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Outdoor Report

Published February 18, 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).

While many regions of the state were just finishing shoveling after this past week's snowfall, this weekend promises significantly warmer temperatures across the state with a high chance of snowmelt especially in the south. That being said, some area lakes in the Northwoods are holding on 10 to 12 inches of ice, with a thin and more brittle layer on top that is still making vehicle travel inconvenient.

After another recent dusting, numerous cross-country trails, particularly in the northern and some central counties, where almost a foot or more of snow remains, have been groomed in the past week and are as prepared for warmer temperatures as possible.

This weekend is the 43rd annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race from Cable to Hayward, the largest Nordic ski race in North America. The race reached its 10,000 skier limit and race officials closed the course this week until race day to try and preserve as much of the base as possible and have the trail in the best shape it can be with the projected warm-up. Skiers who compete in the Birkebeiner have been visiting the Flambeau River, Northern Highland-American Legion and other park and forest properties to prepare for the competition.

Snowmobile trails were in good condition across the northern tier of counties and some northeaster counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), but the warm weather coming will take a toll on trails. Some central and northeastern counties have announced they will be closing trails before the warm-up.

Those skiing, snowshoeing and hiking may well be treated to a variety of tracks, from small rabbit imprints to larger deer and mid-sized weasels. If you're watching the skies or the treetops, keep your eyes open for raptors, as hawks and owls are tending their nests and eagles are circling for food. If you're simply out for a short walk around the house, or pondering the bird feeder, you may see goldfinches, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches, woodpeckers of several varieties and more.

The walleye bite has still been fickle for many Northwoods anglers, with primarily small sizes being reported. However, action for panfish has remained more consistent, with anglers reporting catches of perch, crappie and bluegill, particularly in deep water areas. Anglers fishing Green Bay off Door County did well with the whitefish but perch were hard to come by. Anglers reported lots of cracks in the ice covered with snow and hard to see. One UTV got stuck when one of its tires went through a crack earlier in the week.

At the end of the sixth day of the Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season on Feb. 18, the Upriver Lakes harvest included four adult females, which was enough to trip the 90 percent trigger, so the Upriver Lakes season will come to a close Friday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. The harvest of 15 fish from the Up River lakes brought the season total to 290 fish. The harvest on Lake Winnebago picked up again for the second day in a row with a total harvest of 36 fish, bring the season total to 245.

Another sign of spring has arrived, as skunk cabbage has started to emerge on the boardwalk loop north of the beach at the Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Dane County - Come help save a native goat prairie at Lodi Marsh State Natural Area in Dane County during a volunteer workday from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Feb. 21. Work with volunteers from the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Wisconsin DNR to remove encroaching eastern red cedars and invasive brush by cutting and piling them and burning them as we go, weather permitting. Be prepared for steep terrain. If you are interested, please reserve your spot by contacting Bridget Rathman at Bridget.Rathman@Wisconsin.gov, or 608-434-2488.- Bridget Rathman, conservation biologist, Fitchburg

