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More spring-like weather in the last week finally melted most of the snow even in the most northern counties, and ice out is finally progressing on northern lakes. Ice is off most lakes now though Price County. Seasonal temperatures the remainder of this week, combined with some rain and a little wind will most likely take out the remaining ice by the weekend, with the exception of some of the largest deep lakes such as Trout in Vilas County.
Both the North and South Forks of the Flambeau River are high with plenty of whitewater, especially the South Fork, but a few brave paddlers have been seen on the river. High water is also making canoeing and kayaking challenging on the Wisconsin River. Wardens continue to caution that water temperatures remain very low in most areas and hypothermia could set in rapidly should someone capsize, so only experienced and well equipped and outfitted paddlers should be on the water.
Last weekend's fishing opener was slow across the north, with a snowstorm dropping up to 16 inches in some areas right before the opener. Some anglers fished through the ice, with limited success for crappies. Other anglers fished rivers with some reports of walleyes, but also with lots of reports of sucker runs taking place. Trout anglers were hampered by limited access and high water flows.
In the south, water levels continue to drop on the Rock River, but are still outside the riverbanks in many areas and slow-no-wake rules are still in place in Rock County. Some better walleye fishing was reported as levels dropped. The Wisconsin River is also still running high, but some nice walleye continue to be caught below the dam at Prairie Du Sac.
Anglers have been hitting crappie on Lake Winnebago and the walleye bite on the east shore of Winnebago is starting to kick in. Some northern pike were reported on Little Lake Butte des Morts. The East Twin, West Twin, Branch, Little Manitowoc and Sheboygan rivers were all still hold steelhead. Storms in the last week had southern Lake Michigan tributaries running high and muddy in the last week, but levels were dropping. Trollers were beginning to have some luck with brown trout and coho.
Turkey hunters are finally getting some decent weather and a lot of active toms were seen strutting and heard gobbling. All three grouse species are drumming amd dancing, as courtship displays are at peak for ruffed, spruce, and sharp-tailed grouse.
Broad-wing hawks were seen in kettles numbering in the hundreds overhead all week at Rock Island State Park off the tip of Door County. Warblers, orioles, and other Neotropical migrants are providing outstanding views as they foraged low in leafless vegetation, with yellow-rumped and palm warblers plentiful. Sandhill cranes are sitting on nests and the first goslings of the year have been seen.
May 11 is celebrated globally as International Migratory Bird Day. Scores of Wisconsin communities and organizations hold bird watching and other events on this day, capitalizing on the mass migration of short-distance and long-distant migrant birds returning to the state from their warmer winter homes. Find links to events on May 11 by searching the DNR website for "birding."
Gear up for International Migratory Bird Day by taking this quiz and then check the "birding" page of the DNR website to find answers.
Gypsy moth caterpillars were reported hatching May 5 in from Rock County and more egg masses will hatch within the next week. Hatching will pick up in northern Wisconsin in about two weeks. Look for the tan-colored egg masses and if you find them, scrape them into a container of soapy water.
Leopard and chorus frogs are singing. Bloodroot, trout lily, Dutchman's britches, hepatica, spring beauties, and marsh marigolds are up and with the warm weather last week, there were reports of morel mushrooms popping up.
The first Wisconsin report of hatching gypsy moth caterpillars came in from Rock County on Monday, May 5. Many egg masses will hatch in southern Wisconsin within the next week. Hatching will pick up in northern Wisconsin in about two weeks. Look for the tan-colored egg masses and if you find them, scrape them into a container of soapy water. If tiny, black caterpillars are on or near the egg masses, crush them or scrape them into the soapy water with the egg mass. Before long, undisturbed caterpillars will leave the egg mass and start hanging down from silken threads to blow in the wind to the leaves that will become their food. After they begin eating, they grow quickly and take on their characteristic look - hairy with pairs of blue and red dots down their backs. Gypsy moth caterpillars eat the leaves of hundreds of species of trees and shrubs, but especially prefer oak, aspen, birch and willow. When their populations are very high, as they are in the Bayfield Peninsula and at Governor Dodge State Park this year, they can strip entire trees or forests of their leaves in summer. The DNR will be spraying for gypsy moth this spring at Governor Dodge State Park to help protect the trees from damage by this pest. Visitors to the Bayfield area and Governor Dodge should check for gypsy moth caterpillars on their belongings before leaving the property. Otherwise, gypsy moth may hitchhike home with you and threaten trees in your area. For more information about what to look for and where: gypsymoth.wi.gov.
In the past week, 72 wildfires burned 74 acres in DNR protection areas (approximately half the state). One structure burned and another 29 were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance. The majority of the fires were kept to less than one acre in size. The largest was a 16-acre Price County fire caused when a debris pile, burned a month and a half earlier, reignited and escaped into grass & pine fuels after the snow had melted. 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. You must check the daily 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 require 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. As the vegetation dries out during the days we don't receive rain, expect fire danger to increase, particularly in areas where standing dead grass and other dry vegetation remains.
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.
