Outdoor Report for April 24, 2014 Published by the Central Office
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).
Despite some flurries still falling on Thursday, it appears that spring is slowly arriving in the Northwoods. Most of the state is now free of snow on the ground, with the exception of heavily wooded areas in the far north that still have a foot or more of snow. Spring is progressing rapidly in the south, with reports of bloodroot and round lobed hepatica blooming in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
Bloodroot is blooming in the Kettle Moraine.
Lots of anglers are wondering whether lakes will be ice free in the Northwoods by the May 3 general inland fishing opener. While it depends on the weather between now and then, at this point most lakes still have upwards of 15 inches of ice covering them, so there is a definite possibility that the larger, deeper lakes will still be ice covered, so anglers may want to have alternate plans such as fishing flowages, lakes and spring ponds, as well as streams and rivers.
While northern lakes are still ice covered, access is poor with shorelines having a lot of soft grainy ice and a fringe of open water, so for the most part, the ice angling season has ended. Spring walleye fishing on rivers that remain open year round for game fish had been excellent on some waters, especially northern Lake Michigan tributaries and the Fox, Wolf, Wisconsin and Rock rivers. Action slowed this week, though, with mostly males reported, indicating runs may be coming to a close.
The first signs of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon spawning season were reported this week with pre-spawn activities at numerous sites. As spawning gets closer, male sturgeon actively cruise near the rocked shorelines of sturgeon spawning sites. This "cruising" activity was observed Wednesday afternoon at numerous known spawning sites on the Wolf River.
Lake Michigan tributaries were generally running high and muddy but trout and salmon anglers were having some success for steelhead on the East and West Twin Rivers, Menomonee, Root and Pike rivers. A reminder, the early catch and release inland trout season closes this Sunday, April 27.
The spring turkey season is now open and turkeys are starting to break away from the winter flocks. Hunters in the first turkey period saw mild temperatures and conditions overall. With the snow melting in the north, deer have begun to disperse from their deer yards, with many being seen feeding on the grass that has just begun to green up.
The spring bird migration is ramping up, with the vanguard of warblers, including yellow-rumps, palm, pine, orange-crowned, hooded, black-and-white, and northern waterthrush seen in the south. The first whip-poor-wills have returned to the south as well. Overhead, the first kettles of broad-winged hawks have reached Wisconsin from their central and south America wintering areas. Loons are staging on southern lakes such as Mendota and Monona in Madison waiting for ice-out on northern lakes.
This Saturday will be the best opportunity to help out in state parks, with a dozen properties holding Work*Play*Earth Day events. Help out cleaning parks and doing minor maintenance projects in the morning and then stick around to enjoy the park in the afternoon. For information, search the DNR website for Work Play Earth Day.
Statewide Birding Report
Migration is ramping up statewide. Birders across the south were excited to find the vanguard of warblers, including yellow-rumps, palm, pine, orange-crowned, hooded, black-and-white, and northern waterthrush, although numbers of most remain low yet. A few rose-breasted grosbeaks have also been reported, but no Baltimore orioles or ruby-throated hummingbirds. The first whip-poor-wills have returned to the south as well. Flooded fields and wetlands with open water are hotspots right now, featuring good duck diversity, flocks of Bonaparte's gulls, marsh birds such as American bittern, Virginia rail, sora, and the first yellow-headed blackbirds, marsh wrens, and swamp sparrows. Shorebird migration is also picking up with reports of black-necked stilts, Wilson's phalaropes, solitary, least, pectoral, and spotted sandpipers, semipalmated plover, and higher numbers of both greater and lesser yellowlegs. Overhead, the first kettles of broad-winged hawks have reached Wisconsin from their central and south America wintering areas. Keep an eye to the sky for these flocks over the next few weeks and you may be treated to a rare Swainson's hawk among them! Many birds were moving across Wisconsin on warm winds this past Easter weekend. This brought a major flush of short-distance migrants to the snowy/icy Northwoods, including dark-eyed juncos, fox sparrows, yellow-rumped warblers, both kinglets, eastern phoebes, purple finches, robins, blackbirds, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and more. One observer tallied 432 N. Flickers in Iron County. Waterfowl diversity has greatly accelerated with nearly all species represented, though many are using flooded fields as lakes and wetlands remain frozen. Common loons remain scarce for this reason, building in numbers across southern and central Wisconsin stopover sites. Rarities were plenty this week and in part included mountain bluebird in Burnett County, summer tanager in Columbia, Smith's longspurs in Dane, little gulls in Milwaukee, eared grebe in Jefferson, varied thrush in Brown, and red-throated loons in Bayfield. As always, help us track the migration by reporting sightings to Wisconsin eBird at www.ebird.org/wi (exit DNR). Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - The area looks like a patchwork quilt of snow. Many fields are increasingly becoming snow free but the forested areas are still snow covered. The areas that are exposed are beginning to show some green. While we are experiencing cooler weather again (low 40s), the rain will certainly help with the snowmelt. The Bois Brule River is flowing high and muddy due to the runoff from the snow. Normally the Copper Range Campground has numerous fishermen during this time of year; this year only a handful of fishermen have camped this spring due to the snow conditions and high water. People that are planning on canoeing or kayaking the river should keep in mind that the river is flowing fast...be aware of current conditions when planning your trip. Ice around lakes and ponds are beginning to recede from the shorelines, but there is still quite a bit of ice to melt before the general fish opener on May 3. - Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Bayfield County - The Madeline Island Ferry broke through up to 24 inches of ice on Monday, April 21. This was its first trip of the year. Anglers were reporting 30 inches of ice in some places on Lake Superior and continue to fish Chequamegon Bay and Bark Bay. Snow levels in the forested areas of northern Bayfield County still have pockets of snow reaching 18 inches but are averaging approximately 8 inches. South facing hills and yards are seeing spring with daffodils close to blooming and patches of green grass. Spring peepers have not yet been heard. Water levels in the tributaries of Lake Superior are flooding and are flowing quickly preventing fishing activity. There is more snow in the forecast yet for the Northwoods but the residents are ready for spring. - Lynna Gurnoe, conservation warden, Bayfield
Spring has arrived in the Northwoods, and in southern Bayfield County there have been observations this week of great blue heron, sandhill cranes, wood ducks, night hawks, woodcock and numerous song birds. Buds can be seen on many of the local trees. In the surrounding area, one does not have to look far and to see snow in the woods, and the larger area lakes still have up to 2 feet of ice on them. Crappie were being taken on Lake Namakagon this past weekend but those drilling the holes have stated the ice has become very honeycomb. Deer have begun to disperse from their deer yards, with many locals commenting that "their deer are back." Many deer are being seen feeding on the grass that has just begun to green up. - Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Burnett County - Waterfowl viewing near Crex Meadows and Fish Lake wildlife areas has been very good. Geese in the area have established nests and will be sitting on them for the next few weeks (about 25 days).Turkey movement in the area has been good with the recent melting on the snow pack. The St. Croix River has high water levels because of the recent snow melt. Always use caution when adventuring out on the St. Croix River, water levels can change rapidly because of rainfall events outside of the immediate area. As the warmer weather continues please think about removing bird feeders to avoid unwanted black bear encounters. - Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg
Interstate Park - Most hiking trails are open; however, some trails may have areas with ice or mud. A portion of Lake O' the Dalles Hiking Trail is flooded. The St. Croix River has flooded low-lying areas; boating is not recommended. Ice remains on some of Lake O' the Dalles. Watch for large birds including bald eagles, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks, and great blue herons soaring overhead. Deer are easy to spot throughout the park. All campgrounds are open. The shower/flush toilet facility in the North Campground will reopen prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Water is currently available at the Ice Age Center and outside the Stone Building. The River Bottoms picnic area is closed due to flooding. - Julie Fox, natural resources educator
Washburn County - At Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area there were some sharp-tail hawks, and what may possibly be a swainson hawk seen Wednesday morning. Wolves have been heard howling. Many sparrows, brown thrasher and bluebirds were seen in the great weather. Visit the Barrens for a walk. There also are some days still available to sit in the turkey blinds. - 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 continued to slowly deteriorate on lakes across the Northwoods, though most lakes still have upwards of 15 inches of ice covering them. Access areas, as well as the north and west shorelines, have a lot of soft grainy ice and a fringe of open water. In addition, open water has also developed around the inlets and outlet streams. For the most part, the ice angling season has ended and there have only been a few daring panfish anglers out in the past week. No reports of any success have been received. With the current conditions, it is almost a given that many lakes across the north will still have some ice cover for the fishing opener on May 3. The larger, deeper lakes are almost sure to be iced-up yet and as such, anglers should have alternate plans in case their favorite lake is still ice covered. These alternate waters could include the smaller flowages, lakes and spring ponds, as well as area streams and rivers. Yet these areas will be running high with snow melt water. A few of the possibilities for open-water fishing in the area may include the North Fork Flambeau River, Chequamegon Waters Flowage, the Phillips Chain of Lakes and Lake Hayward. