richland Center

Wyalusing State Park -Trails are snow and ice covered. Cross country ski trails will no longer be groomed this season. The ski trails are now open for hiking and snow shoeing. As of today, most trails have many inches of snow remaining. One hiker reported drifts on Sand Cave Trail were knee deep last weekend. Temperatures are expected to reach mid-40's today and high temperatures Friday and Saturday should reach the low 50's. Rain is expected Saturday. Temperatures have been falling into the 20's during the night. Hopefully the warmer temps and rain will help make a dent in the remaining snow cover. Sightings near park office feeders include: juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, purple finches, robins, red-winged blackbirds and turkey vultures. Bluebirds were spotted by the park office feeders on Wednesday of this week. Open waters of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers are teeming with waterfowl - ducks, geese, swans, blue herons and gulls. Mississippi River level at Prairie du Chien is at 7.2 today. Ice anglers are still fishing from the boat landing in the park. Please note: we do not monitor ice conditions. - Beverly Pozega, visitor services associate

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - With the warming weather and the relatively deep, crusty snow, wildlife viewing conditions are fantastic. Yesterday wildlife management staff driving around the county noted the following wildlife species: bald eagles, sandhill cranes, Canada geese (in large numbers), tundra swans, raccoons, opossum, wild turkey, otter, pheasant, and white-tailed deer. Because of the deep snow conditions in the woods, large flocks of wild turkey can be spotted in recently manure spread fields, although some reports are coming in of gobblers fanned out. Whalen Grade on Lake Wisconsin is offering excellent waterfowl viewing opportunities with many of the diving duck species present, such as scaup, mergansers, and canvasbacks present, as well as many Canada geese, tundra swans, sea gulls, and quite a few opportunistic bald eagles. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Sauk County - The walleyes and saugers are starting to bite on the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac dam. Anglers and boaters are reminded to be careful on the river due to spring debris and possible high water levels - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac

Devil's Lake State Park - Depending on where you are, there is still more than 5-inches of snow on wooded trails. Many of the trails have bare spots, where the ground is showing through, but these are patchy and mostly in open sunny areas. The ski trails are going to be a bit icy starting in the mornings and slushy by the afternoon when the sun warms the ground and the air temperatures get in the 20s and 30s. Warmer weather is predicted. The most exciting animal sightings of March is the return of sandhill cranes and turkey vultures. The cold temperatures didn't stop these two birds returning from their southern winter homes. You can find turkey vultures flying over the lake and roosting in the pine trees by the nature center. Other signs that spring will hopefully be here soon are the drumming sounds of the woodpeckers heard throughout the park and the changing of color from brown to yellow on the gold finches. Raccoons have been moving around the park lately and have been checking out the bird feeders around the Nature Center (but haven't yet gotten into them yet). The squirrels (gray and fox) have been more active lately and can be seen moving around the park. - Sue Johansen, natural resources educator

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Willow River State Park - Hiking and pets are again allowed on all trails open to those users. Skiing signs came down Thursday. Trails will remain skiable as long as there is snow. Be careful with the slush skiing since that is a whole new game compared to skiing on dry snow. Trail runners need to be aware of uneven surfaces below that top layer of soft snow. Road shoulders are opening up enough in some areas to avoid running on asphalt, but it can be wet. Trout anglers can monitor water levels on the USGS Real time web site. The Willow runs "normal" up to 125 CFS. The river above the falls started running open this week but the shelf ice remains. April 1-31 is an open hunting and trapping season in the park. All kiosks and trail heads will be posted with a map of open areas and information. The open area includes places that have never been open to hunting. Developed areas and trails south of Little Falls Lake are not open. The Nelson Farm, Burkhardt, and Mound trails are all within open areas. Turkey hunters must possess a Zone 4B permit to hunt their season in the park. Bow fishing is included in this season. Work is expected to start again soon on the Nelson Farm Trail from the parking lot on Nelson Farm Road east to Willow Falls. When work resumes, hikers should make other choices until the work is complete. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, visitor services associate

