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Outdoor Report for April 16, 2015Published by the Central Office

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Extremely dry conditions lead to very high fire danger this week, including a rare "red flag warning," where all outdoor burning is prohibited. Fire danger remained extremely high as of Thursday, with little sign of improving until rain in the forecast this weekend. As of Thursday burning permits remained suspended across the state. People are being asked to be very careful with any sources of ignition, including hot exhaust systems, chain saws and discarded smoking materials. Over the past week 127 wildfires burned 696 acres in DNR protection areas, including a fire near Necedah that resulted in the evacuation of 44 homes, none of which were damaged by the fire.

Rat River Fire
The Rat River Fire burned 600 to 1,000 acres Wednesday at Rat River Wildlife Area south of Medina near the Winnebago County line. No structures or injuries were involved. The fire was contained after about 6 hours.
WDNR Photo

Sturgeon spawning has begun on the Wolf River and recent high temperatures, and correspondingly warmer waters are lending toward predictions of a quick, intense run, which may last less than a week. Those interested in viewing the Sturgeon spawning are encouraged to make arrangements to do so very soon. Search the DNR website for "sturgeon spawning" for more information.

The warm temperatures of the last week have melted the ice at most boat ramps on Green Bay but there is still some dislodged, floating ice on the bay. Shore fishing for walleye, brown and lake trout saw an increase in pressure in northern and southern waters this week, with anglers reporting good success with brown trout in particular and mixed, but improving results for walleye.

Overall the steelhead run was still taking off during the week on Lake Michigan tributaries. Heavy rains late last week raised flows, but levels are dropping and fishing should improve this week. Fishing pressure on the Ahnapee River has increased this week below the Forestville dam. The Root River Steelhead Facility continued operation, passing 224 steelhead upriver Monday, April 13 for a total of 487 this spring. So far more than 500,000 eggs have been collected for hatcheries.

Trollers have begun fishing out of most harbors and boat traffic is slowly picking up. Trollers have reported catching good numbers of coho salmon along with some brown trout.

With the beginning of first spring turkey period Wednesday, hunters were finding that there are plenty of birds moving and being vocal. Turkeys appear to have wintered well and are in good physical condition, with toms weighed during a recent learn to hunt program averaging around 20 pounds.

Waterfowl viewing has been exceptional, with many species of diving and puddle ducks seen in large flocks on wetlands. Raptors of all species and sizes have been reported in the last week off of Lake Superior, dominated by red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks along with turkey vultures, and bald eagles. Great horned owl chicks are growing to their fledgling stage and the last of the snowy owls will be seen moving across the Northern region. Canada geese have begun to lay eggs. The first warblers have arrived--mostly yellow-rumped--but also a few pine warblers. Ruffed grouse are drumming in woodlands and sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens are dancing in barrens and grasslands, while spruce grouse displaying in northern bogs.

Chorus frogs, spring peepers and numerous other frogs are being heard in southern wetlands. Hepatica, bloodroot and other early spring woodland flowers, also known as spring ephemerals, are beginning to make their appearances in the south. A later spring has kept insect levels light throughout the state. That makes this month the perfect time for a mid-spring hike, before mosquitos and gnats come to the fore.

Eight state park properties will be holding Work*Play*Earth*Day events this Saturday, April 18 with volunteers helping to spruce up their favorite state parks then take some time to enjoy the park when they are finished. Sixteen more Work*Play*Earth*Day events will be held the following two weekends, April, 24 and May 2.

Wildfire Report

Firefighters across the state have been busy with wildfire suppression activities as statewide fire danger has ranged from high to extreme. Extreme fire danger in 39 counties resulted in a Red Flag Warning issued by the DNR and Weather Service. All burning was suspended and the public was asked to refrain from having campfires, lighting fireworks, smoking outdoors, or having outdoor cooking fires. Over the past week 127 wildfires burned 696 acres in DNR protection areas (about half the state); nine structures were lost and another 71 were threatened during the fires. The main causes of the fires were debris burning and equipment. The largest fire of the week was the 339-acre Railroad Fire that started along railroad tracks west of the Village of Necedah (Juneau County). Evacuations of 44 homes in the village of Necedah took place. Ground and air attack resources from the DNR along with partner support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, fire departments from the communities of Necedah, Cutler, New Lisbon and Camp Douglas along with local police, and the Juneau County Sheriff's Department were on the scene. No injuries were reported and no structures were damaged by the wildfire. One firefighter, however, was treated at an area hospital for smoke inhalation and later released. The Emmons Creek II Fire burned Monday April 13. The fire burned 36 acres in the very footprint of the 72-acre Emmons Creek Complex that occurred 10 years ago on the same date. The cause is under investigation. In the co-op parts of the state (where fire departments are responsible for fire suppression), numerous other wildfires burned - most in the 20 to 40 acre range. The largest was the Rat River Fire that burned 600 acres along the Winnebago/Outagamie County lines. Fire control personnel and equipment from the DNR, including an air attack plane, assisted with suppression. 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 the 2014 Germann Road Fire, which burned 7500 acres in Douglas and Bayfield counties.

