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Outdoor Report

Published October 19, 2017 by the Central Office

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View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
Check out the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (exit DNR).

Fall colors are now peaking in far northwestern Wisconsin and throughout the central part of the state including the Door County area, according to the Department of Tourism's Fall Color Report. Fall colors are now past peak in about a dozen north central counties and leaves are dropping rapidly

Fall colors are now peaking in Door County.  Photo from Oct. 19 from atop
Fall colors are now peaking in Door County. Photo from Oct. 19 from atop "Old Baldy" sand dune at Whtiefish Dunes State Park.
Photo Credit: DNR

Much needed rain in the last week finally spurred on the fall Lake Michigan tributary salmon runs. The chinook spawn is going strong, with a variety of baits and methods seeing success. The chinook spawn is in full swing along Door County with salmon spotted in most marinas and in many area creeks. In the Kewaunee harbor, salmon can be seen jumping regularly and have been stacking up in corners in force and numbers, and anglers are having success with both spoons and crankbaits. Fish have been so thick at times that anglers have foul-hooked more than they have had strike. The salmon spawn is also in full force in the East and West Twin, Manitowoc, Branch and Ahnapee rivers. Chinook salmon are the most common catch but a few coho are also being caught.

In southern tributaries, those fishing the Sheboygan River reported most of the success from chinook and coho salmon along with a few brown trout. At Sauk Creek a few chinook were landed on flies and spoons. On the Root River, the majority of anglers were targeting and seeing success upstream of the steelhead facility and fishing with egg flies.

Walleye and yellow perch fishing continues to be productive on the Lake Winnebago System for those that haven't winterized their boats yet. Oshkosh DNR fisheries staff recently completed the annual Lake Winnebago Trawling Survey with good catches of yearling walleye, crappie, and yellow perch from strong hatches that occurred in 2016. Walleyes from the strong 2013 year class were also well represented in the survey, ranging 16-19 inches.

The American woodcock migration is now on and hunters are starting to get their first push of birds this week. The wind has blown down leaves and created better shooting opportunities for woodcock and grouse.

The recent warmth seems so to have slowed deer activity and discouraged some hunters from hitting the woods with bow in hand. Bachelor groups of bucks seem to have broken up now causing some bucks to abandon existing spots in search of new ground. There have been reports that some bucks are already starting to follow does and scrapes and rubs are being seen in the woods already.

The fall migration is in full swing at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area with sandhill cranes numbers around 4,000- 5,000 birds and trumpeter swans are also numerous.

There continue to be reports of eagles hit by cars...please slow down when you see an eagle feeding on roadkill.

There was a ribbon cutting this week for the first phase of the Great Sauk State Trail, becoming Wisconsin's 42nd state trail. The second phase, which supporters hope will begin next year, will connect the Sauk Prairie communities with the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area and Devil's Lake State Park.

It's going to be a Spooktacular weekend at state park properties with more than a dozen properties holding Halloween or fall color activities, including candlelight, torch or jack-o-lantern lit hikes at Governor Nelson, Merrick, Mirror Lake, Devil's Lake, Copper Falls, Lake Kegonsa and Harrington Beach. Kettle Moraine North will hold non-scary Halloween nature hikes Friday and Saturday. High Cliff campers will deck their campsites out for Halloween and kids are encouraged to Trick or Treat. For all programs, search the DNR website for "get outdoors."

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Statewide Birding Report

Despite the warm weather, shorter day length has birds on the move. Winter arrivals this week included the first northern shrikes, snow buntings, white-winged crossbills, and common redpolls. Red crossbills are widespread in low densities, while pine siskins are showing in good numbers statewide. Birders found more rough-legged hawks and golden eagles as well, the latter especially in the western half of the state. Though hard to find during daylight, northern saw-whet owls and long-eared owls also pushed south earlier in the week. Look for short-eared owls at dawn and dusk at large grassland and wetland complexes, as well as the Lake Michigan shoreline where active migrants may concentrate. On the water, duck migration this week featured good numbers of northern pintails, green-winged teal, redheads, scaup, and other species. As the first long-tailed ducks arrive, all three scoter species are moving through now, with surf scoters being most commonly reported.

