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Spring continues to be a tease, and Mother Nature is presenting many challenges for wildlife. Heavy rains over the weekend in southern parts of Wisconsin resulted in significant flooding and greening grass. The recent cold weather has quieted the frogs, although some hardy spring peepers are still calling. Other frogs which had been vocal are chorus frogs and wood frogs.
There are numerous migratory birds coming through Wisconsin now, including many waterfowl species that are enjoying high waters along the lower Wisconsin River. Nine loons were observed Sunday on Lake Eau Claire. It is likely they are waiting for the far north lakes to thaw before returning to that area. Another loon was observed at Devil's Lake State Park last week.
Portions of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area are now open to the public through May 27 for outdoor activities, including spring turkey hunting. In addition to turkey hunting visitors can trap, hike, bird watch, pick mushrooms and berries, bike open roads, study nature and take photographs. There will not be any fishing opportunities and horseback riding will not be allowed during this time period. The U.S. Army is opening many of the lands it still owns at the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant to public use during this time. Visit the DNR website and search keyword "Sauk Prairie Recreation Area" for property hours and maps.
Male ruffed grouse are approaching the peak of their annual breeding activities known as drumming. Males locate a downed log, tree or rock on which to display themselves. Typically the display platform is located in thick vertical cover which provides security from avian predators. The males attract females with a series of repeated, rapid wing strokes with 3-4 minutes between series. As their wings compress the air, they create a vacuum which results in a thumping noise. Wildlife biologists use this drumming behavior to create an index to the grouse population. Each year the same route is traveled and drumming grouse are counted. From year to year, population trends can be determined based on the number of drumming males heard per route. Quiet early mornings, with air temperatures between 25 and 40, are the best times to listen for drumming ruffed grouse.
Spring turkey hunting officially kicked off Wednesday, April 16. Last weekend was the youth turkey hunt and many successes were reported statewide. This week's high water affected fishing across many parts of the state as waters filled with sediment and debris. Some of the northern inland lakes are still covered with ice but travel on these lakes is dangerous and not recommended.
The Wisconsin Conservation Congress held their annual county meetings Monday, April 14, along with the state's annual fish and game rules hearings. The WCC is the only statutory body in the state in which citizens elect delegates to advise the Natural Resources Board and the Department of Natural Resources on how to responsibly manage Wisconsin's natural resources for present and future generations. This year over 7,000 constituents cast ballots at their local county meetings. For results of hearings, visit the DNR website and search keyword "Conservation Congress."
The "tale of two states" continues this week as snow and ice rule across the northern tier, while spring migration rolls on in more typical fashion across central and southern Wisconsin. In the latter, wetlands are teeming with waterfowl, cranes, blackbirds, and other species. Flooded fields are hosting many of these species as well as continuing flocks of migrating tundra swans. Pied-billed and horned grebes, American bitterns, great egrets, black-crowned night-herons, and Bonaparte's gulls have also arrived. Shorebird numbers remain low with only modest numbers of a few species, though some showy black-necked stilts made their return this week to the southeast glacial plains. In field and forest, hermit thrushes, both kinglets, brown creepers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, and other short-distance migrants were reported in large numbers. Birders in the south were also excited to find yellow-rumped, pine, and prothonotary warblers, as well as Louisiana waterthrush and blue-gray gnatcatcher. Sparrows there include white-throated and white-crowned, chipping, savannah, swamp, vesper, fox, and others. Eastern towhees and brown thrashers have also returned to their favored shrub habitats. The first broad-winged hawks have reached us - right on schedule - from their wintering areas in the tropics of southern central America. Meanwhile, in the north, it's a whole different ballgame as open water remains scarce and snow cover persists. Dark-eyed juncos are now visiting feeders in large numbers, while some American goldfinches, purple finches, fox sparrows, song sparrows, brown creepers, and other migrants are also being seen. Snowy owls continue their slow exodus from the state as well, the most interesting report this week being up to 17 individuals seen in a single day in farmlands across north-central Wisconsin. Other good finds this week included loggerhead shrikes in Walworth, Sauk, and Portage counties, a spotted towhee in Madison, and a nice flock of 64 greater white-fronted geese in Barron County. Last but not least, mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 22, at 12 noon for a live online chat about spring bird migration. Good birding!