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Price County - A fair number of deer are hitting the open fields now that the snow has melted off again after the last 12 inch snowfall. The wooded areas still have deep patchy snow and frost in those areas. Most stream and rivers are flooded above the banks and many gravel roads in remote public land areas are very soft with the frost going out. All natural lakes are still ice covered. The 10 day forecast does not look very promising for the ice to be gone for the opening of the game fish season. - Dan Michels, conservation warden, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Local lakes still have ice on them, but should be open for the fishing opener. Both the South and North forks of the Flambeau River are open. Winter still refuses to let go. We are having snow once more, but have had a few nice days this past week. The previous snow has pretty much melted except for where it has been banked up and hopefully the new snow won't stay for long. We are seeing pussy willows , spring beauties and the aspen buds are starting to swell. Spring peepers are out , turkeys are gobbling and bears are out of their dens. - Judy Freeman, visitor services associate
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Council Grounds State Park - There is still ice on Lake Alexander, therefore the docks have not been put in at the boat landing. The campground will open on May 1. However, the flush toilet buildings will not open until May 15. - Sara J. Gossfeld-Benzing, ranger-assistant property manager, Council Grounds State Park
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Marinette County - The next couple days might be the peak spawning run for walleye on the West Shore Rivers. The Peshtigo River has seen the most boat traffic just up-stream from the new Highway 41 Bridge. Walleye anglers used jig/minnow or twister tail combos and clown and fire tiger colored crank baits to produce fish. Shore anglers by the dam in Peshtigo were successful casting stick baits and jigs and found the best action to be early morning or evening. Another very popular fishing spot has been the Menominee River which has produced great fishing with high catch rates at the Hattie Street Dam and the fishermen's walkway. Jig/minnow or jig/twister tail combos along with crank baits were preferred baits. Some fish were caught by shore anglers at Stephenson Island casting jigs and crankbaits along the north side of the Island. Boat anglers jigging with minnows or Gulp Alive are catching walleye in and around the turn basin. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - The Dam at Stiles saw the most walleye action with catch rates being the highest early morning and evening. Stick baits, husky jerks and zip lures as well as jigs tipped with minnows or twister tails all produced fish. Most fish caught have been males in the 17 to 24 inch range although anglers have reportedly caught some females and were releasing them. Suckers were caught at the County J bridge using live bait fished in the back water where the current is light. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - It is hard to say whether the Fox River walleye run is in its early, mid-way or late stages. Although most of the fish that were caught were males that tend to be the last to leave, it might be winding down. With the unexpected snowfall and wind early last week fishing pressure was low on the Fox River as only 13 boat trailers were collectively seen on Tuesday at the De Pere Fairgrounds, Fox Point and at the mouth of Green Bay. Six boaters were interviewed and reported catching six walleye in over 16.75 fishing hours which is a rather low catch rate for this time of year. The mouth of the Fox River produced two nice walleye and a beautiful northern pike for one happy angler in a half hours' fishing time using a blue and silver Rapala. On Wednesday of last week 58 anglers were seen fishing on the Fox River but reported catching only three walleye. On Thursday the weather was very cold and windy but fishing improved from the day before. At Voyager Park in DePere a Racine father and son caught 15 walleye in just over two hour. One gentleman on his first cast landed a walleye and on his second caught another. Anglers that were interviewed reported catching 17 fish in 3.5 hours' time and many more fish were seen on the end of lines. Successful anglers used green or orange twister tails, red plastic worms and firetiger and black/grey/white or blue Rapala's. It almost seemed like any technique and color combination was producing fish. The west shore of Green Bay was very quiet as not a single angler was spotted between Geano Beach, the Suamico River, Long Tail Point and Duck Creek. Plenty of ice still remained at the boat launch at Geano Beach. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door and Kewaunee counties - Boat launches along the lakeside became accessible this past week and anglers took advantage of this opportunity to try their luck at catching some browns. Quite a bit of action was seen along the Algoma shoreline as anglers fished in 10 to 20 feet using stick baits and spoons. Successful anglers were using silver and purple colored baits to catch browns and an occasional lake trout. The Ahnapee River and Stoney Creek were running strong and anglers were spotted in various areas using spawn sacs hoping to catch a rainbow. Stoney Creek anglers and those fishing the Ahnapee River below the Forestville dam reported the most success, but there was also moderate pressure off County Z and Bruemmerville Park. A few anglers fished the Algoma break wall but found limited success. The Kewaunee River is full of suckers and anglers caught fish off various bridges using dip nets. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Manitowoc County - The harbor and piers in Manitowoc continue to be of little interest to anglers this early spring. A few catfish anglers using sucker chunks at the mouth of the harbor and in the Manitowoc River across from the Manitowoc Public Library reported catching fish. A few brown and steelhead anglers fished the stub pier but had limited success. The Manitowoc River remains flooded in some parts and kayakers are taking advantage of the fast moving water. Anglers fished the Clarks Mills dam and reportedly caught a few steelhead. Anglers fishing the Branch River caught some very nice steelhead by drifting spawn sacs. One angler reported losing a "35-incher" as the fish stripped out all the line on his reel. Both the East Twin and West Twin rivers were hotbeds with anglers at the dams in Mishicot and Shoto catching good numbers of steelhead. More steelhead than brown trout were caught using spawn sacs. Most anglers congregated at the foot of the dam areas but others were successful fishing further downstream where pressure was not so high. Water temperature hovered around 48 degrees in both rivers and water levels in both appeared to stabilize. Steelhead were seen attempting to jump the falls at the base of the dams in Mishicot and Shoto. The sucker run is also on giving anglers some action as they pursue steelhead and browns. A few nice northern pike in the 30 to 34 inch range were also caught by steelhead anglers. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - There are still patches of snow and some frost in the area. Trees haven't even started to bud, and green up of cool season grasses has just begun. No spring ephemerals are close to blooming yet. Maple sap still running good, with many people still tapping trees. Walleyes on the Wolf River are currently spawning, some limit catches reported. Grouse are drumming like crazy the last couple of days, and woodcock are still peenting. The turkeys have been gobbling in the mornings. Local turkey hunters have reported excellent success this spring. Deer are actively feeding on the green up at all hours of the day and night. All species of ducks are currently back in the area, and very pretty in their mating plumage. Bluegills should be stacking up in dark bottomed shallow bays, and are susceptible to angling from shore. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Wild Rose State Fish Hatchery - Visitors at the Education Center can celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring the kids to the hatchery to see how much fun they can have fishing in Wisconsin! Activities for school age children and youth include the eggs-citing story of fish migration and egg development, fish casting, catch and identify fish in exhibit pond, make and take fish kites, tours of Coldwater hatchery and many hands on activities in the Education Center. The Education Center at the hatchery will be open to visitors in April 2014 on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitor hours for the month of May are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Summer Hours begin the first week of June through August, on Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guided tours begin at the Education Center at 10 a.m. and at 1 p.m., and will last about one hour. Plan to stay after the tour to explore exhibits and two large aquariums in the Education Center as well as viewing the hatchery's oldest Wild Rose Brown Trout and five-year old lake sturgeon in the historic raceways. To schedule a group tour for 10 to 30 people, please call ahead for a reservation at (920) 622-3527, Ext. 209 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. - Joan Voigt, educator, Wild Rose
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Lake Winnebago System fisheries report - Ryan P. Koenigs, senior fisheries biologist / Winnebago sturgeon biologist, Oshkosh