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - It's getting to be that time of year when the weather can be temperamental in the Northwoods. Temperatures will vary more significantly between days as we near spring time. Warm temperatures are forecast for the remainder of the week. The After Hours Ski Trail is in very good condition, with about a 10-inch base on the trails and around 17 inches in the woods. Trails were touched up on Wednesday, Feb. 17, before temperatures reach above freezing as they are expected to do. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Ice depths having been holding in the 10 to 12-inch range on most lakes and there is now about 6 to 10 inches of snow on top of the ice. Strong winds have been blowing the snow around and some significant snow drifts have also formed. Some of the extensive slush areas have started to firm up, but this has created a double layer of ice. The top layer of ice is thinner and can be broken by most vehicle travel, so access is still pretty difficult on most lakes. With the deeper snow and continued tough travel conditions on the ice, fishing pressure has been relatively light in the last week. A few panfish and walleye anglers have been venturing out, but success has been spotty. Panfish have provided the most consistent action and a few anglers have reported some decent catches of bluegill, perch and crappie. The fish have been found suspended just off the bottom near the deep-water areas, and a small ice jig tipped with a waxworm has provided the best action. Walleye fishing has continued its generally erratic trend of this winter and success stories have been tough to come by in the last few weeks. A few anglers have been able to pick up some small walleye in the late afternoon hours, with the best bait being a medium sucker or large fathead minnow fished near break lines or mud flats in 5 to 10 feet of water. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail conditions at the Flambeau River State Forest are very good. Crews groomed the trail Feb. 16. This gorgeous trail sweeps through the Flambeau from the north end off of Hwy. 70 to the south end off of Hwy. W Trail Head. If you ski the whole route you will have skied 14 miles. The Flambeau Hills Ski Trail winds around and up and down the hills in the interior of the forest. There seems to be some local folks who hit this trail daily. Of course, next weekend is the Birkebeiner in Hayward and area residents that compete use the Flambeau Hills Ski Trail to prepare for the competition. The snowmobile trails on the Flambeau are in great condition and being enjoyed by lots of folks around the state. The snowshoe trails are also in good condition. There is no better way to get great exercise and enjoy close encounters with the wildlife in the area. Snowshoers have been able to identify lots of deer, rabbit, weasel, coyote and wolf sign. Fishing has been slow. You wouldn't know it by the fun folks are having out there. The lakes are dotted with fishing shacks, tip-ups and buckets. Sounds like the weekend temps will be warmer and fun will be had by all, not just the below 0 diehards. Temperatures this week and weekend are on a warming cycle. We had about 3 inches of snow in the Winter area this week. Friday temps are supposed to reach 40 degrees. This week a golden eagle had been seen off of Hwy. W chowing down on some carrion. They are a very large bird, dark brown with lighter golden brown plumage on their heads and necks. They are not often seen in this area and it really excites us bird lovers! There is a cow-calf elk group that has been seen often off of Hwy. W, a mile or so west of the Flambeau River State Forest Headquarters. They look fat and sassy. We treasure each glimpse of them. The logging operations on the Flambeau are working very hard. With the oncoming warming temperatures it will be more difficult to move the logs and pulp out of the forest. So they are taking advantage of every moment till the road banns go on. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Snowmobile trails are in good condition but the warm weather coming will knock them down. Law enforcement has been getting some poor fishing reports. There is layer of slush underneath the top snow pack on many area lakes. With rain predicted for Friday (and warm temperatures) the lake ice could become dangerous. Increased snow depths are bringing more diversity to the Northwood's bird feeders. A bobcat is frequenting our feeders looking for suet and venison scraps, and hopefully grabbing a mouse or rabbit off guard! Red poles, goldfinches, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches, blue jays, chickadees, hairy, downy and pileated woodpeckers are the daily visitors for sunflower and thistle seeds. Their visits are pure sunshine during these bleak winter days when one doesn't want to venture out for a ski or snowshoe. The days are getting noticeably longer allowing time for outdoor exercise after work. 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. We still have a couple of openings for volunteer campground hosts for the coming summer - one at Cunard Lake mid-summer, and one at Clear Lake in fall. Contact Joe Fieweger at 715-385-3355 ext 113 or joseph.fieweger@wi.gov if interested. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate

Forest cross-country ski conditions were good as of Feb. 18. Escanaba and Madeline trails were groomed and tracked Feb. 17. McNaughton and Raven trails were groomed and tracked Feb. 16. - Tony Martinez, forestry facilities worker