Rain and snow have moderated fire danger around the state this week. Last week 37 wildfires burned 1,322 acres; 7 structures burned and another 53 were threatened during the fires. The main causes of the fires were debris burning and equipment. The largest fire of the week was the 800-acre Brandon Fire in Fond du Lac County, caused by debris burning, which threatened 13 structures. This time of year there is still a great deal of dead vegetation that will dry out quickly and be available fuel for a wildfire. Low relative humidity, warm temps, and gusty winds quickly drive up the fire danger. Turkey hunters are reminded to be extra cautious with anything (warming fires, smokes, etc.) that can start a wildfire. Go to dnr.wi.gov and search "fire" for more information on fire danger. Enter keyword "ember" to watch a 4-minute video with footage from last year's 7,422-acre Germann Road Fire.
Firewise Tips: Be extra careful when working or playing outdoors. Do not leave your car, ATV, or farm equipment idling over dry grass or cornfields. Hot exhaust systems can start a wildfire. Do not set a hot chainsaw down on a pile of dry leaves - clear a spot down to the soil instead. Before welding, remove dead vegetation from the work area. If you're towing something, don't allow chains to drag on the road. Sparks generated by dragging chains can start a wildfire.
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Bayfield County - Spring has definitely sprung in the Northwoods, even though we are expecting up to 12 inches of snow Thursday. There have been observations of returning woodcock, wood ducks and song birds. Recent warm weather has affected snow conditions, and all snowmobile trails are closed. Cross country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts continue to take advantage of the more than 2 feet of snow in area woods. Ice conditions on local inland lakes continue to deteriorate, though some claim there is more than 3 feet of ice. Much of the ice is already honey comb and the shorelines are beginning to open. Those venturing out on the ice are catching some panfish, but some have stated that it's been a different kind of year. Angers say many small fish are being caught, and the fishing has been slower than in prior years. - Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond
Pattison State Park - Spring has arrived in Douglas County. Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park thawed out this week and is flowing in a thunderous fashion. A visitor reported that last weekend a pair of otters were sliding down the giant wall of ice that encompassed Big Manitou Falls. Visitor numbers are increasing daily to look at the falls at both Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Interstate Park - The Friends of Interstate Park invite you to their annual Spring Gathering of Friends on Earth Day, Tuesday evening, April 22, at the Ice Age Center at Wisconsin Interstate Park. A short children's program and free refreshments, followed by a guest speaker, highlight the event. Featured again this year is the addition of a children's program from 6-6:30 p.m. "Just For Kids: Ready, Plant, Grow!" is a hands-on opportunity for the children to learn how plants grow by planting seeds to take home. After the children's program there will be free refreshments followed by a special presentation in the auditorium. At 7 p.m., Jeff West of Prairie Restorations will present a program titled "Native Plant Communities: Restoration Tips and Techniques." The program will be about all aspects of native plant restoration and what you as a homeowner can do to make a difference, even with limited space, to complete a restoration. There will be time for questions following the program.
