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Outdoor ReportPublished February 4, 2016

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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).

This past week saw snowfall, rain, sleet and the onset of colder temperatures across much of the state. The heaviest bands of snow were across west central and northwestern Wisconsin, with some spots receiving 8 to 10 inches. Lesser amounts of 4 to 6 inches fell across much of the rest of central and northern Wisconsin, while the south and southeast received mostly rain and sleet and some light snow.

Many more counties have now opened snowmobile trails, with the exception of the far southern and southeast counties, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Park and forest staff have been busy grooming ski trails and ski conditions are now good to excellent in many areas. Harrington Beach State Park has cancelled a candlelight ski scheduled for this Saturday due to icy conditions, but there will still be the best opportunity for candlelight skiing of the year this weekend with 11 other properties holding events. Search the DNR website for "candlelight" for details.

Ice conditions have changed with the recent snow and rain and slush is hampering travel on northern lakes. Ice depths across the state remain extremely variable from county to county and lake to lake. Please continue to use caution and approach local bait shops, anglers and others in your area to get the most up to date information before venturing out.

Anglers statewide took advantage of this past weekend's sun and warmth, though the bite in many areas was reluctant. Those fishing northern Lake Michigan had some luck for whitefish, walleye and pike, though catch rates for the latter were slow. Lack of water clarity seems to have hindered the perch bite in some areas, while those fishing the Northwoods area lakes are having better luck with panfish, but little success with walleye. Sturgeon spearing is fast approaching and spearers out scouting are advised to use caution on Lake Winnebago. Ice conditions overall are good, but certain areas still have thinner ice.

As we move later into winter, many species will begin breeding, gathering food and moving in earnest. If the snow on the horizon is a little too blinding, keep your eye to the ground enjoy learning who, or what else has tread the trail before you. The recent powder and cooler temperatures have given way to excellent tracking conditions. Watch for sightings or signs of deer, fox, mink, and more in woods or prairie. Otter slides were common site on several of the larger kettle lakes at the Chippewa Moraine. If you're looking for a challenge, smaller mammals like mice and voles are also up and about, attracting the attention of the now white-coated weasel, whose pale ermine fur keeps it insulated and under the radar.

Woodpeckers, finches and more are becoming more common at the feeder. Owls are calling as their mating season gets underway and while it may be hard to "think spring" with the recent snowfall, migrant Canada geese are already beginning to return at Horicon Marsh.


Upcoming State Natural Area Workdays

Green County - Help restore York Prairie State Natural Area near New Glarus during a volunteer workday Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. York Prairie is a 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. If you are interested, please contact Kevin Doyle at or 608-358-8867. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane


Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - After some significant melting due to the warm temps over the weekend, our powder supplies have been restored with 4-6 inches of fresh snow that fell over the past day. State Forest staff are hard at work getting the ski trails in shape for this upcoming weekend. Trails were groomed Wednesday Feb. 3, and are in excellent condition. We may see an increase in coyotes, foxes, and even wolves in the weeks to come as mating season for these critters will be kicking off! This upcoming Saturday, Feb. 6, a Candlelight Ski event will be held at Afterhours Ski Trail. The event starts after dark on Saturday and, if the title doesn't explain in enough, skiers will ski on a candle-lit trail. Hot beverages will be provided and there will be a grill available for people who want to use it. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - The park recorded 3.7 inches of snow in Tuesday's storm. The ski trail was rolled, then groomed with classic track being re-set. Trail base is 3-8 inches, providing excellent classic skiing. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Ice conditions have deteriorated a bit in the last week as the recent snowfall has worsened the slush being found on many lakes across the Northwoods. There is still 8" to 10 inches of ice on most waters, but the additional snowfall has increased the slush layer found on a lot of waters. This has hampered travel and many ATV's and snowmobiles are getting bogged down in the deeper slush areas. Ice fishing has continued its erratic trend of the last few weeks, and panfish have been providing the most consistent success. Anglers have had to move around quite a bit to find active fish, but some fair catches of crappie and perch have been made. The crappie have been found in the deeper water areas and suspended about 3 to 5 feet off the bottom, while perch have been hitting small minnows fished just off the bottom on the mid-depth mud flats. Northern pike fishing has been a bit more successful than walleye, with some fair action during the mid-day hours on golden shiners or large suckers set a few feet over the top of any old weed beds. Walleye success continues to be quite variable and many anglers are struggling just to catch a single fish per trip! The best success seems to come during the various snowstorms that have moved thru the area, and the fish have been found in a range of different depths and habitat. Smaller size baits such as XL fatheads or small to medium suckers have shown the best success, and the 5' to 10 foot depths has been the best range to start at. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - This is proving to be a very exciting week for winter sports enthusiasts! Weather conditions will be changing radically. Snow is in the forecast and we already received 8 + inches last night with more to come. This accumulation will be great for the Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail. The staff is gearing up for extra work preparing the trail post storm. The Candlelight Ski is Saturday and we are PUMPED! More on that further down in the report. The Ski Trail is being packed today, rolled on Friday(more snow in forecast) and groomed on Saturday a.m. very early. The snowmobile trails will also be groomed and ready to go. The Georgetown area connector Trail 85 on Corridor 12, right at the Sawyer County line, is reopened though caution must be used. The snowshoe trails at Slough Gundy (Little Falls loop=1.1km, Slough Gundy segment=0.5km) and the Lake of the Pines Trail (Nature trail loop=1.2km, Lakeside Nature trail=0.6km, and the Maple Trail=0.9) are going to be FUN! Don't forget, if you are prepared with a compass and old map you could venture out on the Old Oxbo Ski Trail. It is not signed or groomed. It was mowed this summer and some folks have been using it, but it will be a real challenge now that we have some snow depth. Total snow depth in the woods is about 10 to 12 inches. If you decide to try the Old Oxbo Ski Trail use the parking lot off of Snuss Blvd and walk across Hwy 70. "Don't forget that compass." Fishing on the Flambeau River State Forest has been slow. Connors Lake, Lake of the Pines, Mason and Evergreen are being ice fished and folks seem to have fun regardless. The Flambeau River still has some open spots so it is treacherous and very risky to be out on it. Be smart and be safe! Because of last weeks' higher temperatures there was a crust of ice on the landscape. This week with the new snow depth it will make it a bit tougher for some of the wildlife to get around and to get at its food source. This will take more energy on the part of the animal. However, it is February and days are getting longer and temperatures will be warming in March. So physically wildlife is still in good condition. We are still observing turkey, weasel, rabbit and deer sign and also some of their predators. The elk have been crossing the river and have been foraging in many of the wildlife openings and old logging sites on or near the State Forest. It amazes me how birds, mammals and other critters survive the winter months. Logging on the Forest is continuing in a forward motion. Two more logging operations have started this last week. Time is of great importance as once the landscape starts thawing and spring sets in, logging is finished till the land is dry enough or frozen conditions arrive next winter. Join us for our 24th Annual Candlelight Ski at the Flambeau River State Forest. The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday the 6th of February 2016, at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. A 1.8 km 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. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food. Hot dogs, chili & spiced tea will be provided. The Forest Staff add to the goodies with snacks and desserts. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. Starting at 5 p.m. that Saturday all day-use fees at the trail head will be waived. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Escanaba and Madeline cross-country ski trails were leveled and tracked on Feb. 3 and are in very good condition. The McNaughton skate loop was leveled and groomed. All other loops leveled and tracked. All Raven Trail loops were tracked. There is finally enough snow to cover under the heavy pines. - Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Langlade County - The Antigo Area received 5 -7 inches of new snow in Tuesday's storm. Ski trails will be in very good condition, but snowmobile trails will remain fair to good. Deer are faring well this winter with milder temps and shallower snow depths.- Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo


Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Angling pressure was light during the week but with the warmer weather anglers were out in force this past weekend. Ice conditions remain unstable with anglers reporting 10 to 12 inches of ice in some places and as little as 3 inches in others, use extreme care.