Sturgeon update: There has been quite a bit of interest in when the sturgeon will start spawning on the Wolf and upper Fox Rivers and we are starting to see sturgeon spawning activity. Water temperatures in this area reached 54 degrees on Tuesday and the temperatures have remained just warm enough to push the fish over the edge and commence spawning activity. Although, we did not tag many fish on the upper Fox tonight, there were multiple spawning pods at multiple sites within Berlin City limits, particularly Riverside Park. There did not appear to be a large number of females actively spawning at any of these sites. As for the Wolf River, there was the first glimmer of pre-spawn activities Wednesday afternoon at numerous sites. Typically sturgeon will begin porpoising (jumping out of the water) a few days to a week in advance of spawning activity at a site. As spawning actively gets closer, male sturgeon will actively "cruise" near the rocked shorelines of sturgeon spawning sites. This "cruising" activity was observed Wednesday afternoon at numerous known spawning sites on the Wolf River including the Sturgeon Trail on County X in New London, Pfeifer Park on the Embarrass River in New London, Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, and a few other sites on private property. Typically sturgeon spawning will take place within 24 to 48 hours of observed cruising activity, meaning that we are very close to sturgeon spawning starting on the Wolf River. The cooler weather and rain may have an impact on spawning activity, but we expect heavy spawning activity starting Thursday and carrying into the next few days. Predicting exactly when these fish will spawn and where is very difficult. So don't miss the chance to come out and potentially see this fish spawn. Our law enforcement staff have been updating the sturgeon hotline 920-303-5444, so feel free to call the hotline for more current information about where sturgeon activity may be taking place. People making plans to come see these fish spawn, should look particularly at spawning sites lower down on the Wolf River in New London and Shiocton.
Walleye update: DNR fisheries staff out of the Oshkosh office conduct spawning assessment surveys of the walleye population each spring on the upper Fox and Wolf rivers. During these surveys crews use electrofishing to capture fish and collect length, sex and spawning stage information. We also mark a sample of the fish that are handled with anchor tags, each tag has a unique ID number and the address of our DNR office in Oshkosh. We ask that anglers report to us when they catch these tagged fish, and the angler tag reporting data are used to estimate what percentage of the adult population was harvested that particular year by anglers. This spring crews focused most efforts for collecting walleye in known spawning marshes on April 7-12, but also sampled an additional day on April 17 (working the deeper water in the lower ends of a few marshes in the New London area) and April 21 (up by County Highway CCC in Shawano County). During these efforts, we captured 5,605 male walleye (5,046 of which were marked with anchor tags) and 1,746 females (all of which were anchor tagged). During the last two days of sampling in New London (April 17) and at Hwy CCC (April 21), the majority of the females that we encountered were either ripe or spent. Since these dates, the majority of the fish that were still hard have likely spawned and should begin, or continue, their downstream decent in the near future. Hopefully this movement will provide some quality fishing opportunity in the coming weeks. Crews handled some very nice females this spring. In fact, we had multiple fish over 29 inches, including a 29.2-inch, 10.86-pound walleye -
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Havenwoods State Forest - Leopard frogs are calling currently. Wood violets, spring beauties and bloodroot are blooming. Silver maple trees are flowering so it must be spring! As you hike the trails watch for garter snakes sunning themselves in the open areas. Even when the temperatures are in the 40s and the wind is cold, they can warm up in the sun. Trails are in good hiking condition with just a few squishy low spots. Leave your boots at home and bring your binoculars. - Beth Mittermaier, natural resources educator
Harrington Beach State Park - The Shuttle trail is currently free of ice and snow. The Quarry trail is dry without flooded areas. Other trails in the wooded areas may be flooded. 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. Wild turkeys are plentiful around several areas; campground, south picnic area. Enjoy the signs of spring! The campground is currently closed for the season and will reopen May 7 for First Come, First Serve campers. Reservations for sites will be accepted beginning May 16 and the Walk-In Sites will be available beginning May 23. Harrington Beach State Park is having an Arbor Day Event tree planting and Volunteer Day on April 26 from 9 a.m. to noon. Please call the park office for details and to pre-register. - Nancy Hise, visitor services associate
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Hiking and biking trails are now open. Jay Abts, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Bloodroot and round lobed hepatica are blooming. - Amanda Prange, visitor services associate
Round lobed hepatica.
