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Outdoor Report

Published July 7, 2016 by the Central Office

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Sporadic and punctuated rain and storm events across the state have tempered off into cloud cover and light rain, after what was an excellent Fourth of July weekend. Severe winds in southern Wisconsin took down trees and power to some areas earlier this week, but most trails have been cleared or will be going into this weekend.

Water levels are continuing to drop closer to average across the state. Many sandbars were submerged on the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway, but there are still sandbars showing. It looks like it will be an excellent weekend to take a canoe or kayak down any of Wisconsin's major rivers.

The holiday weekend's pleasant weather saw large increases in angling pressure across the Northwoods. Panfish and bass produced erratic action, with rock bass and pumpkinseed showing the most consistent success, along with some musky bite. Large and smallmouth bass have both settled into their summer residencies, deeper along weedy and woody edges. Walleye success seems to be a hit or miss proposition, with just a few reports of decent action being found.

On Green Bay, fishing pressure was relatively high this week with Fourth of July traffic. The walleye bite was inconsistent, and walleye anglers were having a tough time finding active fish. But anglers were catching decent numbers of yellow perch although the average size was about 6 inches. Smallmouth bass were a little tougher to come by but anglers were still finding a few fish.

Along Lake Michigan, fishing pressure and reported successes out of both Kewaunee and Algoma made for the busiest weekend of the year to date. Both landings were full and good numbers of chinook salmon were coming into both ports, including some weighing well into the mid to upper 20-pound range and even a 30 pounder was recorded in Kewaunee. Success was also good in southeastern harbors, with good numbers of chinook and coho salmon along with some rainbow and brown trout coming in to Sheboygan, Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha, including many limits.

White-tailed bucks are starting to get some very noticeable antler growth. Rabbits and squirrels are beginning to give birth to their second litters. Songbirds such as wrens, chickadees, sparrows, and bluebirds have fledglings.

Along the prairie and oak savannas compass plants are flowering, as is pale Indian plantain and purple prairie clover should bloom within the next week or two. Be mindful of invasive and/or poisonous weeds along roadsides and trails. Wild parsnip is in bloom at this time and its oil will cause burning when exposed to sunlight, even on cloudy days.

Along other edge habitat, including bike paths and hiking trails, blackberries are beginning to set their fruits. Look for their ripening in a month or so and be prepared for competition; more than 100 bird species eat blackberries, including robin, cardinal and ruffed grouse.

Scarlet tanagers, cerulean warblers and yellow-throated vireos will continue their song for a short while longer as their young leave the nest and begin to feed themselves. Brightly colored butterflies, amazingly camouflaged moths, and boldly patterned dragonflies are being seen in many areas. Unfortunately they have been joined by many mosquitoes, deerflies and "ankle-biters" out in force with the recent rains and humidity to be a nuisance to outdoor recreationalists.

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Get outside and see the beauty of Bluff Creek SNA in July. Come help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday. We'll divide into teams to cut or remove white sweet clover and wild parsnip. This work is done annually because white sweet clover and wild parsnip can displace the native plants living in the wet prairie. See the 'Bluff Creek workday [PDF]' listing for more information - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

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Northern Region

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The warm and pleasant weather over the long July Fourth weekend made for big increases in both recreational activity and fishing pressure on most Northwoods waters. With the spike up in holiday angling activity, panfish and bass were the main species of interest - but action could only be termed fair. Panfish success was a bit erratic - some anglers were able to find some crappie and larger bluegill suspended near mid-depth cover but it seemed rock bass and pumpkinseed provided most of the action. Largemouth bass have been settling into their typical summer pattern, and increased numbers having taken up residence near firm overhead cover such as logs, stumps, bog edges and thick reed beds. As such, top-water baits have become less successful and soft plastics have been getting most of the action. Smallmouth bass have also gotten into their regular summer pattern and have been relating very close to woody structure. The best action has been on the larger flowages, with finesse plastics and spinner baits catching most of the fish. Musky activity has been fairly consistent and most anglers have been reporting some good action along weed edges and over the less dense weed beds. Bucktails and top-water baits have been the favorite lures of late. Walleye success seems to be a hit or miss proposition, with just a few reports of decent action being found. Some fair catches of 12- to 16-inch walleye have been made along the weed edges and deeper break lines, but the walleye anglers seem to be mostly occupied with rock bass, perch and smallmouth bass! With the rain letting up a bit in the last week or so, water levels on area rivers and streams have dropped down to a more normal level. Flowage and lake levels have also dropped a bit, but most still remain a few inches above average. Weed densities have been variable, with most areas showing much lower densities than in past years and just a few waters seeing moderate to thick densities. And the wet conditions of several weeks ago have helped to bring out an onslaught of biting insects - with plenty of mosquitos, 'ankle-biters' and deerflies around to be a nuisance to outdoor recreationalists. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

This report is for the week of June 26 through July 2. Heavy rains early in the week made for high muddy water. Gates were open at the dams in Oconto, Peshtigo, and Menominee. Fishing pressure was low as were catch rates until the end of the week.