Marinette County - A few pike anglers have been observed north of the mouth of the Peshtigo River, catch rates have been slow. The 6th Street Slip on the Menominee River has been the hot spot for walleye due in part to the lack of ice by the Hattie Street Dam. Jigging with a variety of small spoons and jigs tipped with minnows have been producing some nice fish. Open water anglers fish by the Hattie Street Dam have been catching a few rainbow and brown trout casting small Raps and spoons. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Most anglers are concentrated from Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park II with pike being the target fish. Tip ups with large shiner minnows or smelt in the round fished near or on bottom have been producing some fish. Perch anglers fishing in the pocket of Oconto Park II are still having success jigging with wax worms and reporting many small fish being caught along with some 8 to 11 inch perch, patience is the key. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Voyageur Park saw the most activity with anglers targeting whitefish, walleye and perch. Jigging with small spoons, jigging Raps and jig heads tipped with minnows or wax worms are working the best. Long Tail Point and Sun Set Beach anglers report poor water clarity resulting in rather poor catch rates for perch. Many anglers took advantage of the conditions and flocked to the Bayshore Park and Dyckesville area. Anglers were out in high number and fishing from 6-20 foot depths with the mid-range depths producing the best numbers this week around the Dyckesville area. Anglers up around Sugar Creek and Rites Cove reported high numbers of whitefish caught with limits being reported. Many are driving on in these locations, but with the warmer temperatures and rain we got over the weekend anglers were report cracks opening up and ice shifting. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Door County - Anglers started taking to the ice in Door County this week as Stone Quarry and Murphy Park saw high numbers of anglers out with permanent shack being taken out as well. Most anglers are still walking on in these locations; some anglers chose to use sleds or ATVs as well. Most anglers over the weekend at the Stone Quarry stayed close to shore but those that ventured out reported having to cross multiple cracks to get toward Larson's Reef. Those anglers reported low numbers of whitefish and no perch being caught but marking a lot of fish. The channel through Sturgeon Bay ship canal remains open as ships continue moving through, so take extra caution when taking to the ice in and around the canal. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - The snowstorm brought 5 to 7 inches to Brown County. As of Wednesday night Feb. 3 at 6 p.m, all of the snowmobile trails in Brown County have opened up. Snowmobilers are reminded that they need to check the Travel Wisconsin webpage, or call 920-448-4466, for the latest information about Brown County's snowmobile trail conditions. All snowmobiles, residents and non-residents are required to display a trail pass on the front windshield when operating on trails or corridors. The snow also created great trails for skiing and snowshoeing. Take some time to get out and enjoy the winter. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country trails from fair to good. Logging has ended in the park. The logger will return late October 2016 to work in areas he was unable to complete. Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - We now have 12 to 14 inches of snow on the ground in most places in central Wisconsin. All trails now groomed and open. Does not seem to be much fishing pressure as of late, have heard no recent reports. Too much shelf ice for early trout season. Most wildlife species still holed up after Tuesday blizzard. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Calumet County - Recent snowfall has created some good snowmobiling conditions along the east shore of Lake Winnebago in Calumet County. Trails have been open in certain zones and tracking conditions for wildlife have been excellent. Bluegills have been biting on Becker's Lake near Brillion. Most anglers are fishing with wax-worms or spikes. Sturgeon spearing is fast approaching and anglers are advised to use caution on Lake Winnebago. Ice conditions overall are good, but certain areas are accessible only by ATV or snowmobile. - Michael Disher, conservation warden - Stockbridge

High Cliff State Park - Volunteer groomer was out tonight and combed the skate ski trail. He also combed and set track on the classical ski trail. He reports they are in excellent condition. - Linda Guelig, manager


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - February marks the start of breeding season for a number of different species, such as coyote, fox, skunk, raccoons, and squirrels. As such, it is common to see wildlife more active during this time, searching for a mate or a den site, or looking for food during these colder winter months. 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 the iNaturalist page. This information will help us learn more about coyotes in Milwaukee County and monitor behavior. As a way to learn more about the coyotes in our urban surroundings, the Wisconsin DNR is collaborating with Milwaukee County Parks and UW-Madison to trap and ear tag coyotes on county land. You can learn more about these efforts by visiting the Milwaukee County Parks page. If you want to improve your winter tree ID skills, join us for a hike at Vernon Marsh Wildlife Area on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 9-11 a.m. We'll practice our tree ID skills, and learn a bit about how our Wisconsin wildlife uses those trees in the winter. Please pre-register with Dianne Robinson, at (262-424-9827). Although the winter is a slow time for hunting, anyone interested in turkey hunting for the first time this spring should check out the Learn to Hunt DNR webpage for upcoming events in and around Milwaukee County. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The man-made snow cross-country ski loop was groomed Feb. 3. The rest of the trail system is not skiable and will not be groomed until we get more snow. The lights are on the man-made loop until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. - Jay Abts, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest received 2 to 4 inches of a snow/slush mix from the Feb. 2 storm, followed by a bit more snow and freezing temperatures Wednesday night into Thursday. Greenbush received a couple inches more snow, and groomers were able to reset track as well as comb the skate lanes Feb 4. Zillmer received less snow, but groomers were able to comb the skate lanes. All groomed areas are reported in good, fast condition. Staff will likely attempt to re-track the classical lanes at Zillmer before the weekend. This Saturday cross-country ski or hike the Zillmer Brown trail by candlelight, sponsored by the Friends of the Kettle Moraine. Join fellow hikers & skiers at the bonfire for hot drinks and snacks, or warm up in the heated shelter building. The trail is perfect for novice skiers, with no steep hills or sharp turns. Trail passes will be waived for this event; however, a state park sticker will be required for all vehicles. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate


South Central Region

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Snow coverage around the area remains spotty, as the large amounts of snow promised early in the week failed to materialize. If you are looking to get out on snowshoes or cross-country skis try taking to the woods as snow depths within may be adequate. If cold weather and snow aren't your thing, why not take a day and explore "nature on the inside". Visit our Explorium and learn all about Horicon Marsh from the comfort of the indoors. Area lakes are seeing a flurry of ice fishermen having mixed success with panfish. As always, please use extreme caution on lakes as ice depths vary due to the inconsistent temperatures as of late. While it may be hard to "think spring" as snow falls out your window, rest assured that it is on its way! Migrant geese are beginning to return already, a sure sign that spring phenology is just around the corner. Use these last blustery days to plan for spring clean-up in your yard and to come up with a few new ideas for native flower gardens in your yard when the snow melts! - Jennifer Wirth, visitor services specialist

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Lake Kegonsa State Park -The cross country ski trails are in poor condition. On Feb. 2, we received a light dusting of snow and a fair amount of rain. Snow depth is thin and icy in all areas. We will need a significant amount of snow to groom. - Sarah Bolser, park manager


West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Crawford and Vernon counties received anywhere from about 5-12 inches of snow from the Groundhog Day storm. Snowmobilers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers should encounter good snow conditions for their sport into the foreseeable future. Shed hunting will be much more difficult, however, until the current snow depths diminish appreciably. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Wildcat Mountain State Park - The Ridgetop cross country ski trail was groomed Thurs. Feb. 4. It is in good to excellent condition for skate and classic skiing. The snow base is about 7-9 inches with the last snowfall.- Jane Collings, ranger

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The Black River Falls area received around 8-9 inches of snow on Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 20s to low 30s this weekend with a chance of snow both Friday night and Sunday. Ski trails were groomed on Wednesday, Feb. 3. Trails are in very good condition. The annual Candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event held last weekend was a huge success with a record number of attendees. Warmer temperatures with no wind made it a perfect night to enjoy the outdoors; whether it was skiing/walking candlelit trails or sitting around a bonfire sipping hot chocolate. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - The ski trails have been groomed after the recent snowfall and are in good condition.- Penny L. Thiede-Klish, visitor service associate

Red Cedar State Trail - The ski trails have been groomed after the recent snowfall and are in good condition.- Penny L. Thiede-Klish, visitor service associate

Chippewa Moraine Ice Age State Recreation Area - - Winter has returned with a fresh blanket of beautiful and fluffy snow making the on-ground average from 9-12 inches. It's a great time to enjoy getting out on snowshoes and for tracking animals and doing some winter birding. Commonly seen tracks include mice, voles, deer, fox, rabbits, squirrels, mink, coyote, and the occasional fisher and porcupine. Look for 'porkies' high up in aspen trees this time of year as they feed on bark and small twigs. Weasels are sporting their white ermine coat now and are active making tunnels through snow hunting for mice. Otter 'slides' are common on several of the larger kettle lakes, and in the neighborhood some large flocks of turkeys have been spotted scratching for seeds under feeders. Other bird sightings include the very colorful red-headed woodpeckers, which are becoming common at our feeders. These interesting birds often hide their cached food by covering it up with a piece of bark, and have been known to wedge grasshoppers into tight crevasses for a handy lunch. Other commonly seen birds are downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers, ravens, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, and gold finches. Barred and great-horned owls are starting their mating season and are very vocal now. Listen for them on a quiet winter evening. With the recent heavy snowfall it may be difficult to get to that favorite fishing hole. Water is coming up from already drilled holes causing slush and very slippery conditions so use extreme caution before venturing out. This year's late freeze up and recent heavy snow can make for dangerous ice conditions. Fishing luck has been slim with a few nice bluegills and an occasional keeper walleye being caught. Looking for something for the whole family to do? Ask for an indoor scavenger hunt and earn a prize, hold a snake, throw a tomahawk or watch a nature video. We'll loan you snowshoes and give you a short instruction if you've never been on them. We are open Tuesday through Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center is closed on Mondays although trails are always open. Three outpost campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Quiet and scenic, these sites provide a peaceful experience for those who enjoy primitive camping. Register at the David R. Obey Interpretive Center on the day of your arrival. - Brenda Rederer, natural resources educator

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - The park received 10 inches of snow Wednesday. Trails should be groomed by Friday afternoon after roads and parking areas cleared. We had a few winter campers with the warmer weekend weather. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Last Revised: Thursday, February 04, 2016

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