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan the Sheboygan River is about 48 to 50 degrees. The water clarity and levels are improving, but the river remains somewhat high and muddy. A few anglers have been seen fishing below the Kohler dam, though no rainbows were landed. A lot of rainbows were seen trying to jump over the falls. A few anglers were also targeting northern pike below the falls but with no success. On Weedens Creek a few steelhead have been caught on spawn sacs from the deeper holes. Pigeon River steelhead anglers have been fishing various locations, though not many fish have been landed. The best locations have been the deeper holes off of the County Highway Y bridge and the wayside off of Lakeshore Drive. Spawn sacs and small flies were the best presentations. At the Sheboygan lakefront fishing has been fairly slow off of the south pier. Anglers reported a few small browns taken on spoons over the weekend.
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 have been catching a few rainbow trout near the power plant discharge. The best baits were spawn sacs used on a three way rig about 12 inches off the bottom. Sauk Creek anglers have been catching a few steelhead on spinners and small flies in the deeper holes near the high school and the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve. A few boats have been fishing in and around the Port Washington harbor area, and a few smaller brown trout were taken on small crank baits.
Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee fishing conditions are good on the Menomonee River and Oak Creek. The Milwaukee River, however, remains high with relatively poor water clarity. Steelhead continue to be taken from Miller Park on the Menomonee River and from Oak Creek on flies, spawn and yarn. The most effective trips have been in the early morning. Water temperatures have risen from about 40 to 45 degrees on all three rivers. Success for yellow perch has decreased significantly this past week near the mouth of the Milwaukee River, but anglers have found alternatives in targeting brown trout in that area. Some browns have also been taken from the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park, and spawn, live bait and small spoons in fluorescent green and orange have been effective. The Oak Creek Power Plant remains a popular spot for targeting brown trout and coho salmon with stick baits, spoons and spawn sacs. Fishing pressure on McKinley Pier has increased, with anglers reporting success for brown trout, coho salmon and occasional lake trout on spoons and crank baits. Boats launching from South Shore and Bender Parks have reported success in the early morning hours trolling with spoons and stick baits.
Racine County - In Racine, fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility on Monday, April 21. Eggs were collected from both Chambers Creek and Ganaraska strains. An additional 79 steelhead were passed upstream, for a season total of 802. The next processing day will be Monday, April 28. After a significant drop in stream flows over the past week, the Root River is at just about ideal fishing conditions. Steelhead could be seen jumping near the base of the Horlick dam all weekend. Anglers fishing near the dam and much of the way down to Lincoln Park were catching decent numbers of fish on spawn, small spinners, or flies in black, red and black or orange. Fishing pressure and catch rates were lower downstream of the Root River Steelhead Facility. At the Racine lakefront, strong winds much of last week hampered fishing. The numbers of coho caught both from shore and from boats were significantly less than a week ago. The fishing piers are now in the water at the Main Street Bridge, the Reichert Court fishing area and the Pershing Park boat harbor.
Kenosha County - In Kenosha fishing on the Pike River improved this past week. Spawn sacs and flies have taken steelhead from several locations including Petrifying Springs Park, near the Highway A bridge at Highway G, as well as near the Highway E bridge. A few boats have been fishing the Kenosha harbor. For the most part fishing was slow this past week, but a few browns were taken on pearl colored stick baits. Fishing pressure was minimal off of the piers and shoreline.
