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The coming weekend's weather should bring an improvement over the rapid fluctuations of last weekend, which made angling, among other outdoor pursuits, so difficult. The hot and humid weather is starting to relent. That heat met with rain and thunderstorms in the southern counties, much of it falling over the weekend, bringing as much as seven inches near Madison. Northern counties have experienced light rains on and off over the past several days, totaling around an inch in most areas.
The result has been slowly falling temperatures, with expectations for the weekend hovering between the mid-70s and 80s. This is welcome news for most outdoor enthusiasts, whether they're angling from the shore or biking on a trail. While mosquitos have also responded to the recent precipitation and will be out and about, DNR staff members have been making their rounds, smoothing trails and removing fallen trees and branches.
Water levels throughout the Northwoods are still running a little above average. Anglers there are seeing more consistent success with follows and some strikes from musky. Also remaining steady is the panfish bite, with decent catches of crappie, bluegill and perch. Bass are proving more difficult to coax, with largemouth spending time near many different types of cover. Smallmouth are spending most of their time near the weedy edges. While several walleye between 20 and 27 inches were reported over the last few weeks, most of the action for the species is still limited.
Rolling thunderstorms moved through Kewaunee County at the beginning of the week, but fishing improved since, with the KD Salmon Tournament getting off to an excellent start. The same was true of Door County and, as the tournament started and continued, angling pressure increased markedly. Some excellent chinook were registered, with expectations for a "podium finish" requiring near 30 pounds.
Those angling in the southeastern waters of Lake Michigan reported low angling pressure and heavy fog to contend with on the lakeshore this past weekend. Once the fog rolled through and temperatures evened out, anglers started landing coho, chinook and trout. Alewives were the bait of choice, with anglers in Ozaukee seeing catches of brown trout, those in Milwaukee landing rainbows and chinook, and those in Racine and Kenosha seeing chinook, steelhead and little success with perch. While storms may have hampered the past, the forecast for this weekend is predicting excellent angling weather.
Off the water, purple pitcher plants and spoon-leaf sundew are helping with our insect population, as huckleberries and fruiting tawny cottongrass sweeten some of our southern bog areas. Under an oak canopy, tall agrimony, white avens and enchanter's nightshade are producing fruits that many of us would consider as "burrs" when they stick to our shirts, shoelaces and pants. All the while, shorebirds are congregating near lakes and mudflats, and the drone of insects will be subtly changing as percussive tree crickets populate, providing variation from the nightly high-pitched "song" of ground crickets.
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The Phillips-Park Falls-Hayward area received another couple of inches of rain in the last week and this has kept most streams, rivers and flowages at a high level. The continued wet weather has also spurred on an extra-large hatch of mosquitoes, so outdoor enthusiasts are reminded to bring along the insect repellent on any trips to the woods or water. Fishing and recreational activity on Northwoods waters have reached their summer highs in the past few weeks. However, angling success has remained very inconsistent and the constantly changing weather conditions have kept fishing for most species pretty tough. Musky continue to provide the most dependable action and nearly all anglers have reported some success - whether it be sightings, follows or strikes. Surface baits and bulldawg-type lures have been the more popular lures, with deep weed edges and the less-dense weed beds producing a good amount of action. Some anglers have had multiple fish days, with most of the musky in the 28 to 38-inch size range and a few in the mid 40's also being landed. Water temperatures have approached the 80-degree mark on some of the shallower waters and many musky anglers have been trying to avoid stressing the fish on these generally stained-water lakes. Bass fishing has been generally erratic with the variable weather - some days provided some good action, but other days have found even bites very hard to come by. Largemouth continue to be found in all types of cover, with fair action found near heavy cover such as weed beds, bog edges and stumps/logs. Rubber frogs, soft plastics and crayfish-imitation lures have produced the best success. Smallmouth bass fishing continued to be just fair on local flowages and rivers. The smallies are still settling into their mid-summer pattern and have been relating to wood and weed edges, especially near hard-bottom and deep water areas. Small finesse plastics and wacky-worm rigs have been getting most of the action. Walleye angling has been especially tough, though some nice fish in the 20 to 27-inch range have been reported in the last few weeks. The deep weed edges and deep rock/gravel bars have provided some action, with leeches and nightcrawler halves being the best baits. A few walleye have been caught on rapalas and stick baits fished along weed edges near dark. Panfish action continues to be fair - with some decent catches of crappie, bluegill and perch being made. The bigger panfish have been found suspended near cover in 8 to 14 feet of water, though some nice crappie have also been taken near the surface around woody structure. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River State Forest has nearly 40 miles of ATV/UTV trails. The trail runs north from Fisherman's Landing and junctions with the Tuscobia State Trail and the Dead Horse Run, combining nearly 160 miles of trail. The Flambeau trail is in good condition except an area between the two small bridges, south of Hwy EE and north of Oxbo Drive. This area has some erosion due to the last storm. Folks are out enjoying the summer weather, camping, fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Visitors are advised to come prepared with bug repellant or appropriate clothing as the mosquitoes and deer flies are out. Sounds like the catfish fishing has been good on the Flambeau River. Some bass have been caught on the river right off the shore. Muskies have been biting on Mason Lake and the boat landings have been busy, so it seems like something is happening out there. The water levels are receding to a more normal state than what has been seen the past couple weeks. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Door County - Door County also got off to a slow start this past week, but picked up as the week went on. Anglers were reporting perch harvests in Egg Harbor as well as Stone Quarry in Sturgeon Bay. Stone Quarry was also seeing higher numbers of smallmouth bass being caught. Most were not of legal length, but the fishing was exciting to say the least. As the KD Tournament neared, so did the influx of anglers from across the Midwest. Baileys Harbor, Gill's Rock and Washington Island had much higher fishing pressure than seen so far this year due in part to the winds that created almost unfishable waves further south along the lake. A huge Chinook weighing 35.46 pounds was registered in Baileys Harbor on the first day of the tournament and as of Wednesday, was still the leading fish. Baileys Harbor also brought in over 30 fish that weighed 20-plus pounds. The biggest fish in Sturgeon Bay went just shy of 26 pounds and a good number of really big fish are being reported up near Washington Island. If the fish continue to come in as big as they are, it appears as though an upper 20 pound fish will be needed to place this year. Fishing has been spectacular and the rest of next week will be fun to watch as big fish continue to be harvested. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Kewaunee County - This week got off to a slow start in Kewaunee County due to the varying wind direction and influx of thunderstorms that rolled through the region. This combined with hot weather and humid conditions brought about unstable conditions in the atmosphere as well as the lake. As the week progressed and weather conditions improved, so did the fishing pressure drawing many anglers from Wisconsin as well as surrounding states. The KD Salmon Tournament kicked off at 12:01 a.m. Saturday July 23 and five of the top 10 fish on day one of the tournament were registered in both Kewaunee and Algoma. A windy and foggy start to Sunday kept fishing pressure down and a large number of anglers took to the piers to try their luck there. Kewaunee's biggest catch of the day (port prize) was a dandy 22.84 pound chinook caught off the pier.- Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Manitowoc County - Fishing has been decent with most anglers consistently finding a few fish. Fast action seems to be hit and miss with the recent storm fronts moving through and mixing up the water column. Plenty of cold water near shore has kept the fish up close with most boats fishing 30 feet of water or less and periods of fast action on the piers. - Cheryl Masterson, fisheries technician, Mishicot
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - On a recent trip to a rare bog relic skillfully led by conservation biologist Eric Tarman-Ramchek, the group saw purple pitcher plants and spoon-leaf sundew.Both species are insectivorous. Beneath the soft-looking tamarack trees was a wonderland, with a spongy bed of mosses much more commonly seen in northern Wisconsin, as well as fruiting tawny cottongrass and huckleberries, juicy and sweet.Back at Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit, the oak woods have a number of species of wildflowers that have fruits which attach to the fur of mammals, but also socks, pants and shirts. Among these are pointy-leaved tick-trefoil, tall agrimony, white avens and enchanter's nightshade. This brings to mind the idea that humans can also spread the seeds of invasive plants, such as garlic mustard. This can be remedied by brushing the