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Outdoor Report for August 15, 2013
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
Beautiful yet unseasonable weather has graced the state this week, with comfortable highs in the mid 70s and lows in the 40s and even upper 30s to the far north. With these cool nights have come cooler water temperatures. Most lake temperatures have been holding steady in the low to mid-60s. In the deeper waters of Lake Michigan the water temperatures have been in the mid-40s in some areas such as Sheboygan.
The more stable and moderate weather has made for improved fishing success in the Upper Chippewa Basin waters in Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, Ashland and Iron counties. Anglers are reporting both musky and bass providing some very good action. Musky activity showed a nice little surge and most anglers reported some good action from small and medium-size fish (28- to 40-inch). The fish seemed to be active along the weed edges and deep break lines, with jerks baits and swim baits such as bulldawgs being the most productive.
Action for both largemouth and smallmouth bass has been consistent and some very nice fish have been caught and released in the last week. Largemouth bass have pretty much settled in to their summer pattern and have been relating to the thick cover. Walleye action has also picked up a notch and a few anglers have been reporting some very nice catches. A weekend musky tournament on Butternut Lake, just outside of Park Falls, produced some very good success for the 39 boats that participated. A total of 26 entry fish were tallied during the 2-day tourney, with the largest 45 inches long. Most anglers did report quite a bit of activity, with a lot of follows and short hits. There was a good number of small fish being caught and released as well (Butternut Lake has a 28-inch minimum length limit for musky).
The water levels and weather on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway have been making for some great paddling and summer camping. Fishing has been good for smallmouth bass, panfish, walleyes, and sauger. White to pearl colored crank baits, and night crawlers have been the most successful baits used. Fishing on Cox Hollow in Governor Dodge State Park has been consistent with many panfish, bass, and a few walleyes being caught, on night crawlers and lures.
Perch anglers in Door County have been returning with some good results in the last week. Perch are being caught with minnows or crawlers in several places around the county. Walleye numbers were low around Door County, with the average size 18 inches in 20 to 30 feet of water.
Perch were also producing for anglers at Bayshore Park in Brown County. Fishing activity was high on Friday and throughout the weekend with the majority of anglers targeting perch and just a few seeking walleye. A good number of perch were caught with about half returning with their limits.
The signs of the fall season are already beginning to show. In Manitowoc some chinook salmon are already turning darker and moving towards shore. Around Manitowoc County there have been some large fish caught including a 30-pound chinook out of Manitowoc and a 15-pound rainbow out of Two Rivers. Signs of fall approaching are also appearing at Willow River State Park, where some of the trees are showing fall color already. Typically it is the ash trees which have a short growing season.
Statewide birding report
With shorter days and some cool northerly winds, southbound bird migration is kicking in statewide. Shorebirds continue to steal headlines as numbers build at mudflats, beaches, and flooded fields around the state. Horicon Marsh, Bong Recreation Area, and Lake Mills’ Zeloski Marsh have been especially active recently, though plenty of sites statewide provide viewing opportunities. Among the dozens of species seen this week were Red-necked Phalaropes, Marbled Godwit, American Avocets, and American Golden-Plovers. Many of these same wetlands are also hosting good numbers of other waterbirds, such as Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Forster’s Terns, and a variety of waterfowl species staging in family groups. New this week was the first obvious evidence of landbird migration as Olive-sided Flycatchers and Tennessee Warblers were found statewide. Several other warbler species were found south of their breeding ranges as well. Feeder watchers are reporting a major surge in hummingbird activity. Many adult males have already departed the state en route to wintering grounds but a wealth of immature birds has brought as many as 60+ birds to some feeders. Now is also a great time to look for (and report sightings of!) the rare Rufous Hummingbird. A striking adult male photographed in Portage County this past week is the season’s only known observation thus far. Also don’t forget that bird baths and related water features can be very active this time of year, as are native fruit trees and shrubs. Finally, one of Wisconsin’s signature bird migration events – the occurrence of migrating jaegers at Superior’s Wisconsin Point – is underway a bit early this year as up to 5 Parasitic Jaegers have already been reported there. The phenomenon will continue at this special concentration point until October. As always, help us track bird populations and their migration patterns by reporting your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. And enjoy the birds!
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Interstate Park - Come to Wisconsin Interstate Park on Saturday, August 24, from 10 a.m. to noon for the third Family Play Day event this summer. These events, part of the Get Outdoors! Wisconsin program, are designed to bring families to the park to participate in easy, fun activities that will connect them with nature and encourage them to spend more time outdoors. Family Play Day will be a fun-filled event with a variety of drop-in activities to choose from. The stations may include Nature Building, Animal Tracks and Pelts, an Eco Scavenger Hunt, Digital Photography, Great Snakes! and more.