South Central Region
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Spring is arriving at Horicon Marsh and migrating birds are on the move. Waterfowl migration is now past peak but good diversity can be seen including green-winged teal, redheads, blue-winged teal, northern shovelers, gadwall and pintail. Migrating songbirds are beginning to arrive including yellow-rumped warblers, field sparrows, white-throated sparrows, purple martins and ruby-crowned kinglets. Celebrate Earth Day at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center with an Early Bird Hike on Saturday, April 26 at 8 a.m. Join members of the bird club to see what new arrivals have appeared at Horicon Marsh. For more information call 920-387-7893. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Pelicans have arrived - a good spot to see them is on Lake Wisconsin and on the Wisconsin River. Eagles are sitting on their nests. Take a trip out to Pine Island Wildlife Area area at dusk to see woodcock doing their sky dance (along Levee Road) - listen for their "peent" while they are on the ground. A mosquito was seen flying around during a local turkey hunt. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Sauk County - Shorebirds are arriving. Great opportunities to view them in flooded farm fields along with many different species of ducks using the same area. Taking a walk in the woods or wetlands will reveal springtime plants such as skunk cabbage, anemone, leeks, and more. - Nancy Frost, wildlife biologist, North Freedom
Lake Kegonsa State Park -The boat landing piers have been installed and are open for use. The campground will open for the season on May 1. The shower building and dump station will possibly open on May 1 depending on weather conditions. - Sarah Bolser, park manager
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Water levels on the Rock River are below flood stage, but could remain high for several weeks with spring rains. Slow-no-wake restrictions are in effect from the BR-Townline Road Bridge north to Lake Koshkonong. Fast-flowing and cold water temperatures make boating this time of year especially dangerous. Boaters should check signage at boat landings and look at the Rock County Sheriff's Department website for up to date conditions. Crappies are being caught below the Indianford Dam on the Rock River with minnows being the common bait used. Buffalo carp and common carp are also abundant below the Indianford Dam and anglers have been foul-hooking the carp, while fishing for walleye. Remember that it is illegal to keep foul-hooked fish and they must be released back to the water. Game fishing (fishing for walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and muskellunge) is closed on all inland waters until the first Saturday in May. The only open waters for game fish in Rock County are the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong. Closed areas for game fishing include all tributaries to the Rock River, such as Turtle Creek, Yahara River and Traxler Pond. The spring turkey season is now open and turkeys are starting to break away from the winter flocks. Hunters in the first turkey season have seen mild temperatures and conditions overall, so success should be high. There have been numerous flocks of turkeys around Rock County with most being in flocks of fewer than 10 birds. This is a good time of year for bird watchers to get out and see migrating bird species. Brown pelicans have been seen on the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong over the last week. Waterfowl are abundant all over Rock County because of the additional standing water in the area. - Boyd Richter, conservation warden, Janesville
West Central Region
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Hepaticas are blooming beneath decaying leaves in the upland woods and skunk cabbages are blooming in wet lowlands in Vernon County. Do not be put off by the pungent odor given off by this plant, should you break or tear a leaf. The plant's odor attracts carrion-feeding insect pollinators, mainly stoneflies, bees and flies. The odor also serves to protect the plant from being eaten by hungry animals, even though it is not poisonous. Skunk cabbage is one a few plants that can actually generate heat through cellular respiration and melt through snow. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - It is a bit more spring like in Black River with the ditches and grassy areas of our recreational areas beginning the process of greening up. The snow is all gone with the exception of a few well shaded areas of the forest. The leaf out process hasn't begun yet but will soon. The frogs and toads are out singing up a storm in the wetlands. Spring is a great time to enjoy the state forest before the mosquito hatch. It's also a great time to hear singing frogs in our wetlands and see the return of wildlife such as the sandhill crane. The state forest is also a great place for birders with many neo-tropical migrants returning to the central forest. Castle Mound now has 14 electric sites and an expanded reservation season from May 1 through early October. East Fork and the new outdoor group camp are open for the season. The trails are closed and will reopen for ATVs and UTVs on May 15. - Peter Bakken, superintendent