West is the Site Manager of the Two Oaks office of Prairie Restorations in Scandia, Minnesota, and has been working for PRI since 2007. Don't miss this opportunity to learn about the native plant communities of our area, and to learn more about the Friends of Interstate Park. Everyone is welcome. - 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) - Variable and rather cool weather for a good part of the last week has slowed up the snow melt and further delayed ice deterioration on lakes across northern Wisconsin. Most lakes still have about 20 to 22 inches of ice and the top layer is rather soft and grainy. There is about 10 to 12 inches of solid ice underneath that layer. Some access sites and many south facing shorelines were starting to show small areas of open water, but these have mostly iced up again with the cold weather of the past few days. There are still a few panfish anglers getting out and trying their luck, but access has been limited to foot travel. These late-season ice anglers have been having spotty success, with just a few light catches of crappie and bluegill being made. The fish have still been found in the deep water areas, suspended 5 to 10 feet off the bottom, and have been finicky in biting. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The snowmobile and ski trails are closed for the season. Both the north and south forks of the Flambeau River are open and local lakes still have ice cover but edges are melting. Spring has finally arrived in the forest. We are seeing lots of wildlife including cranes, trumpeter swans, geese, ducks, robins, woodcocks and whooping cranes making their way home. We have approximately 10 inches of new snow with this last storm, but it will be short lived with warmer temperatures predicted. We are seeing skunks, turkeys and even a badger that left his winter den. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Rhinelander DNR Service Center area
Oneida County - The first report of a black bear came in on Sunday, April 13. A hiker reported seeing two separate black bears near Rhinelander. Also observed was the first woodcock of the season along with numerous ducks on the open water of the Wisconsin River. An osprey was observed in its nest so signs of spring have arrived in northern Wisconsin. The harsh winter conditions have made it difficult hunting for the youth turkey season as birds still seem to be bunched up near houses. Portions of the Wisconsin River are open and as soon as a boat launch is open anglers will be catching yellow perch. Wardens responded to a dead deer found in a yard and suspected starvation as the animal had no fat on it. Wardens are hearing second-hand information of landowners finding dead turkeys but very few reports have been received by wildlife staff and verified. The DNR encourages people who observe these things first hand to contact their local wildlife biologist so they can verify them. Oneida County lakes continue to support ice anglers, and action is picking up for panfish. - James Jung, conservation warden, Rhinelander
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Marinette County - This past week water temperatures on the Peshtigo River hit 40 degrees but few fish were caught. There was moderate fishing pressure from the dam to the harbor. Water temperatures on the Menominee River hovered around 35 degrees and some walleye were caught by boat anglers in the turn basin and in front of the Waupaca Foundry. Some walleye limits were caught by vertically jigging minnows and Gulp Alive. Anglers on the Fishermen's Walkway by the Hattie Street Dam also caught a few walleye during periods of low light. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Walleye fishing pressure at the Dam on the Oconto River was moderate to heavy at times with catch rates and water temperatures very low. Shocking efforts conducted by the DNR near the Iron Bridge on the Oconto River produced about 100 walleye that were weighed, measured and tagged. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - The ice is finally gone from Duck Creek, Long-Tail Point and the Suamico River but Geano Beach still had some ice. A few anglers tried their luck in Duck Creek off of Deerfield Road. At the mouth of the Fox River a handful of anglers tried to catch crappies or panfish using minnows, worms, or Rapalas. Also, anglers fished the Fox River near Porlier Street and were hoping to catch anything that would bite. The walleye run on the Fox River near the De Pere dam was in full gear as evidenced by the 130 shore anglers seen fishing at Voyager Park. Lucky boat anglers used a slow presentation of Rapalas, twister tails, minnows and worms in all types of colors to entice a hit. Walleye catch rates were fairly high with one boat catching 40 one day and catching more than 24 the next. With the rain over this past weekend the Fox River has increased water levels and flow making the water quite murky. This slowed the catch rate and of the 13 boat fishing parties to report on Sunday, only 7 caught walleye using Rapalas, minnows and jigs. One angler shared a story about catching a 14 inch walleye only to have a huge musky take it right off the side of his boat. He tried his best to bag the monster musky (he estimated that it had to be at least 50 inches long), but was unsuccessful. Several musky were caught as well as whitefish and channel catfish. The DNR shocked the Fox River in an effort to collect walleye for tagging, measuring, and general observation and collected over 500 fish. The largest fish were around 28.5 inches with another handful or so close to 28 inches. Other fish seen while shocking were gizzard shad, common carp, redhorse suckers and whitefish. In addition to shocking the Fox River, the DNR will be tagging several hundred walleye on Green Bay's west shore during the month of April. If you catch one of these walleye with a tag, please call the phone number listed on the tag. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door County - Anglers were able to launch their boats at Sawyer Park in Sturgeon Bay and at the Baileys Harbor Marina in search of some active trout. Anglers trolling for browns by Sawyer Park in Sturgeon Bay caught some fish using spoons and Rapalas in 5 to 12 feet of water. Those fishing out of Bailey's Harbor also caught a few brown trout using Rapalas and spoons in 12 feet of water. The creeks are flowing strong and a few anglers have tried their luck at Hein's and Hibbard's Creek with mixed results. Stream temperatures from Sturgeon Bay to Baileys Harbor range in temperatures from 25 to 39 degrees. Most lake piers are cleared of ice making fishing possible. In contrast, launches and piers along Green Bay remain frozen so a few anglers are still ice fishing.