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.

Earth Day Work Day

People can celebrate Earth Day while helping out and enjoying Wisconsin state park, forest, trail and wildlife properties during the seventh annual Work*Play*Earth Day. Volunteer events are sponsored by the Friends of Wisconsin State Parks and Department of Natural Resources properties. Eight events will be held this Saturday, April 18 and 16 more events on April 25 and May 2.

Volunteers can join DNR staff, local friends group members, and people from nearby communities to help repair and enhance park, forest and trail properties.

Sturgeon Spawning Update

The sturgeon spawning run on the Wolf River has begun. There are currently multiple spawning pods working at the Sturgeon Trail in New London and at least one spawning pod working at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton. The water temperatures have warmed up quite rapidly and will continue to warm over the next couple of days with the warm sunny weather. Due to these conditions, it's believed the fish will spawn very fast and we will have a short, intense run that may last less than a week. So if you want to get out and see the sturgeon spawn, it is recommended to make arrangements to do that over the next one to two days in New London or Shiocton. Staff are anticipating that there will be spawning activity below the Shawano Dam by this weekend as well. - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

Statewide Birding Report

Warm southerly winds yielded a big week of bird migration across Wisconsin! Short-distance migrants such as phoebes, blackbirds, robins, flickers, sapsuckers, and kinglets reached the Lake Superior shores in numbers and are being seen statewide. Sparrow diversity is great now with most species represented. Juncos, song and fox sparrows dominate across the north while chipping, vesper, savannah, swamp, and white-throated are all well-represented in traditional southern haunts. The first warblers are here too--mostly yellow-rumped--but also a few pine warblers. Waterfowl took to the skies this week as well. Large numbers of dabblers and divers were reported at various locations statewide, though the bulk of swan and goose migration has passed. Area lakes and wetlands are also great places to seek newly-arrived sora and Virginia rails, Wilson's snipe, American bitterns, and great egrets. Shorebirds in general are some of our last migrants but a few species have pushed into the state now, such as pectoral sandpiper, greater and lesser yellowlegs, and an early black-necked stilt. The first upland sandpipers have also arrived from wintering grounds in southern South America. With the opening of northern lakes some common loons have begun to return as well. Large numbers were found staging in Pardeeville this past week. Lake Superior saw a major flight of diurnal raptors this week, dominated by red-tailed hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, turkey vultures, and bald eagles but also including rough-legged hawks, northern harriers, osprey, golden eagle, and more. Birders reported the first broad-winged hawks north to central Wisconsin and this species will dominate the skies statewide over the next few weeks. Look for their swirling flocks, or kettles, on partly-mostly sunny days with southerly winds. Lest we forget about winter (which will likely give us a punch or two yet this spring!) a few snowy owls are still being seen across the state, though many appear to finally be on the move across the northern tier. Meanwhile, great horned owl chicks are growing large and some are near fledging already. Listen in evenings for the juveniles' begging screams that are often mistaken for the very rare barn owl. Pine siskins continue in large numbers across the north and lower numbers southward. A few common redpolls remain in the north as well. Ruffed grouse are drumming in woodlands, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens dancing in barrens and grasslands, and spruce grouse displaying in northern bogs - all wonderful signs that spring is here. Rarities spotted this week included Eurasian wigeons in both Bayfield and Columbia counties, cinnamon teal in Jefferson, Eurasian tree sparrow in Bayfield, and prairie warbler in Milwaukee. A fourth state record band-tailed pigeon finally departed after a 15-day stint in Grant County. Last but not least, be sure to contribute your observations of breeding bird behaviors to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project (www.wsobirds.org/atlas) and take part in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon (www.wibirdathon.org), which is now underway through June 15. Happy spring and good birding. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - It has been a beautiful week in the Brule area with temperatures hanging around the low to mid 60s. Although we received a little rain earlier in the week that lifted the river levels, the Brule is still far below the average for this time of year flowing at around 170 cfs. Wildfires are still the main concern staff at the DNR as the lack of rain and warm weather have brought fire danger levels to very high or extreme the last couple of days. Please keep this in mind as you are recreating or working outside and be sure to check the updated fire conditions. Trout fishing has continued to be good on the lower part of the river. Fishermen are finding the nice weather an added bonus to their fishing success and we are expecting more and more people to be frequenting the Brule area for fishing. With the first spring turkey period kicked off, people were finding that there are plenty of birds moving and being vocal. Ruffed grouse are drumming and tundra swans have been spotted flying in large flocks over head. Song birds are being seen in an ever increasing number and variance; Phoebes, and flocks of dark-eyed juncos are just a couple species that have been spotted in the last two days. Broad-wing hawks have also been seen flying over head.