Marinette County - Some small walleye are being caught in the lower section of the Peshtigo River, the bite has been slow. Anglers report a few catfish being caught at the mouth of the Peshtigo River fishing crawlers on bottom. A few brown trout are being caught out of the Menominee River mouth, not much information is available. Anglers trolling the Menominee River have been catching walleye, sheepshead, and catfish in 6 to 10 feet of water using stick baits and crawler/harness. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - With water levels returning to normal the panfish bite below the Stiles Dam has picked up with some very nice bluegill being caught on worms or crawler chunks from the dam to the Highway 141 Bridge. The lower section of the Oconto River has been producing some catfish and sheepshead using live bait fished on bottom. The walleye bite from the Pensaukee River to Oconto Park II has been very slow with anglers reporting a few fish being caught in 8 to 17 feet of water using crawler/harness. The perch bite has been slow. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Fishing pressure was low due to high winds and slow fishing. The walleye bite from Bayshore Park has been tough with only a few anglers finding success. This is likely due to the high amount of bait in the bay right now, which in turn makes it hard for anglers to entice any fish to bite an artificial bait. A few anglers were trying their luck from the break wall targeting yellow perch but found no success. Water temperatures were in the mid 70s and water clarity was around 2 feet. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Fishing pressure was relatively high this week with Fourth of July traffic. Anglers were finding success catching decent numbers of yellow perch but the average size was about 6 inches. The key was to weed through the smaller fish and eventually you were able to catch an 8 inch or bigger fish. A higher percentage of anglers were targeting smallmouth bass. They were finding decent numbers of fish but as it was with the yellow perch the sizes were running on the lower end (12-14 inches). The better baits were still soft plastics and drop shots. Walleye anglers were having a tough time finding active fish. Only two of the eight boats interviewed managed to catch a single walleye. Water temperatures were steadily in the low 70s and water clarity was about 4-6 feet. Little Sturgeon Bay was very busy this week with anglers and pleasure boaters enjoying the holiday weekend. The anglers were having good success with yellow perch, catching upwards of 20 fish, the average size about 6 inches. Smallmouth bass were a little tougher to come by but anglers were still finding a few fish. The size of the bass were running a bit smaller around 14 inches. The best baits were live fathead minnows, along with soft plastics and drop shot rigs. Anglers targeting walleyes found little to no success, only a handful of the boats interviewed had successfully landed a fish. Anglers were reporting big balls of bait fish in the water which makes it tough for fisherman to get fish to bite an artificial lure. Fishing pressure has been pretty slow at Chaudoir's dock, likely due to the winds we had in the beginning of the week. Walleye fishing has been slow likely due to the amount of baitfish in the bay right now, which is making it tough for anglers to get the fish to bite their baits. Freshwater drum are the only fish biting with any consistency, with anglers reporting high catch rates. Water temperatures were in the low 70s and water clarity was around 2 feet. - Derek Apps and Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technicians, Green Bay