soles of your footwear before entering high quality natural areas. Purple martins have been congregating over Ottawa Lake and staff members presume the shorebird migration is already visible at mudflats and shores. Meanwhile, if you listen carefully both during the day and at night, you may notice a change in the species of grasshoppers and crickets that are vocalizing. The high-pitched droning that occurs more at night comes from ground-crickets. The more percussive tree crickets should get underway any day now. - 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 - It was a hot week in Sheboygan and thick fog covered the lakeshore for most of the weekend. Friday evening was very slow for pier anglers. Nobody on South pier reported any catches and only a couple coho were caught from the end of north pier. Saturday afternoon was better with more cohos being caught and one chinook. Sunday had an excellent early morning bite for chinooks and cohos. Many people left when the rain started around 9 a.m., but those who stayed out caught a few more and continued to have OK success all morning. Alewives were the bait of choice all weekend. Quite a few boats went out Friday evening despite the heavy fog. Success was hit or miss. One boat said they were having good success using white spoons and another was trolling with green dolphin spoons. Saturday afternoon had better success with usually about two to three fish per person average. A mix of chinook, coho, lake trout and rainbow trout were brought in. Spoons were again the bait of choice. Sunday morning was rainy with some lightning in the distance and very heavy fog so very few boats made it out. Only one boat was interviewed in the morning and all three on board caught one fish (two coho, one chinook). One other boat with four anglers was interviewed just after noon and had no catches. Most were staying in 40-50 feet of water all weekend.
Ozaukee County - The weather was very hot this week and there was heavy fog on the lakeshore all weekend. Anglers reported great success catching coho and chinook all week on the north pier. It slowed down a little bit on Friday, but there were still some coho caught and a couple of chinook. Saturday was about the same with mostly coho being caught and a few chinook. Sunday morning had more chinook caught at the end of the pier by the lighthouse. Alewives remain the bait choice. Anglers in Coal Dock park had good success catching brown trout and a few carp by the discharge this weekend. Both alewives and spawn sacs were being used. One coho was caught further out on the walkway in the park. The weather and thick fog made for low boating pressure for most the weekend. The few boats that were out stayed in about 40-50 feet of water and success seemed to be hit or miss.
Milwaukee County - A heat advisory with day time temperatures in the 80s and 90s and humidity at 60-80 percent made fishing a challenge this past weekend for Milwaukee area shore anglers. Large schools of alewives were seen on the lake side of McKinley Pier with the largest numbers seen around sunrise. The surface water temperature on the lake side of the pier was 50-58 degrees during the week. Nice catches of coho, kings and a few rainbows and browns continue to be caught on the pier by anglers fishing with alewives. Kastmasters, white gulp and glow-in-the-dark spoons have also produced. Most of the fish were landed during the early morning and late evening bite. Large schools of alewives were stacked up against the harbor wall behind Summerfest and by Veterans Park. Fishing pressure on the shoreline was low but a few coho and brown trout (up to 15 pounds) were landed during the week by anglers fishing with alewives, spoons and Kastmasters. Nice catches of brown trout were landed under the Hoan Bridge by anglers fishing with fathead minnows under slip bobbers, Kastmasters and cleos. Nice catches of coho and a few kings were landed on the Grant Park shoreline by anglers fishing with alewives and by anglers casting spoons and Kastmasters. A few nice size perch were landed by anglers fishing with fathead minnows under slip bobbers and with jigs tipped with plastic. The water along South Metro pier was crystal clear during the week. Nice size coho salmon were seen following schools of alewives in front of the pier. A few coho were landed on the pier by anglers casting spoons and Kastmasters. Anglers on the Oak Creek Power Plant pier continue to land coho, kings, rainbows and a few freshwater drum. The McKinley Marina parking lot was completely filled with boat trailers by 4:30 a.m. on Saturday morning (July 24). Boats out of McKinley continue to land kings and coho with spoons and j-plugs in 35-50 feet of water from Bradford Beach to the TV towers at Capitol Drive. An increasing number of boats reported good luck landing chinook salmon while jigging white gulp and blade baits in the gaps. Boats out of South Shore reported good luck trolling spoons and j-plugs in 40-60 feet of water north of the McKinley harbor. Boats out of Bender Park targeted kings and coho in 35-50 feet of water in front of the Oak Creek Power Plant and in front of the Oak Creek by Grant Park.
