Published April 14, 2016 by the Central Office
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
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The wind, snow and rain of the previous week seem to have cleared out. As we move towards this weekend, a warming trend has begun, bringing with it increased wildfire activity. Last week 32 wildfires burned 53 acres in DNR Protection Areas. This time of year there is still a great deal of dead vegetation that is available fuel for a wildfire. This combined with low relative humidity and gusty winds quickly drive up the fire danger.
Fortunately, it also dries out the trails and those looking to stretch their legs, or get out the bike, this weekend should have better conditions on the state's rail trails where the limestone screening has been drying out. Some mountain bike trails have opened, including in the southern and Lapham peak units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, but they remain closed on other properties so call ahead to confirm trail status.
With a few exceptions for larger lakes in the Northwoods, almost all water bodies in the state are ice-off. The cooler temperatures did stick around long enough to slow down surface water temperatures and most of these remain in the mid to upper 30s to low 40s. This in turn had slowed the bite. However, with temperatures rising, panfish are expected to be "waking up" and walleye spawning should be coming to a close.
Fishing pressure has been high this past week below dams on the Peshtigo, Oconto and Menominee rivers, with some very nice walleye being caught and suckers also present in large numbers.
Fishing pressure out of Door County has been very low, due to a combination of cold temperatures, recent rain and snow and ice forming in some harbors. Some boats have been catching small brown trout trolling along shorelines in shallow water, but the bite has been slow in the last week.
Water levels on southern Lake Michigan tributaries have dropped to a more normal level, but they are still slightly murky. Fishing pressure has been low in some areas but picked up some late in the weekend. Shore anglers in Milwaukee have been catching brown trout, rainbows, and a couple of coho in the harbor. DNR crews processed fish at the Root River Steelhead Facility for the last time this season on Monday and have collected more than 1.8 million eggs and passed 1,293 steelhead upriver this spring.
Turkeys are gobbling and the youth turkey hunt got off to a great start last weekend as did the first period that opened on Wednesday, with reports of many toms being bagged.
A few northern ducks and loons can still be seen on lakes and ponds in the south. Waterfowl are starting the nesting season, with Canada geese seen sitting on muskrat lodges and wood ducks starting to use wood duck boxes.
The annual spring hatching of hordes of lake flies has begun again at Devil's Lake State Park. You'll find masses of these small insects if you're within 100 yards of the lake's shoreline. They don't bite, nor do they sting, so they're quite nonthreatening. To avoid the nuisance, plan your hikes for up on the bluffs and away from the lakeshore.
Pussy willows and wild leeks are out in the Flambeau River State Forest, where deer and elk are heavy with fawns and calves. Spring peepers that were out chirping two weeks ago stopped when the cold weather set in again, but are now out chirping again.
As the spring breeding season nears, the forests are alive with the sound of woodpecker's drumming. Male and female woodpeckers use drumming to mark territory and as courtship behavior.
________________________Upcoming State Natural Area Workday
Get outside Saturday, April 16 and remove invasive brush and other invasives from Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area from 9 a.m. to noon. Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Invasive brush (buckthorn, honeysuckle, cherries, ash, etc.) and other invasives like garlic mustard and dames rocket can spread and shade out uncommon plants at this site. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
A warming trend has begun, bringing with it increased wildfire activity. Last week 32 wildfires burned 53 acres in DNR Protection Areas; half of the fires were caused by debris burning. This time of year there is still a great deal of dead vegetation that dries out quickly and is available fuel for a wildfire. Low relative humidity, warm temps, and gusty winds quickly drive up the fire danger. Burning permits have been periodically suspended in numerous counties this week. Stay aware of fire danger and burning restrictions by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN or online at dnr.wi.gov (keyword fire). Enter keyword "ember" to watch a four-minute video with footage from the 2013 Germann Road Fire that burned 7500 acres and 23 homes in northwest Wisconsin. Join us Tuesday for a 'chat' on all things wildfire! "Ask the experts" is an online chat series hosted by the DNR. Fire specialists will be online from noon - 1 p.m. April 19, ready to answer your questions about forest fires, prescribed fires and preventing wildfires. Go to dnr.wi.gov and enter keyword chat.