Don’t miss the final Storytime of the season at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29. Join Naturalists Julie Fox and Barb Walker for a story and activity chosen especially for young children and their parents. Our final Storytime this summer may include a special guest - sure to delight both children and their parents. Check at the park office upon arrival for program location within the park. After a fall break, the popular program will resume again in winter from January through March, 2014. For more information call 715-483-3747, check out Interstate State Park’s website at www.friendsofinterstatepark.org. - Julie Fox, natural resources educator
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - More stable and moderate weather in the last week have made for improved fishing success, with both musky and bass providing some very good action. Musky activity showed a nice little surge and most anglers reported some good action from small and medium-size fish (28 to 40 inch). The fish seemed to be active along the weed edges and deep break lines, with jerks baits and swim baits such as bulldawgs being the most productive. Any time of day has produced action and was mostly dependent on local weather conditions. Action for both largemouth and smallmouth bass has been consistent and some very nice fish have been caught and released in the last week. Largemouth bass have pretty much settled in to their summer pattern and have been relating to the thick cover. Soft plastics and weedless topwater baits have been the most productive and have to be fished in the wood, tight to the bog/marsh edges or in the weed pockets. Smallmouth bass also have been very active with the best success on the local flowages and larger rivers. The smallmouth bass have been a little harder to find on the bigger natural lakes. Small finesse plastics have been the favorite baits and the fish have been relating to wood near deeper water areas. Walleye action also has picked up a notch and a few anglers have been reporting some very nice catches. Leeches and crawlers fished on the mid-lake rock humps and along/in the weeds have produced most of the fish. Panfish action continues to be fair. Larger perch have been a little tough to find but some decent catches of bluegill, crappie and rock bass have been reported. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Paddlers are enjoying some great water conditions, especially on the North Fork of the Flambeau River. Blooming now are goldenrod, coneflower, boneset, jewelweed and black-eyed susan. Berries that are ripe are wild-sarsaparilla, red baneberry, pagoda dogwood and bunchberry. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks
Marinette County - The mouth of the Peshtigo River has been producing some nice catches of catfish and drum using crawlers fished on bottom. Smallmouth anglers have been successful using tube jigs in and around the mouth of the Peshtigo with some fish in the 5-pound range being caught. Menominee River anglers have been catching pan fish, walleye, sheepshead, and catfish fishing from shore as well as trolling. Live bait and plastic baits are working well. Most of the walleye action is coming during the evening hours. Trout and salmon fishing in the bay remains slow, with fewer and fewer boats targeting these fish.
Oconto County - Some pan fish and smallmouth bass are being caught below the dam at Stiles using worms and night crawlers drifted close to the pilings below the dam. Boaters and canoeists are reporting some very nice smallmouth bass being caught below the Highway 141 bridge to the river mouth. Plastics, spinners and surface baits are working well. From the Pensaukee Landing to Oconto Park II the perch fishing has been fair to good. Crappie rigs and slip bobbers fished in 8 to 14 feet of water using minnows has been working well. Trolling crawler/harness around the Oconto shoal has been producing some nice numbers of walleye. At Geano's Beach, fishing activity was very slow during the week with only a few trailers being present. By the weekend, fishing activity was high with anglers targeting walleye and a few for musky. Walleye numbers were low with anglers using night crawlers, and crawler harnesses (pink, purple, gold) for bait in about 12-25 feet of water. Only one musky was caught and released using Rapalas (black/red) in about 6 feet of water. Other anglers were using buck tails in about 4-15 of water with no luck. Sheepshead and catfish were caught while targeting walleye and musky, with numbers staying low and a few yellow perch were also caught with only a few being kept by anglers.