Kewaunee County - Stoney Creek is for the most part ice free and is still very cold at 34 degrees. A few anglers saw white suckers and steelhead but have had little luck catching any fish. Anglers reported getting bites but not being able to land the fish that are hitting yarn flies. Anglers were able to launch their boats at the Algoma Ramp now that the marina is open. A few anglers were successful catching steelhead and one boat reported catching a limit of brown trout. On the Algoma pier anglers tried their luck but there were no reports of any fish being caught. On the Ahnapee River anglers' targeted steelhead with little success. At Blahnik Park fishing activity and catch rates were low although some steelhead could be seen. Anglers have been targeting steelhead on the Kewaunee River where the water temperature is 37 degrees. At the salmon pond fishing activity was slow for steelhead but many anglers dip netted from the bridge for white suckers and caught 5 to 12 fish. The bridge crossing at Highway X has been a popular spot but anglers at Bruemmerville Park had the most success with reports of 1 or 2 fish being caught using spoons and spawn sacks. The ramp, marina and channel in Kewaunee are free from ice and anglers have caught some brown trout using spoons and crank baits. At the DNR's Besadny Anadromous Fish Facility harvesting of steelhead took place and will continue for at least another two weeks.
Manitowoc County - Prior to the weekend storms angler activity was light during this past week. Both rivers are now at flood-stage levels due to the rain storms. Current conditions on both rivers show high, swift and muddy waters presenting access and safety challenges for wading anglers. The launch ramps at Manitou Park and the Manitowoc Marina are open and easily accessible for boat anglers.
From the Shoto Dam to the boat launch ramp in Shoto, angler activity has been high and good numbers of steelhead and browns were caught. Some anglers had impressive catches of egg-laden females and also heavy males that hit drifted spawn sacs. Angler location seemed to be a deciding success factor as the productive locations changed on a daily basis. The most attractive fishing location was at the foot of the dam for many wading anglers but anglers scattered several hundred yards downstream were just as successful. Some good catches by anglers of steelhead and a few northern pike (including one reported at 38 inches) were seen on the East Twin River. Most anglers fished from the foot of the Mishicot Dam downstream past the Highway 147/Main Street Bridge but, the rest of the river is open from Mishicot to Two Rivers.
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Oconto County - More snow in forecast has slowed fishing but anglers are reporting some success below the Stiles Dam on walleyes. Most fish are still hard and we maybe some time away from actual spawning. Anglers are cautioned about high water levels and cold temperatures. The waterfowl migration is in full swing in the area with some canvasbacks showing up in local rivers this week. Ice on most inland lakes is becoming very unsafe. - Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Turkey prospects are decent for this week's opener. Winter doesn't seem to have been too tough on them. Hopefully the 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground won't totally shut down their spring activities. Turkey hunters should most definitely check for ticks as up until the latest snowfall they were very active. Ice is out on some area lakes, but not others. It is definitely the "tweener time" for lake fishing in these parts. You can't ice fish on any lakes, can't open water fish on many lakes. The Wolf River is wide open and receiving heavy fishing pressure. There have been reports of good catches from Shiocton down to New London. Greenup has scarcely begun in central Wisconsin, as the only plant noticed starting to grow is skunk cabbage. Trout streams are currently over the banks and almost unfishable, so there is very little fishing pressure. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Tree Swallows and bluebirds have returned to the Waupaca area. The Waupaca Learn to Turkey Hunt was April 12 and 13. Sixteen new hunters participated in the event. The Wolf River walleye run is in full swing with most of the fish currently spawning in the marshes. Once the fish leave the marshes, angling success should improve dramatically. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