This week we start in the north where birders are finally shedding themselves of winter and soaking up the arrival of spring migrants. Yellow-rumped and palm warblers are now plentiful, along with smaller numbers of other early warblers such as Nashville, black-and-white, ovenbird, and northern water thrush. Hermit thrushes, winter wrens, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers again dominate woodlands. Feeder watchers welcomed their first rose-breasted grosbeaks and a major wave of white-throated sparrows and said goodbye (finally!) to redpolls and most dark-eyed juncos. Now is a great time to find all three grouse species as drumming, dancing, and other courtship displays are at peak for ruffed, spruce, and sharp-tailed grouse in their respective habitats. Although ice holds on in some places, open water is attracting peak waterfowl abundance and diversity. The north experienced a very large fallout of common loons and red-necked grebes over the weekend. Both species occurred in very large numbers as they await ice out on Canadian breeding grounds. Many required human intervention as they landed on wet pavement or in very small bodies of open water and were unable to regain flight. In the south, birders got off to a hot start early in the week with warblers, orioles, and other Neotropical migrants providing outstanding views as they foraged low in leafless vegetation. Birds have dispersed a bit in recent days but 10-15 species of warblers are still being seen and new birds are arriving daily. The next two weeks will represent the peak of migration for most. Expect our next big influx early this week as winds turn southerly and pump Neotropical migrants in from stopover areas to the south. Birders looking for warblers should pay attention to the phenology of plants in their area and focus on woodlands with flowering trees and developing leaves. Shorebird watchers should check coastal beaches, remaining flooded fields, and shallow waters of state and federal wildlife areas. Rare birds spotted this past week include Eurasian tree sparrow in Racine County, western tanagers in La Crosse, Ozaukee, and Ashland, summer tanagers at multiple locations, tricolored heron in Manitowoc, spotted towhee in Brown, and Chuck-will's-widows in Jefferson and Jackson. As always, report your sightings at ebird.org/wi to help track the migration and better conserve our bird populations. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Ashland County - A blast of warm area caused a rapid melt of winter snow in the early week. That warm spell created very rapid run off to the rivers causing near flood stage conditions. However, a late winter storm hit Ashland County at the same time and dumped another 16 inches of snow onto the area. The lower temps with the snow slowed run off and therefore helped avoid serious flooding. But those same lower temps maintained the area lake's ice cover. So, there was little if any open water for lake fishing and stream fishing was difficult at best with the very high water levels. The heavy snow cover also caused movement issues for all the turkey hunters. Large flocks of migratory birds were staged in the area allowing for some good bird watching. Confused loons were landing on roads thinking it was open water. Those birds had to have help back to some open water. - Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Hayward DNR Service Center area
Tuscobia State Trail - The trail is beginning to thaw and dry out, but there are still many frost pockets and snow melt runoff contributing to many muddy conditions along the length. The heavy wet snow last week knocked over a number of trees between Birchwood and Rice lakes. Crews cleared a good portion of this area, but you may still encounter a tree down or two this week. Please use caution. Feel free to email the trail if you know of specific areas where trees are down. Grading of the trail is scheduled to begin May 20. - Todd Hintz, ranger
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The warmer weather is bringing back our resident bird nesters. Migrant birds are still moving through in good numbers. Large flocks of sparrows are moving through along the edges of open fields, especially along County Road F. Horned grebes, red-necked grebes, eared grebes, common tern, and Forster's terns have been sighted on Phantom and Upper North Fork. Redheads were sighted on Fish Lake Wildlife Area. Dragonflies have been buzzing across the landscape. Numerous pheasants have been heard on Main Dike Road. New birds include: eastern towhee, dickcissel bobolink, upland sandpiper, spotted sandpiper, sedge and marsh wren, Sora, and Wilson's snipe. - Kristi Pupak, wildlife conservation educator
Cumberland DNR Service Center area
Baron County - The opening weekend in the Cumberland was slow due to all the lakes having ice on them yet. Trout fishermen had mixed success with some anglers catching limits and other anglers facing high water levels and little success. Ice is expected to go out this week on most lakes. Dead carp and some dead panfish were observed on Upper Vermillion east of Cumberland. Reports of stressed deer have been taken at the Cumberland office. - Phil Dorn, conservation warden, Cumberland
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Ice cover is slowly disappearing on the waters in the area and most lakes in Taylor and central & southern Price counties are now ice free. Most lakes in Iron, Ashland and Sawyer County still had significant ice cover as of Wednesday, May 8 - but those lakes should start opening up by this coming weekend (May 10-12). Anglers that have been getting out on the local rivers and on the open lakes in the area have been reporting mixed success. The early walleye bite has been a bit erratic, but some fair catches of fish have been made on jig and minnow combinations. Casting crank baits has been seeing rather poor results for walleye, but this should change as the water continues to warm. Fishing on the rivers seems to have been especially slow for walleye, but the sucker run has been providing some good action, though that run is also coming to an end. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Both the North and South Forks of the Flambeau River are high with plenty of white water on the South Fork especially at Little Falls and Slough Gundy. The North Fork is moving swiftly and is at a spring time high also. We've seen a few brave paddlers out. Local lakes are approximately 40-50 percent ice out. The area has finally lost snow cover. Lots of spring peepers, chorus and wood frogs are being heard. Geese and ducks are busy looking for nesting spots. Trees are starting to bud and the spring beauties, blood root and marsh marigolds are up. The wood and deer ticks are also out. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Upper Wisconsin Basin fisheries report (Oneida, Vilas, Lincoln, Langlade, Forest and Florence counties) - As of May 8, there was still a lot of lingering ice in Vilas County, and some scattered lakes with ice in Oneida County. Seasonal temperatures the remainder of this week, some rain, and a little wind will most likely take out the majority of ice covered lakes by the coming weekend. The only exceptions being the large deep lakes such as Fence, Trout, and Tomahawk. - Mike Vogelsang, Jr., fisheries supervisor, Woodruff