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Brown County - At the Fox River-Metro Launch, fishing activity was very low during the week and there were a few pleasure boaters. Over the weekend, there was a walleye tournament taking place, so fishing activity increased. At Fox Point, fishing activity continues to be slow. An angler was targeting walleye in 16 feet of water using leeches. Unfortunately, no walleye were caught but a few catfish were caught and released. At Fox River Shore, fishing activity has been moderate, with most anglers looking to catch rough fish mainly using night crawlers and spinners (green). The species caught were white bass, catfish, sheepshead, and smallmouth bass with white bass and sheepshead being the most prevalent. A few other anglers were looking for perch and bluegill using wax worms with having little luck. At Suamico fishing activity at the beginning of the week was slow and increased by the weekend. Anglers were mainly targeting walleye with numbers looking better than past weeks. Anglers used various types of baits: night crawlers, gulps (green and white), crawler harnesses (green, purple, orange, etc), and crank baits (fire tiger, perch, and blue) in an average depth of about 12-27 feet of water. By the weekend, fishing depths seemed to go a little deeper to around 22-30 feet of water. Many anglers reported fishing off Geano's Reef and other shoals in the area, but alternated back and forth from open water to the reefs. Several other species were caught along with targeting walleye; they were yellow perch (low numbers), sheepshead, catfish and a few white bass, white perch and a few gobies. Fishing from the shore in Suamico activity was low, but there were a few anglers looking for perch, bluegill, and rock bass. No bluegill or rock bass were caught, but a few perch were caught using worms and leeches for bait. At Bayshore Park fishing activity was high on Friday and throughout the weekend with the majority of anglers targeting perch and just a few seeking walleye. A good number of perch were caught with about half returning with their limits. Perch were caught in 16-24 feet of water using leeches, night crawlers, and minnows. Low numbers of walleye were caught. They were caught in 12-24 feet of water using crank baits (purple, perch color) night crawlers, and crawler harnesses (red, gold, purple). Other species caught were sheepshead, gobies, white bass, and white perch.
Manitowoc County - Fishing continues to be slower than expected out of Two Rivers and Manitowoc. Most boats are averaging two to three fish per outing of rainbow trout, chinook, lake trout, coho, and a brown trout occasionally caught. Fish seem to be spread out and boats that are trolling 10 miles out are having similar success to boats two miles out. Many anglers are having the most luck using dipsy divers or leadcore with spoons. Many are also using J-Plug style baits in their arsenal. There have been some large fish caught including a 30- pound chinook out of Manitowoc and a 15-pound rainbow out of Two Rivers, though there are a lot of small chinooks still being caught. Surface temperatures have been in the low 60s, with temperatures generally increasing the farther from shore you get. Most anglers are working lures 30 to 50 feet down in the water column in 35 to 90 feet of water. Water fleas are fouling many lines and making superlines difficult to use. Some chinook salmon are already turning darker and moving towards shore. Pier anglers have been catching a few salmon and brown trout in Two Rivers and Manitowoc during low light conditions. A few fish have been taken while fishing the lake bottom with alewives, but most have been caught on casting spoons. Some nice sized northern pike and smallmouth have been caught by those targeting them.
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Door County - At Chaudoir's Dock fishing activity was very high. Anglers were mainly targeting perch with a few looking for walleye, smallmouth bass, and muskies (without success). Perch numbers were good overall with the average sizes 8 to 10 inches. Main baits used were night crawlers and minnows in about 22-27 feet of water. Other species caught were sheepshead, gobies, white perch, and a white sucker. Smallmouth bass were caught on plastics (green pumpkin) in about seven feet of water. A few were caught and all released. The majority of the anglers are heading about 1.5 miles north of the launch to fish for perch. Walleye numbers were low, average size was about 18 inches in about 20-30 feet of water. Some anglers also used crank baits for the Walleye (perch color and others). At Little Sturgeon Bay fishing activity was moderate with many trailers observed in the parking lot, though few interviews were conducted. Anglers targeted perch in 11 feet of water using minnows and night crawlers. High numbers were caught but low numbers were kept due to the small size of perch. A few anglers sought smallmouth bass in 12-20 feet of water. A few shore and pier fisherman were also observed targeting perch and bluegill without success. At Sawyer's Harbor fishing activity was low with just a few trailers in the area. Anglers targeted smallmouth bass in 11 feet of water using night crawlers. A few gobies were also caught.
Wind plays a large factor in where the salmon are biting, and attention should be paid to where the cooler water is in the top layer because that seems to be where the fish are most active. A good west wind, for example, blows the warmer water out this time of year and can bring the fish closer to shore. Fly/dodger combo and spoons are top bait choices in Door County with action coming anywhere from 75 to 400 feet of water, but 100 to 250 feet has been doing the best most of the time. Bass fishing is going good all over the county, with the best bite in 8 to 15 feet of water along the transition areas. Keep your live bait about a foot off the bottom to stop the gobies from taking it, or try casting twister tails or tubes. In a boat, bass can be found from the southern part of the county all the way up to Washington Island. From shore, try Anderson’s Dock in Ephraim, the end of the pier in Egg Harbor, Weborg’s Point in Peninsula State Park, or the pier at Rowley’s Bay on the lakeside. Good places to try for walleyes are the islands and off-shore reefs north of Sister Bay, around Chambers Island or the smaller islands near the Fish Creek/Peninsula State Park area, Hat Island out of Egg Harbor, and many places in the southern part of the county. Some anglers are even launching from George K. Pinney (formerly Stone Quarry) and going across the bay to Oconto. Crawler harnesses or crank baits in purple or blue/silver are very popular choices for bait, and most of the action is coming in 25 to 50 feet of water with bait in the top 20 feet. Perch are being caught with minnows or crawlers in several places around the county. The shipping canal along memorial dive and the old train bridge in Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor and Ephraim are some places to try.
