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Outdoor Report

Published January 21, 2016 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).

For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

Following freezing temperatures across the state, most counties are starting to return to a warmer pattern this week, which is good news for those looking for relief from cabin fever.

Areas in northern Wisconsin received snowfall this week, but snow depths currently vary considerably across the state with minimal snow cover in the southwest to more than a foot in far northern Wisconsin. Many park and forest ski trails are groomed and ready for cross-country skiers; however, many hikers are still able to traverse trails without needing snowshoes. Snowmobile trails remain open in about a dozen counties, mostly in the far northern and west central parts of the state on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

Colder temperatures were around long enough to freeze many previously partially-open water bodies around the state and open them up to eager ice anglers, though larger bodies remain open in patches and all ice should be treated as suspect until known otherwise. Northern pike anglers reported success, an improvement compared to the still reluctant walleye bite. There have been reports of fair to moderate perch, bluegill and crappie success.

Ice has finally moved in to most areas along the east shore of Green Bay with the recent streak of cold temperatures. Anglers at Voyageur Park reported 6 to 8 inches of ice and catching some walleye and perch jigging in 6 to 10 feet of water. Anglers that took to the ice in Little Sturgeon at Lime Kiln Road and Big Rock Place did fairly well for whitefish with some limits being reported at both locations. Closer to Sturgeon Bay anglers haven't been seen on the ice yet as open water was still seen on the west end of the canal last week.

Canines like foxes and coyotes are beginning their breeding seasons along with beavers and squirrels. Whitetail bucks are beginning to shed antlers, and deer and turkeys are being seen actively feeding in stubble fields during the day.

Grouse and squirrel hunting is still open until the end of the month and rabbit season runs until Feb 29. The metro archery season is still open within Milwaukee County, providing hunters additional opportunities until Jan. 31.

Great horned owls are very talkative most nights/early mornings, as are barred owls. They are both beginning courtship activity. In addition to those residents, juncos and a variety of sparrows are popping up at the feeder, rough-legged hawks are appearing in hayfields and a portion of the eagle population is hanging around as a result of a relatively mild winter so far.

There are a half dozen snowshoe and cross country ski events scheduled for this weekend, including a candlelight skis at Governor Dodge State Park and the Storrs Lake Wildlife Area. For a complete list of events, search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workdays

Date: January 23, 2016, Time: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Dane County - Help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "fourth Saturdays" winter volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.

Green County - Get rid of brush at York Prairie State Natural Area near New Glarus. York Prairie is remnant grassland in an agricultural landscape and provides important habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals, including some recognized as endangered in Wisconsin. We will be cutting, piling and burning brush in an ongoing effort to restore this special site. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.- Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - Despite last week's cold spell, with temps rising as we near the weekend, it looks like the weather will be favorable for getting outdoors to enjoy some winter fun. Skate trails were touched up on Tuesday, Jan. 19, and we will be setting track on Thursday. Conditions are good to excellent. With the cold snap we had this past week, ice conditions continue to improve. Always use extreme caution when venturing out onto the ice! Critters are actively trying to store up their energy levels in this cold weather. Over the next month, canines will be heading into mating season, so don't be surprised if you start to see more coyotes, fox or wolves. Over all the winter has been mild enough that eagles have been sticking around longer than they normally would. Great horned owls will be starting to build nests in the weeks to come. There are a few events that are just around the corner: Jan. 30- Learn to ski; Feb. 6- Candlelight Ski; February 27 - Riverview Loppet. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Copper Falls State Park - There are about 10 inches of snow at the park. Snowshoe trails and cross-country ski trails are open. They will next be groomed on Friday, Jan 22. Ice fishing is happening regularly on Loon Lake at the park. Remember a parking sticker is required for any activity at the park including parking on the park road to go fishing. - Todd Hintz, superintendent