Wood frogs and peepers are almost a sure sign that winter will not be returning anytime soon. They can be heard down in the swamps, their rhythmic chorus lulling us to sleep on these cool spring nights. There have been a few bear sightings in the area along with a variety of other critters that are moving around more frequently with the arrival of this nice weather. In the weeks to come keep an eye out for some helpful tips on what to do if you encounter these animals in the wild. - Matt Miranda, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - Staff were thrilled this morning to see three male wild turkeys in Pattison State Park. One was a jake and two were longbeards. These are the first seen within the park. A snowshoe hare was spotted this morning that is nearly completely back to summer color. Just the back feet and belly were white. As far as other birds, phoebes have returned and are being very vocal. The first bumble bee was seen the day before yesterday. Next week we are forecasted to have much colder temperatures with rain and snow mix. The Gitchee Gumme Chapter of the NWTF has 15 people they'll be taking afield for their tenth annual Learn to Hunt Turkey Program on May 15, 16, and 17. Eleven youths and four adults will be hunting this year. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Lots of ducks this week. Some winter birds yet: barred owl horned lark and snow bunting. Spring birds like robins and bluebirds showing up. 49 species sighted within the last week. - Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Snow is mostly gone, lakes are open and spring peepers are beginning to sing. Fox sparrows and yellow- rumped warblers have started to show up. South winds will be bringing many of the spring migrants in very short order. Pussy willows have popped out in wet areas. Trailing arbutus is budding and starting to bloom in sunny, gravelly areas. Remember to take a bag with you and pick up recyclables and trash on your spring hikes to help keep the north beautiful. Make every day Earth Day. Campfires, outdoor grills, smoking, chain saws, and other small engines have the potential to throw a spark and ignite a dangerous and destructive fire. Please use extreme caution during these unusually dangerous fire conditions. Crews are beginning to get our campgrounds ready for summer. They are out cleaning toilet facilities, roads, and campsites. Please be patient as it will take a few weeks to get through all 18 forest campgrounds. Clear Lake, Crystal Lake, Firefly Lake, Musky Lake, Big Lake, Carrol Lake, Indian Mounds, North Trout Lake, Razorback Lake, and West Star Lake Campgrounds are all currently open and 95 percent snow free. All other campgrounds are closed at this time. The weather forecast for this weekend looks great, so it would be a good opportunity to come out for an early camping trip. We still have volunteer campground host opportunities available at Plum Lake, Carrol Lake, Cunard Lake, and South Trout Lake Campgrounds. Please contact Joe Fieweger at 715-385-3355 ext 113 or joseph.fieweger@wi.gov for more information. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate

Trails are starting to dry out and crews are clearing the trails of downed trees and debris. The paved trail through Crystal has been blown off and the trail from Indian mounds to Clear picnic has also been blown off, clearing leaves, needles and gravel off of the pavement. - Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Langlade County - Waterfowl viewing is exceptional throughout the Antigo Area. Many species of diving and puddle ducks can be found in large flocks on area wetlands. Great opportunities for viewing can be found on the Ackley Wildlife Area west of Antigo and the Bina DOT wetland site located NW of Antigo. Canada geese have begun to lay eggs and in some cases are incubating at this time. Turkey hunters will find that the large winter flocks of birds have broken up into smaller breeding groups. The turkeys wintered well and are in good physical condition. Toms weighed during a recent learn to hunt program averaged around 20 lbs. Frogs have emerged and have become quite vocal in recent days. Spring peepers are the most common at this time. - Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo

Council Grounds State Park - Trails are in good condition. The docks are in at the boat landing. The campground will open on May 1. The flush toilet buildings open on May 15. - Sara J. Gossfeld-Benzing, ranger-assistant property manager

Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center

Florence and Forest counties - Warm weather has melted the snow and ice from most every lake. The Fisheries Team continues to set fyke nets as they look for spring runs and the over-winter survivorship of fish species. Waterfowl, sandhill cranes, wild turkeys and songbirds are becoming more and more common to see as they utilize this warm spring weather. Today marks the beginning of Period A for the spring turkey hunt. Florence and Forest Counties are partitioned into Zones 5 and 7. As of today, there are 270 leftover permits available ONLY for the last period of Zone 5 (May 20th-26th). You can keep track of the availability of these permits at the following website as well as where to buy them, the rules and regulations, season structures and registration procedures: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/turkey.html. Good luck out there! - Jason Cotter, wildlife Biologist, Florence