Strong south winds ushered this scissor-tailed flycatcher well north of its typical range to Bayfield County on Wednesday, where it was seen hawking insects off a Lake Superior beach.
Strong south winds ushered this scissor-tailed flycatcher well north of its typical range to Bayfield County on Wednesday, where it was seen hawking insects off a Lake Superior beach.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady

Over 200 common loons were spotted off Washington Island in Door County. Birders also found Bonaparte's gulls and a few red-necked grebes across northern lakes. Meanwhile, large rafts of American coots were reported on many southern lakes. Shorebirds found this week included greater yellowlegs, pectoral sandpiper, black-bellied plover, sanderling, and Wilson's snipe. It was a great week for rarities, highlighted by a scissor-tailed flycatcher in Bayfield county, rufous hummingbird in Manitowoc, white-faced ibis in Columbia, western grebe in Ashland, greater white-fronted geese and a late gray catbird also in Bayfield,and Townsend's solitaire in Richland. Report your sightings and find out what others are seeing at www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

October 20-22, 2017

Friday, October 20

Friday, October 20 and Saturday, October 21

Saturday, October 21

For all events search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."
Find a park, forest trail or recreation property

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - This week's weather has been warm and sunny. It looks like we may get a few more days of this before typical late-October weather returns. With the clear skies and little visible moon this week, the night skies are brilliant with stars. Take advantage of these warm nights to go out and take a look! The tamaracks are turning gold, the leaf color is just past peak now, and the leaves are falling. The forest is full of activity as animals prepare for the coming winter, and hunters try their luck. Be sure to visit dnr.wi.gov, Keyword "hunting" to find links to regulations and tips that pertain to the type of hunting you are doing this fall. The Brule River remains open for fishing north of Highway 2 until Nov. 15. Rain this past weekend has river levels higher than historical average according to the USGS Streamflow data for the Bois Brule. Copper Range campground has been full for the past several weekends, but Bois Brule campground is nearly empty during the week and has had some available sites on the weekends for fall camping. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Hayward DNR Service Center area

With the oaks, aspens and birch fully changed colors are at peak in the Hayward area. - Laine R. Stowell, wildlife biologist, Hayward

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The fall migration is in full swing at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area! The Sandhill cranes are growing in numbers (around 4,000- 5,000 birds), there are a number of different species of duck around, Trumpeter swans and numerous, and there are many different species of hawk around. Some of the highlights of the last few days are: Snow Goose, Eastern Meadowlarks, Ruddy Ducks, Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, Horned Larks, and Lapland Longspurs. Look for sandhill cranes on Main Dike Road (the section that is South of the Refuge). This is where they will fly in to during the evening, and out of in the morning. There are a number of other species that can be seen in this same area, including: mallards, wood ducks, northern pintails, American wigeons, snow geese (just a few), trumpeter swans, and more. Eastern meadowlarks were spotted in a number of different spots on Main Dike Road and Phantom Lake Road, and so were palm warblers and merlins. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River water levels are normal for this time of year. Musky activity is definitely on the upswing. Some adventurous people have been floating the river and enjoying the river experience, even with the cooler nights. The forest tree canopies are losing leaves and the under laying brush in the forest is less and less prominent. The tamaracks are turning yellow and soon to drop their needles. Snakes are on the move, soon to disappear into winter dens. Acorns and hickories are dropping. Ripe hawthorn fruits are being eaten by birds and other wildlife. Elk Bulls are still with the cows, but it is still too early for the deer rut. Temperatures are dropping with a few scattered frosts in the area. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be being sunny and a high near 76 and a low of 56. Saturday, showers likely and breezy with a high near 66 and a low of 49. Sunday has a chance of rain then mostly sunny with a high near 60 and a low of 41. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Maroons, golds and rusts are the dominant colors in the oak, birch and aspen that still have their leaves on the forest. Winds are bringing them down quickly though! As the understory and berry bushes lose their leaves, the birds and game will become more visible to the observer and hunter. It is a great time to be out in the woods. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

This report is for the week of Oct. 8-14. Fishing pressure continues to decrease in most areas due in part to other sporting activities that are now available. It was a rather windy week which kept anglers off the Bay of Green Bay.