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - The snow is gone and the grass is greening up fast!. Frogs, woodcock, turkeys and ruffed grouse are in full breeding mode right now. Canada geese are incubating their eggs. Trout Lilies are beginning to bloom. Most lakes are ice free and water levels in rivers are beginning to recede. - Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - : Anglers at the mouth of the Peshtigo River were keying on the post spawn walleye using live bait and casting crankbaits and stickbaits with good success. Fishermen at the Dam in Peshtigo are catching mostly suckers. The Menominee River has been raging, with 2 to 4 dams open, making fishing difficult. A few walleye and many suckers are being caught off Stephenson Island using stickbaits and crankbaits. Most Menominee River boaters are jigging the Turn Basin or the mouth of the Menominee using soft plastics or minnows. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Oconto County - Turkey hunters are reporting better success as turkeys are in more normal patterns in the area. Fishing on Green Bay is heating up for walleyes with limits reported out of Oconto County North Bayshore Recreation Area and Pensaukee. Fishermen are reminded yellow perch is still closed on Green Bay until May 20. Oconto County ATV trails open May 10. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Catch rates for walleye and northern pike at the Stiles Dam were low due in part to high water and the sucker run. Anglers out of Oconto Breakwater and Oconto Park II were mainly fishing for walleye and trolling was the most effective method using stick baits or crawler/harness in 4 to 8 feet of water. A few smallmouth bass and northern pike were also reported being caught. Boaters were reporting a water temperature on the Bay from the upper 30's to the low 40's. Shore fishermen at Oconto Breakwater are catching a few northern pike using large shiner minnows or dead smelt fished on bottom. Some walleye are being by shore anglers at the Municipal Landing, casting crank baits and stick baits. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Shawano County - Trout fishing on area streams opening weekend was down due to high water levels. Walleye fishing on the upper stretch of the Wolf River has been fair. Trees are greening up quickly this week. - Mark Schraufnagel, conservation warden, Shawano
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Green Bay creel report
Fishing pressure is slowly increasing on both the East and West Shores. Anglers are working hard to catch the few fish they do. Fishing pressure for walleyes has increased on the east shore this past week. The number of fish being caught has also increased over the last week, but anglers still have to work to get a few fish. Most anglers that caught fish were trolling the shore line near Bayshore County Park, however walleyes are also being caught by Potawatomi State Park. Fish have ranged from 18-30-plus inches with most being 23-26 inches. Saturday marked the opening of the game fish season in Wisconsin. Little Sturgeon Bay and Potawatomi State Park saw an increase in fishing pressure as anglers looked to land a few bronzebacks. Unfortunately, cool weather limited the number of fish that anglers were able to catch. The sucker runs at Red River Park and Sugar Creek have both gone past their peak and are almost done. Still, if anglers want to get a bucket of suckers it would be possible. There are one or more launching piers in at Bayshore, Chaudoir's, Little Sturgeon Bay (Carmody Park), and Potawatomi Park. As of Saturday the fishing pier at Potawatomi Park had not been put in the water. Along the west shore, fishing pressure in the Fox River and along the West Shore declined this week due to cooler temperatures and rain storms. The water temperature was about 48 degrees, down from 54 degrees last week. On the Fox River, boat and shore fishermen were targeting Walleye using crank baits (variety of colors), jigs, and night crawlers. Walleye numbers were low for both boat and shore fishermen. Boat fishermen were fishing in about 10-20 feet of water and a few sheepshead were also caught. Shore fishermen are starting to catch more carp, and more walleye are being "snagged" than caught. There was a Sturgeon sighting under the new walk bridge at Voyageur Park in De Pere. Along the lower west shore of the Bay, fishing pressure was very low. At Suamico Landing, there were a few trailers with boat fishermen targeting walleye. A few were caught (average size was about 24-25 inches fishermen were reporting) on crank baits (chartreuse in color) in about 10-12 feet of water. The docks are in at Geano Beach. - Anthony Rieth, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Brown County - Fishing pressure in the Fox River and along the West Shore declined this week. Water temperature was about 48 degrees, down from 54 degrees last week. On the Fox River, boat and shore fishermen were targeting walleye using crank baits, jigs, and night crawlers. Walleye catches were low for both boat and shore anglers. Boat anglers were fishing in about 10-20 feet of water. Of interests, there was a sturgeon sighting under the new walk bridge at Voyageur Park in De Pere. So look for more sturgeon in tributaries over the next couple of weeks. At Suamico Landing, there were a few anglers targeting and catching walleyes. Average size was about 24-25 inches and anglers reported using on chartreuse crank baits in about 10-12 feet of water. Fishing pressure and success for walleyes has increased on the East Shore of Green Bay this past week. Most anglers that caught fish were trolling the shore line near Bayshore County Park. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
The fish run in De Pere has slowed down significantly. Water levels are high causing the fishing opener to be slow for catching fish. Turkey season is picking up with the warmer weather and tom turkeys can be heard gobbling more frequently and throughout most times during the day. Spring peepers can be heard in the evenings.- Andy Lundin, conservation warden, Green Bay
Manitowoc County - Trees and shrubs are budding out and filling in woodlots quickly. Wild leeks are covering many forest floors and are ready to eat. Toads started calling just before May 1 and have joined the spring peepers and wood frogs that were already calling. - Robert Stroess, conservation warden, Mishicot
The hot weather early in the week raised water temperatures significantly, especially on the Manitowoc River, which reached the mid 60s but has fallen since. The East Twin, West Twin, Branch, and Little Manitowoc Rivers all still hold steelhead. Fair amounts of steelhead are being caught around the dams on the East and West Twin Rivers. The best action has been early in the morning on clear days and throughout the day during overcast conditions. Fly anglers are having success with egg or insect imitations in bright colors. Spawn, soft plastics, and bright jigs are also producing fish when presented under a float or near the bottom. The East and West Twin Rivers are running fairly low. Trollers are starting to have some luck with brown trout. Fish have been caught in 10 to 45 feet of water trolling stick-baits, crank-baits, and spoons. Successful areas ranged from north of Two Rivers near the power plant discharges to south of Manitowoc. Most boats are catching under a fish per hour and catching large fish with some browns in the 25 inch range and even a king close to 18 pounds. Very few kings have been reportedly caught thus far. Water temps range from the upper 40's to some reports of surface water in the upper 50s. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Door County - Most of Door County came to life this week, with many part-time residents and business owners returning from their winter hide-a-ways. Many of the piers in the county had a few anglers fishing for bass with really good success using a variety of lures. Northern Pike action has been great in the Sturgeon Bay Canal, but the trout bite seems to have slowed quite a bit. Tributaries are all running low and clear and are seeing very little fishing effort, but there are definitely trout in the water and, although there are still a ton of them, the number of suckers seems to be on the decline. The Sturgeon Bay City Dock has been fairly busy, with 20-40 trailers at a time over the weekend. The Northern Pike bite has been excellent, but the trout anglers have not been as successful lately. Anglers are finally launching from the Green Bay side, mostly from Stone Quarry, but Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim and Ellison Bay all had at least one trailer spotted over the weekend. Early reports are that the bites are good, but we have not been able to verify any real catch data yet, except that the bass fishing has been good off the piers. On the Lake Michigan side, Rowley's Bay saw some good action over the weekend. It seemed to be mostly resort dwellers fishing for bass, and doing really well. Baileys Harbor was not busy at all however, and the report in town was that everyone was fishing over on Kangaroo Lake for the opener. Inland, Kangaroo Lake is doing very well for perch fishing. Walleye surveys of Clark Lake have concluded and the spawn is now over. Some decent walleyes both in numbers and size were surveyed this spring. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Potawatomi State Park - The ice is out and the fishermen are on the water. Two fishing tournaments over the next two weekends have prompted many anglers to launch in Sawyer Harbor and Sturgeon Bay. Mushroom hunters are finding a few morels. Some trees are starting to leaf out. All park facilities are now open for the season except the tower and accessible fishing pier. The pier should be in the water on the park's south shoreline by the middle of May. We hope the tower will be repaired by the middle of the summer. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate
Rock Island State Park - Reports of northern pike and brown trout have been coming in around the islands. The bass season doesn't open until July 1 here but they've been fun to look at as they enter the warmer waters of the harbors. Still some snow drifts under the cedar trees. Migrating birds are filling the air. Broadwing hawks in kettles numbering in the hundreds have been overhead all week. - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager
Kewaunee County - Fishing on the Kewaunee and Ahnapee rivers has really slowed as of late, and not even Stony Creek has seen much effort in the past week. There have been a few boats launched at both town ramps, but not what we expected to see for opening weekend. It could be that many anglers moved to inland waters for the opener. There are still lots of suckers in the Kewaunee River water, but numbers are on the decline. Bruemmer Park still sees a lot of fishing effort, and some of the upstream locations, like Clyde Hill, are seeing some effort now that word has gotten around about the fish that were passed through the hatchery and the stocking that took place a couple of weeks ago. Anglers that know what holes to work are still able to catch a few fish. There was even less effort on the Ahnapee River and Silver Creek than the Kewaunee, except that anglers have started fishing above the dam with some success. The few anglers on the river have been able to catch and release some trout and are not reporting seeing any suckers. Effort has dropped significantly at Stony Creek, and the few anglers that have tried have not been catching anything. Effort has mostly been focused on the Kewaunee Pier but there have been a handful in Algoma as well. They haven't been catching much in either location except bottom feeders in Algoma. Neither of the ramps has been as busy as we expected with the fishing opener, and the boats we have surveyed have not reported much success. From the sound of it, they are not even getting many strikes, but there were so few surveyed it's hard to tell for sure. Inland, anglers have been fishing and catching bass and panfish on the Forestville Flowage. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Turkey hunters have now reported good success - now that the weather has decided to cooperate. Hunters are reporting seeing a large number of jakes. Anglers on Waupaca area lakes have been enjoying good crappie fishing. Most anglers have done well near downed trees and stumps. "Green up" has been occurring very fast this year. Softwood trees are now leafing out. Early woodland flowers are also emerging. Trout anglers have not been very successful on opening weekend. Anglers did not offer any reason on why the trout were not biting very well. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Grouse are drumming like crazy, and turkeys gobbling too. After a high water opening weekend, trout streams are now more fishable and they are biting well. I haven't seen any morels yet -probably late due to the long winter. No reports of panfish staging in the shallows yet, again water most likely too cold from long winter. Walleyes biting well on Wolf River.- Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - Warm temperatures have brought folks out to area lakes. Opening weekend fishing started off relatively slow due to some early rains, but folks were able to enjoy time on the water once the skies cleared up. Overall pressure on the trout streams has been light and with warmer days the streams should be warming up as well and potentially making some lightly pressured fish more active. Turkeys still seem "henned" up as birds are gobbling from the roost, but are then quiet on the ground. Success rates are up compared to the first couple of seasons and some extra permits are still available. I have noticed a number of hens alone in the late mornings and early afternoons suggesting some nesting may be taking place. Warblers, bluebirds, other song birds, as well as shore birds are moving through the area on their way to area waters farther north that are finally opening up. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Outagamie County - The fish are biting everywhere in the Fox Valley Area, especially crappie and northern pike. Anglers have been hitting the crappie at High Cliff, Appleton, Neenah, and Menasha as well as picking up some nice northerns on Little Lake Butte des Morts. The walleye bite on the east shore of Winnebago is starting to kick in, but it may be a few days until it's really good fishing. Turkey hunters are finally getting some great turkey hunting weather and a lot of active toms have been seen throughout the area. Wildflowers are popping up all over in wetland areas and many trees are leafed out. - Ryan Propson, conservation warden, Appleton
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Lakeshore State Park - The marina is still closed for the season, and will open the middle of May. Reservations for can be made up to 11 months in advance by calling 414-274-4281. Lake Michigan water levels are still low, although a foot higher than the record low in January. Fishing has been generally slow in southeast Lake Michigan, although there has been some success along the river channel and dock walls at the park behind the Marcus Amphitheater. The grey and red foxes are still regular visitors. The winter ducks have moved back to the north. The park is now filled with barn swallows, cliff swallows, tree swallows and red-winged blackbirds. Spring has finally come - the grass is greening and the prairies are starting to grow again. Our earliest flower - prairie smoke - should start blooming this week. Watch for its curious nodding red flowers in the demonstration gardens. - Thomas Kroeger, parks and recreation specialist, Milwaukee
Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan fishing activity remains steady on the Sheboygan River. Despite the increased flow caused by rains last week, the water temperature has remained at 56 degrees and clarity appears to be affected little. Anglers continue to report good catches of northern pike and smallmouth bass near the Kohler Dam, as well as downstream from Wildwood Park to the 14th Street bridge. Fish are being caught on a variety of lures, namely shallow-diving crank baits, plastics, and spinners. Steelhead were still being caught on flies near the Kohler Dam and in the Esslingen Park area. Weedens Creek water levels have increased slightly with recent rainfall, but it appears excess water is receding rapidly. The water clarity is good and temperature has increased to around 55 degrees. Water levels along the Pigeon River have also increased, by approximately 2 to 4 inches. Despite the increased flow from rains, water clarity remains good and water temperature has held steady at 49 degrees. A few fishermen have tried their luck, some catching small steelhead and suckers on flies, while others caught smallmouth bass on spinners. Strong winds and waves have kept anglers off the Sheboygan piers recently. There have been a few boats launched from the Deland ramp, with reports of a few brown trout taken nearshore. The fish cleaning stations at the Deland ramp and the South Pier are now open. The 14th Street ramp, along the Sheboygan River, is now open. The huge snow pile remains in the parking lot, but enough snow has been removed to use the ramp. The 8th Street ramp remains closed.
Ozaukee County - In Port Washington fishing pressure has decreased over the past few days, mostly due to the recent rains and strong winds. Water within the marina is dirty, and due to wave action, water near shore is also quite murky. Despite the decreased fishing pressure, boaters had some luck, with one group landing a 15-pound lake trout in about 40 feet of water trolling spoons. Another group caught a nice steelhead in 15 feet of water; the stomach contents revealed several alewives. We also heard a secondhand report that a charter landed a 26-pound chinook on Saturday. Fishing pressure has decreased along the Port Washington lakeshore and near the power plant, again mostly due to the strong northeast wind. Anglers continue to catch small browns near the power plant and in the harbor. Smelt netters have been having a bit of luck lately off the pier and south of the power plant, with some reports of catching around 50 smelt per trip. On Sauk Creek water levels have increased about 4 inches since last week's rains; water temperature increased to about 54 degrees and clarity has decreased. Fishing pressure has decreased over the past few days as catches of steelhead have dwindled. Suckers can still be seen at access points, but their numbers have noticeably decreased.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee fishing has slowed for boaters trolling or jigging in the harbor for browns, but trollers working the mudline outside the harbor have taken browns and a few coho. Fishing has improved for shore anglers working under the Hoan bridge at Summerfest and Jones Island. Effective presentations have been shiners or spawn sacs fished under a bobber as well as casting spoons. Fishing effort in Oak Creek has tapered off with the end of the steelhead run. The Oak Creek power plant has picked up with increased effort resulting in a few browns being caught on crank baits and soft plastics. Trollers out of Bender Park reported some brown trout and coho being caught trolling with spoons, though the fish were very spread out over the area. The Milwaukee River has dropped down to a more normal level, and the water is fairly clear. The water temperature is now in the upper 40s to 50 degrees. Anglers have been fishing below the North Avenue dam for walleye, but catch rates have been low. Steelhead action upstream on the Milwaukee has also been slow. On the Menomonee River steelhead anglers near Miller Park have reported only a few fish. The Menomonee is approximately 52 degrees, and the water is crystal clear.
Racine County - In Racine fishing pressure on the Root River was very light this week. The water level is close to normal for this time of year, and the muddy water is finally beginning to clear up. There are still a large amount of suckers in the water below the Horlick Dam. Earlier in the week, anglers at the dam landed a few steelhead from the gravel bar under the bridge. Some carp and a couple of northern pike were taken on Sunday. The most popular bait at the dam continues to be red or orange yarn flies. At Quarry Park, a few anglers used nightcrawlers to fish for rock bass. The majority of the anglers in the park were at Quarry Lake, fishing for stocked trout and largemouth bass. A few fishermen at Lincoln Park worked the river with dry flies, but only a few suckers were taken. Washington Park was taken over by golfers this weekend. One of the best producing fishing spots in the park is now part of the 7th green. The river temperature averaged 54 degrees over the weekend. Fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility on Monday, April 29, and the facility is now shut down for the spring season. A total of 301 steelhead were handled at the facility this spring, and 179 were passed upriver. At the Racine lakefront, fishing pressure increased this week, but fishing success has been limited. More muddy water flowed into the lake from the Root River as another round of rain storms moved through the area. The line separating clear and dirty water along the lakefront is constantly shifting depending on the direction of the wind. Large numbers of bait fish were reportedly seen around the tip of the North Pier. Anglers tried casting spoons and crank baits for coho and browns from the North Pier with reports of a few fish taken. Casting a small spoon produced a nice sized brown trout for one angler on the south breakwater. Anglers fishing for panfish from the floating pier off Reichert Court caught lots of gobies. The surface temperature along the lakeshore was 49 degrees on Sunday. A few trollers were working out of Racine over the weekend. One reported landing three brown trout averaging 7-8 pounds while trolling stick baits from the Racine water treatment plant to the mouth of the harbor. Another reported seeing large numbers of bait fish and game fish around the North Pier on his fish finder. The boater trolled the area but could not produce a strike. On Sunday, one troller caught and released a couple of two pound coho while working the mud line along the lakefront. There is a sign covering the launch fee meter at the Pershing Park boat ramp which reads as follows: "Piers need to be repaired due to record low water levels. Until then, passes are not needed & you will not be ticketed. *Be advised* If you choose to launch your boat without the piers, you are doing so at your own risk. For more information, please call the PRCS Department at 262-636-9131".