Firewise Tip: Turkey hunters are reminded to be extra cautious with anything (warming fires, cooking fires, smokes, etc.) that can start a wildfire. Be especially mindful of the weather. A warming fire on a windy day can quickly become an out of control wildfire. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Spring is progressing. Although we have had a couple weeks of on-and-off winter weather, the increasing days of sunshine are bringing warmer weather. Turkeys are gobbling, grouse are drumming and other birds are returning to the area from their southern wintering areas. It is an exciting time of year to be outdoors. April 13 was the first day of the 2016 turkey season. There have been successful reports from anglers who are targeting trout on the lower Brule. River levels are a little below average but the river is definitely fishable. Check the USGS river flow rates for current flow data. This year's Spring Clean-up day is set for Saturday, April 30. If you are interested in getting involved please plan on joining us. Volunteers usually gather at the park in Brule around 9 am and then commence for lunch at the end of the clean-up. We hope to see you there! - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Amnicon Falls State Park - All trails are open. The snow is almost gone. There are areas on the trails where snow and ice are holding on thanks to heavy tree cover, but the upcoming warm temperatures should take care of these. There are some wet and muddy areas, so bring your hiking boots. The river is completely open. There are a few chunks of ice here and there, but the water is flowing beautifully. Be sure to use caution around the river as water levels are relatively high and even if the air is warm, water temperatures are still extremely cold. With the early trout season on the Amnicon, the river is once again open for fishing. See if you can catch an elusive steelhead. We have been seeing more and more robins in the park so it might be safe to assume spring is finally going to show its face. Besides robins, there have been several red-tailed hawks spotted in the park. Take a walk through the park and see how many birds you can identify, or take a walk through the campground and see if you can spot one of our resident snowshoe hare. - Natalie Brown, ranger
Spooner DNR Service Center Area
Governor Knowles State Forest - All campgrounds are open; however water is shut off until the temperatures stay above freezing. Look for Governor Knowles State Forest soon on Reserve America. We have had several calls about backpack permits. If interested in camping in one of our eight backpack campsites please contact the office headquarters for a free special permit. Permits should be obtained at least two days prior to occupying the site. All trails are open as well. Keep in mind, this time of year can be unpredictable as to what condition the trails are in; you may encounter trees that may have fallen since last fall or parts that are muddy. Most of the north trail segment is open to biking. If you're looking for a shorter ride, check out the trails at the Brandt Pines Recreational Trail System, with the exception of the River View Trail. For more information, contact the office headquarters. - Brandi Larson, 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 out has been progressing slowly on lakes across the Northwoods. Many of the shallow and stained lakes have been ice free for a week or two, and the larger and deeper lakes are just now starting to lose their ice cover. Water temperatures have also been slow to warm, so the early spawning species such as northern pike and walleye have also been slow to get started. Most DNR fishery crews have been out doing their spring surveys and their catches of northern pike and walleye should really pick up with the warm temperatures that are forecasted for the next week. As for fishing activity, it pretty much remains at a standstill until more lakes open up and water temps start creeping up into the mid-40 degree range. This will bring some panfish into the shallows and the early season anglers may be able to get a meal or two when the water does warm up. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The hiking trails are open at Lake of the Pines and Little Falls, though the water level may be high and it would make it difficult to cross over to Slough Gundy. Due to high water the waterfalls in the area are very powerful and quite a site. Hunter walking trails are always open, but you will definitely need boots as there are wet areas on the trails. ATV/UTV trails are closed till May 16. If you're very quiet when biking or hiking you have a good chance to see some deer or elk on the segment south of Hwy W to Fisherman's Landing. The lakes and river water temperatures are still pretty cold. The walleye are spawning and the redhorse are running and the river users are enjoying fishing for the redhorse. The docks will be put in the area lakes very soon. Some folks have been taking advantage of the bug-free weather and good water level on the Flambeau River and paddling down river and using the scenic river sites for camping and day-use. The cold temperatures that keep hanging in make it particularly hard on worm eating birds such as the robins. The juncos flitter around the fields and roadways and the potholes and ponds are home to some ducks. Swans, geese, sandhill cranes, and ducks of various species are just a few of the birds that have come north. Turkeys are gobbling and the hens are clucking. It's time to watch your bird feeders because the bears and raccoons may come visiting and be sure to pull your feeder if those critters journeyed in and enjoyed dinner. They will be back and they can create problems. The pussy willows and leeks are out and the crocuses and daffodils are up. The red maples have buds and the grass has a green tinge starting. The area DNR offices are staffed and prepared for fighting fire. The deer and elk are heavy with fawns and calves. The snowshoe hare and the weasels have begun their color change or have changed. The spring peepers were out chirping two weeks ago, cold weather set in again so they stopped, and now they are out chirping again. The peepers chirping can be deafening. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
This report is for the week of April 3-9. Last week's weather was a mixture of snow, wind, and cold, dropping the water temperatures into the mid to upper 30s. Fishing pressure at the Dam's at Menominee, Peshtigo, and Oconto was high with decent catch rates. Most female walleye had not spawned yet and most anglers were releasing these fish.