Hayward DNR Service Center area

Sawyer County - Ice conditions have improved greatly, but anglers are still urged to use caution as thickness varies. Most lakes now have a good 8-plus inches. As usual, check as you go and never assume the ice is consistent and safe everywhere on the body of water you intend to fish. Some individuals are now traveling on lakes with snowmobiles and ATVs. With more ice, came more snow. The small amount of snowfall here and there has added up. This has created a fair amount of slush on area lakes. Even if you find a spot with no slush, once several holes are drilled the slush will typically find you. Most snowmobile trails across area lakes are now marked, including the Chippewa Flowage. Individuals are reminded that snowmobile trail passes are required for all snowmobiles, including Wisconsin registered. Panfish seem to be the most consistent bite on most days. Individuals are catching them on Big Chetac, Chippewa Flowage and Lake Winter. Move until active fish are found. Those fishing with plastics and moving are catching larger fish then those sitting in one spot waiting for fish to come to them. - Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Even with the recent cold weather, ice thickness has been slow to increase and ice conditions continue to be extremely variable on lakes across the Northwoods. Most lakes have been holding at 7 to 8 inches of ice, with about 6 to 8 inches of snow that has been insulating the ice and keeping it from gaining much thickness. There are still some undisturbed areas with only 3 to 4 inches of ice and anglers should be very careful when venturing out. Also, the thinner ice and increasing snow cover has resulted in some slush spots showing up, so anglers should be aware of these as well. The recent trend of cold temperatures has continued to keep angling pressure at a relatively low level - but the forecast of warming weather should result in a spike up in fishing activity. Through last weekend with the sub-zero temps, success was reported only as poor to fair. Most fishermen were still targeting walleye with tip-ups and action continued to be erratic. The best success was coming during the low-light periods and fish were being found in 6 to 10 feet of water on the break line and mud flats. Northern pike did provide a little more action than walleye and the pike were being found near old weed beds in 4 to 8 feet of water. In addition, a few nice musky have been caught and released by anglers fishing for walleye and pike. Panfish pressure has been slowly increasing but active fish have been a bit tough to find. A few decent catches of perch and bluegill have been reported, and the best action has been on a teardrop jig tipped with a waxworm for fish that were suspended just off the bottom in deeper water. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - There has been some ice fishing activity on the northern lakes. Connors Lake has been busy even with the low temperatures. There are some diehard fishermen out there enjoying their Mr. Heaters! Lake of the Pines fishing has also been active but not as much. There is an average of 6 to 7 inches of ice on these lakes. The ice on the river is treacherous. It is open in some areas and covered in others. If your plan is to fish the river, be sure to call ahead and find out the thickness of the ice beforehand. The deer are dropping their antlers. The frigid temperatures drive the deer, wolves, coyotes, and elk into the conifer covered areas for warmth. They sleep more and conserve their energy. Bear, chipmunks, and ground squirrels are in their hibernation mode thereby conserving their energy. The logging activity is going strong in the Forest but working in the subzero temperatures is hard on the equipment and the loggers. This morning's temperature was -20 degrees. The forecast for this week is leaning towards warmer temperatures (teens and 20s), and according to the National Weather Service a possibility for snow the next few days early next week as well. Join us for our 24th Annual Candlelight Ski at the Flambeau River State Forest. The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 6, at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. Starting at 5 p.m. that Saturday all day-use fees at the trail head will be waived. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail will be groomed, tracked and lit with over 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Snow depths are still on the low side, still allowing a hiker to move just about anywhere without having to wear snowshoes. One still needs to be cautious around wetlands because you never know where there will be a spring area under the cover of snow. Redpolls are adding to the comradery around area bird feeders. Due to recent cold air temperatures ice has formed and is growing in depth. Foot traffic and some ATVs and snowmobiles are being seen along shores or bays of lakes. Snowmobile clubs have not marked trails across lakes yet. Lake ice is very inconsistent this year so caution is needed. Be aware that otters make breathing holes and ice expanding can form cracks and fissures. Rivers and streams are still flowing at above average levels from November and December rains. Three campsites are plowed at Clear Lake Campground for winter campers. Use has been very light, so come on out - you will likely have the campground to yourself! Portions of the roadways in Clear Lake and Crystal Lake Campgrounds are plowed for winter walkers to have a safe place to walk out of the snow. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate

Cross-country ski trails were last groomed Jan. 15 and 21. Escanaba trail was groomed and tracked Jan. 15. Some thin spots under the pines. Good conditions. On Jan. 21 Madeline was tracked and McNaughton skate loop was groomed and all other loops tracked. Shallow track with thin base under the heavy conifers. Overall good conditions. Raven Trail was tracked Jan. 21. Shallow tracks with thin base under the heavy conifers. Overall good conditions. - Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Marinette County - No anglers have been observed due to poor or no ice. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - A few small perch are being caught by the boat launch at Geano Beach using jigs and minnows, No one has ventured out on the Bay yet. Perch are also being targeted at Oconto Breakwater Park and Oconto Park II with minnows and waxies working the best. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - As of Jan. 17, anglers that took to the ice at Volk's Landing in the earlier parts of the week reported catching some whitefish and reported ice depths up to 8 inches. Anglers at Voyageur Park report catching some walleye and perch jigging in 6 to 10 feet of water. Jigs tipped with wax worms or minnows are being used, anglers report 6 to 8 inches of ice. Anglers fishing the Long Tail area for perch and pike report that the water clarity is poor and fishing has been slow. Remember to use caution when on the ice and to check local ice conditions before taking to the ice. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Door County - As of Sunday, Jan. 17, the ice has finally moved in to most areas along the east shore of Green Bay with the recent streak of cold temperatures. Anglers that took to the ice in Little Sturgeon at Lime Kiln Road and Big Rock Place did fairly well for whitefish with some limits being reported at both locations. Anglers reported ice unstable still with some areas 2-3 inches and others up to 9-10 inches. Ice was also seen moving at these locations with the strong winds over the weekend. Many anglers took to the ice out of Carmody Park this weekend with some success for small Perch and Northern Pike. Closer to Sturgeon Bay anglers haven't been seen on the ice yet as open water was still seen on the west end of the canal in the earlier part of the week and ships have been moving through keeping it open, but it looks to have moved in over the weekend. No ice depth reports from anglers. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Ice has thickened up in Marinette County with several people reporting ice in the 9-11 inch range on portions of Lake Noquebay. As always, use caution when venturing out and make sure the ice you are on will support you and your gear. There still is not much snow on the ground which means there is little opportunity or skiing or snowmobiling. Milder temps this weekend will provide great conditions for a hike in the woods (no snowshoes required!) or an opportunity to take the kids out ice-fishing to soak up some sunshine. Grouse and squirrel hunting is still open until the end of the month and rabbit season runs until Feb 29. Large flocks of turkeys have been reported with over a 100 birds in some spots. Deer are starting to shed their antlers—another reason to get out for a walk in the woods. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - The purple, yellow, green, blue and red cross-country ski trails have been groomed and are in fair to poor condition, with icy areas. The white loop has standing water. A portion of the orange loop is closed due to standing water. The sledding hill is closed at this time. Snowmobile trails will open at noon on Jan. 22 and are in fair to poor condition. Logging in the Highland Road area is complete. Logging has now moved to Tennison Bay Campground. Camping is allowed, but the campground is barricaded to nonregistered campers.

Whitefish Dunes State Park - The Red, Yellow and Green trails are groomed for classic skiing only. Trails were tracked and groomed on Jan. 12. The trails are in fair condition with solid tracks, but very icy in many spots, and the few hills are slippery. There is no snowshoeing, hiking, biking, pets and sledding allowed along the ski trails. There is no access to Old Baldy unless you are skiing. The Black Trail and the beach are open for hiking, snowshoeing and pets. The beach has little snow on it and is wide enough to walk in winter boots. Hiking is not permitted on the ski trails. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Only 4 to 6 inches of snow currently on the ground. No snowmobile trails currently groomed, no snow forecast for the next week. Early trout fishing not possible as most streams iced or mostly iced over. No reports on ice fishing success, but there is 8-plus inches of ice and a few fisherman are out and about. Deer and turkeys actively feeding in stubble fields during the day. My only unusual wildlife sighting lately was seeing a Cooper's hawk "harvest" a morning dove. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - Anglers along Lake Michigan and bow hunters within the county have been braving the cold this week. The urban archery season is still open within Milwaukee County, providing hunters additional opportunities within the County until Jan. 31. This cold weather may keep some people indoors, but the wildlife is braving the elements. Winter songbirds such as juncos and chickadees are frequenting feeders, along with the occasional raccoon and rabbit. Coyotes and deer are active throughout the county. If you spot coyote sign or are lucky enough to see a coyote, submit these observations to the Milwaukee County Coyote Watch program by logging in to their iNaturalist page. This information will help us learn more about coyotes in Milwaukee County and monitor behavior. Ducks and geese can be spotted on open water, and at least two bald eagles have been spotted in the county. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - All cross-country ski skate lanes were groomed Tuesday night and are all in good shape throughout. The track was reset Saturday morning and isn't in that great of shape. More snow is needed before we will be able to set a good track. A REMINDER: Only ski on lighted loop after dark so that the groomer can groom the upper trails. Often, the groomer has to travel the trails in the opposite direction the trails are skied to complete grooming. Once grooming is completed, the trail needs to set up again for the next day. Please stay off the non-lighted loops after dark. - Brian Jacquette, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest has had no significant snow since Jan. 11, and very cold temperatures have left the ski trails with a hard base and icy classical lanes. Groomers have been out this week combing the skate lanes, but did not have enough snow at Zillmer to re-track the classical lanes. The skate lanes at both Greenbush and Zillmer are good, but the classical tracks are showing some wear. A second classical track was added on the Greenbush Brown loop in preparation for high school and middle school races this weekend. The Greenbush Challenge for students will be this Saturday morning January 23rd, on portions of all the ski trails at Greenbush. The event should wrap up by early afternoon. Please check back here, or to the website www.skinnyski.com for the latest trail conditions. - Deb Harder, visitor services specialist