Kenosha County - Fishing effort has increased along the Kenosha shoreline, especially on the North and South Piers, but it's been a slow week as far as the number of fish landed. Anglers fishing off the North Pier reported a few browns taken this week. Anglers tried bottom fishing with alewives along the South Pier but had only a few strikes. Another angler fishing with crappie minnows caught and released several small brown trout from the South Pier. Many of the anglers are looking south as they wait for the coho salmon to move up from Illinois. The average surface temperature along the lakefront was 50F on Sunday. Kenosha trollers have had limited success so far this season. One boater going out for the first time this year trolled the breakwater outside the harbor with little success. On Sunday, another boater trolling the harbor with stick baits landed a couple of small brown trout near the base of the South Pier. Very little fishing pressure was seen on the Pike River again this week. A couple of anglers from Minnesota spent the entire day working the river at different points along Hwy A but reported landing only suckers. The water level and flow on the river are near normal for this time of year, and the water is fairly clear. Once again, no anglers were seen in Petrifying Springs Park. A couple of anglers were casting crank baits near the mouth of the Pike with no reports of fish taken. Temperature on the Pike River was 53F on Sunday.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Washington County - Opening fishing weekend in southeast Wisconsin was successful. We had no ice. The weather finally cooperated and nice catches of crappie, bass and walleye were seen. The good news is that with the late spring, the fishing can only get better. - Robert Lee, conservation warden, Hartford
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - The first newly hatched Canada goose goslings were reported in our area this week. Crews continued prescribed burning this week on Theresa Marsh and burning will continue until green up, weather permitting. Local turkey hunters are having good success due to the warm, dry weather and light winds. Pike Lake DNR staff have moved out of a temporary office trailer back into the regular office, which was closed and under repair the past few weeks. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - The Wisconsin River is still running high and is making canoeing and kayaking difficult. The fishing reports have indicated some nice walleye being caught below the dam at Prairie Du Sac. Bluegill anglers have also reported success on several sloughs throughout the Riverway. The first reports of morels being found are coming in. Several species of warblers have been migrating through the area. The trails at Blackhawk Ridge have been mowed and are in good shape. - Matt Sequin, property manager
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - This past weekend in Grant County the fishing was fantastic. The weather was nearly perfect. The rain earlier in the week kept several anglers from trying their luck on Grant County's streams, so there was a reduction in fishing pressure as years past. Even after the all-day rain on Friday, most streams cleared by Saturday morning. Most trout fishermen checked reported good success. - Martin R. Stone, conservation warden, Fennimore
Green County - In Green County, reports that the opening of fishing season has started out with numerous anglers but few fish being caught. Warden Caputo has seen people catching fish on the Sugar River. A few trout were caught on opening weekend and anglers report the water is fairly clear even with the recent rains. Turkey hunters have been reporting more success as the weather conditions improve. Leftover turkey tags are still available for time periods E and F. Warden Caputo has not observed anyone who has been successful in finding morels yet; however, morel blogs report that a few have been found in Wisconsin. - Ryan Caputo, conservation warden, Green County
Sugar River State Trail - The trail is open for bicycling and hiking. The Sugar River Trail segment between Albany and Monticello is currently closed to hunting. Starting May 14, staff will begin raking and grading both the Sugar River and Badger State trails crushed limestone surfaces. This process is weather dependent and may take up to two weeks to complete. We appreciate your patience regarding this maintenance operation. If you need more information or to leave a message for a park ranger, please call 608-527-2335 - Brad W. Bates, ranger and assistant manager
Badger State Trail - The trail is open for bicycling and hiking, but many sections of the trails have tractor tire tracks from the early spring mowing operations that have created a rough ride for bicyclists. Heavy equipment will be mowing brush along the trail corridor through May 10. Starting May 14, staff will begin raking and grading both the Sugar River and Badger State trails crushed limestone surfaces. This process is weather dependent and may take up to two weeks to complete. We appreciate your patience regarding this maintenance operation. If you need more information or to leave a message for a park ranger, please call 608-527-2335 - Brad W. Bates, ranger and assistant manager
Iowa County - Brown trout have been biting on love & trout creek on worms and spinners. Walleyes have been biting at peck's landing with anglers using minnows suspended just off the bottom. Bass have still been biting at Bakken's Pond on purple rubber worms. Crappies have been biting at Birch Lake on minnows. The recent turkey season found some dead gobblers, but hunters this year have found fewer turkeys that have been tougher to call in and more "henned up." Trout anglers on Gordon Creek near Hollandale were having a great weekend opener catching and releasing some nice brown and brook trout. - David Youngquist, conservation warden, Dodgeville
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - First goslings of the year were sighted this week. Warblers have begun to arrive in small numbers. Rails, bitterns, egrets, forsters terns have arrived in larger numbers. There are still decent numbers of dabbling ducks such as shovelers. Leopard and chorus frogs are singing. Bloodroot, trout lily, Dutchman's britches, hepatica and other wildflowers are in bloom. Sandhill cranes are sitting on nests and the first batch of robin eggs have hatched. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Turkey hunters are reporting that the hunt is really picking up as winter flocks have finally dispersed and tom turkeys being spotted all over moving around by themselves. Wildlife management staff have been taking advantage of the excellent burning conditions and have burned quite a few units on multiple wildlife areas in the past two weeks. Turkeys love picking through the ashes for crispy insects, hunters may want to try hunting over one of these burned over areas. A wolf was spotted this week at Pine Island Wildlife Area, and another collared wolf has been spending time in Lewiston township recently. Pasque flowers were blooming last week, and violets and marsh marigold have been spotted blooming this week. Bear activity will likely be occurring soon, residents may want to start taking bird feeders and grills inside overnight and make sure garbage is secured in cans. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Jefferson County - Boat launches on the Rock River in Jefferson and Fort Atkinson have been reopened. Boaters are asked to be sure and check the launches for any wake restrictions that may still be in place. The walleyes have been biting on the Rock and Crawfish rivers. - Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden, Jefferson County