Marinette County - Fishing pressure at the dam in Peshtigo has been high this past week with some very nice walleye being caught using stick baits, zip lures, and jigs. Even with the cold weather the parking lots have been full. Suckers are also present at the Peshtigo Dam in large numbers. Less fish are being caught from the 41 Highway Bridge to the mouth of the Peshtigo River. Brown trout are still being caught out of Little River by boaters when the weather permits. Most boaters are fishing in 6 to 10 feet of water trolling stick baits and small spoons. The best action for walleye on the Menominee River has been from the Hattie Street Dam to Stephenson Island, with zip lures, jigs, and stick baits working the best. Some brown trout are also being caught in the same area. As with the Oconto River and the Peshtigo River fishing success has been lower the farther away from the dam you get. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Anglers from the dam at Stiles to the Highway 141 bridge on the Oconto River were have good success fishing walleye using stick baits, zip lures, and jigs. In the last few days large numbers of suckers have started to appear at the Dam. Anglers on the lower Oconto River and boaters from the Pensaukee Boat Landing to Oconto Park II have been catching fewer walleye but are catching some brown trout and northern pike. Water temperatures on the Bay are being reported in the upper 30s. Boaters are trolling in 6 to 10 feet of water using stick baits or small spoons. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Door County - Fishing pressure has been very low, due to a combination of cold temperatures, recent rain and snow, and ice forming in many of the harbors. Some brown trout were caught trolling in Baileys Harbor area along the shorelines in around 10-12 feet of water. Boats have been catching small brown trout trolling along shorelines in shallow water, but the bite has been slow in the last week. A few small northern pike were caught in town casting small rapalas and spoons along shore. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Kewaunee County - Fishing pressure has varied throughout the week mostly due to cold and windy weather. The steelhead bite has been slow, but a number of steelhead are being caught each day. Anglers are finding steelhead in both riffles and pools using either spawn sacs, streamers, or egg patterns. The water cleared up substantially in the past few days.- Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - All duck species have migrated back but blue-winged teal, of which we haven't seen one yet this spring. Turkey season started well with reports of many toms being bagged. Great conditions for early trout fishing, though haven't had any reports yet. No reports on panfishing yet. Walleyes should be done spawning by the end of the weekend, fishing should be excellent. Supposed to be sunny and 70 this weekend. Nice to be anywhere but inside! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
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 - Water levels on the Sheboygan and Pigeon rivers have dropped to a more normal level, but both are still slightly murky. Both rivers were measured at 34 degrees over the weekend. Fishing pressure has been very low and the few anglers that were interviewed this weekend had no catches. The South pier in Sheboygan had some higher fishing pressure on Saturday, but all anglers interviewed reported no catches.
Ozaukee County - Sauk Creek has lowered and cleared up slightly from last week, and the water temperature is around 35 degrees. Fishing pressure has been picking up, many anglers were out on Sunday late morning/afternoon and had some success catching steelhead with spawn sacs and flies. Some reported a few suckers being caught in between. In the harbor, some brown trout and occasional coho have been caught by the north slip on crank baits. A few brown trout have also been caught with shiners near the power plant discharge.
Milwaukee County - Shore anglers in Milwaukee have been catching brown trout, rainbows, and a couple of coho in the harbor by Lakeshore State Park over the past several weeks. Anglers have reported good luck fishing with fathead minnows and shiners on the bottom, and rattling crank baits produced a few browns and rainbows as well. Anglers fishing off the Oak Creek Power Plant fishing pier have also reported catching browns and a few rainbows on white tube jigs tipped with shrimp or wax worms. The majority of fishing boats in the Milwaukee area have been working inside the break wall for brown trout. Very few boats launched from the Bender Park ramp this past week due to high waves. Steelhead fishing on the Milwaukee River has been slow due to high water. Nice catches of rainbow trout continue to be caught on the Oak Creek. Anglers had good luck drifting spawn sacks and small tube jigs tipped with wax worms under a slip bobber.
Racine County - Shore fishing in the harbor has been slow over the past week due to strong winds and high waves. A few coho have been caught by boats trolling in about 50 feet of water. Fishing pressure on the Root River in Racine has been fairly low with high and muddy water hampering fishing efforts. Conditions are improving, and a few steelhead have been caught upstream of Lincoln Park. Spawn sacs, egg pattern flies, and spinners have been used. DNR crews processed fish at the Root River Steelhead Facility on Monday, April 11. This was the last processing day of the spring season, and the facility is now shut down until the fall salmon run. Over 870,000 Chambers Creek strain eggs and one million Ganaraska strain eggs were collected, and 1,293 steelhead were passed upriver this spring.