Kewaunee County - At the Red River there was a few trailers observed over the weekend and a few interviews were recorded. All were targeting perch and all came back with their limits after a few hours of fishing. Perch were caught in 17 and 25 feet of water using night crawlers and minnows. Gobies were also caught while seeking perch. Flasher flies and spoons were the top baits in Kewaunee County with most fish coming up high in the water column, the top 60 feet or so, but a handful being caught in the cold water just below the thermocline. As has been the case recently, the depth at which they are biting changes throughout the day. Generally they are closer to shore in the early morning, moving out to deeper water as the sun rises. 150 to 250 feet of water has been popular, many charters run out to 500-600 feet with success, and some anglers have found a few as shallow as 60-75 feet of water, so don’t be afraid to move around.
The average for private boats was 1 to 4 fish per trip with nine to 11 top of the mark for the week. The best charter trips were bringing in 12 to 15 fish from what we saw. It has been a mixed bag of king and steelhead salmon in equal proportions with a few coho salmon and lake trout mixed in.
We have seen bass, trout and salmon while walking the piers in Kewaunee County this week. There have been a few reports of brown trout getting caught, usually during the early morning with the cooler water near shore. Look for rain to help bring the fish in then get out there and drop some live bait under a slip bobber for bass or cast a spoon with the wind for a chance at a salmon or trout.
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Fond du Lac County - Hot summer and cool nights keep the anglers happy in the Kettles. Folks have been seeing good size bass being caught along with good panfish. The turkeys and deer are frequently visiting the lush fields as fall comes around the corner. - Kyle Kosin, Conservation Warden, Campbellsport
Winnebago County -
There have been reports of sporadic perch and walleye fishing along the northwest part of Lake Winnebago. Anglers encountered/checked at Recreation Park (Neenah) report poor to good fishing. Walleye fishermen are using crawlers; perch fishermen are using both night crawlers (and green crawlers) and hellgrammites in deeper water. For those folks without boats, anglers are catching pan fishing (perch, crappie and bluegill) at Island Park (across the street from Theda Clark hospital) in Neenah. - Tom Sturdivant, Conservation Warden Neenah Station
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - Many trollers were on the lake off Sheboygan over the weekend due to the Coho Derby. Success varied, with the average catch about four fish per boat. In the past couple days, fish have been caught between 35 and 300 feet of water, but the better catches seem to be around 300 feet. Anglers reported success on a variety of baits, including spoons, flashers and flies, as well as J-Plugs. Strong winds likely changed things, but over the weekend cold water, about 47 degrees, was reported starting at a depth of 25 feet in 60 feet of water. The 8th Street ramp remains closed. Fishing remains relatively slow off the Sheboygan piers and shoreline, however, a few rainbow and brown trout have been taken on spoons fished off the south pier. Schools of alewives could be seen around the south pier, but none were around off the north pier.
Ozaukee County - In Port Washington trollers have been catching mainly a mixed bag of small chinook salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, and coho. Most fish were caught between 70 and 110 feet of water, but catches were reported anywhere between 45 and 375 feet of water. Many anglers reported missing quite a few fish and continue to mark lots of bait. Flashers and flies continue to produce fish, but quite a few anglers reported success using spoons. Fishing pressure remains low on the pier. Small perch continue to be caught, along with a couple of small browns and chinooks off the end of the pier. Schools of alewives can also be seen near the base of the pier. Water clarity remains good in and around the marina. The path to Fisherman’s Park remains closed.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee Chinook fishing for trollers was fairly strong over the weekend. Most were focusing in 35 to 60 feet down in 75 to 105 feet of water. Spoons in blue, green, purple, and glow produced the most, and a few rainbows, browns, and lakers were also caught. The average catch per boat Saturday night was about five fish, with some larger chinooks 20 to 25 pounds. Anglers fishing off of McKinley pier caught a few brown trout on green spoons or white plastics with the best area being on the rocks and the pier on the lakeside. Perch fishing has been slow off of the pier with little to no reports of perch being caught. The best place to target them would be off of the rocks at first light. A few small perch have been caught in the river channel under the Hoan Bridge on minnows. Perch fishing has also picked up around the South Shore pier with keeper perch averaging 10 to 12 inches on minnows off the bottom.
