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Outdoor Report for April 3, 2014
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
Residents of northern Wisconsin aren't appreciating April fools this year, as another major snowstorm is predicted this week. The National Weather Service Thursday issued winter storm watches and warnings for the northern half of Wisconsin, with up to 17 inches of heavy and wet snow forecast.
Central and northeastern parts of the state could see ice accumulations up to quarter inch starting and wind gusts up to 30 mph were expected as the storm moves through.
This new snow will be falling on the 2 to 3 feet of snow that still remains across much of the Northwoods. State wildlife officials continue to be concerned about this winter's impact on deer and turkey, with the winter severity index already at severe and very severe across the north.
A reminder that even with the expected snow, most snowmobile trails are now closed across the state. And with the ice coming out of the ground in southern and central Wisconsin many of the trails are very soft and muddy. Mountain bike and horse trails are closed until things dry out, and bicyclists are asked to refrain from riding on the soft limestone screening of rails trails to avoid causing ruts.
The recent warm up has opened up more water in the southern half of the state, but lakes in the north still have 20 to 28 inches of ice. Small ponds and rivers are open throughout the south, as are shorelines of larger lakes. Lake Winnebago shorelines have eroded significantly and the 3 feet of ice that anglers have enjoyed this winter has become spongy and cracked in many areas. Several vehicles have fallen through the ice in recent days.
Very few ice anglers have been out in the north, but fishing activity has picked up in the south. Walleye anglers were open water fishing on Lake Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River this week all the way up to the Wisconsin Dells dam. There was some fishing activity on the Fox River and the Wolf River is starting to open up. Southern Lake Michigan tributaries continue to open up, and some steelhead and brown trout have been caught. Many of the Mississippi River boat landings are open, although none have the docks in place. Anglers have been fishing for sauger but report that fishing is early yet and slow. Anglers are also being reminded that 2013-14 licenses expired March 31 so they should pick up their 2014-15 licenses and regulations if they haven't already.
Turkeys are gobbling more on warmer mornings and a few are splitting off the large winter flocks and toms are being seen strutting for hens in the morning hours.
Spring bird migration finally hit Wisconsin in earnest last week, especially in the southern half of the state, with eastern phoebe, tree swallow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, fox sparrow, hermit thrush, winter wren, purple finch and other songbirds seen. Waterfowl have really moved in as well, including the full diversity of dabbling ducks and plenty of divers on larger water bodies. Tundra swans made their initial push as well, particularly across the eastern tier from Green Bay southward.
The MacKenzie Center in Poynette will hold its Maple Syrup Festival this Saturday, April 5. Visitors can learn about the mystery of turning maple sap into maple syrup, see exhibits on how Native Americans made syrup, enjoy horse drawn wagon rides, kid's activities, a Pancake breakfast and more.
Statewide Birding Report
Spring bird migration finally hit Wisconsin in earnest last week, especially in the southern half of the state. Early-season short distance migrants were well-represented there, including eastern phoebe, tree swallow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, fox sparrow, hermit thrush, winter wren, purple finch, golden-crowned kinglet, and other songbirds. Waterfowl have really moved in as well, including the full diversity of dabbling ducks and plenty of divers on larger water bodies. Large numbers of greater white-fronted geese were found this week in flooded fields, along with a smattering of snow and Ross's geese among flocks of Canadas. Tundra swans made their initial push as well, particularly across the eastern tier from Green Bay southward, while sightings of trumpeter swans continue to increase statewide. Shorebirds in the south included the expected killdeer, greater and lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, Wilson's snipe and American woodcock. Amazingly, seven Baird's sandpipers were found at three different locations on April 2, marking the earliest known state records of this Great Plains migrant by twelve days! Another plains species - the Franklin's gull - was seen in several southern Wisconsin locations as well. Other arrivals in the south included common loons and rusty blackbirds, the latter a sharply declining boreal nesting species. To help battle those declines, sightings of rusty blackbirds should be reported to the 2014 Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz . Spring has been much slower to come to the north, where deep ice and snow cover persists. American robin, red-winged blackbird, common grackle, sandhill crane, eastern meadowlark, dark-eyed junco, northern flicker, great blue heron and a few species of ducks have been found all the way north to Lake Superior, but in general numbers of most of these species have been very low. Golden eagle migration has peaked while nearly 300 bald eagles were tallied during migration on Sunday in northern Bayfield County. The first red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, and peregrine falcons have also returned to the north. Finally, some nesting activity is well underway as many great horned owls already have nestlings, some perhaps even near fledging. Bald eagles are on eggs, peregrines are staking out nest sites and the first Eastern bluebird nests have been found by volunteer monitors. The next two months are prime time for birdwatching as each successive warm front brings a new wave of migrants into the state. Get out and enjoy, being sure to report your sightings to ebird.org/wi/. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - The saying goes that March comes in like a loin and out like a lamb, but some are wondering if the lion ate the lamb this year. Many northlanders aren't appreciating April fools this year as close to a foot of snow is being predicted this week. It seems that most people are ready to "switch gears" and move onto the next season and the activities that come with spring. Some are still making use of the plentiful snow and are out cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The fishing opener on the Bois Brule River from Highway 2 to Lake Superior proved to be a challenge as much of the stretch of river was still ice covered. Some anglers brought ice augers and were successful, the rest stayed south of County Road FF, where the open water could be found. One of the Rangers measured 39.5 inches of snow on opening morning. The Copper Range Campground is open and the driveway and parking spots are plowed. We do recommend bringing shovels to shovel a path to the picnic table and fire ring. A couple of new southern arrivals have started coming through the area. Juncos are starting to be sighted coming through and a kestrel was sighted last week. More robins are being spotted, checking out the few bare spots of ground around some trees and southern exposed hillsides. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Washburn County - We have our first robins and woodcock, but we still have two feet of snow. South slopes are starting to show bare ground. - Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner
Park Falls 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 in the last week with most lakes still registering about 22 to 28 inches of ice. The snowpack on top has melted and settled down quite a bit with the milder weather, but there is still a layer of 8 to 10 inches of frozen slush and packed snow in many areas of the lakes. This has improved access for ATVs and the walking angler, but it doesn't seem to have increased fishing pressure much at all. There have been a few panfish anglers venturing out, but success has been spotty. A few perch and crappie have been caught, and they've been found suspended off the bottom near deep water areas. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Price County - In the Park Falls area, snowmobile trails are now closed so outdoor enthusiasts are turning their attention to ice fishing for panfish. There is still a very thick layer of ice and you can expect to drill right down to the power head on your ice augers. Surface conditions on the lakes are still unpredictable with the changing weather conditions. Most anglers are walking out to avoid getting stuck with ATVs or snowmobiles. The local rivers are not opened up yet and the river banks are covered with deep snow preventing anglers from targeting red horse which would normally be running at this time. - Dan Michels, conservation warden, Park Falls
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Oneida County - Anglers are reporting mixed results with some days being good and the next day not so good. Snowmobile trails closed on Monday March 31, 2014 in Oneida and Vilas counties. Despite almost two feet of snow remaining in the woods, many of the snowmobile trails are in poor condition. Small groups of geese and ducks have been seen returning and are roosting on open areas of creeks and rivers. - Tim Ebert, conservation warden, Woodruff
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Marinette County - Angling pressure was low at the Peshtigo Harbor with anglers fishing for pike with limited success. Menominee River anglers caught a few trout and walleye from the dam at Hattie Street down to Stephenson Island. Twister tails and jig heads along with stick baits were used to catch walleye and spawn sacks and fly's produced a few steelhead. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Anglers had success catching whitefish at Geano Beach fishing the reef south of the landing using jigging spoons tipped with wax worms. The Geano Beach landing was breaking up so anglers were using 4 wheelers to access their fishing spots. Some whitefish and northern pike were caught at the mouth of the Oconto River to Oconto Park II. Smelt and large shiner minnows were used for pike, while jigging spoons and wax worms for whitefish. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Anglers fished at Voyageur Park for walleye with some fish being caught, mostly after dark, below the dam using jig heads and twister tails or casting stick baits. Anglers were seen in boats as well as along the shore which might be a good indication that the walleye run has probably begun. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Door County - Last week very cold and windy early week weather was replaced with temperatures in the mid 50s on the weekend. Many Green Bay anglers took advantage of the spring-like temperatures by hitting the ice. From Sturgeon Bay to Birmingham's to the Stone Quarry there were very few anglers possibly due to the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaking missions in that area. At Lime Kiln and Big Rock Place many anglers tried their luck at catching whitefish while at Wood Lane, Riley's Bay, Town Park Road, Carmody, High Cliff, Idlewild, Cabot's Point, Dykesville, and Red River very few if any anglers were seen. Bullhead Point and the Sturgeon Bay Yacht Club had a few anglers fishing for northern pike using tip-ups with minnows. A group at the Yacht Club caught one 10 to 12 inch northern, which they were more than happy to release. Volk's Landing continued to attract whitefish anglers where some bag limits were caught. Whitefish between 14 and 21 inches long were caught in depths of 12 feet and less of water using wax worms on small hooks and jigs. Potawatomi State Park was an active whitefish location this week. Fishing in 50 feet or so of water, whitefish in the 17 to 23 inch range and were caught using wax worms and minnow heads on small jigs. - Bobbi Kolstad, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Manitowoc County - Conditions of the harbors and tributary rivers in the county remain unchanged from the last week's report. The Manitowoc harbor is still a hit or miss opportunity, with open water one day and ice cover the next. Anglers fishing the stub pier and edges of the harbor, where open water is most often available, have hooked just a few rainbows and browns of modest size on spawn sacs. The Manitowoc River remains mostly ice covered, although it is opening up nicely at spots and anglers are beginning to fish the dam in Clarks Mills, although no fish have been reported caught yet from the river. Silver Creek is also flowing well, and several anglers were fishing the stream last weekend for steelhead, but again without success. The Shoto Dam area of the West Twin River remains the county's hot spot for angler activity and fishing success, although that success has also been very spotty. The rainbows caught appear to be mostly fish that have been in the river throughout the winter, with anglers still anticipating the actual steelhead run of fish from the lake. Water quality has been rather poor as well, dirty and at a steady 34 degrees. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - Some warmer weather has ushered in a few new migrants. Red winged blackbirds, grackles, and large flocks of robins are now a common sight in backyards. Killdeer and woodcock have also made an appearance. Snow has decreased significantly in the southern portions of the county with a few bare fields and slopes. The northern portions of the county are almost completely snow covered with the wooded areas having knee deep snow. Ice on inland lakes is still around 2 feet thick. Turkeys are gobbling more on warmer mornings and a few are splitting off the large winter flocks, but most birds are still associated with agricultural fields. Youth turkey season begins in just over a week. Remember to buy a new license if you plan to take advantage of the thick ice as last years license expired on March 31. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Shawano County - Ice fishing is still going strong with access on most water bodies being good. Although there is plenty of ice there are some weak spots. Be careful out there. Might not be a bad idea to wear a float coat. Panfish are biting. Lots of migrating birds can be seen in the Shawano area. I think most are wondering why they came back so early. Fields are just starting to show some bare spots. Lots of deer and turkeys can be seen out in fields even in the middle of the day. Several turkeys have been spotted displaying. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Rock Island State Park - Robins, sandhill cranes, meadowlarks and even killdeer are being sighted here on Washington Island. Of course they are being greeted with at least 95 percent snow cover with depths greater than a foot in most places. Have you ever watched Robins pull freeze dried worms? Fermented fruit is the real mainstay so unusual behavior has been reported. Ice is reported to be several feet thick on the bay and trucks are being driven onto Detroit Harbor yet to fish. Two northern pike greater than 50 inches in length were taken last weekend. A forecast for 6 to12 inches of snow makes cabin fever among islanders a real threat. Large groups of deer can be seen in the open patches of fields. There were 18 counted on the airport runway Wednesday. The rest of the runway is under water so no collision hazard exists. While traveling to Sturgeon Bay last week one field had more than 50 deer in it during mid day. - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager
Whitefish Dunes State Park - Timber cutting has begun this week to remove dead and dying beech trees within the park. An outbreak of beech bark disease over the past couple of years has killed many trees in the park, which now need to be removed. Highway WD is currently closed until further notice. This closure is necessary because of logging equipment operating equipment and stockpiling of logs along the right of way and taking steps to provide safety to the public. A road detour has been put in place to direct traffic and the easiest way to enter Whitefish Dunes at this time is to remain on Highway 57 and take North Cave Point Drive directly to the park, which is on the south end of Jacksonport. There are two phases of the timber harvest so that the park can remain open for visitation. The first phase of the cutting which is currently going on includes along Highway WD and most of the Green Trail. The second phase of cutting includes parts of the Brachiopod and Black Trail. Trails have been marked closed during each phase and please stay out for safety. Maps will be available at the Park Office. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Snow conditions vary widely in the area. Around Wautoma there is only snow left on shaded north slopes, fields and all level or south exposures are totally snow free. In northern Waupaca County there is near 100 percent snow cover except on steep south slopes, with near knee deep snow in the woods and protected areas. Trails have closed down for the season. Some migrants have arrived back. Here is the short list of migrants observed: wood ducks, hooded mergansers, woodcock, cedar waxwings and buffleheads. Deer and turkey have been very active, feeding during most of the day now. Staff has not observed any ice anglers out in the last two weeks, and the Wolf River is only partially open. The only vegetation that is showing any signs of life is some skunk cabbage beginning to sprout. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Hartman Creek State Park - Warmer weather has caused much of the snow to melt at Hartman Creek State Park but much of it still remains. Use caution if you plan to hike or try to get in a late season ski or snowshoe at the park as trails are icy in some areas and sloppy in others. Trail conditions for skiing or snowshoeing are generally poor. The park's family campground opens on Tuesday, April 1. Six sites, 21-26, have been plowed and are available for use on a first come, first serve basis. Snow and ice remains though so please use caution if you plan to camp. The campground's shower buildings will not open until Friday, May 2. The parks summer bike and horse trails remain closed until all snow and ice melt and trails are allowed to dry out. For further information please contact the park office: 715-258-2372. - Michael Bergum, superintendent
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Calumet County - The warmer weather in recent days has created a thawing effect on Lake Winnebago in Calumet County, leaving some hard-water anglers with false sense of security. The shorelines have eroded significantly and the 3 feet of ice that anglers have enjoyed this winter has become spongy and cracked in many areas. Several vehicles have fallen through the ice in recent days. Those venturing on the lake should use caution. Robins and other songbirds have arrived in the area and maple trees are being tapped for their sap throughout the county. Turkeys have been seen in large groups with many toms seen strutting for hens in the morning hours. Turkey hunters are gearing up for the fast approaching seasons. - Michael Disher, conservation warden - Stockbridge
Outagamie County - The Wolf River is opening up and the bulk of the ice should be out by the weekend of April 5. This would be the same as the 2013 spring. People are still treading softly on the ice in search of walleyes. The fish are there but the ice on the river gets less safe by the minute. Turkeys are strutting about and the flocks have split up into groups of hens and toms. Many toms are fanning out and getting ready for the spring. Sandhill cranes and swans are back in the area, a true sign of spring. - Mike Young, conservation warden, Shiocton
Winnebago County - The ice is on its way out which means spring fishing is upon us. Currently a few walleyes are being caught on the Fox River in Eureka and farther up the Fox River. Many walleyes were larger females (right after ice out) but over a few days this has shifted to smaller male walleyes. Along with the walleyes a few sturgeon have also been hooked as well as large carp. With March 31 behind us anglers are reminded to purchase their new fishing license and pick up a current fishing regulation pamphlet to stay current with any laws. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Harrington Beach State Park - The Shuttle trail is currently free of ice and snow. The remaining trails have patches of snow and ice cover, as well as wet areas. Please call the park office for the most up-to-date trail conditions. Migratory waterfowl are on the move! Now is a great time to see a large number of species near the Point. Bring your binoculars and look for these recently spotted park visitors: Gadwalls, northern shovelers, northern pintails, white-winged scoters, buffleheads, hooded and common mergansers, red-throated and common loons, and bald eagles. Great horned owls have been spotted near Puckett's Pond and the bluebird houses are being readied for our nesting pairs. If you're lucky, you might see one of our woodchucks or raccoons out and about, as well. - Robin Miller, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - With the coming of spring, trail conditions at Pike Lake are messy to say the least. You will find icy areas along with very wet places along the trail. You will find snow still in the wooded areas. - Andrew Krueger, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The ski season has concluded in the forest, and the Greenbush and Zillmer trails are now open to hiking. However, several icy stretches remain and hikers should use caution on all trails. With the current freeze-thaw cycle, the horse and mountain bike trails remain closed to prevent lasting damage. Most lakes within the forest remain ice-covered; however conditions can deteriorate rapidly as we move further into spring. The DNR does not consider any ice to be safe - please use extra caution if venturing out. The turkey vultures have returned, and geese are winging their way onto local potholes. Bare ground is starting to show in many sunny areas, so it won't be long before the first spring flowers start appearing. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan, the water temperature in the Sheboygan River below the Kohler Dam is about 35 degrees. The river is moderately clear in most stretches of open water, and most narrow areas with faster moving currents are open. Wider stretches of the river remain frozen over. Anglers fishing below Kohler have been catching a few rainbow trout. The best presentation has been spawn sacs and small flies fished under floats. Anglers have been seen ice fishing off of the 14th street ramp in the middle of the channel, but it is not advised to go onto the ice this late in the season. A few anglers have been seen fishing the Pigeon River near the quarry as well as around the wayside on Lakeshore Drive, but steelhead have not been reported. South Pier anglers report decent numbers of browns and rainbows taken from the lake side of the pier. The best presentation seemed to be spawn sacs on bottle rigs, but casting smaller spoons in bright green and blue colors produced some fish as well. The boat launches in Sheboygan are not yet open due to ice.
Ozaukee County - In Port Washington public access to the north pier is not allowed at this time. Signs have been posted at the entrance of the pier to remind the public that no one is allowed on the pier for their own safety. Anglers fishing off of the south pier near the power plant have caught a few small brown trout using small spoons in blue and green colors. Anglers have been seen catching rainbow trout near the power plant discharge. The best baits were spawn sacs fished on a three way rig about 12 inches off the bottom in the current. The overall water clarity of the area was somewhat dirty due to the recent runoff from rainfalls and easterly winds. There were a few boats seen fishing within the breakwater though it is not known if any fish were caught. Sauk Creek did not have any ice remaining after the warm weather last weekend. The water temperature was approximately 38-40 degrees with average water clarity, but the creek has received very little fishing pressure.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee fishing activity increased in popular areas due to the warmer weather this past week. A few brown trout have been caught by the shore anglers fishing behind the Summerfest grounds. The bait of choice has varied among spawn, plastic jigs and live bait. However, some anglers were also able to take fish on spoons. Ice still covers McKinley Marina, so the boat launch there is not usable at this time. Boats have been able to get out into the harbor from Riverfront Ramp, and they are reporting success when jigging toward the bottom with spawn sacs and gulp bait. The boat launches at South Shore and Bender parks are open. Shore angler access has been closed in the area at Jones Island under the Hoan Bridge due to the construction on the bridge. It has been fenced off and appears as though it won't open until the construction of the bridge is complete. Portions of the Milwaukee River remain iced over, including below the North Avenue dam and above the North Avenue Bridge, as well as the downstream section of Kletzsch Park. Decent numbers of steelhead have been caught near Miller Park on the Menomonee River, but effective trips have been hit or miss. When the fish are active, they have been hitting spawn sacs fished under bobbers. The temperature in the Menomonee has slowly risen to 37 degrees.
Racine County - In Racine, flows on the Root River have been dropping over the past couple days, and fishing conditions are decent. More rain is in the forecast over the next few days, so flows may increase again. The Root River Steelhead Facility is up and running, and the first spawning day is scheduled for Monday, April 7. Anglers fishing upstream of the facility have been concentrated below the Horlick dam. Spawn sacs fished under slip bobbers have been effective for some anglers. A couple of brown trout have been reported caught in Quarry Lake Park on spawn and small tube jigs. Fishing in Colonial Park has been hit or miss. Downstream of the weir fishing pressure has been light. Occasional steelhead and a few brown trout have been taken in Lincoln and Island Parks. At the lakefront in Racine, a few boats have been launching from the Pershing Park ramp, but the launch piers have not yet been put in place. A large section of the north pier remains covered in one to two feet of ice, and waves have kept anglers off of the south pier for much of this past week. Shore anglers have been fishing the open water around the Pershing Park boat harbor, and have taken a few browns and rainbows on spawn sacs, shiners, tube jigs, and small spoons.