High Cliff State Park- Ice out on Lake Winnebago occurred over the weekend. Minor ice shoves piled up briefly on the west shore near Oshkosh. There was no ice build up on the northeast shore. Osprey pairs are challenging each other for the new nest platform erected at High Cliff last fall. Purple martin scouts are returning to claim nest sites within the martin colonies in and near the park. Tree swallows and turkey vultures are back, and the chipmunks are out and about. So far there are few spring wildflowers. Chorus frogs and spring peepers have been singing on recent warmer nights. Woodcocks are present and peenting. Wild turkeys are displaying all across park property. Garter snakes have also emerged for spring. - Cynthia Mueller, naturalist
Winnebago County - The ice on the up river lakes is going fast. Boat access is available in the Fox and Wolf Rivers. A few walleyes are being caught but most are beginning to spawn. After the spawn the walleyes should be returning to the lakes and increasing catch rates. Wild turkeys can be seen throughout the county fanning and strutting their stuff. Ducks and geese are beginning to show up in great numbers and can be seen in open water. - Tom Truman, conservation warden, Oshkosh
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Signs of spring in the Southern Unit are increasing as the weeks go by. Campers at Ottawa Lake Recreation Area will find one flush restroom open and one shower house open for the season. Visitors to Ottawa Lake and Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail will see land management staff and volunteers have been busy over the winter with the removal of woody invasive plant species. The spring peepers and chorus frogs are singing their songs; bird sightings include golden-crowned kinglets, brown creepers, wood ducks, sandhill cranes, and turkeys. Local waters that are scheduled to be stocked this spring with trout include: McKeawn Springs, Scuppernong River and South Branch Scuppernong River. Specific dates of stocking are not available. Spring wildflowers such as round-lobed hepatica are starting to sprout, along with invasive plants such as garlic mustard. All hiking trails (Scuppernong, Nordic, Ice Age Trail and nature trails) are open but muddy. Be sure to protect you and your pets from ticks that might carry Lymes disease. It's not too early to pick up these parasites! For horse and bike trail status (open or closed) call the trail hotline for current conditions (262) 594-6202. All other questions, please call forest headquarters (262) 594-6200. - Melanie Kapinos, assistant naturalist guide
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan the local rivers are running high and muddy after Sheboygan received over 4 inches of rain this past weekend. The Sheboygan River was over flood stage as of Monday and Tuesday. Flows will return to fishable levels in Weedens Creek and the Pigeon River before the Sheboygan River. The Sheboygan harbor is free of ice, and the boat ramps and fish cleaning stations are open. A large amount of tree debris washed down the Sheboygan River and is floating in the area, so use extra caution when navigating a boat. A few anglers were looking for brown trout on the south pier Sunday afternoon, but fishing pressure was limited due to rain and northeast winds. Anglers reported that the morning bite has more productive on the south pier with a fair number of 3-to-5-pound browns being harvested. The best method to catch them has been soaking spawn on the bottom.