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Washington County - Late January can be good for late season bow deer hunting. With daylight increasing, deer tend to be more visible and active during the evening hunts. Washington County snowmobile trails are still closed due to the lack of snow. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Please join DNR Wildlife staff at Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area on Saturday, Jan. 23 from 9-11 a.m. for a winter hike to look at tracks and sign. Contact DNR Wildlife Educator Dianne Robinson to register for more details and to register for the hike at Dianne.Robinson@Wisconsin.gov or 262-424-9827. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

Point Beach State Forest - Cross-country ski trail conditions: classic tracks are icy with a fair amount of debris as well. The skate lane was groomed on Wednesday and is in good condition. - Guy Willman, property superintendent

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Iowa County - Almost all of Iowa County is covered in snow, although most south facing slopes have minimal coverage. Elsewhere is 1-2 inches, some cases 3 inches of mostly hard packed snow. White-tailed deer can be seen most evenings in hayfields adjacent to wooded areas, or warming themselves on south facing slopes during the day. Coyotes are very active now as it is the beginning of their breeding season. Red fox, wolves, beaver and gray & fox squirrels are beginning their breeding seasons as well. Great horned owls are very talkative most nights/early mornings, as are barred owls. They are both beginning courtship activity. Winter visiting birds that can be seen at the bird feeder include: juncos, tree sparrows, fox sparrows, and red polls. Along roads look for snow buntings mixed in amongst flocks of horned larks. Rough-legged hawks can be seen in many ag-fields, hayfields and pastures. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville

Blue Mound State Park - As of Jan. 15, all trails were groomed and tracked and in relatively good condition. Expect some icy patches and shallow tracks from time to time. Skate skiing is allowed in the campground and picnic area.

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Overall, ice fishing on Columbia County lakes has been fairly slow. However, decent numbers of bluegills are being caught on Lazy Lake and some panfish are beginning to be caught on Crystal Lake. With the cold weather lately, ice conditions have improved greatly. Ice depths have hit 12 inches on most lakes and vehicles have begun to travel on the ice. Caution is still urged as ice conditions vary throughout a body of water, especially on Lake Wisconsin. There is very little snow and snowmobile trails remain closed. - Ryan Volenberg, conservation warden, Poynette

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Perrot State Park - The cross-country ski trails are in good to fair condition. The skate lane in the campground has been re-groomed is in good condition. The Bay trail is tracked and in good condition. The Wilber Trail and Upper Trails are tracked but in fair condition. - Lois Larson, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Temperatures are expected to warm up this weekend with highs in the 20s to low 30s. There is a slight chance of snow Sunday night into Monday. Hiking trails are open and still in good condition for snowshoeing. Ski trails were groomed on Wednesday, Jan. 20 and are in fair condition. ATV and snowmobile trails are open and are in fair condition. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -Snowmobile trails are open in Eau Claire County - be aware of minimal snow depths with a forecast for melting snow. Ice anglers are catching panfish at the Fuller Road quarry ponds in the Lower Chippewa State Natural Area north of Highway 85. One angler caught a crappie measuring more than 16 inches long. Half Moon Lake at Carson Park in the City of Eau Claire provides some great fishing excitement for anglers targeting northern pike. A large 38 inch pike was recently pulled from Half Moon Lake. Lake Altoona is closed to fishing because of the drawdown resulting from emergency dam repairs. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - The lake is frozen and people have been out ice fishing. Remember, staff do not monitor ice conditions. There are miles of trails packed for cross-country skiing and half packed for snowshoeing. Trails are still in good condition for skiing. They will be regroomed when we have sufficient snow again. Pets are not allowed on the groomed trails. A path is packed for walking, snowshoeing into the new campground. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, January 21, 2016

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