Sauk County - Turkeys are nesting and due to the late spring the current and next turkey seasons should be good. Gobblers are going to strutting zones and hunters should remember to be patient because the gobblers will not want to travel far to hen calling. Orioles are showing up at backyard feeding stations. Warden Buss put out four oranges this week for the orioles and all of the oranges had orioles eating. Indigo buntings are showing up. Rose breasted grosbeaks are at the feeders and make for a beautiful bird to watch. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
With the warmer weather the lakes are warming up but they are still behind from where they were last year at this time. Crappies are biting on Lake Redstone. The fish are suspended off the breaks and brush piles near the surface. Fisherman having luck have been using plastics and minnows with a slow sink down from the surface. Musky fishing reports from this past weekend were slow with the cooler water temperatures. Bird watchers can see large flocks of horned grebes on Lake Redstone. These northern birds are hanging around in the area since the northern lakes are still frozen. Plenty of diving ducks can be seen as well. A large flock of white pelicans are hanging around on Okee Bay off Lake Wisconsin. With the cooler temperatures, turkey hunters are having a hard time with calling birds since the flocks are still large and the hens have not started nesting yet. The majority of the turkeys have been sticking to the woods and not coming out into the open fields. The 400 State Trail is open and in great shape for a short or extended bike ride. Remember to pick up your trail pass before you ride the trail. - David Horzewski, conservation warden, Reedsburg
Devil's Lake State Park - Spring has finally sprung at Devil's Lake State Park! There are flowers blooming, trees getting their leaves, birds migrating, and lake flies hatching. If you hike around the lake you'll find that the annual lake flies are out. These are non-biting midges and the hatch only lasts a few weeks, but they can be a bit of a nuisance as you are walking. On the bright side, the lake flies bring in lots of birds and you can see lots of warblers and swallows as they feast on the flies - it's a bird watchers paradise! Lots of birds moved in with the last warm spell we had and others moved farther north. Red-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles came flew in along with other warblers and blue-gray gnatcatchers. The ruby and golden-crowned kinglets moved farther north and will not be seen again until the fall migration. Many things are blooming in the park as well, including the garlic mustard! Visitors can still see the Dutchman's breeches blooming along the entrance road, although they are past their peak. Other flower blooming in the park are hepatica, spring beauties, wind flower, and buttercups. The frogs are still calling and the gray tree frogs just joined the chorus of the spring peepers and western chorus frogs. Pickerel and leopard frogs can be heard on the parks south shore along Messenger Creek. - Sue Johansen, natural resources educator
What a late winter! The lake became ice-free on April 22. Then in early May, there were two days in the 80s, followed by forecasts of snow flurries during some nights. But finally the trees are budding, the birds are singing, the grass is growing, and campers and hikers are coming back. Trails are generally in good shape, but it is spring, so of course you'll find muddy spots in the low-lying and shady areas. The annual hatch and swarm of lake flies are waning, so that harmless nuisance will soon be over. The great blue herons are once again making their raucous presence known in the group camp, repairing and maintaining their nests, and incubating the eggs in the rookery atop the pine trees. With the ice out on the lake, lots of birds can be seen as they migrate through. There have been ruddy ducks, red-breasted mergansers, ospreys and lesser scaups. Last week a pair of loons could be seen doing their mating dance on the north end of the lake. There are lots of tree swallows flying over the lake feasting on the hatch of flies. The spring flowers are slowly making an appearance and visitors can start to see spring beauties, Dutchman's breeches, mayapples, and hepatica coming up in the woods. Visitors can hear western chorus frogs, spring peepers and wood frogs in the various wetlands throughout the park. Fish are starting to spawn in the lake as well. The northern pike and yellow perch have come up to lay eggs in the shallows. Once the water temperatures warm up, the pan fish will start moving into the shallows too. Ice Age and Quartzite Campgrounds are now open. Electrical campsites are available. Most water facilities are open, but the shower building and water taps in lower Ice Age Campground (300's) are still closed, since they're included in the same water system as Northern Lights Campground. Because of the ongoing electrification project, Northern Lights campground will be closed for another few weeks. - Richard Hesed, visitor services associate
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Bluebirds are beginning to nest and some eggs are being found in those nests around the area. Other song birds are beginning to have their young. That said many other animals will begin having young babies and the public should be reminded to leave the wild animals in the wild. Baby animals may appear to be alone, but more than likely the parents are nearby and are keeping a close watch over their young. People that take possession of baby animals may feel they are helping but many times they are actually removing a wild animal permanently from the wild. - Mike J Dieckhoff, conservation warden, Janesville
Fishing activity is picking up around Rock County. Kiwanis Pond has been producing decent bluegills along with a few crappies on wax worms. One fisherman was observed catching a largemouth bass that was just under 23 inches long. Trout are also biting on this pond as well as Lions Beach Pond. Richter reminds anglers to purchase an inland trout stamp along with their fishing license if they intend to fish for or keep trout. Water levels continue to drop on the Rock River, but are still outside the riverbanks in many areas. Slow-no-wake boat operation is still required until lifted by the Rock County Sheriff's Department. Look for signs posted at boat landings or check the Sheriff's Department website for information on the slow-no-wake ordinance. Morel mushroom hunting season is in full swing. The wet spring and cooler than normal temperatures delayed the mushroom picking, but warm weather over the last week is causing mushrooms to finally start popping. - Boyd Richter, conservation warden, Janesville