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Door County - Anglers fishing off of Lime Kiln reported cracks being covered with snow and are hard to see. One report of a UTV getting stuck as one side of the UTV tires went through the crack earlier in the week. Use caution when tacking to unfamiliar ice as it shifts with temperature flexes and winds. Those fishing off of Lime Kiln reported no luck for perch, but saw many on the camera. Those out for whitefish off of Lime Kiln and Big Rock Place had moderate success. Out of Carmody Park anglers in search of perch did well with the whitefish anglers reporting a tough bite. The many anglers fishing out of Sand Bay over the weekend reported many limits for whitefish and 15-18 inches of ice. Anglers are taking to the ice in and around the Stone Quarry Harbor area this week. With the blustery winds mid-week and low temperatures many anglers chose to stay closer to shore. Anglers have also reported multiple cracks off of the Stone Quarry harbor. Anglers chose to stay close to shore as well off of White Cedar Road, fishing just past the ice shoves. Many anglers have been accessing the ice out of Murphy Park later in the week and over the weekend. Those anglers reported good success for whitefish using wax worms in 10-20 feet of water, also reporting ice thickness around 12-18 inches of ice. Anglers in town in Sturgeon Bay were seen accessing the ice below the 57 bridge and heading east. The ice in town in the shipping channel from the Oregon Street bridge to Bay Ship remains open as the tugs were moving ships around this weekend at Bay Ship. Anglers have also been seen in and around the Yacht Club in Sturgeon Bay trying their luck for northern pike. Remember to use caution when on the ice as the ice may shift or cracks form at any time from the high winds and varying temperatures. Always check the local conditions before venturing out on the unfamiliar ice. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - All sections of the Door County Snowmobile trail system, including Peninsula State Park, will close effective 6 a.m. Feb. 19. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - Ski trails were last groomed on Monday, Feb. 15, and are in very good condition for both stride and skate skiers. All snowmobile trails are open in the county. Ice fishermen continue to catch perch and whitefish on Sawyer Harbor and Sturgeon Bay. Much warmer temperatures and rain are predicted for Feb. 19-20, so please call the park office this weekend for the most current conditions. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Still around a foot of snow in central Wisconsin. Trails are looking a little rough as any sunny day really erodes them at this point of the winter. No fishing report as bad weather last weekend kept most people off the ice. Early trout season still very challenging as shelf ice remains on all streams, maybe the warmup will change that. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season update

On Feb. 18, the sixth day of the 2016 sturgeon spear fishery on the Lake Winnebago System, the Upriver Lakes harvest included four adult females, which was enough to trip the 90 percent trigger but not reach the 100 percent closure. The Upriver Lakes season will come to a close Friday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m. So the 2016 sturgeon spear season on the Upriver Lakes will last seven days, making it the second longest season since the lottery fishery was implemented in 2007 (2011 season lasted 10 days). Today's harvest of 15 fish from the Up River lakes brings the season total to 290 fish. There were 484 Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing licenses sold this season, so the majority of the remaining 194 license holders will likely be out tomorrow for one last chance. The harvest on Lake Winnebago picked up again for the second day in a row with a total harvest of 36 fish, bring the season total to 245. Stockbridge Harbor, Payne's Point and Calumet Harbor were the busiest stations, each registering 10 fish, while Jerry's Bar, Wendt's and Quinney all remained pretty slow. The figure below displays today's harvest information by station. Harvests from the last two days did not include a 100-plus pound fish; however, there were two speared today. The largest fish of the day (75 inches, 122.8 pounds) was registered at Stockbridge Harbor by Judith Haske (photos below).

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - As of Feb. 15, Lapham Peak received about 2 inches of new snow Sunday. All the trails were packed Sunday night and were groomed again Monday morning with a new track set on the entire system. Some areas are soft yet but Man-made loop conditions for skate and classic are excellent. Skate Conditions off the man-made loop are good to great with a few areas with ice just under the surface. Classic track conditions off the man-made loop vary from fair to great due to some icy bottoms and debris. Lights are on Monday through Saturday until 9 p.m. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Cross Country Ski Trails: Trails were last groomed on 2/15/16. The trails are in good condition. Hikers are allowed on the trails west of Powder Hill Road because of cross country ski trails are currently groomed. Winter hiking/snowshoe conditions include 6 inches of snow with patches of ice. Ice fishing is booming on Pike Lake. The lake's Ice Fisheree is planned for Saturday, Feb. 30. The first sign of spring has arrived, as skunk cabbage has started to emerge on the boardwalk loop north of the beach. There are lots of fresh woodpecker holes on all of the trails. Frequently seen woodpecker species include the downy, the hairy, the red-bellied woodpecker, and occasionally seen is a pileated woodpecker pair. Look for signs of the pileated woodpecker presence, as they create oblong holes vs. the regular perfectly round holes. Red-tailed hawks pairs are still frequently seen together, as we expect them to be mating during this time, and getting ready to lay their eggs. Bald eagles have been spotted flying above both Pike Lake and Loew Lake. Pike Lake's white-tailed deer and turkey are frequently spotted during the day by hikers recently. - Lisa McCabe, Assistant Naturalist Guide