Ozaukee County - In Port Washington public access to the north pier is not allowed at this time. Signs have been posted at the entrance to pier to remind the public that no one is allowed on the pier for their own safety. Shore anglers on Saturday were catching brown trout near the power plant discharge and on the rocks along Rotary Park. The best baits were spawn sacs used on a three way rig about 12 inches off the bottom. Browns were in the 3 to 4 pound range. Winds switched from the northeast later Saturday morning with some periods of heavy rain which chased most anglers away. Sunday after heavy rains Sauk Creek was high and muddy, and it was discharging large amounts of tree debris into the harbor. Prior to the rains, anglers had been catching a few steelhead on spinners and small flies in the deeper holes near the high school and the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve. Only a few boats were launched on Saturday due to the strong northeast winds and cold air temperatures. One boat had picked up a an 18-inch coho and a 14-pound, 34-inch lake trout south of Port Washington in about 40 feet of water. A few boats fished the inner harbor area, and a few smaller brown trout were harvested. Lures used were jointed Rapalas and spinners. The fish cleaning station near the marina is open for the season, while the fish cleaning station near the power plant remains closed.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee brown trout are still being taken from Summerfest and the South City Shoreline. The bait of choice has varied from spawn, spoons, plastic jigs and live bait. There has been an increase in anglers reporting small coho salmon being caught from Summerfest and off McKinley Pier. The Oak Creek Power Plant pier is open and has attracted a decent number of anglers. They are reporting success for coho salmon and brown trout with Rapalas, spoons and spawn sacs. Boat launch piers have been put in at Riverfront Ramp, South Shore Park and Bender Park. A few boats are reporting success for brown trout jigging near the discharge within the harbor. South Shore and Bender Park boaters have also reported success trolling with spoons and Rapalas during the early morning. Milwaukee area rivers are high and muddy after this weekend's heavy rains. Oak Creek and the Menomonee River will drop back to fishable levels sooner than the Milwaukee River. Prior to the rains, steelhead anglers were catching a few on the Menomonee River on spawn sacs and flies, and they were having increasing success on the Milwaukee at Estabrook and Kletzsch Parks. At the mouth of the Milwaukee River near Summerfest, anglers had been catching decent numbers of yellow perch on fathead minnows.
Racine County - In Racine, fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility on Monday, April 14. Eggs were collected from both Chambers Creek and Ganaraska strains, and 602 steelhead were passed upstream. The next processing day will be Monday, April 21. The Root River is muddy and flows are high. Flows were still increasing as of Tuesday afternoon. Over the weekend decent numbers of rainbows had been caught throughout the river. Anglers casting flies and yarn had better luck this week than those fishing with spawn and tube jigs. Productive colors included red, bright green, tan, red and black, as well as egg patterns. At the Racine lakefront all the ice now is gone from Reefpoint Marina. A few anglers casted spoons and crank baits in the marina, but fishing was slow. Pier anglers have been catching fish off of both the north and south piers. Both browns and coho have been caught on spoons and tube jigs. Trollers fishing off Racine have concentrated in 15 to 30 feet of water between the north pier and the water treatment plant. The majority of boats have caught coho, and a few also returned with browns and rainbows as well. Dodgers and flies worked well for coho, while spoons and crank baits took most of the browns. The fish cleaning station and concession stand at the boat launch have not opened yet.
Kenosha County - In Kenosha water clarity in the Pike River was good earlier last the week, and rainbow trout continued to work their way upstream. The rainbows were seen swimming from deep hole to deep hole at various locations, but fishing pressure remained low. After this weekend's rains, the river is high and muddy but should return to fishable conditions by the weekend. In the Kenosha harbor, the boat launch is open, but very few boats have been seen. The fish cleaning station remains closed. The majority of fishing action has occurred along the Kenosha shoreline, with anglers fishing off the south pier catching a few coho and some nice brown trout on small spoons. Other browns have been taken in the harbor near the Navy Memorial as well.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - The northern and centrals parts of Washington, Dodge and Ozaukee County were inundated with several inches of rain on April 11 and 12, resulting in regional flooding. Water levels are still very high on Theresa, Jackson and Allenton Marsh Wildlife Areas. Like April of last year, the first and second period turkey hunters can expect road closures or standing water in some of the areas they might have hunted turkeys in the past. As of April 16, the south one quarter mile of Church Road on Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area was still flooded under a foot or more of water, and lowland areas throughout Jackson marsh were also flooded or saturated. Theresa Marsh and surrounding areas are still at flood stage. State Highway 28 through the marsh was closed April 14 due to flooding across the road, but has since been reopened. North Pole Road near the Rock River bridge on the west side of Theresa Marsh is still under water as of April 16, so access to the main DNR parking lots south of the North Pole Road bridge is only possible from the south side (from West Bend Road). On the positive side, now is a great time to view the abundant waterfowl, wading birds and shore birds using the flooded impoundments, fields and wetlands. The flooded area south and west of the junction of Highway DD and North Pole Road is being used by large numbers of common terns, ring-necked ducks, blue-winged teal, coots, hooded mergansers, northern shovelers and other birds. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - With the turkey hunting season upon us there is an opportunity for disabled turkey hunters at the Richard Bong Recreation Area in Kenosha County, Zone 2. Hunters who are in possession of a Class A or C permits are eligible to reserve and use a blind in the Vista Area of the park. One person may assist the disabled hunter. Reservations for the blind can be made at the Richard Bong office or by phone at 262-878-5600 or 5601. Hunters can access the blind pre-dawn and hunt from opening hours until 10 a.m. To hunt at Richard Bong turkey hunters must possess a permit for the hunting period; turkey license and stamp; park sticker or daily park pass; and $1 Bong hunting permit. Hunters can pick up the gate key from the park office to hunt the period and must be dropped off when the period is completed. Contact the park office for more details. Large numbers of waterfowl can be seen on many of the marshes, lakes and rivers in the Kenosha and Racine County waterways such as ring-necked duck, northern shoveler, canvasback, blue-winged teal, wood duck, mallards and hooded merganser. In addition small rafts of common loons have been seen on Tichigan Lake in Racine County. With many of the northern lakes still having ice cover, loons are spending time on southern lakes with open water waiting for the northern lakes to open up. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Dodgeville DNR Service Center area
Grant County - Yellow perch or "ring perch" fishing was good at O Leary Lake below Lock and Dam #11 near Dubuque, Iowa. DeWitte observed several nice stringers of 10 inch plus fish with many anglers. Walleye and sauger fishing has ceased due to the rising flood waters. The Mississippi River is expected to rise 3 feet by this coming weekend. Further spring migrants have arrived. The white pelicans can be seen at O Leary Lake fishing in the waters between the Eagle Point fishing barge and the lock and dam. They also are concentrated near Potosi in Bode's Pond located west of Highway 133 near Potosi. Another large group is located below the spillway at Lock and Dam #10 upstream from Cassville, accessed from Closing Dam Road. Turkey vultures have also returned. A large concentration of shovelers has been feeding in the Mississippi backwaters below the earthen dike of Lock and Dam #11 along Eagle Point Road. Large numbers of various waterfowl including swans, mallards, Canadian geese and shovelers are feeding in Bode's Pond north of the Potosi public boat landing. - Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville
Iowa County - The recent snowy cold weather has quieted the frogs, although some hardy spring peepers are still calling. Other frogs which had been vocal are chorus frogs and wood frogs. There are numerous migratory birds coming through Wisconsin now, including many of the waterfowl species which are enjoying the high waters along the Lower Wisconsin River. Waterfowl species that have been sighted at various locations in Iowa County include: tundra and trumpeter swans, Canada geese (which may be nesting), mallards, wood ducks, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, wigeon, canvasbacks, scaups, black ducks, hooded mergansers, shovelers and coots. Many eagles are on nests incubating eggs, and some may even have chicks. In some prairies, pasque flowers have been found blooming. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Walleye fishing on the Wisconsin River and Lake Wisconsin is picking up even though the river has been at flood stage since last week. If you can find dry ground to fish from you will do alright. The levee is being watched closely. The Baraboo River will spike up past flood stage due to recent heavy rains and will be compounded due to the Wisconsin still in flood stage. Youth turkey hunters had a good weekend with many reports of youth hunters harvesting their first turkey. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Dane County - Maple sap production is winding down in southern Wisconsin following a long stretch of warm weather over the past couple of weeks and significant rainfall over the past few days. In stark contrast the northern part of the state has had a later than normal start to the maple syrup season and may have a couple of more weeks of sap production depending on the weather conditions. Recent snow and cold conditions in the north will keep trees from budding out which will help extend the season. Northern maple syrup producers have recently put their snowshoes away, but may have to dig them out depending on how much additional snow accumulates this week. - Karl Martin, science services, Madison
