Published May 26, 2016 by the Central Office
View current conditions for Wisconsin State Parks, Trails and Forests
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Recent rains, alternating with strong sunshine across much of the state have powered "green up" and lowered fire danger statewide. Expect more punctuated rain events and possible thunderstorms as we move into and through Memorial Day weekend.
Great weather last weekend brought on canoeists and kayakers on the Bois Brule and Flambeau rivers. Water levels are dropping on the Lower Wisconsin River and good numbers of sandbars are forming just in time for the holiday weekend.
The unseasonably warm weather turned the panfish and bass spawn into overdrive in central Wisconsin. The northern zone musky season opens this Saturday, May 28, and fisheries biologists say musky size is on the rise in Wisconsin and that means the potential for a big bite is better than ever.
Anglers were catching walleye on the Menominee River and the walleye bite out of Pensaukee has been good to very good this past week. On Green Bay, water temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s and anglers were having success with smallmouth bass at Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor.
Wisconsin is currently near peak in fawns being born, and DNR offices are continuing to receive calls about abandoned fawns. Does leave fawns alone for extended periods and fawns natural instinct is to lie down and not move. This is part of their defense and doesn't mean they are abandoned or injured. Their mother is nearby and will return to care for the fawn. If you see a fawn, leave it alone and back away slowly.
Trillium's are out in force and other species blooming include wild geraniums, prairie phlox and the state-threatened white lady slipper orchid. Mayapple, wild ginger, columbine and jack-in-the-pulpit are other woodland flowers now in bloom. Both gray and Cope's tree frogs are calling. Both frogs look identical, but unlike the tree frog's melodious, cricket-like song, the Cope's tree frog blurts out a raucous "blah" call.
Bird migrations are winding down and breeding activity is ramping up. Even the latest migrants, like dickcissel, common nighthawk, yellow-bellied flycatcher, and cedar waxwings have all arrived. Small numbers of warblers continue to move through, as will some thrushes, flycatchers, and other lagging Neotropical migrants. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and many others are building nests, while American robins, red-winged blackbirds, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and a host of other early migrants are already fledging young. The first sandhill colts and trumpeter swan cygnets have been sighted at the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area.
The UW-Madison Astronomy Department begins its Universe in the Park (exit DNR) series this weekend with programs at Governor Dodge State Park on Saturday night at Kohler-Andrae State Park Sunday night. There is a presentation on astronomy and then if the sky is clear, a telescope is set up to provide visitors with the opportunity to view whatever astronomical objects are available. The series goes on throughout the summer (exit DNR) at different parks around the state.
Green up and widespread rainfall has lowered fire danger statewide. Wildfire reports will be suspended until the time when fire danger rises again. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison
The end of May is near, which means bird migration is winding down and breeding activity is ramping up. Even the latest migrants, like dickcissel, common nighthawk, yellow-bellied flycatcher, and cedar waxwings have all arrived. Small numbers of warblers continue to move through, as will some thrushes, flycatchers, and other lagging neotropical migrants through the week ahead. Shorebird migration often peaks in mid-late May wherever good mudflats or sandy shorelines occur. Some to look for this time of year are ruddy turnstone, sanderling, semipalmated sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, and semipalmated plover. Meanwhile, ruby-throated hummingbirds, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and many others are building nests, while American robins, red-winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes, wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and a host of other early migrants are already fledging young. Male songbirds will be very vocal in the weeks ahead as females begin to lay and incubate eggs. Rarities spotted this week were many, as is often typical of this time of year. Two standouts were a potential first state record tropical kingbird in Bayfield County and a second state record white-winged tern in Manitowoc (the first was in 1873!). Other good finds were snowy egret in Brown, laughing gull in Sheboygan, white-winged doves in Dane and La Crosse, loggerhead shrike in Bayfield, American avocet in Ashland, lark bunting in