Marinette County - Some pike and perch are being caught in and around the mouth of the Peshtigo River using spoons, plastics and live bait, seek out structure and deeper cuts in the river. Salmon are starting to show up at Little River although the numbers are not great, spawn sacks are being used. The Menominee River has been producing some walleye mostly from Stephenson Island to the Dam at Hattie Street live bait and plastics has been the most common baits. Some browns, kings, and the occasional steelhead are also present in the river. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Some bluegill and crappie are being caught below the dam at Stiles on the Oconto River down to the Iron Bridge. Live bait and slip bobbers have been working well fly anglers report catching a few browns and pinks in the same area using nymphs' and streamers. Fishing has slowed some at the mouth of the Oconto River with a few smallmouth, sheepshead and perch being caught. Live bait and plastics are being used. Fishing for perch and walleye has been slow to fair depending on the weather, with walleye being caught in 10 to 30 feet of water, the perch have also been scattered, anglers have moving till they find their quarry using electronics. Live bait for the perch has been preferred and large crank baits trolled for walleye. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - The unfavorable weather kept anglers off the water at the later half of the week. Most all anglers were observed on Thursday and reported targeting yellow perch and walleye with little luck. Anglers came in with zero to four perch caught and only one walleye and only a handful of freshwater drum and round gobies. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Green Bay

At Voyager Park, one angler was observed fishing for yellow perch and caught a few small ones. At Duck Creek one angler was observed fishing from the shore. - Adam Garlie, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Inclement weather has made for very low angling effort in the last week. Bites have been slow but a few fisherman have had luck out of Gills Rock, Ellison Bay and Sister Bay targeting smallmouth in 15-30 feet of water off of deep rock piles using weighted plastics and live suckers. The chinook spawn is in full swing, salmon can be spotted in most marinas and in many area creeks. Bailey's harbor marina has been the most popular spot. Crankbaits, spoons and spawn are all being used with mixed success. Anglers in the Sturgeon Bay Canal have been catching a few nice walleye along with the occasional northern pike and smallmouth. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Kewaunee County - Salmon fishing has been consistent again this week. In Kewaunee, salmon have been caught in the harbor and upriver, in decent numbers. In the harbor, anglers have managed to hook up with mostly chinook on windy days. Salmon can be seen jumping in the harbor regularly, but the secret to getting them to hit seems to be fishing the side of the harbor into which the wind is blowing. Salmon have been stacking up in corners in force and number and anglers are having success with both spoons and crankbaits. Fish have been so thick at times that anglers have foul-hooked more than they have had strike. In the river, salmon have been caught using the same technique as previous weeks, that being fishing pools along bends with egg flies or some other lure resembling an egg. Chinook were coming up all throughout the day, and anglers were also catching a few coho mixed in. The coho seem to be a lot more aggressive than the chinook, but anglers have had success with both. Due in part to wind and waves no anglers have been fishing off the piers. Algoma has had a decent week of salmon fishing. Only a handful of anglers have fished the piers on the days when weather allowed, but none of them reported catching any fish either. The success has come in the rivers. Both the Ahnapee River and Stony Creek have produced fish consistently throughout the week, rain or shine. Mostly all fish reported have been chinook salmon, but some anglers have reported seeing brown trout in the Ahnapee. Anglers have reported catching fish on either lures resembling eggs or spoons in deeper parts of the Ahnapee River, and on Stony Creek most anglers have been catching fish on egg flies. On Stony, anglers have caught fish in the pool adjacent to the lake and upstream. Anglers fishing upstream reported low water that made it difficult to fish anywhere but pools, but those that have made the trek into the dense terrain have had some action on chinook. It seems as though salmon have been coming up the streams consistently, and some much needed rain this weekend should provide more opportunities for some good fishing in the coming week. - Jacob Steckmesser, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Manitowoc County - The salmon spawn is in full force in the East/West Twin, Manitowoc and Branch Rivers. Spawn and egg imitations have been the most productive baits upstream. Chinook salmon are the most common catch but a few coho are also being caught. Have yet to see any browns or steelhead. Pier fishing has been slow but the Manitowoc Marina has produced both chinook and coho recently. Recent rains have helped bring more fish upstream. Weekend fishing pressure can make fishing difficult. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - We received some much needed fall rains last weekend which increased water flows on our Green Bay west shore rivers but those increased flows have yet to yield more fish. Anglers are still occasionally catching brown trout, chinook salmon, and pink salmon with walleye and perch more common. Perch are also being caught off the river mouths. - Mike Donofrio, regional supervisor, Peshtigo

