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Outdoor ReportPublished December 22, 2016

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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).

[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: there will be no DNR Outdoor Report on Dec. 29. The next Outdoor Report will be January 5, 2017.]

Winter conditions continue to vary across the state after last weekend's snowfall. Projections are for a couple inches this weekend, which will bring several more areas to levels at which trail grooming can occur.

As of Thursday, there were more than a dozen counties with open snowmobile trails on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), mostly in the north central and northeast part of the state but with some central and southern counties also open. Cross-country ski conditions are generally fair to good at most state parks and forests that have been able to groom trails. Some of the best conditions were in central Wisconsin but trails are groomed from the far north forests to the Kettle Moraine in the south.

Several areas of the state are reporting early ice anglers out, but ice conditions vary greatly from area to area. Many lakes had just begun freezing when snow fell last weekend, so many lakes have only a thin layer of ice, and snow cover and warmer temperatures are now hindering ice production. Ice anglers were out on Monona Bay in Madison and up to 5 inches of ice was reported on some Marinette County lakes. The Milwaukee marina and the Summerfest Lagoon are both locked up in ice and a few anglers were targeting and catching a few brown trout and steelhead. Open water anglers were still targeting brown trout and burbot at Port Washington.

Wild turkey hunters have been reporting recent good success. Since there was a widespread hard mast failure this year across southwestern Wisconsin, wild turkeys are concentrating their feeding efforts in open areas, seeking waste grains, weed seeds, and greens. The fall season is open through Dec. 31.

A reminder that the archery and crossbow deer seasons continue until Jan. 8 and there is an antlerless-only holiday hunt that will be held in 13 counties Dec. 24 to Jan. 1. Any legal firearm, crossbow or archery equipment may be used during these hunts. Hunters may fill any unused antlerless tags in their proper deer management zone, county and land type. Any unit where the holiday hunt is not offered will be open for archery and crossbow hunting, and bucks may be taken.

Bird feeders have been busy with dark-eyed juncos, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches and many woodpeckers. With the deeper snow in the north grouse are snow roosting. The snow protects them from the frigid temps and predators and at dawn and dusk they feed on aspen buds on mature aspen trees. As lakes freeze up eagles have also been more visible recently as they search out other sources of food. Road killed animals often attract hungry eagles, who are slow to take off and require a bit more space, so if you see an eagle feeding on the side of the road please slow down and give them time to take off.

On January 1, 12 state park system properties will be conducting First Day Hikes, many with other activities such as hot beverages and other refreshments. For a complete list of these and other activities search the DNR website for "get outdoors."


Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - We survived several days of frigid weather and now are enjoying more moderate temperatures. The snow that was forecast for the past weekend only amounted to 4-5 inches of fluffy stuff. More snow, as well as freezing rain is forecast for this weekend. After the snow last weekend, the trails were groomed and in good condition. We'll have to wait and see what the next storm system brings for snow. Archery deer season remains open until January 8th! - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Straight Lake State Park - There are about 5-6 inches of snow on the ground, so at this point there is not really a need for snowshoes yet if you are walking on the Ice Age Trail. Both Rainbow and Straight Lakes are frozen over, and some anglers have been fishing on Rainbow Lake. The park does not monitor ice conditions. Please use caution if you decide to walk on the frozen lakes. Winter is a great time to see tracks of the many different animals that live in the park. Tracks you can see often include deer, rabbit, squirrel, fisher, and even otter. The park is open for any archery season until Jan. 8, 2017. Most of the major construction has either been completed or is stopped until warmer weather returns in spring. Some construction is still ongoing, such as the storage building, shelter, and fishing platform. Please stay out of these areas. In addition, some facilities, such as the vault toilets, have been installed but are not yet ready for public use. Access to the new parking lot park off the intersection of 120th St and 270th Ave will be open this winter for anyone wishing to use the park. Feel free to look at what has been completed so far, but remember that completion will not take place until spring. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail has been packed several times in preparation for setting track for skating and traditional skiing. There is at least a 3-inch base over most of the trail. The trail was groomed Dec. 19 but the trail is rough. The trail has been opened and there are some hardy folks out there using it in the subzero temps. This weekend temps should be appreciably better for the holiday. Call ahead for conditions. (715-332-5271 ext.101 or 111). The Snowmobile Trail has been rolled and packed. The wet areas are still not completely frozen. Use caution if you're out. With subzero temperatures and the accumulation of inches of snow, winter is truly here. There is no frost because of the snow depth and about 10 inches of snow in the woods. There is a light layer of ice on the lakes. The deer and elk are conserving their energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. They really like the occasional clear cut aspen areas. In the sub-zero temperatures the deer and elk are found under the conifer canopy and their activities are reduced. Juncos, snow buntings, woodpeckers, blue jays, crows and eagles are eating seeds, insects under the tree bark or carrion along the roadsides. The grouse are snow roosting with the depth of the snow. The snow protects them from the frigid temps and predators and at dawn and dusk they feed on aspen buds on mature aspen trees. Archery and crossbow deer season is open till Jan. 8. Snow levels allow for very good tracking conditions. Small game season is open till the end of February and ruffed grouse is open till the end of January. There are quite a few logging operations on the Forest right now. We're hoping to get more frost in the ground with the colder temperatures. The weather forecast for this week according indicates a 40 percent chance of snow on Friday with temperatures near 30 degrees. Saturday will be mostly cloudy with a high of 31 and a wintry mix on Christmas Day with a high of 34. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Mother Nature is playing games with us. One minute it looks like the frozen tundra is here to stay and the next minute it is 35 degrees out! No telling what will happen over the Christmas and New Year's Holidays. Most ski trails are groomed, but the conditions are not the greatest. If more snowfall comes, staff will be out grooming as conditions allow. Ice conditions vary from day to day on the area lakes and swamps. Please use caution when venturing out. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