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Rain and snow mid week April 5 thru April 11 prompted the opening of gates at the Dams at Menominee, Peshtigo, and Oconto River. Water clarity was low and temperatures in the rivers was still in the upper 30s to 40 degrees. Fishing pressure this weekend was heavy while catch rates moderate. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Marinette County - Fishing pressure below the dam at Peshtigo was heavy this past week with good catch rates, anglers are primarily using stick baits in a variety of colors and sizes. High water has come to the river and fishing has become a little more difficult. Anglers at the Peshtigo Harbor are also catching fish casting stick baits from shore while boaters are either trolling or jigging just off the mouth. On the Menominee River 3 gates were open at the Hattie Street Dam making fish difficult for shore anglers. Most boat anglers were concentrated around the Turn Basin using jig and minnow or jig and plastics with good success. There are reports of brown trout being caught trolling out of the mouth of the Menominee River using stick baits. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Fishing pressure at the dam at Stiles was heavy although catch rates were a bit low, most fish had not spawned yet. Suckers and Red horse are also present in good numbers. Catch rates on the lower Oconto has slowed some with the increased water flow and mud stained waters. All boat landings in and around the Oconto area are now open. Anglers in boats fishing off the mouth of the Oconto River are having some success jigging and trolling for walleye, most of the females they have been catching have not spawned yet. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Green Bay Ramps: Most boaters heading out of the Metro, Fox Point and Fairgrounds ramps were looking for walleye. The highest reported catch was around 26. Most anglers were landing somewhere between one and five walleye. Jigs and cranks were the favored methods. Those heading out into the bay were finding luck in six to ten feet of water. At the beginning of the week water temperatures were close to 44 degrees, but dropped to around 41 degrees by weeks end. One boat reported landing a musky. A good number of whitefish are still being caught/ snagged. Fox River (Shore): Voyager Park walleye anglers continue to have hit or miss luck. The most common lure of choice seems to be firetiger colored crank baits. Chartreuse colored jigs are also being used. Early in the week the locks on the dam were closed leading to reduced water flow. On Friday a couple were opened. It will be interesting to see if this leads to more walleye following the water flow to the dam. On a clear day, walleye can be observed spawning in the shallows. The best time to land one seems to be early in the morning or at night. A few thirty inchers are being landed. Most anglers fishing at the mouth of the Fox River were trying for crappies. Several ten inch plus crappie were being caught. Minnows seem to be landing the most fish. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Door County - This week there has been an increase in water temperature throughout the Door Peninsula. Though the weather was a bit temperamental, there were several fine days which allowed boaters out on both Green Bay and Lake Michigan. During the week, the ice melted at many boat ramps on the Green Bay side of the peninsula and all boat ramps are now ice free. The ice has finally released its hold on the Green Bay boat ramps. The public piers in all towns along the Green Bay side of the peninsula are also open. However, anglers should be advised that there was still a fair amount of loose ice moving along the northern shore. So, depending on the wind direction some peers and ramps may become obscured by ice. Shore fishing saw an increase in pressure this week with anglers reporting good success with brown trout. Murphy Park and Fish Creek have been reported as very successful locations. The water temperature averaged 39 degrees Fahrenheit and water clarity was high. The Sturgeon Bay City Ramp had the most use this week of any ramp in Northern Door County, with anglers departing from there to fish Green Bay, Lake Michigan, and the ship canal. The walleye bite has begun to pick up; anglers had success with both vertical jigging from boats and casting from shore. Northern Pike continue to run in the Ship Canal, taken on both lures and live bait. Brown and lake trout have been caught by both shore and pier anglers' using a variety of baits. The water temperature averaged 36 degrees this week. On the days when it was not too rainy or windy to venture out on Lake