Bayfield, little blue heron in Green Lake, and northern mockingbirds in several locations, to name a few! As always, help us track birds both rare and common alike by submitting your observations to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Memorial Day is all but here, marking the start of the summer recreation season. We look forward to the return of our old friends that come every year to relive memories created on the Brule as well as create new ones to reminisce about on future visits. The river is quite high at the moment due to the much needed rain that we have been getting this week. Fishing may be tough on much of the river but there are still people out there. Inland lakes continue to produce large spawning pan fish, and Lake Superior fishermen have had their fair share of luck for browns and lake trout. USGS flow rate data is a link to use before heading out fishing for the weekend. The notorious ovenbird, veery and various warblers have returned to the area and are making their presence known throughout the tree tops and forest floor. A few nuisance bear reports in the area remind us of the importance of being careful when we have wildlife interactions. Make sure that your garbage and bird feeders are stowed away in a location that is not accessible. Bugs and ticks are out in full force. Keep that in mind as you plan a trip outside. Dress appropriately and make sure you frequently check yourself over for ticks after you get in from being outside. - Edwin Koepp, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Amnicon Falls State Park - The Canada goslings have hatched already. 10 volunteers participated at the Earth Work/Play Day at Amnicon Falls State Park. About 30 trees were planted and litter was picked up throughout the park. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor.
Pattison State Park - Volunteers from East Central Energy volunteered at Pattison State Park. Approximately 140 trees were planted. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor
Hayward DNR Service Center area
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Songbird migration is in full swing, and trees are leafing out. Now is the time to get to Crex to view the greatest number of birds. Goslings are getting old, the first sandhill colts and trumpeter swan cygnets have been sighted. Shorebirds are moving through. Warmer sunny days will bring out butterflies in good numbers. Bald eagles are on nests and have been observed feeding young. Sharp-tailed grouse are present in decent numbers. They have been seen dancing, generally beginning their display before dawn and continuing for about an hour after sunrise, but dancing should be waning. - Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River State Forest seems to be waking up. Folks are out and about enjoying the Forest. The landings are busy with fishermen, boats and their gear. We have installed all the piers and the activity level on the river has escalated. It sounds like bluegills are the biggest catch for anglers. Large and small mouth bass and muskies will be open as of this coming weekend. There also has been canoes and kayaks paddling the river. The water levels are perfect for an enjoyable ride. The ATV/UTV trail opened last weekend. Hiking trails are open throughout the Forest. The temperatures have been perfect for the seasonal raking and preparing the garden for planting. The trees and bushes are all leafed out and a chance of precipitation is in the forecast for this week and into the weekend. Spring flowers are abundant. Service berries, trilliums, spring beauties, bloodroot, and trout lilies are still blooming. The robins and swallows are nesting and caring for their young. Bears and cubs are out and about looking for food. Some deer fawns have been spotted and the elk cows have separated from the groups so their calving sessions will begin soon. It is also the season for bugs, so be prepared with appropriate bug proof clothing or spray. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Marinette County - Smallmouth bass are being caught below the dam at Peshtigo using soft plastics and crank baits, anglers report catching cat fish at the Peshtigo River mouth fishing crawlers on bottom. Casting spoons on the Peshtigo River are also producing some northern pike. Anglers on the Menominee River are catching walleye trolling with stick baits from the tip of Stephenson Island down to the mouth. Musky are also being caught around Boom Island, the Docks at Nest Egg Marina and around Stephenson Island. Shore anglers report catching a few walleye by the Hattie Street Dam using jigs and minnows. Sheep head, cat fish and a few perch are also being caught from the Fishermen's platforms at the Mystery Ship Launch. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - Anglers at the Stiles Dam on the Oconto River are enjoying success catching panfish (mainly bluegill) using sip bobbers fishing close to the Dam and the pilings just down river. Smallmouth and even the occasional walleye are being caught at the dam as well. Soft plastics, spinners, and stick baits along with large minnows have been producing some very nice fish. The walleye bite out of the Pensaukee Boat Launch has been good to very good this past week with fish being caught in 12 to 20 feet of water trolling with stick baits, and crawler/harness. Pike, smallmouth, and some perch are being caught at the boat landings at Oconto Breakwater Park and Oconto Park II. Walleye fishing has been difficult from Oconto Park II north. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Fishing pressure was once again very high at the Suamico boat launch. The talk was that fishing had been tough with the inconsistent weather. Water temperature was in the high 50s and water clarity was about 4 feet. Fishing pressure was high with a break in the weather. Most anglers were targeting "anything that will bite" and having success with the freshwater drum and the white bass. A few anglers were catching the occasional smallmouth bass and walleye, even a few channel catfish. Of the anglers heading out on the bay from the Metro Launch targeting walleyes, many were finding it very difficult to get any bites. The anglers were primarily trolling and catching the occasional bycatch of freshwater drum. Water temperatures were in the high 50s and water clarity was less than 3 feet. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door County - The majority of anglers launching onto Little Sturgeon Bay were looking for smallmouth bass. There was a wide range of catch rates with highs of 30-plus fish. Many successful anglers were casting tubes. Extremely clear and still water led daytime walleye anglers to have a tough time catching fish. Most were trolling crank baits. Incidental catches included common carp, freshwater drum, white bass, musky and northern pike. Several individuals wading out onto Little Sturgeon Bay were catching high numbers of smallmouth bass. Most were using plastics lures and wading in from the East shore. Size of smallmouth measured from wading anglers was 16.6 to 18.7 inches and averaged 17.3 inches. Water temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s. Water clarity was extremely high. Smallmouth bass anglers on Sawyer Harbor were catching good numbers of fish. Successful boats were able to land 20 to 30 fish. Plastics and minnows both caught smallmouth. Side catches of rock bass and round goby were also caught. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Fishing picked up on Sunday and smallmouth bass of all sizes were being caught throughout Door County. Fishing pressure continues to increase as people take advantage of the nice weather. Walleye anglers launching at the Stone Quarry have had some luck trolling Lindy crank baits along the shoreline North towards Murphy Park, with bycatches of whitefish and northern pike also being reported. Stone Quarry shore anglers fishing for smallmouth bass struggled this past week, but a handful of nice fish were being caught. Boats and shore anglers targeting walleyes within Sturgeon Bay reported the most activity at dusk and throughout the night along the edge of the shipping channel. Fishing from the Murphy Park pier, anglers reported catching a few smallmouth bass, with action picking up throughout the weekend. Most fish were caught using either night crawlers or fathead minnows under a bobber. As fishing pressure remains high in Rowley's Bay, reports of a tough smallmouth bass bite became frequent this past week, but anglers were still catching some large fish. Anglers wading the shorelines and shallow bays reported seeing many smallmouth bass on beds within the vegetation. Boats have been congregating near the Mink River where anglers were finding more aggressive smallmouth bass, along with an occasional northern pike. Sister Bay had relatively low fishing pressure this past week, but anglers reported a notable increase of smallmouth bass in 10-15 feet of water late in the week. Many smallmouth bass anglers launching at Peninsula State Park have been concentrating their efforts within the small bays South of Eagle Bluff Lighthouse. In Egg Harbor, smallmouth bass reports have been infrequent, but anglers are catching smaller fish from the piers on night crawlers. Although calm conditions made the smallmouth bass finicky early this weekend, boat anglers were finding aggressive fish in deeper water (8-15 feet). - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Kewaunee County - Fishing pressure still remains relatively low even with the warmer air temperatures and almost perfect no wind lake conditions. Anglers out of the Kewaunee ramp are reporting water surface temperatures to be 47 degrees. A few rainbow trout were caught Sunday afternoon with spoons in about 200 feet of water. Fishing pressure still remains low. Water surface temps are hovering around 47-48 degrees. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area