Kenosha County - In Kenosha the water temperature on the Pike River has increased to 39 degrees, and the river has cleared up after rains late last week. The mouth of the river is open, but steelhead action has been slow. No boats have been seen launching from the Simmons Island boat ramp, but a few kayakers have been working the harbor and reported catching brown trout. Shore anglers have been working in the small boat harbor as well as the area from the 50th Street Bridge to the Navy Memorial. Browns and a few rainbows have been taken on spoons and tube jigs tipped with wax worms.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Waterfowl migration has been picking up on the Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area. There are excellent wildlife viewing opportunities along State Highway 28 which runs through the middle of the north refuge. Waterfowl observed include many more dabbling duck species (northern shovelers, blue-winged teal, wood ducks, mallards, hooded mergansers, a few diving ducks and Canada geese). An eagle was reported along the shoreline of Pike Lake this week. People were still ice fishing on the lake this week. The radial gate at the Theresa Marsh dam was opened 12 inches this week to allow for northern pike spawning and additional runoff. Two local Learn to Hunt turkey workshops were held last weekend. One was in Ozaukee County and the other at the Daniel Boone Conservation League clubhouse. The hunting part of the Learn to Hunt event is scheduled for this weekend (April 5 & 6) on various private and public ownerships in the area. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - Many of the lakes and ponds in Racine and Kenosha counties still have ice. The ice is melting on the ponds with many having partially open water. However, the larger lakes still have extensive ice coverage with open water along the lake edges. While the weather has not been cooperating there have been some signs of spring. Gobblers have been seen strutting for hen turkeys in farm fields. At the Richard Bong Recreation Area a number of migrating/returning birds have been seen such as blue-wing teal, northern shovelers, ring-neck ducks, wood ducks, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, eastern meadowlarks, killdeer and redwing blackbirds. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
South Central Region
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Spring is well under way on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. Trails are all open and in passable condition; however, trees that blew down during the winter may create temporary obstructions. The trails will be in very muddy conditions with all the rain we received. Warm days have seen several visitors hiking and viewing wildlife. Bird watchers are reporting an excellent spring waterfowl migration with several species passing through. The waterfowl have their spring plumage and look beautiful. - Matt Seguin, property manager
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - There are a few ice anglers braving the poor ice conditions for a few late season bluegills and crappies at Bertom Lake. McCartney downriver from Cassville has access limited to individuals who have access to an airboat. Several anglers have been fishing for sauger along the Mississippi River and report that fishing is early yet and slow. Many of the Mississippi River boat landings are open, although none have the docks in place. This past weekend removed any remaining ice from area landings. Large concentrations of waterfowl including trumpeter swans, geese, mallards, shovelers, scaup and mergansers can be seen from Potosi Point and River Lane near Potosi. The eagles are concentrated near the open water below Lock and Dam 11 spillway along Closing Dam Road as well as near the ferry boat landing at Cassville. Anglers reported catching several large northern pike using spinner baits in the open water at O Leary Lake below Lock and Dam 11 near Dubuque. One 21 inch walleye was caught from the Eagle Point fishing barge. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville
Lafayette County - The ice on Yellowstone Lake is breaking up fast, and turkeys are busy strutting. The Cheese Country Trail is still closed. - Nick Webster, conservation warden, Darlington
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Open water fishing is picking up from Lake Wisconsin all the way up to the Wisconsin Dells Dam. Some boat landings were still froze in, but many anglers did find ways to get out on the water this past weekend with great weather conditions. Fishing was better on Saturday than on Sunday. All fish observed were males from 15 to16 inches long. Many anglers reported shorter fish with a few in the legal slot. Migratory waterfowl are definitely back in the area. Those collecting maple sap are doing much better this year compared to last year. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Tundra swans are beginning to be seen in the county. More and more turkeys, especially toms, are being seen wandering alone, which is getting turkey hunters excited. Deer ticks are reported to be out, so make sure to protect yourself while enjoying the outdoors. Users of the public lands in the county should be aware that there may be some turkey hunters in the woods this weekend participating in a "Learn to Turkey Hunt" event. Next week, prescribed burning on the wildlife areas are likely to begin. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