Michigan, anglers had success with brown trout. Anglers returning to both Rowleys Bay and Baileys Harbor reported good success. This week brown trout seemed to prefer spoons. The water clarity increased dramatically during the week. That said, the windy conditions on Sunday appear to have decreased the clarity. This week the water temperature averaged 40 degrees. The minimal amount of rain this week was not enough to improve the flow of the creeks in northern Door County creeks, which continue to be low. Toward the end of the week steelhead trout were seen in both Henis and Hibbard Creeks. There were a large number of small steelheads (6-9 inches) that were likely from recent stocking events and a few larger individuals seen. The arrival of these adult fish saw a marked increase in angler pressure in these two creeks. Average Water Temperature of Northern Door County Creeks: ieboldt's Creek - 38 degrees; Henis Creek - 44 degrees; Hibbard Creek - 41 degrees; Whitefish Bay Creek - 44 degrees; Shivering Sands - 45 degrees. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Kewaunee County - The piers are seeing little fishing pressure this year so far, mainly because the windy and cold conditions make it difficult. The water around the piers in Algoma is a little murky. Anglers took advantage of the nice weather and have been out on the lake in search of brown trout or steelhead. They are staying in 10 to 30 feet of water with the best success in the shallower end of that in the murky water. Anglers are reporting best results off of blue/silver or pink colors and are catching good numbers of brown trout, some steelhead and the occasional lake trout. Fishing on the Ahnapee River has increased this week with water temperatures below the Forestville dam at 44 degrees Fahrenheit and closer to town at Olsen Park at 46 degrees Fahrenheit. At Forestville the water has a higher flow and low clarity after the rain. At Stoney Creek anglers are out in high numbers hoping to land a steelhead. Some success was reported with water temperatures up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with a good flow and clear water. Fishing effort was moderate on the Kewaunee River this week. Most of the anglers were targeting steelhead and were concentrated at Bruemmer Park, the Hwy. F bridge, and Salmon Pond. Overall success was moderate but anglers who used pink and orange yarn at Bruemmer Park seemed to have the most luck. Suckers were also targeted at Bruemmer Park and Footbridge. Anglers were dip netting for them and had a fairly good catch rate. The water level on the Kewaunee was low but had good clarity. The main steelhead run should be picking up over the course of the next few weeks. - David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Manitowoc County - Fishing pressure has increased with the warmer weather, and that great rain. Mishicot Village Park and the Shoto dam are the two most popular locations. The flow and water level in all the Manitowoc County Rivers has increased greatly due to some recent rain. The East Twin River in Mishicot Village Park has seen an uptick in fishing activity. Water temperatures in The East Twin River have gone from 46F-52F. Suckers, Northern Pike, and Steelhead can be seen in the water below the Mishicot Dam. These fish are reluctant to bite. Successful anglers take approximately 2-4 hours to land a keeper Steelhead. One kept Steelhead weighed in at 5.39 lbs. Many small brown trout are still being caught south of the Fire Department. The West Twin River has seen increased fishing activity as well. The water temperature has risen from 44 to 52 degrees in the last week. The water color is still muddy from last week's rain. Suckers have been so abundant here that they are bumping angler's waders. Similar to The East Twin River it takes at least 2-4 hours of fishing to land a keeper Steelhead. The biggest Steelhead weighed thus far was 8.80 lbs. In both Twin Rivers the most popular choice of bait is a floated spawn sac. Silver Creek has seen little fishing pressure. The water level is slightly higher with a strong flow. The water temperature is 46 degrees. Fishing has also slowed down a bit on the Manitowoc River, especially in The Manitowoc City Park near Mills Road. The water level has risen over 2 feet, and is muddy. The water temperature is 42 degrees. The Branch River has a temperature of 50 degrees, and has low fishing pressure. Dipnetters throughout the area trying to catch suckers. Manitowoc harbor and piers are still quite. The water temperature is around 46F. Water clarity is muddy and is in stark contrast with Lake Michigan's water color. Many people are still testing out their boats on the water.