Sauk County - The spring fish run below the Prairie du Sac dam has slowed down due to the high water levels. Prior to the really high water a number of nice catches of walleyes were reported. There was one 12-pound walleye caught in the Wisconsin River. A reminder to anglers to be careful when wading and using boats in the fast current this spring. Anglers are to check over their safety equipment and be careful for floating debris in the water. A good number of youth turkey hunters shot turkeys this last weekend. Turkeys are still grouped up and they will be breaking up their flocks as the spring progresses. Turkey hunters are reminded to be safe this spring and to remember the four rules of hunter safety (TAB-K). It is a great time of the year to take a walk on a trail in the woods and observe and listen to the spring birds. - John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Water levels on the Rock River have reached the high water mark and slow-no-wake restrictions are currently in effect along the Rock River. Anglers have reported a mixed bag of walleye and sauger being caught near the Indianford, Centerway and Monterey dams. Anglers are also reporting a few northern pike being caught as well. As a reminder, 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 targeting panfish have been catching fish at Traxler Park, Lions Pond and Kiwanis Pond. Lions Pond and Kiwanis Pond have been stocked with trout and anglers have been doing well targeting them. Lions Pond is posted as urban waters and has special regulations. From March 8 thru April 25 only juveniles 15 years of age and younger and certain disabled anglers may fish these waters. These waters have a daily bag limit of three trout, one game fish and ten panfish. Anglers are reminded that 2013 fishing licenses expired March 31 and 2014 licenses are currently available. Spring turkey hunting opens up on April 16 for hunters holding a Period A permit. Several sighting of strutting tom turkeys have been made. The Milton VFW is encouraging people who want to join a trap league to come sign up. Individuals can sign up and practice on April 17 and 24 between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. League starts on May 1 at 4:30 p.m. People can sign up at the VFW located at 10853 N. Wisconsin Highway 26 in Milton. - Jake Lassia, conservation warden recruit, Janesville
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Male ruffed grouse are approaching the peak of their annual breeding activities known as drumming. Males locate a downed log, tree, or rock on which to display themselves. Typically the display platform is located in thick vertical cover which provides security from avian predators. The males attract females with a series of repeated, rapid wing strokes with 3-4 minutes between series. As their wings compress the air, they create a vacuum which results in a thumping noise. Wildlife biologists use this drumming behavior to create an index to the grouse population. Each year the same route is traveled and drumming grouse are counted. From year to year, population trends can be determined based on the number of drumming males heard per route. Quiet early mornings when air temperature is between 25-40 degrees are the best times to listen for drumming ruffed grouse. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -The ice is about 75 percent gone on flowages like Lake Eau Claire in eastern Eau Claire County. The snowpack is gone in the woods but we did get some fresh snow this week. Turkey hunters shouldn't have too much trouble getting around when the season opens. The youth hunt was slowed down by cold wind and rain. The annual migration of tundra swans was right on time with about 1,000 swans stopping in Fall Creek. Nine loons were observed on Lake Eau Claire on Sunday. It is possible that they are waiting for lakes to thaw up north. River levels are high but not at flood stage and several people have been seen using the warm days to get out and canoe and kayak. No bear reports yet but the DNR has taken several calls from hunters who are getting ready to start baiting bears. - Ken Thomson, conservation warden, Fall Creek
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - With warmer weather, the lake is opening up quickly but is still a little low. The bridge area has been busy with spring walleye fishing. The gate to the canoe launch area is now open but there is not enough water for paddling there yet. Sites 8, 9, 16, 23 and 24 are non-reservable shore sites and are the only sites currently open. The 2014 Annual Photo Contest is underway. 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. The park and Buckhorn Wildlife Area are 1F for turkey hunting. To hunt these areas you must have the 1F permit and a park sticker if you are not parking in one of the three hunter lots. For Zone 1 permits, hunting is available in the Yellow River Wildlife Area. Applications for the handicapped accessible cabin are being accepted for May 1-October 15. Applications are available on the DNR website, keyword "cabin" or at the park office. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are still closed for the season as there is snow covering the road again. Parking is in the winter lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are required. Please use the self-registration in the winter/prairie lot. Turkey hunting is starting soon for the first three periods. Check out a hunting map online or at the winter lot to see where the closed and open areas are. Spring is a great time to take photos. 2014 annual park stickers are available and make great gifts! If you self-register, they will be mailed to you. 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