MacKenzie Center - Join the Friends of the MacKenzie Center and DNR staff for Maple Syrup Festival on Saturday, April 5. Learn about the mystery of turning maple sap into maple syrup. Visit exhibits on how Native Americans, pioneers and today's volunteers make maple syrup. Enjoy horse drawn wagon rides, kid's activities, and more! Pancake breakfast (8 a.m.-noon for $7), concession stand available throughout. Event is rain or shine. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
Dane County - Last weekend at Brooklyn Wildlife Area there were sightings of snipe, woodcock, sandhill cranes, and meadowlark. Chorus frog were also observed calling. - Carrie Morgan, natural resources educator
Jefferson County - The ice is slowly melting from area lakes. The majority of the rivers in Jefferson County are ice free. Law enforcement has received reports of northern pike and walleye being caught in the Rock River from Lake Koshkonong north to Jefferson. The fishing is picking up with the ice melting. Many residents have reported seeing bald eagles along the open areas of the Rock River. A variety of waterfowl have begun to show up on area waters and wetlands offering good viewing opportunities. - Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden, Jefferson County
Sauk County - The bluebirds are selecting nesting sites. People are reminded to clean and disinfect bluebird houses for enjoyable spring and summer viewing. Under normal spring conditions the walleye and sauger run below the Prairie du Sac dam would be under full swing. This year due to the cold temperatures there has been a very slow bite below the dam. Anglers should watch current weather and when the warm up starts there will be a large concentration of walleyes moving up to the dam at Prairie du Sac making fishing excellent. Local DNR law enforcement reminds all watercraft/boat users to check their safety equipment for safe and enjoyable outings. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Walleyes are biting on the Rock River in Rock County as well as some northern pike in the Janesville Area. Turkeys are being seen in flocks in fields and some toms are beginning to strut. Heavy rains recently have raised water levels and those venturing out are encouraged to be careful around those water bodies as swift water can be dangerous if not respected. Ducks are also migrating through and can be seen in large numbers along the Rock River in open water. - Mike J Dieckhoff, conservation warden, Janesville
Water levels on the Rock River were still rising and are close to the point where slow-no-wake restrictions will take effect. The walleye run has begun so look for action to pick up in the coming weeks. Anglers have also reported northern pike are being caught below the dams on the Rock River. All inland lakes in Rock County are still ice covered with reports of crappie being caught. Game fishing is closed on all inland waters until the first Saturday in May. The only waters open for game-fish in Rock County are the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong. Anglers are reminded that 2013 fishing licenses expire March 31 and 2014 licenses are currently available. The spring fish and game hearing is coming up on April 14 at 7 p.m. in Rock County and will be held at the Milton High School auditorium. The hearings will also be held at different locations on the same date around the state. Several migratory birds have welcomed back spring in Rock County. Sightings of killdeer, robin, red-wing black birds, sandhill cranes and great blue herons have been observed the past week. - Jake Lassila, recruit conservation warden, Janesville
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Trempealeau County - River levels have risen about 2 feet in the past 3 to 4 days. Most landings below the lock and dams are now open. The walleye and sauger bite has greatly slowed down due to river conditions. A few legal fish are still being caught in fast moving, muddy water. Use caution when boating on the river as chunks of ice and other debris are floating about. Ice on the river and local lakes should be considered unsafe. Anglers are advised to not venture out on the ice as it is deteriorating quickly with the rising water levels and warmer temperatures. Eagles, ducks and geese are in the area in good numbers for viewing and photographing. Perrot State Park and the USFWS Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge are good places to view wildlife. - Christopher Shea, conservation warden, Trempealeau