Marinette County - Warm windy weather has settled over the county. The wind has blown down some leaves and created better shooting opportunities for those hunting grouse and woodcock. The warmth, however, seems so to have slowed deer activity and discouraged some hunters from hitting the woods with bow in hand. Bachelor groups of bucks seem to have broken up now causing some bucks to abandon existing spots in search of new ground. No reports yet of good numbers of woodcock migrating but, if the temps cool down in the north or a northerly wind kicks up, that could change. Fall color is still holding on but some areas, namely ash swamps, are now completely void of leaves. Deer ticks are still quite abundant and active so be checking yourself and your pets after recreating outside. We continue to have eagles hit by cars...please slow down when you see an eagle feeding on roadkill. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Oconto County - Deer activity has increased. Individuals are saying that they have seen some bucks already starting to follow does. Scrapes and rubs are being seen in the woods already. There are a ton of woodcock flying around near dusk by Lakewood and Mountain. Fall colors are turning quick and a lot of leaves are falling. Paul Hartrick conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Strawberry Creek Chinook Facility - Five Chinook salmon processing days have occurred so far this fall at Strawberry Creek on October 2, 5, 9, 12 and 16. Numbers of Chinook salmon processed each day respectively were 51, 632, 793, 1,285 and 702 (total 3,463). Overall, 360 female Chinooks have been spawned and over 1.8 million eggs collected. The next and tentatively last spawning date will be on Thursday October 19. - Nick Legler, fisheries biologist, Sturgeon Bay

Potawatomi State Park - The trees are starting to change color with a lot of yellows and oranges, and the tower is very popular in the fall to view the trees. Several deer and turkey have been spotted closer to dusk.. Shower Building closes Oct. 23. All other water systems, including the fish cleaning station and fill and dump station close on Tuesday, Oct. 24. Drinking water is available year-round near the campground shelter. The launching piers are in the water at Sawyer Harbor and will be taken out for the season the week of Nov. 6. Park store is closed for the season. Firewood may be available using the self-serve honor system but can also be purchased within 10 miles of the park. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Inland trout season now closed. Weather has been very warm and nice this week. Despite the weather, the deer in particular bucks are beginning to move much more. Have seen a lot of rubs and am starting to see a few scrapes. Deer hunting will be outstanding within a week as the rut heats up. Still have not seen a big push of woodcock yet, just haven't had a cold snap nasty enough to bring them down. We are at about peak color now and are starting to lose some leaves. Tons of geese around and just started to see a few flocks of mallards that are probably migrant birds. Still have plenty of wood ducks around, another indicator of our mild weather. No inland fishing report this week, doesn't seem to be much pressure. Beware of the ticks, they re-appeared big time last week and are out on force. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Winnebago System

Oshkosh DNR fisheries staff recently completed the last month of the Annual Lake Winnebago Trawling Survey. Highlights from the 2017 survey include good catches of yearling walleye, crappie, and yellow perch from strong hatches that occurred in 2016. Growth rates were exceptional for each species with yearling walleye ranging from 10-12 inches during the October sampling while crappie and yellow perch ranged 7-8 inches. The fast growth can likely be attributed to a strong hatch of trout perch that occurred in 2017, which are a staple forage item for juvenile gamefish and panfish species. Walleyes from the strong 2013 year class were also well represented in the survey, ranging 16-19 inches. Nonetheless, there should be some respectable angling opportunities for walleye and panfish during future years throughout the Winnebago System. Persistent anglers continue to be rewarded with good fishing action throughout the system. Walleye and yellow perch fishing continues to be productive for those that haven't winterized their boat yet. Trolling continues to be a preferred method for walleye anglers, but reef fishing has also been productive with the right wind conditions. Although the addition of new forage fish hatches often makes summer walleye fishing more challenging on the Winnebago System, anglers were greeted with more productive summer/fall walleye fishing in 2017. This can likely be attributed to the weak gizzard shad hatch that occurred this summer that kept walleyes more interested in angler presentations. Good yellow perch action has also continued, but anglers are having to do some sorting in order to find larger 9-11 inch fish. White bass action has also picked up throughout the system. Shoreline and boat anglers are finding good action in Oshkosh, Winneconne, and the Wolf River. Adam D. Nickel, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - Fishing pressure was low throughout the week, likely due to windy and rainy weather conditions. Anglers fishing on the Sheboygan River reported most of the success. Several chinook salmon, coho salmon, and a couple of brown trout were caught on the Sheboygan River on skein and flies. The water temperature warmed from 45 degrees early in the week to 55 degrees over the weekend. No interviews were obtained on the Pigeon River, and the water temperature was also 55 degrees over the weekend. The water levels of both rivers remain a little high from the rain. No interviews were obtained off the piers. The piers were often closed this week due to windy weather conditions. The surface temperature of the water was 46 degrees over the weekend.