Kewaunee County - The early part of the week leading into the Fourth of July weekend was hit or miss down in Kewaunee County. Anglers were reporting an excellent morning bite for those that got out early. The mid-day bite and evening bite were considerably slower leading to much lower fishing pressure. Starting on Friday July 1, the fishing pressure and reported successes out of both Kewaunee and Algoma made for the busiest weekend of the year to date. Both landings all weekend were completely full and anglers were parking in the grasses or wherever they could find a spot. Huge numbers of chinook salmon were coming into both ports and those fish were healthy, full of alewives, and huge in size. A big number of fish were coming in weighing well into the mid to upper 20-pound range and even a 30 pounder was recorded in Kewaunee. Anglers across the board have been reporting that this has been one of the best years of fishing in at least the last five years. The majority of fish being harvested have been caught in 120-300 feet of water and anywhere from 60-80 feet down. The rainbows have slowed considerably while the chinook are coming in by the limit loads. An occasional lake trout and coho salmon have come in but the majority of fish being caught are that of the chinook salmon. The bait of choice appears to still be that of spoons, but the boats that are running flasher flies are also reporting great success. Down riggers and dipsy divers are coming on strong and higher counts of fish are being caught with them. Salmon and trout fishing is definitely in full swing and quality fish are being caught daily with the early morning bite being extremely good. - Tim Leverenz, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - Fourth of July weekend was great with many people safely enjoying the waters of Manitowoc County. The lakes are in great condition for fishing, swimming, tubing or just about anything one could use them for. Many fishermen have been successful catching bluegill and largemouth bass in the northern part of the county. Many native wildflowers can be seen along trails including the bike trails at Point Beach State Forest. A few of the lakes in the county are becoming very weedy and because of this so are the boat landings. Remember to clean all the weeds off your boat, trailer, anchor and anywhere else they could have gotten attached to. - Jacob Bolks, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Whitefish Dunes State Park - The trails are dry and in good condition. The most popular trail to hike is the Red Trail which goes through the sand dunes and is a 2.8-mile loop. Lots of bird activity at the bird feeder such as the downy, hairy, red-bellied woodpeckers, nuthatches, cardinals and chickadees. Several white pelicans have been spotted along the shoreline this week. Dune thistle, a threatened species in Wisconsin, is also blooming along the shoreline dunes. The trails are lined with white thimbleberry blossoms consisting of a large white flower. Due to above average water levels, there is limited beach compared to prior years. On high wave days, visitors can expect very limited or no sand areas. The best way to access the beach is to hike the red trail behind the nature center and use the stairs to get down to the beach. The water temperature for this time of year is typically in the low 60s. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Trout fishing has been tough. Streams are very high and turbid with all the recent rains. No current report on lake fishing. There area a lot of turkey broods lurking about. Many of the poults look small for this time of year - maybe re-nesting attempts. Raspberries and blackcaps just starting to get ripe; the crop looks good. Blackberries are three to four weeks away and the crop will be a record breaker if we get timely rains between now and August. Bucks are starting to get some very noticeable antler growth. Looks to be a good weekend coming up. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Calumet County - Anglers along the east shore of Lake Winnebago are struggling to find walleye in the 14- to 20-inch size range. Most anglers are reporting large numbers of small walleye from 11 inches to 14 inches with an occasional 21-plus inch size fish. Anglers are also catching large numbers of freshwater drum and catfish while trolling. Boaters and anglers alike are reminded to drain all water from their boats before leaving the boat landing. With the recent stretches of hot weather, some areas of the lake are starting to green up with algae. A new batch of lake flies has also hatched in recent days near the lake. - Michael Disher, conservation warden - Stockbridge

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - Young wild animals such as raccoons, fox kits and fawns are moving around. Rabbits and squirrels are beginning to give birth to their second litter. Songbirds such as wrens, chickadees, sparrows, and bluebirds have fledglings If you see a young wild animal you think is injured, visit the DNR webpage and search keyword "Keep Wildlife Wild" to decide what to do, or search keyword "rehab" to find a local wildlife rehabilitator. Remember that most young wild animals you see have mom nearby or are safely exploring their surroundings, a natural part of life. Prairie wildflowers such as cup plant, milkweeds, and rattlesnake master are in bloom. Dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies are all over during our warm summer days. Keep your eyes open for blackberries on your hiking trips this week. They are starting to ripen and can provide a quick snack on the road. But leave some for the wildlife, too! - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Prairies and oak savannas continue to delight visitors with new plant species blooming for the first time this year. The first compass plants are flowering at 4 or 5 feet tall; in a few weeks they will reach up to 8 feet tall. Pale Indian plantain, another tall species, is beginning to flower. The irresistibly beautiful purple prairie clover and blazing stars should bloom within a week or so. In shadier spots, Canadian milk vetch and Turk's cap lily are blooming. Meanwhile, male scarlet tanagers, cerulean warblers, ovenbirds, wood thrushes, and yellow-throated vireos continue to sing, making it easier to locate them. However, as their young leave the nest and learn to feed for themselves, birdsong will trail off for the year -- except for the desperate bachelor red-eyed vireos hoping against hopes to woo a female this late in the breeding season. In terms of biodiversity, insects comprise around three-quarters of all species on Earth. The same is true for Wisconsin. Despite what you may have heard, relatively few insects are dangerous, and many are downright beautiful, as well as fascinating. One of the many species in the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit that will mesmerize visitors is the iridescent green, six-spotted tiger beetle, estimated to run between 200-700 mph relative to its size! Brightly colored butterflies, amazingly camouflaged moths, and boldly patterned dragonflies also await visitors. - Todd Miller, assistant naturalist guide

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - Shore fishing in Sheboygan picked up this weekend. Many chinooks have been caught from the ends of both north and south pier very early in the morning, usually before sunrise, with glow spoons. Very occasional brown trout and coho have been seen throughout the day as well. The boats brought in many chinooks this weekend, especially on Saturday morning. The biggest was 23 pounds and many were in the 15- to 20-pound range. Some coho and rainbow trout were also brought in. One group reported having success in around 90 feet of water. Many more boats were in shallower water.