Merrick State Park - Many of the trails still have snow and ice but can also be soft and muddy. Please stay off the trails when they are soft to minimize damage. The first turkey vultures have been seen in the area. Sandhill cranes can be seen in local fields and the eagles are congregating around open water along the Mississippi River. Some areas of the river still have ice but conditions change quickly. If you park in the south campground to access the river for fishing, please park in the gravel parking lots. The north campground and shower building are still closed. If you are interested in camping there are sites in the south campground that are available first-come, first-served. Some of the sites may still have snow and ice. The vault toilets in the south campground are open. - Lois Larson, park manager
Perrot State Park - The cross-country ski trails are closed for the season. All trails are open for hiking but many still have areas of snow and ice. Most of the trails are soft and muddy in places. The Mississippi River is also ice covered. The dock has been removed and will be reinstalled once the spring water levels are moderate. The Trempealeau River is open but most of Trempealeau Bay is still ice covered. Perrot will be hosting a Work Play Earth Day volunteer event on Saturday, April 26. Another volunteer opportunity will be held on Saturday, May 31 in honor of National Trails Day. The roads in the campground and our campsites are still snow and ice covered so the campground will remain closed. If you are still interested in camping you can park in our nature center parking lot and walk to a close campsite. The open water of the Trempealeau River has brought in trumpeter swans, eagles, and many migratory ducks such as goldeneye and bufflehead. The local mallards are scattered with the other waterfowl. Sandhill cranes have been seen in local fields. Tundra swans have not yet been seen in Trempealeau Bay but once the remainder of the ice has melted we look forward to hosting them for a few days as they head back north. - Lois Larson, park manager
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - A wintery mix is predicted for Thursday, April 3 and Friday, April 4. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 40s to low 50s this weekend with a chance of rain/snow on Sunday. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -The Chippewa River State Trail is now closed for snowmobiling for the season. Remnants of winter are still hanging on though with the trail covered in a couple inches of ice and snow. The trail will not be maintained or prepped for the summer season until all the ice and snow has melted. Use caution as trees and branches may be down and the spring thaw may flood some sections of the trail. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Trails are in poor condition with the spring thaw well on the way. Please refrain from using the trails if obvious damage occurs. Biking is not allowed on the trails and dogs are not allowed in the park. Please report any washouts, fallen trees or other damage to the park office at 715-232-1242. Spring bird migration is well on its way too with black birds, woodcock and sandhill cranes being heard. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - The season is beginning to change and spring is creeping in. The snowmobile season has officially been closed. During the spring season it's highly recommended not to use the trail for biking or walking. The trail can easily be damaged during this sensitive time period. Maintenance staff are better able to prep the trail for the bike season without deep bike ruts or foot prints. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Wood County - Snow is down everywhere and even the woodlots are melting out, but there is a lot of ice still on the ground and lots of puddled water. Ice is going out on the Yellow River. There is open water to about half a mile south of Pittsville with an ice jam forming there. On Lake Dexter there was one brave ice fisher in the middle of the lake using a clamshell shelter. There are many migrating birds showing up. Flocks of robins and woodcock are peenting at dusk and dawn. Sandhill cranes are paired up and visible in local farm fields and turkeys are gobbling at very early light before becoming silent before 7 a.m. Also observed included a pair of swans in the pools between Nepco Lake and County Road Z, and an osprey on the nest platform at the cranberry marsh. - Bob Hess, conservation biologist, Wisconsin Rapids
Buckhorn State Park - With warmer weather, the lake is opening up quickly but is still in drawdown. The gate to the canoe launch area is now open, but not enough water for paddling there yet. The group camp area is still closed as there is ice/snow covering the roads that needs to melt and dry out. Spring at the park is great to watch for migratory birds. Our sandhill cranes are back and have been seen in the park as well as herons, eagles, migrating ducks etc. The work and play day will be Saturday, April 26. Call the park office at 608-565-2789 to sign up to help. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are still closed for the season as there is ice and snow covering the road. We are looking for camp hosts for the summer. Call the Buckhorn office at 608-565-2789 if interested. The work and play day will be Saturday, May 3. Call the Buckhorn office at 608-565-2789 to sign up. - Heather Wolf, park manager