Racine County - Trollers in Racine reported chinooks caught while fishing 45 feet down in 80 to 90 feet of water near the Oak Creek power plant. Glow in the dark spoons have produced well. Fishing was slow for those trolling south of the Racine harbor. Shore fishing in Racine was slow, although a few chinooks were reported caught on alewives fished off of the South Pier in the overnight hours. The rebuilding project on South Pier continues, which has disrupted some angling experiences. Perch fishing remains slow, with 1 or 2 perch caught on a good day. The surface temperature at the lakefront averaged 65-68 degrees during the week.
Kenosha County - Kenosha trollers have been doing well during the early morning or late evening hours but fishing has been slow during the day. The hills have been producing a few mature chinooks, and smaller chinooks have been taken out of 45 feet of water just north of the harbor. Some boaters reported nice catches of perch off the north side of the breakwall on Saturday. Fishing pressure on the Kenosha piers was steady this week, but the catch rate for browns has tapered off. A few fish are still being taken, but not the numbers of them from a couple of weeks ago. A few anglers have been catching some nice size perch on tube jigs while fishing for browns. There were very few perch anglers seen on the Kenosha shoreline this week. The surface temperature at the lakefront averaged 65-69 degrees during the week.
South Central Region
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Iowa County - The water levels and weather on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway have been making for some great paddling and summer camping. Fishing has been good for smallmouth bass, pan fish, walleyes, and sauger. White to pearl colored crank baits, and night crawlers have been the most successful baits used. Fishing on Cox Hollow in Governor Dodge State Park has been consistence with many panfish, bass, and a few walleyes being caught, on night crawlers and lures. - Lee Posusta, conservation warden recruit, Iowa County
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Sauk County - As the cooler nights start, the water temperature on the Wisconsin River has dropped a few degrees and the walleyes and smallmouth have been biting. Lake Wisconsin has been slow for fishing, however the good opportunities will start as the water cools in September. Warden Buss reminds hunters to go visit with landowners and get permission to hunt or renew permission from past years. The hummingbirds are fighting at backyard feeders as these small birds get ready for a long migration across the Gulf of Mexico. The backyard displays as hummingbirds feed has been very enjoyable for backyard feeders. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Willow River State Park - Some of the trees are showing fall color already-typically it is the ash trees which have a short growing season. Weekend use continues to be heavy so plan on some time to walk to Willow Falls. Only 12 vehicles are allowed in the closest parking lot. Weekend programs continue at the Nature Center. A variety of things to do and learn will be ongoing from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hunting season information is available at the office. It is a two sheet set with information and a map. Various hunting-trapping regulation booklets will be available soon. The least visited trails in the park are the Red in the main park and the Mound trail that connects the Mound lot and the Rattle Bridge lot. There have been a number of goldfinches around the office in recent weeks. They appear any time of day.
Weekend camping tends to be full and we have been running nearly full on electric sites during the week. - Jeffrey L. Bolte, visitor services associate
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - Highs in the upper 70s to low 80s predicted through the weekend with lows in the 50s at night along with minimal chances of rain. Great temperatures and a reduced bug population makes now a great time to camp. Trails are being groomed this week and should be in good condition for the upcoming weekend. Crews are working on the Pray connector to improve three key wetland crossings. This work helps maintain the longterm sustainability of the trail system. Late this fall we will be adding electricity to eight sites at Castle Mound bringing our total to 14 electric sites. This is to meet an increased demand for this amenity by our campers. Starting next year the park plans on having the electric sites on the reservation system from May 1 through the first weekend on October. - Peter Bakken, superintendent
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -Fishing has been pretty slow in Eau Claire County as water temperatures have dropped with the cool nights. Water levels on rivers are getting very low. The only people that have been really happy are the black berry pickers. There are a lot of blackberries this year. It looks like there will be good picking for about another week. If we could get some rain I think it would really plump up the berries. - Ken Thomson, conservation warden, Eau Claire
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Visitors over the weekend were swimming, hiking, geocaching, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. There are a few mosquitoes and some biting flies. There is some green algae floating around the lake and at times it is near our shores. This past week the lake was great for fishing and swimming with no green! Saturday, Aug. 17, starting at 7:30 p.m. is the evening program at the amphitheater and tiki torch lit night hike. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Sunday, Aug. 18, meet at the petroglyphs at 11 a.m. to learn about Wisconsin Rock Art. - Heather Wolf, park manager