Ozaukee County - Similar to Sheboygan County, fishing pressure was low during the week. More anglers were present over the weekend with limited success. Some chinook salmon were caught on flies and spoons. The water level rose about an inch due to the rain, and the water temperature ranged from 44-52 degrees. No interviews were obtained off of the shoreline or piers, however, a couple of brown trout, one rainbow trout, and one chinook salmon were caught off the utility area. The chinook salmon weighed 21 pounds. All anglers were fishing with spawn sacs. While the surface temperature of the water by the utility area was likely warmer, the water temperature off the piers was 48 degrees.

Racine County - Only a few anglers were fishing this week. Anglers caught a few king salmon on skein under a bobber in the harbor. The water temperature was 56 degrees. The Root River is currently flowing at 154cfs. Water clarity has decreased to about 8 inches. Fishing has improved for anglers since the water flows have increased from the rain. Most anglers are concentrating their efforts below the steelhead facility. More anglers decided to focus their efforts upstream this week. Most of the anglers fished at the Horlick Dam, however a few anglers fished at Quarry Lake Park and at Lincoln Park. A few anglers caught some king salmon on red, chartreuse, and orange yarn eggs. They were also caught on Dark colored wooly buggers. The water temperature was 56 degrees. Most anglers fished downstream of the facility this week. Most of the anglers fished at Lincoln Park, however a few fished at Island Park as well. Most of the fish caught this week were caught at Lincoln Park on egg flies and wooly buggers. A few anglers were able to catch their limit as well. The water temperature was 57 degrees. Anglers caught some fish this week in harbor. No anglers reported catching any fish off of the beach near the Pike River mouth. Anglers caught brown trout, steelhead, coho salmon, and king salmon. The fish were caught on skien under a bobber, small pearl or chartreuse tube jigs, spoons, and crankbaits. Fish were being caught throughout the day from early morning to late evening. The water temperature was 58 degrees.

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South Central Region

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Colors are at about 75 percent but not spectacular due to dry conditions and the mild temperatures. Waterfowl numbers continue to increase. This is a great time to come to Horicon Marsh and enjoy the fall migration and scenery. Don't forget to stop at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center at N7725 Hwy. 28 in Horicon, WI to visit the Explorium. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Dane County - American Woodcock migration is now on and hunters are starting to get their first push of birds this week. Leaves are still on trees and things seem to be behind a bit. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

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West Central Region

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Lake Wissota State Park - Fall colors are over with most of the leaves having dropped due to windy conditions. The tamaracks are still a brilliant gold. Species of birds seen or heard include: ravens, black capped chickadees, phoebes, northern juncos, pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, barred owls, bald eagles, and Canada geese. Labor Day through early May campsites are available on a walk-in basis. The water and shower buildings are shut down in the campground for the season. The sanitary station will be open as the weather allows. Vault toilets in the campground are open year around. As the park office is not regularly staffed at this time of year, please use the self-registration station located at the office entrance. The park will be open to hunting for all species with an open season on Nov. 15. Orange maps showing the areas closed and open to hunting are available at the park and on the DNR web site. This hunting opportunity runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, with late Bow season extended through Jan. 7. The Horse trails will be closed Nov. 15 until trails dry in Spring.- Dave Hladilek, park manager

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - There is starting to be some fall colors in the area. Water is now shut off in the park. There is a frost free spigot next to the office restroom all year round. The dump station will close the week of Oct. 22. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - There some fall color in the area. Turkey vultures can be seen circling the mound. The main gate and camping are now closed. Parking is in the winter/prairie lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are required (self-registration box at parking lot). - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, October 19, 2017

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