Potawatomi State Park - Fishermen are catching bass in Sawyer Harbor. Columbine, trilliums, and Lady's slippers are in bloom. Ferns are starting to fill out. Visitors are seeing fawns in the park. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waushara County - Waushara County has been seeing some unseasonably warm weather which has turned the panfish and bass spawn into overdrive. Fish are really starting to come into the shallows and a pretty decent bite has begun. Fawns in the area have really started dropping as well. Staff encourage all of you to call before you do anything with a fawn, we really push for keeping wildlife wild and have a lot of helpful information on our website. The best thing you can do is to leave the fawn be and it is usually gone by morning. Make sure to keep pets away as these fresh fawns can be injured especially by larger dogs. Their instinct at this age is to lay down and don't move - that is normal! This is part of their defense and doesn't mean they are abandoned or injured. The first rounds of baby birds are also ready to fledge any day now. Be on the lookout as you come up to open up cabins, a lot of birds may have enjoyed the quiet around your place and now will be on the defensive when you come up for the first time. In between rain showers it aims to be one of the warmer Memorial Day weekends in a while, enjoy the weather, get outdoors, and don't forget to take time to remember what this holiday is all about! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - After several hot days, and with the trees fully leafed out, it feels like summer in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The notion of summer is confirmed by painted turtles basking on logs, sometimes by the dozen, in the ponds. Nearly all species of migrant birds have arrived from their southern wintering grounds. Many plant species that were blooming several weeks ago are now fruiting, while different species are beginning to bloom. Highlights from a well-attended wildflower walk in one of several remnant prairies include a large population of a state-threatened orchid called small white lady slipper. Other species blooming for the first time this year include prairie phlox, yellow star grass and blue-eyed grass (the last two are wildflowers named for the grass-like shape of their leaves). Other species that are new on the scene this year are chimney swifts and Cope's gray tree frog. The tree frog looks identical to the gray tree frog, but unlike the tree frog's melodious, cricket-like song, the Cope's gray tree frog blurts out a raucous "blaaaaaahhh!" Both species can change colors from an emerald green to an ashy gray to maximize their ability to camouflage themselves. Keep an eye and ear open for these gems; the gray tree frog is distributed throughout Wisconsin while Cope's gray tree frog occurs statewide except for northcentral and far southwestern Wisconsin. Join one of our naturalists in May on Saturdays at 10 am for wildflower walks, and on Sundays in May at 8 am for bird walks. (Meet at Forest Headquarters, off Rt. 59 between Eagle and Palmyra.) - Todd Miller, assistant naturalist guide
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Many spring woodland flowers are still blooming, especially trilliums and wild geraniums. Some woodlands are so carpeted with trilliums that it looks as though there is a blanket of snow in the woods. Mayapple, mitrewort, waterleaf, wild ginger, early meadow rue, columbine, downy yellow violet, and jack-in-the-pulpit are other woodland flowers now in bloom. Silver maples are dropping their seeds. Botanically known as samaras, these fruits contain a single seed and are the largest of any native maple. Although the wings provide for some transport by air, the fruits are heavy and are also transported by water. Silver maple and its close cousin the red maple are the only WI maple species which produce their fruit crop in spring instead of fall. The seeds germinate immediately, resulting in a silver maple seedling. Squirrels, chipmunks, and mice forage heavily on these seeds, caching some for later use. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - The State Forest is alive with signs of Spring. Trilliums and other wildflowers are blooming. Fawns are starting to be seen following after their mothers. Goslings (baby geese) and colts (baby Sandhill cranes) have been seen along roadsides and near flowages. Unfortunately, mosquitoes, flies and ticks have also made an appearance, so remember to bring bug spray. Temperatures for Memorial Weekend are expected to be in the high 70s to low 80s with a chance of rain/storms every day. All reservable campsites have been taken for the coming weekend but we do have a limited number of first-come, first serve sites available at the East Fork and Pigeon Creek campgrounds. All State Forest ATV trails, except the Wildcat Loop are now open. Trails are groomed and in good condition.- Emily Alf, visitor services associate