Ozaukee County - Fishing pressure was high over this holiday weekend. The Ozaukee Great Lakes Sport Fishery Derby ran July 1- 3. Many chinooks were brought in, a lot of them in the 20-plus pound range. Most were caught on flashers and fly combinations. The winning chinook was 27.63 pounds. Many coho were also brought in, the biggest being 12.4 pounds . Some rainbows were caught, the winner was 10.92 pounds. The biggest lake trout brought in was 21.16 pounds. Not many brown trout were seen this weekend, the biggest was 14.06 pounds. and those who did catch browns reported Concordia University area as the most successful place. A very wide variety of depths were fished this weekend and anywhere from 40 to 150 feet of water was usually somewhat successful. Shore fishing started picking up this week. The North pier reopened on Friday and had high fishing pressure all weekend. A lot of coho and a few rainbow trout were caught on alewives, spoons or crank baits. The North pier will remain open for the month of July and will close again on August 1 through October 31 for repairs to be completed.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee, access to some fishing areas was difficult this past week due to the large number of non-anglers attending Summerfest and the holiday fireworks. The catch rate for trout and salmon on McKinley pier has increased after a two to three week dry spell. Anglers have reported schools of alewives around the pier in the overnight hours, but they move out as the sun comes up. A few coho and brown trout have been caught off the pier by anglers bottom fishing with alewives or casting tube jigs. On the south side of Milwaukee, most of the fish landed along the shore were freshwater drum (sheepshead). They have been caught at Jones Island as well as the Oak Creek Power Plant fishing pier. Anglers had good luck using cleos, gulp minnows, and night crawlers. A thermocline is starting to setup on the lake according to some Milwaukee area boaters. The water temperature from the surface down to 60 feet was 64-65 degrees on Sunday, July 3. The water temperature below 60 feet was 54 degrees. The number of chinook that were seen at the McKinley fish cleaning station during the week increased and was about the same as the number of coho that were seen. Trollers have been doing well fishing off of the Capitol Drive TV towers to the water filtration plant in 70 to 120 feet of water. Flasher and fly combinations have produced, as well as UV magnum and glow-in-the-dark spoons. Boats launching from the Bender Park ramp have targeted 60 to 70 feet of water off of Wind Point and in front of the Oak Creek Power Plant. They have been catching good numbers of chinooks and coho, along with a few rainbow and lake trout.

Racine County - In Racine many boats caught limits this week fishing 50-75 feet of water. Anglers caught a wide variety of kings, coho, and rainbows. Boats that trolled more spoons caught more kings and rainbow, while boats that used more flies caught more coho. A few lake trout were caught as well. The water was 66-68 degrees from the surface down to the bottom. Shore anglers fishing in Racine caught rock bass, bluegill, and freshwater drum (sheepshead) in the harbor. The water temperature was 68 degrees.

Kenosha County - Many boats fishing out of Kenosha caught limits this week in 60-110 feet of water. Trollers caught a mixture of kings, coho, and, rainbows. Most boats used dodger/fly combinations and spoons. Most boats reported catching mostly rainbows and kings on the spoons and coho on the flies. Anglers trolled their lures from 40 feet down up to the surface. At the surface the water was 65 degrees. Some pier and harbor anglers in Kenosha caught a few brown trout on spoons, crankbaits, alewives, and tube jigs. The water temperature in the harbor was 67 degrees. Perch fishing remains slow.

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South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Rains from northern Wisconsin have worked their way down the river and the past weekend. Water flow was much above average with no sandbars showing. Fishermen were having varied success. Plenty of young wildlife have been seen: young fawn deer, turkey poults, and almost grown Canada goslings. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Blackberry plants are setting their fruits, and it looks like the upcoming blackberry crop will be tremendous in part because of copious summer rainfall and warm temperatures. Look for blackberries to begin ripening in about a month. Blackberries are common along roadsides, field borders, fencerows, and forest openings. Blackberries are of great importance to a wide range of wildlife for food and cover. Two reasons for the importance of blackberries are their widespread occurrence and palatability. In excess of 100 bird species eat blackberries, including such species as the ruffed grouse, robin, catbird, cardinal, and brown thrasher. Raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, and black bears are fond of blackberry fruits, while deer and rabbits consume the leaves and stems. Thorny blackberry brambles provide ideal cover and security for many types of small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Gnats, mosquitoes, and deer flies remain prevalent and pesky throughout the day. Mosquitoes are especially troublesome during evening hours. Evening hours also bring out fireflies, also known as lightning bugs. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - There are not many bugs anymore. It's still a good idea to bring bug spray, just in case you need it. The park has six non-reservable, first- come sites when all others are reserved on weekends. There has been some algae blowing around the lake with the lake being busier. If the swimming beach water is green, it will blow back out during the day or you can check out the other beach. Still sites available mid -week. Check out drop in programs on Wednesdays and naturalist programs on Saturdays. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - Check out drop in programs on Wednesdays and naturalist programs on Saturdays. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, July 07, 2016

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