Kenosha County - Fishing pressure remains low in the Kenosha harbor. Those fishing were having no success fishing with spoons or crank baits. On the Pike River, a few anglers have had success catching steelhead. Anglers reported that most fish were done spawning and seemed to be heading back to the lake already. The rain last week had the water fairly high through Saturday, but conditions should continue to improve this week. The baits of choice were spawn sacs, egg pattern flies, and wooly buggers. Anglers also report seeing quite a few suckers in the creek now as well. The water temperature was up to 48 degrees midweek, but dropped to 44 degrees by the weekend.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The Tamarack Trail has dried substantially over the past week, and the barricades have been removed. However, be on the lookout for muddy conditions on some portions. The mountain bike trails are also in much better shape, and are now OPEN for the season. However, the bridle trails still have many stretches that are too wet for horse traffic, and will remain closed through this weekend. The snow and rain from the last few weeks has left the Mauthe Lake boat launch under water, and it remains closed. The Mauthe Lake fishing pier and boat boarding dock were repaired over the winter and have been re-installed. We expect to have the Long Lake boat boarding dock installed by the weekend of April 23, and the fishing pier will be in place by Memorial Day weekend. The Crooked Lake boat boarding dock has also been repaired and rebuilt over the winter, and is ready to go for the new season. Spring turkey hunting opened April 13, and continues through May 24. Visitors are advised to wear bright colors when venturing into open hunting areas, including the Zillmer Trail system. It is wise to avoid wearing the colors red and blue during this time, as these are the colors of a turkey's head. About 95 percent of the forest is open to hunting during established open seasons, while the Tamarack & Summit trails and both campgrounds are entirely within refuges and not open to hunting at any time. Likewise, no hunting is allowed within 100 yards of any other campground, parking lot, shelter or Parnell Tower. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine County - A few northern ducks and loons can still be seen on lakes and ponds in the area. Local waterfowl are starting the nesting season, with Canada geese seen sitting muskrat lodges and wood ducks starting to use wood duck boxes. The forestry program has been working to develop timber sales on several of the wildlife areas in Racine and Kenosha counties. The focus of these timber sales is to thin the stands to improve growing conditions for trees such as oaks and hickories and pines in scattered plantations on the Honey Creek, Tichigan and New Munster Wildlife Areas. On several of the proposed sales contractors have been hired to mow the understory in the stands, mainly invasive brush such as buckthorn and honeysuckle, to improve the stand condition and access to the trees. Contractors will be following up with foliar herbicide application later in the season to deal with woody re-sprouts. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Devil's Lake State Park - It is spring. The annual hatching of hordes of lake flies has begun again this spring. You'll find masses of these small insects if you're within 100 yards of the lake's shoreline. They don't bite, nor do they sting, so they're quite nonthreatening. To avoid the nuisance, plan your hikes for up on the bluffs and away from the lakeshore, or take your lakeside walks very early in the morning while it's still very cool. It will be a mix of conditions for the next couple of months as spring unfolds. The turkey vultures are back and flowers will sprout as milder temperatures alternate with spring rains and storms.- Richard Hesed, visitor services associate
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Pepin County - Staff have heard of good success from this year's youth turkey hunt. Turkeys have just started breaking out of large groups within the past week and are getting more vocal off the roost. The woods are getting a little greener everyday with warm and windy days moving in. Fishing has produced very mixed results with spotty panfishing in the shallows. Surface water temperatures on the Chippewa River are still in the low 40s. - JJ Redemann, conservation warden, Durand
Vernon County - Woodpeckers of all species are drumming like mad as their spring breeding season approaches. Drumming is the term applied to a woodpecker's habit of hammering rapidly and loudly on resonating substrates like trees, sign posts, downspouts, roof or chimney flashing, or house siding. Both male and female woodpeckers drum to proclaim territory and as a courtship behavior. Their drumming may often identify woodpeckers. Length and speed of the drumming, as well as changes in tempo, frequency, or intensity provide identification clues to those who listen carefully. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Chippewa River State Trail - Trail should be in excellent condition for a spring bike ride or wildlife watching along the river. Still plenty of birds migrating through and spring wildflowers will be coming up anytime. This time of year is excellent for wildlife watching as there is plenty of visibility in the woods without the leaves on the trees. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area -
Trails are in okay condition with areas still being muddy. Expect a flush of migrant birds moving through the area with the beautiful spring weather. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - Trail has just been graded and packed for the year. Trail is in excellent shape. Expect to see early spring wildflowers coming up anytime. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Sandhill State Wildlife - Sandhill Wildlife Area's Trumpeter Trail opens to the public on Sunday, April 17. - Britt Searles, program assistant
Buckhorn State Park - Sandhill cranes, osprey and spring peepers have been seen and heard around the park. Tom turkeys have been seen displaying to hens already. Migrating birds have been seen around the bridge. The park and Buckhorn Wildlife Area are open for the first three turkey periods and is Zone 1. No other permits required, except a park sticker depending on where you park. Periods 4-6 will be in the Yellow River Wildlife Area only. Mark your calendar for the annual Work & Play Day. April 23 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Call the park office at 608-565-2789 to sign up. - Heather Wolf, park manager