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest received 2 to 3 inches of light fluffy snow on Feb. 14, and groomers were able to touch up the ski trails Monday Feb. 15 while the cold temperatures held. As of Monday evening, the Greenbush and Zillmer ski trails were in good condition. However, warm temperatures are forecast for the rest of the week through the weekend. Staff will keep a close eye on the weather, and may attempt to groom again Thursday morning. For the latest ski trail reports, please check the website www.skinnyski.com. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Cross-country ski conditions as of Feb. 16 were fair to good at McMiller and Scuppernong trails. Trails were freshly groomed Monday. There was a thin icy base with a light layer of fresh snow on top. Fresh snowfall of 1-1.5 inches had groomers out on Monday. There are still some thin spots and a fair amount of locations where an icy base is prevalent. - Anne Korman, superintendent

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Washington County snowmobile trails remain closed. The forecast for warm temperatures and rain later this week will make ice conditions on lakes, streams and rivers more hazardous. The DNR and Conservation Congress are still looking for two qualified people to represent the "Forestry" and "Transportation" stakeholder positions on the Washington County Deer Advisory Council. To apply, visit "CDAC" on the DNR website. Washington County CDAC spring meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 15, and 7 p.m. April 19 at the Daniel Boone Conservation League club house. A coyote chat will take place at noon, Feb. 23 on the DNR website to answer questions about coyotes. Type "chat" in the search box. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

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South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Lake Kegonsa State Park -The park received approximately 1 inch of snow on Sunday, Feb. 14. The cross-country ski trails had a thin layer of light, fluffy snow on top of a thin layer of ice. Please use caution when out on the trails. There was not enough snow to groom trails. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - People who feed birds have noticed a recent increase in feeder activity. This is likely due to the deep and crusty snow cover which has made food gathering for many animals, not just birds, more arduous. With moderating temperatures, it might be an appropriate time to clean and disinfect bird feeders. Sanitation at bird feeders is important to minimize disease threats. Scrub or brush empty feeders with a solution of 2 ounces of bleach mixed with 1 gallon of water. Allow the feeder to dry thoroughly in the sunlight before refilling. Then, sit back and continue to enjoy the birds. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the 40s with a chance of rain on Friday and Sunday. All hiking trails remain open' however, there may be slushy or slippery areas due to melting snow. Cross-country ski trails were groomed but not tracked on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and Wednesday, Feb. 17. Trails are in fair condition; however, they are expected to deteriorate with the warmer temperatures. Snowshoe trails are open and in good condition. ATV and snowmobile trails remain open in fair/poor condition. Jackson County Forestry and Parks maintains and grooms all of the state forest's snowmobile and winter ATV trails. Grooming updates are posted on the Jackson County [exit DNR] website. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -Lake Altoona remains closed to fishing. The dredging of sediment at the north and east sides of Lake Altoona will continue into the month of March. Ice anglers are catching some nice sized bluegills on Half Moon Lake southwest of the beach parking lot. Be aware of open water and thin ice when accessing the backwaters of the Eau Claire River. Snowmobile trails are closed. Now is a great time to take a walk in the woods or hike the Chippewa River State Trail. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Ski trails at Hoffman Hills Recreation Area were still in good condition as of Feb. 17 with a 5-inch base and most trails have been tracked. Expect trail conditions to change quickly with the expected warm up. Snowmobile trails in Eau Claire County have been closed. Dunn County trails remain open as of Wednesday but check for updates before going out.- Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The trail was still in good condition for cross-country skiing as of Feb. 17. Trails had about a 4-inch base and have been tracked as of last week. Expect trail conditions to change quickly with the expected warm up. Snowmobile trails in Eau Claire County have been closed. Dunn County trails remain open as of Wednesday but check for updates before going out.- Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Ski trails were groomed on Feb. 15 and were in good condition; 4 miles of trails are packed for cross-country skiing and half packed for snowshoeing. Park visitors over the weekend skied and used their own snowshoes or checked out pairs from the park office. Pets are not allowed on the groomed trails. A path is packed for walking, snowshoeing into the new campground. The lake is frozen and people have been out ice fishing. Remember, staff do not monitor ice conditions. Mark your calendar for a "Learn to Ice Fish" program on Feb. 27 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.- Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, February 18, 2016

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