The water temperature has risen from 44 to 48 degrees at the Two Rivers harbors and piers. The harbor color is still light brown. The major activity has been sport fishing for large carp from the harbor. - Jason Ruckel, fisheries technician, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Spring like conditions exist throughout the park, watch for wet/icy/slippery areas. Hiking trails may be wet and muddy. Bike trails are closed. Bikes are only allowed on park roads at this time.

Rock Island State Park - Ice has left the harbor and the boat ramp is open. Water is extremely cold so cold water precautions need to be practiced by boaters. The Rock Island Ferry doesn't resume service until the Friday before Memorial Day (May 22). All buildings except pit toilets and the emergency shelter building remain closed. The water system is turned off and drained. Campers can fill jugs at the rest rooms in the Jackson Harbor winter office building before heading across the water to the island. - Randy Holm, ranger and assistant property manager

Whitefish Dunes State Park - With the warmer weather lots of wildlife sightings such as sandhill cranes flying overhead, a pair of eagles along the shoreline, porcupines curled up on the tall tree branches, red-bellied woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers at the bird feeders by the park office. Summer use trails are in effect. Trails may be muddy and soft in places in the shaded areas. The best place to walk at this time is along the beach shoreline where the sand is dry. Work Play-Earth Day Volunteer Event Saturday April 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Volunteers needed to come help open the park for summer with mostly outdoor tasks with some indoor tasks as well. Please call the Nature Center for more information and to sign up. Lunch provided by Friends of Whitefish Dunes State Park. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Green Lake County - Spring peepers and numerous other frogs can be heard and found in the White River Marsh Wildlife area. Large numbers of sandhill cranes are also in the area. Panfish anglers have been doing well fishing from shore on Big Green Lake. Sturgeon also began spawning on the Fox River in Princeton and will be spawning in the Berlin area soon. - Nathan Ackerman, conservation warden, Berlin

Waupaca County - Turkeys have been gobbling like crazy, hunters should be doing well this week with near perfect hunting conditions. Ruffed grouse are drumming non-stop, hopefully they will have a great hatch this year. Trout streams look absolutely perfect for fishing - would be a great time to catch -n- release trout fish. Walleye fishing has been excellent on the Wolf River this spring, reports have the walleyes done spawning and drifting downstream back toward Poygan. No reports on panfish action yet. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

The sturgeon spawning run on the Wolf River has begun. There are currently multiple spawning pods working at the Sturgeon Trail in New London and at least one spawning pod working at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton. The water temperatures have warmed up quite rapidly and will continue to warm over the next couple of days with the warm sunny weather. Due to these conditions, it's believed the fish will spawn very fast and we will have a short, intense run that may last less than a week. So if you want to get out and see the sturgeon spawn, it is recommended to make arrangements to do that over the next one to two days in New London or Shiocton. Staff are anticipating that there will be spawning activity below the Shawano Dam by this weekend as well. - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

Winnebago County - With spring here that means there will be lots of young wildlife entering the world. People need to remember when viewing young wildlife to keep their distance. Never touch the young animal as it may be dangerous and potentially harmful to the young animal. In most cases animals are not orphaned and the mother is hiding nearby to prevent predation. People need to remember to keep wild animals wild. If there is an absolute need for an injured animal they must be taken and rehabilitated by licensed rehabilitators. These rehabilitators know how to handle, feed and deal with injured wildlife. For a list of licensed rehabilitators in Wisconsin visit the Wisconsin DNR webpage. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - People will have opportunities to help plant trees and help cleanup roadways in the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit during two upcoming volunteer work days. Most of the ash trees at the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area have been cut down and removed due to the arrival of the emerald ash borer, and volunteers are needed on Saturday, April 18, from 9 a.m. to noon to help plant more than 100 replacement trees. Volunteers should be dressed to get dirty and meet at the pet picnic area parking lot of the Mauthe Lake Recreation Area located off Country Road GGG south of Country Road SS near New Prospect. Shovels and other tools will be provided. On Saturday, April 25, the Friends of the Kettle Moraine will be hosting the 26th annual Earth Week litter pick up along the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive through the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit and other forest locations. Participants are asked to meet at 8:30 a.m. at the forest headquarters to receive their road or area assignment. After a morning of cleaning up and camaraderie, everyone will meet back at the forest headquarters by noon for refreshments and snacks. The headquarters is located off County Road G between County Road SS and County Road S (near New Prospect). Participants should bring gloves. Garbage bags will be provided. Celebrate Earth Week by joining the Friends of the Kettle Moraine to help make the Scenic Drive truly scenic for the hundreds of thousands of annual forest visitors. - 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 heavy rains late last week caused the fishing on south pier to slow down a bit. Anglers had been reporting good catches of brown trout and lakers on spoons before the rain. Strong winds kept anglers off south pier on Sunday, but a few tried north pier and reported landing a nice brown on a spawn sac. Sheboygan trollers have been catching a few browns on brightly colored spoons in about 20 feet of water, and some lake trout have also been taken in 30 to 40 feet of water. The Sheboygan River remains relatively high after the rain, but steelhead fishing should improve as flows continue to drop this week. The Pigeon River hasreturned to fishable levels, and the water temperature is in the mid to upper 40s.

Ozaukee County - Nearly four inches of rain fell in Port Washington last week, leaving Sauk Creek flooded and the harbor very muddy. In recent days a few browns were caught near the power plant on tube jigs with wax worms and on fathead minnows fished off the bottom. Sauk Creek is fishable again, and there have been some reports of steelhead and suckers present.