Juneau County - Warmer weather has hit southern Juneau County off and on, but doesn't seem to want to stay. The snow is gone and has been completely gone for a week or so. The ice went out on Castle Rock Lake several weeks ago. The walleye run on the Wisconsin River and Lake Castle Rock has been hit or miss depending on the weather, but a lot of slot fish and have been caught this spring. Currently the walleye fishing seems to be slowing, and the white bass have begun to move in. A few crappies and perch are also being caught, along with catfish. The perch fishing has slowed on the Lemonweir River, a few walleyes can still be caught and the carp are moving in. - Kyle Lynch, conservation warden, Mauston
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Eau Claire County -The Eau Claire River in the vicinity of the Highway 53 Bridge has been popular with shoreline anglers willing to walk the City of Altoona woods trails or the bike trail at River Prairie Drive. Anglers have been catching some walleye, but many of the fish are under the legal size limit of 15 inches. A reminder that no fishing is allowed on the Eau Claire River from the Lake Altoona Dam downstream to the first island until the May 3 fish opener. Now is a great time to scout for turkeys, explore the woods and enjoy the extra hours of daylight. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Trails are slowly drying out now that the snow is gone. Spring rains may cause some flooding and soggy trails so plan accordingly. Biking is not allowed on the trails and dogs are not allowed in the park. Spring bird migration is still going strong and a variety of marshland birds are being heard. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Chippewa River State Trail - All the snow around the Eau Claire area has melted. However, the Chippewa River remains high due to melting snow farther north. Some areas of the trail may be flooded especially near mile marker 5, which is 2 miles south of Short Street. Alternative locations to access the trail are Caryville or Meridean. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Chippewa Moraine Ice Age State Recreation Area - - The trails are a mixed bag. They are in good shape on the south facing slopes, but mostly soft and muddy as the frost comes out of the ground on the north facing slopes. A little rain and some more warm weather should drive the last of the frost from the ground and make for some beautiful spring hiking. The tics are out, so take precautions. Most of the local lakes still have some ice cover. Many of the smaller kettle lakes in the area will have experienced some winter kill. Hopefully we will have ice out for the fishing opener. Tree swallows have arrived and the bluebirds will be here shortly. Goldfinches, chickadees, downy and hairy woodpeckers have been showing up at the feeders. Ruffed grouse are drumming in the area. - Frank Lowry, visitors services associate
Lake Wissota State Park - The woodlands are still holding snow, over one foot deep in some areas. With the frost leaving the ground in some areas, maple sugaring has been productive this year. The rivers have open water, as do a few of the larger lakes. Small lakes and most bays continue to hold well over one foot of ice. Species of birds we have been seeing or hearing include: goldfinches, ravens, crows, phoebes, northern juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, red headed and pileated woodpeckers, great horned and barred owls, mourning doves and blue jays. The bald eagles are moving back into the area and have been seen feeding along the roadsides. The barred owls have been aggressively trading territorial calls during the early night hours. The sandhill cranes, robins and red winged blackbirds have begun to arrive. If the Park office is closed when you arrive, please self-register for vehicle admission and camping fees as needed. A vehicle admission sticker is required to park on state park property. Complete information on using the self-registration system is posted on the bulletin boards next to the yellow fee deposit posts. Camping self-registration is located at the campground entrance area. If you purchase an annual sticker using a self-registration envelope, please print your name and address clearly. Your new sticker will be mailed to you promptly. - Dave Hladilek, park manager
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - The bridge area has been busy with spring walleye fishing. There is enough water at the canoe launch for paddling. Sites 8, 9, 16, 23, 24 are non-reservable shore sites. The group camp sites A1-A8 and B1-B3 are open for camping. Drinking water is available outside the office and at the group camp. Spring at the park is great to watch for migratory birds. 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. Boat boarding piers and accessible fishing pier are anticipated to be put in on Wednesday, April 30. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are still closed for the season. 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. This is the first day the gate will be open so we are looking for volunteers to clean up the park. Call the Buckhorn office at 608-565-2789 to sign up. - Heather Wolf, park manager