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - The Willow River is running high and cloudy. The dam is spilling extra water through the big gate. The trend is a falling level but the river is still running over twice the normal flow. Trails are generally free of snow and mud. Park staff observed a flock of white pelicans and common loons on Little Falls Lake Monday morning. The two species were grouped together. Chorus frogs can be heard in the pond next to the road closest to the Nature Center parking lot. A painted turtle was observed sunning itself at the tiny holding pond near the group camp. There are trees down on trails as a result of the late snow and we'll get to them as soon as time and staffing allow. We have the same issue in the 300 campground to solve first. The 300 campground will be open with flush toilets, showers and the dump station Friday, May 10. We are running late on this due to weather. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, visitor services associate
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Stormy weather contributed to uneventful turkey hunting during much of the fourth time period. Some turkey hens are incubating their completed clutch of eggs, but many hens appear to still be laying their eggs. Incubation takes about 28 days. Most incubating hens leave their ground nest one time each day, although it is common for some to skip a day. Upon leaving the nest, hens typically find a drink of water, feed, and return to the nest after about an hour's absence. Incubating hens and their eggs are vulnerable to ground predators, especially skunks, raccoons, opossums, foxes, and crows. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Temperatures in the upper 50s approaching 60 expected for this weekend. All-terrain vehicle trails reopen for the summer season on May 15. Crews will be working on the Pray connector this spring to improve three key wetland crossings. This work helps maintain the long term sustainability of the trail system. Jackson County Forestry and Parks Department grooms and maintains all ATV trails in the state forest. Please check their website for up to date trail conditions. East Fork and Pigeon Creek are open for camping Castle Mound campground is scheduled to re-open on May 20. The construction project at Castle Mound is nearing completion with only blacktop, and seeding not completed. Castle Mound, East Fork and Pigeon are on the reservation system from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. The group camp is on the reservation system year round. - Peter Bakken, superintendent
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Chippewa County - Angling pressure was light on most of the lakes and rivers on opening weekend. Fishing success was marginal; however, some stretches of the Chippewa River produced frequent walleye catches. Many of the walleye caught were between 15-17 inches. Remember that there is a slot limit along the Chippewa River where fish between 14-18 inches must be released. Check your fishing regulations and find your county and be sure before you keep fish. Anglers with the most success were using pink jig heads tipped with minnows and allowing the bait to bounce the bottom. Most of the walleye caught below the dam in Chippewa Falls were found in the flooded trees and in calmer water away from strong currents. Marshmiller Lake, Tilden Mill Pond, Cornell Lake, Bob Lake and Popple Lake saw low numbers of anglers as well and the panfish did not seem to bite. The water temperature is approaching the mid-40s on most of the smaller lakes, so the panfish spawn is yet to come. Town Line Lake, Bass Lakes and the smaller impoundments on the County Forest saw very little pressure, with some northern pike reported caught on spoons. Remaining ice prohibited normal boat traffic on Long Lake; however, Lake Wissota is almost completely ice-free. Walleyes can be found along the gravel and sand shoals at the mouth of the Yellow River, try using crank baits at dusk. Trolling is also permitted and can be an effective technique while walleyes make there way down from Jim Falls back into Lake Wissota. Smallmouth bass are not reportedly active yet on the river. Due to the muddy and wet conditions, the Chippewa County forest has delayed the ATV trail opening until May 15, 2013. Turkey hunters are finding better weather and more suitable hunting conditions. Toms are seen strutting on a routine basis with some responding to strutting tom decoys. There are about 900 spring turkey permits still leftover for the last period in Zone 4. Remember that hunters can mentor anyone 10 or older with a mentored hunting license. There are many public lands available for hunting, fishing and trapping in Chippewa County. For more information about licenses, call DNR customer service seven days a week at 1-888-WDNRINFo, or for local hunting or fishing information call local Conservation Warden Shaun Deeney at 715-720-3646. - Shaun Deeney, conservation warden, Chippewa Falls
Dunn County - In northern Dunn County, Lake Tainter is free from ice, although the area received 14 inches of snow on the Thursday before the fishing opener. Therefore lake fishing pressure was low on the Saturday opener, but fishing pressure increased starting on Sunday. The crappie bite has been good as weather conditions improved. Trout fishing has been poor as the water is too high and swift. River fishing has also been poor, also due to the high water. Turkey activity has increased during the warmer weather and later turkey seasons. Song birds and migratory birds are back in the area, along with the ticks. - James Cleven, conservation warden, Menomonie
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - The fishing pier and boat boarding piers are in! We are looking for a camp host for the month of July and for the first two weeks of October. Hunting maps for the spring season are available online and will be in the map box in the office lot. Turkey hunting -The Yellow River Wildlife Area is open for turkey hunting for Zone 1 permits. The state park and Buckhorn wildlife area is not open for any other spring turkey periods. Shorter walk-in campsites and the family/group sites (A1-A8, B1-B3) are open and reservable. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate is open and the 1st loop of the campground is open for non-reservable until May 17. The stairway is open from 6 a.m. until sunset. No food, drinks or pets are allowed and visitors are restricted to the stairway to protect the natural area. The park is not open for any other turkey periods. - Heather Wolf, park manager