Racine County - Racine trollers are catching mostly coho and king salmon, with some brown trout, lake trout and steelhead being caught as well. Most anglers reported fishing between 25-60 feet of water. Most fish are being caught on spoons, one boater said red/cracked ice worked the best and some fish are being caught on a flasher/fly combination. A few boaters have said that the little boy blue fly has been catching a lot of king salmon. No boats fishing for perch were interviewed. Boaters reported hitting pockets of cold water and warm water, with the temperatures at the surface ranging from 50-58 degrees. Shore anglers in Racine are catching a lot of coho and even a few king salmon from the piers, with some even taking their limit. Most fish are caught on live alewives on bottom rigs or bobbers. A few anglers have had success with dead alewives, spoons, and crankbaits. Anglers reported catching most of their fish in the morning hours. No perch were reported caught by anglers. The water temperature at the surface was 50 degrees.
Kenosha County - Kenosha area boaters are catching cohos, kings, and steelhead. A few brown trout and lake trout have been caught as well. Most boaters reported fishing from 25-60feet of water, with most of their fish hitting in 25-35feet of water. They reported running their lures in the top 20 feet, and caught most of their fish on spoons and a little boy blue fly with a flasher or dodger. No boats fishing for perch were interviewed. The water temperature at the surface ranged from 50-56 degrees. Shore anglers in Kenosha are catching some brown trout and very few perch from the piers. The brown trout have been caught on spoons, jerkbaits and tube jigs. The perch were caught on live minnows or plastic jigs. In the harbor anglers have been catching brown trout on spoons, jigging spoons, tube jigs, jerkbaits, live alewives and spinners. No lures seem to catch more browns than the other, but most of the fish caught were hooked in the early morning or late evening hours. The water temperature ranged from 50-56 degrees.
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - The public is reporting numerous sightings of sphinx moths. Some sphinx moths are nocturnal; some are diurnal. Sphinx moths that forage during the day are often seen hovering at flowers in the act of gathering nectar with their long proboscis and may be mistaken for hummingbirds or bumblebees. All sphinx moths are fast, powerful fliers. A short horn typically adorns the posterior end of their caterpillars and they are known as hornworms. Instead of spinning cocoons, most sphinx moth caterpillars pupate in underground earthen burrows or cells. One of the most common species of sphinx moths in southwestern Wisconsin is the white-lined sphinx, a beautiful, large, stout-bodied moth with a furry brown body crossed by six white stripes. It has long, narrow, triangular forewings and shorter hindwings, with a wingspan of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Each dark olive brown-colored forewing has a broad tan band going from the base to the tip of the wing, crossed by a series of thin white stripes along the wing veins. The black hindwings are bright reddish-pink in the middle. Watch for these and other species of sphinx moths as summer begins to wane. Red raspberries are now at or just past their peak. Blackcaps are mostly dried up, but blackberries will probably be ready in about a week or so. Wild flowers currently blooming in Vernon County include culver's root, bee balm or bergamot, hemlock, water-parsnip, compass plant and black-eyed susan. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist
Black River Falls DNR Service Center area
Black River State Forest - This weekend looks like a great time to visit the state forest. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 70s to low 80s with little to no chance of rain. Hike up Castle Mound to the scenic overlook, spend the day at Pigeon Creek beach or just take a relaxing drive through the forest. Campsites are available at the East Fork and Pigeon Creek campgrounds. ATV trails were being groomed July 27 and should be in good condition for this weekend. Trails may be wet or muddy in areas due to recent rain. Please remember to stay on the trail. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - Very few mosquitos but the biting flies are out. The beach is a great place to cool off and escape the bugs. There has been some algae blowing around the lake with the lake being busier. Canoes and kayaks are available to rent during open office hours. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - The 2016 photo contest has started. Summer is a great time for photos! Check out drop in programs on Wednesdays and naturalist programs on Saturdays. - Heather Wolf, park manager