Kinnickinnic State Park - All trails are open to hiking and pets although skiing will remain possible as long as there is snow. Be careful with the slush skiing since that is a whole new game compared to skiing on dry snow. Trail runners need to be aware of uneven surfaces below that top layer of soft snow. Road shoulders are opening up enough in some areas to avoid running on asphalt but it can be wet. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, visitor services associate

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

La Crosse County - About 1,000 tundra swans are using the open water area of the Mississippi River just south of Goose Island in Vernon County. There are numerous canvasbacks, scaup, hooded mergansers, goldeneye, Canada geese and bald eagles utilizing the area. A pair of wood ducks was also seen mixed in with the ducks. Bluebirds were also seen in southern La Crosse County. Adult bald eagles have started to incubate eggs. Trout fishermen were having success fishing the early catch-and-release season on inland streams in La Crosse County. The backwaters of the Mississippi River still have thick ice conditions with close to 20-inches of ice in most backwater areas. Ice fishing for perch has picked up in some of the backwater areas of the Mississippi River. Fishermen are having success using tip-downs rigged with rosie-reds. Fishermen are catching saugers and some walleyes below the Genoa and Dresbach dams. The fishing floats below the Genoa and Dresbach dams have opened for business. - Dale Hochhausen, conservation warden

Pepin County - Although county snowmobile trails have closed there is still a lot of snow on the ground. The Chippewa River is slowly losing its ice and migrating ducks, geese and swans are taking advantage of the open water. Sandhill cranes have been seen in the area. Lake Pepin is still ice covered but the back waters are slowly opening up. Ice fishermen should be very cautious of bad ice. - Bill Wrasse, conservation warden, Durand

Vernon County - Small numbers of American robins, red-winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes, and killdeer have arrived in the area from their wintering grounds. Meadowlarks, song sparrows, and bluebirds cannot be far behind. People who feed birds may want to keep a sharp eye on the birds frequenting their feeders during the coming weeks. Purple finches are a common early spring migrant in southern Wisconsin. Often confused with the resident house finch, with which it may associate with at feeders, a male purple finch is more uniformly colored than house finches. Also note the purple finch's broad dark jaw stripe, dark ear patch, light stripe behind the eye, and large bill. Purple finch numbers typically peak in late April and the birds rapidly advance to their breeding areas in northern Wisconsin by early May. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Wildcat Mountain State Park - All hiking trails are open, with some icy patches. Trails were last groomed on March 20 and are currently in fair condition. Some icy patches have developed with the daily freeze/thaw cycles and sunshine. Trails are soft during the warm part of the day. Conditions will continue to deteriorate and we do not anticipate grooming trails anymore this season. 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 - After a long extended winter it looks like the end is near. Temperatures are expected to warm throughout the week and reach the mid to upper 40's by Friday. Rain is predicted for the weekend. The trails are still open for snowmobiles, but will likely close Friday. Trails will re-open for ATV and UTV on May 15. 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 conditions. All trails were groomed March 20 for traditional and skate. With the forecast for steadily warming temperatures we are not planning on grooming again this year. Should still be good skiing the next few days though. 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 - Panfish action on area lakes and ponds has been slow. Anglers should use caution when on the ice this time of year as ice conditions vary and may change rapidly. Walleye anglers on the Mississippi River are reporting spotty success. Some anglers report that they are hitting walleyes in the deep holes. While winter song birds are still numerous in the northern areas of Trempealeau County, spring song birds are starting to be seen in the southern areas. Due to the deep snow and ice, lots of turkeys are being seen on the road edges and anywhere the snow is cleared away. Spring is a great time to make plans to enroll new ATV operators in an ATV Safety Course. Consult the DNR website for information on safety courses in your area. - Robin Barnhardt, conservation warden, Osseo

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Last Revised: Thursday, March 28, 2013