Milwaukee County - Flows on the Milwaukee River are dropping back down, but water clarity remains relatively poor. There are pockets of slower moving, fishable water in Kletzsch Park, and conditions should continue to improve throughout the week. The Menomonee River is fishable again, and flows are about average for this time of year. Steelheaders fishing near Miller Park are advised to check the Brewers schedule, as the roads around Miller Park are closed off about 4 to 5 hours prior to the start of home games. The Menomonee River canals have been producing panfish and a few nice northern pike near 11th and Bruce Streets, as well as smallmouth bass at Reed Street Yards Park. The water temperature in both the Milwaukee and Menomonee Rivers is in the upper 40s. A few brown trout have been caught along the Milwaukee lakefront behind the Summerfest grounds, but the perch fishing has tapered off. The Oak Creek Power Plant fishing pier has produced a few small coho salmon and brown trout on tube jigs tipped with wax worms, small crank baits, and small spoons.

Racine County - At the Racine lakefront the boat ramp parking lot is being repaved, but the launch is still open. Trollers have reported catching good numbers of 4 to 6 pound coho salmon, and those out early in the morning have been limiting out in just two or three hours. The Racine harbor remains muddy after last week's rainfall, and shore fishing has been poor. Prior to the rain, pier anglers were catching decent numbers of coho and a few browns, so it is worth heading out as the water clarity improves. Flows on the Root River are dropping quickly, and steelhead fishing should continue to improve as the week progresses. Fish were processed at the Root River Steelhead Facility on Monday, April 13. An additional 224 steelhead were released upriver, for a total of 487 this spring. So far over 257,000 Chambers Creek strain eggs and 249,000 Ganaraska strain eggs have been collected. The next processing and spawning day will be on Monday, April 20.

Kenosha County - In Kenosha boat traffic is slowly picking up, as are catch rates of coho salmon and brown trout. Trollers fishing outside the harbor have reported marking plenty of fish around 75-100 feet, however poor visibility over the weekend made it difficult to get bites. As the water clears angler success should improve. Shore fishing in Kenosha slowed after the rainfall last week, but steelhead and browns had been biting in the harbor before the rains. The mouth of the Pike River is open once again, and anglers near the mouth of the river have reported getting bites on spawn sacs and worms. As the water clarity improves over the next week and fish move upstream, anglers should begin to have more success. Fishing with a bait that puts off a strong scent in slower pockets of the river appears to be most successful.

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Many parts of our area received over 4 inches of rain last week causing localized flooding. Water levels on the Rock River tributaries going into Allenton Marsh and Theresa Marsh came up dramatically and have finally started to go down. A lot of water volume and dead and live floating cattail bogs flowed over the Theresa Marsh dam boards or passed through the radial gate at the marsh dam. We're still hoping to do about a 200-acre burn on part of the Theresa Marsh upstream between the dam and Highway 28 as soon as it dries out again and we get a north wind and other suitable burn parameters. The main reason for the burn is to remove about 80-acres of dead hybrid cattails that were sprayed with a helicopter last August, in order to promote a more desirable mixture of wetland vegetation and more pockets of open water. On the positive side of all the rainfall, the high water on the marsh, on local fields and wetlands is providing excellent temporary habitat and enhanced viewing opportunities for Canada geese, diving ducks and mergansers, dabbling ducks (especially northern shovelers, blue-winged teal, mallards, some pintails, and many other species) lots of sand hill cranes, and other migratory birds. A couple hot spots for viewing at Theresa Marsh are along Hwy 28 just west of Hwy 41, and near the junction of Hwy DD and N. Pole Road (take N Pole Rd. 1 mile south from Hwy 28) where a large mowed canary grass field becomes flooded each spring. Water levels are also still very high all along the Cedar Creek floodplain within the Jackson Marsh Wildlife Area. Areas still flooded including the south end of Church Road, and all lowland areas within the property. Early time period Jackson Marsh turkey hunters should do some pre-season scouting to make sure their spots aren't still under water. The last two "County Deer Advisory Committee" meetings this spring for Washington and Ozaukee County are next week. Their purpose is to finalize public and private antlerless deer quotas and permit levels for the two counties. The public is encouraged to attend, and you can still submit comment on the quotas and permit numbers at the meetings. The Washington County meeting is Tuesday April 21st at 7pm at the Daniel Boone Conservation League clubhouse. The Ozaukee meeting is Thursday, April 23rd at 7pm at Riveredge Nature Center. More information can be found under "CDAC" on the Wisconsin DNR website. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

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South Central Region

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - Good catches of crappies and perch near shorelines on Beaver Dam Lake have been reported. - Paul Nell, conservation warden, Horicon

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Fishing is starting to pick up on Lake Wisconsin with decent amounts of walleye and sauger being caught. The best fishing on the Columbia County side has been near Okee, Tipperary Point, and the Merrimac ferry crossing. Some crappies are starting to bite as well. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette

Dane County - Hepatica and bloodroot are in flower. Recent bird arrivals include: Upland sandpiper, eastern towhee, brown thrasher, purple martin, barn swallows, blue-gray gnatchatcher, yellow-rumped warbler, hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow and ruby-crowned kinglets. First reported mallard nests of the year (hint...they like Willy street bbq!). Turkeys are nesting as well as bluebirds, phoebes, tree swallows, Canada geese and sandhill cranes! - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

Devil's Lake State Park - For the next few weeks, hiking trails will be a varying mix of mud, dirt, rock and pavement. Conditions can change day-to-day depending on precipitation and overnight temperatures. Loons have been spotted along the south shore and turkey vultures are back to their usual soaring, aided by updrafts along the bluffs. The annual hatch of lake flies has begun, so the thick clouds of the benign (biteless, stingless) insects will be present around the lakeshore on some days during the next couple of weeks. You might want to plan to hike the bluff trails instead of the lakeshore areas. Both the north and south shore picnic areas show signs of much needed progress, but that translates to dug up areas, construction equipment and some limited temporary closures. Contractors are working on water and sewer lines in these heavily used areas. New bathroom/shower buildings are going up in Northern Lights and Quartzite Campgrounds. We expect construction projects to be completed by the Memorial Day Weekend, but check current condition reports often for updates. This is a good time to view the effigy mounds because fire crews have just finished prescribed burns on the mounds. A couple of years ago, the effigy mounds were planted with native grasses and plants, and an occasional burn helps these plants thrive and keeps the common bluegrass and domestic plants at bay. Temporarily blackened for a few days, the mounds will sprout with fresh growth of native grasses and plants over the next weeks.

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Early spring woodland flowers, also known as spring ephemerals, are beginning to make their appearances. These early bloomers flower briefly before trees leaf-out and shade the forest floor. Hepatica or liverleaf, a member of the buttercup family, is one such early bloomer. This low-growing plant has pinkish, lavender, or white flowers and 2-2.5" wide, basal 3-lobed leaves. These leaves bear a resemblance to a liver, and early herbalists assumed the plant to be effective in treating liver ailments. Other woodland flowers currently in bloom are bloodroot, spring beauty, and Dutchman's breeches. As spring progresses, keep an eye open for wild ginger, Solomon's seal, trillium, rue anemone, wood anemone, and others. The first waves of white-throated sparrows have arrived in the area on the way to their breeding grounds in spruce bogs of northern Wisconsin and Canada. These birds are easy to identify by their song, a clear, high, whistling song that sounds like "poor Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody." Under observation, white-throated sparrows possess an obvious white throat patch, a yellow spot between the eye and beak, and black and white head stripes. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - This weekend would be a great time to get out and enjoy the state forest! Trees are budding, birds are singing, and insect populations are still low. Hike up Castle Mound along sandstone buttes to a scenic overlook or enjoy a peaceful walk through the forest on one of our nature trails. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the high 50s to mid-60s. Trails will re-open for the season on May 15th other than the wildcat loop (put link to map here). This May and June we will be working on upgrading the wetland crossings on this section of trail. The Wildcat loop will re-open for July through Labor Day and then close again while we continue the upgrade work. These upgrades are the last stage of a multi-year project to bring all wetland crossings up to code. Improving these wetland crossings make the trail system less susceptible to closures after large rainfall events and decreases the long term maintenance costs of the trail system. Let's hope 2015 is a safe riding year and to meet this goal we encourage you to visit the following link http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/atv/atvsafetytips.html for good tips on ATV safety. All family campgrounds are now open on a first-come, first-served basis. The shower building and dump station at the Castle Mound campground will open May 1st. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Red Cedar State Trail - As you make your way down the trail, you are now able to hear the frogs. The migratory birds are on their way through the area. The trail side vegetation is starting to come up and green up. If you listen closely, the Eastern Phoebe can be heard. - Penny L. Thiede-Klish, visitor service associate

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Canoe launch has some water during the draw down. Osprey have returned to their nests, eagles seen daily, great blue herons, ducks, migrating loons, and more. The park is open for the first 3 periods of spring turkey hunting and is in zone 1. Check out the hunting map online or at the park office. For weeks 4-6, turkey hunting is only allowed in the Yellow River Wildlife Area. Youth turkey hunt is April 11-12. Mark your calendars for the annual work and play day, Saturday, April 25 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch is provided, bring gloves, wear sturdy shoes, bring rakes. Call 608-565-2789 to sign up. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and campground are still closed for the season but will open for the annual park clean up day Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Lunch is provided, bring gloves, wear sturdy shoes, bring rakes. Call 608-565-2789 to sign up. The park is open for the first 3 periods of spring turkey hunting and is in zone 3. Check out the hunting map online or on a bulletin board. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, April 16, 2015

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