The Escanaba, Madeline, McNaughton and Raven ski trails were groomed Dec. 17. Escanaba has fair to good conditions with still thin areas under pines. Madeline had all loops tracked, with some thin areas with some debris pulled up. Overall good conditions. McNaughton skaters loop was leveled and groomed. All other loops leveled and double tracked. Pulling up some debris under the heavy conifers. Overall good conditions. Raven had all loops tracked. Some areas on the Red and Yellow loops very thin. Fair to good conditions. - Tony Martinez, forest facilities worker


Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Cold temperatures and snow have hit Marinette County. Ice formed quickly on area lakes with reports last week of over 5 inches on some lakes. As always, be extremely cautious when venturing onto any ice! The snow that fell was very dry and fluffy. About 8 inches of snow was on the ground shortly after the snow quit falling, but with a little sunshine and warmer air, the snow has now settled to around 5 inches. Many area ski and snowmobile trails have been prepped (groomed or rolled) but remain closed until a bit more snow falls. This year, for the first time, the ski trails in Peshtigo Harbor Wildlife Area have been groomed and are open for skiing. A few sections of trail were still not frozen enough to travel over with a snowmobile and groomer so those stretches remain un-groomed. Eagles seem more visible now near roads and rivers as lakes freeze they are seeking out other areas with available food. Please be cautious when driving as road killed animals often attract hungry eagles. Eagles are slow to take off (compared to crows) and require a bit more space so if you see an eagle feeding on the side of the road please slow down and give them time to take off. Several hunting seasons are still open including archery deer, squirrel, rabbit, and grouse. New this year in portions of Marinette County (East of 141 and South of 180) is a special Holiday Hunt for antlerless deer. This is an additional firearms season and requires all hunters to wear blaze orange and only antlerless deer may be harvested (including with a bow). - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - With recent snowfalls, Zone 1 of the Brown County snowmobile trails opened on December 18, 2016. Before going out to ride, snowmobilers should review the current snowmobile regulations. Remember to let someone know where you'll be riding, in case of emergencies. You can find more information on current snowmobile trail conditions at: and search "snowmobile trails" or call (920) 448-4466 for 24/7 up-to-date trail information. Stay off lakes and rivers due to thin ice and dress for the weather. Avoid trespassing and stay on the trails. Thanks and have a wonderful holiday. - Ka Yeng Vue, conservation warden, Green Bay

Brown County has a healthy amount of snow on the ground, but the majority of the snowmobiles trails in Brown County are not yet open. Please check the Travel Wisconsin website for the most updated snowmobile trail conditions. Snowmobile operators who are operating near the roadways are reminded that they need to stay off the paved portion of the roadway unless it is a route or they are traveling directly across it. Additionally snowmobilers need to be 10 feet from the roadway on all County or State highways. Ice anglers should go cautiously. The cold snap of last weekend produced some good ice, but current warmer conditions and currents can make this early ice unpredictable. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Green Bay

Manitowoc County - Manitowoc County Snowmobile trails are now closed. The early snowfall opened some of the trails for a brief period of time. It is early yet and we all expect to see more snow. Please check with Manitowoc County before going out onto the trails (920) 758-7669. Ice anglers have started to venture out onto the ice for early season ice fishing. Weyer's Lake now has a new aerator that operates continuously and has three diffusers which will create open water and/or weak ice. All individuals accessing the lake ice should recognize that the conditions are not as they have been in previous years. Please read the warning signs at the public access point for more information. Please use extreme caution while ice fishing on all bodies of water! Point Beach State Forest has been out grooming cross country ski trails and many people are taking advantage of the miles of trails. Reminder to all people using the trails at Point Beach State Forest - hiking, snowshoes, and dogs are not allowed on groomed cross country ski trails. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors! - Alyssa Gove, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - The yellow, orange, red, purple, blue and green trails are all tracked and are in okay to fair skiing condition. Please remember that hikers, pets and snowshoers are NOT allowed on the cross-country ski trails when the trails are snow covered. The Central, South East, and South West Zones of Door County's snowmobile trails are open. The Northern Zone snowmobile trails will open effective at noon, Dec. 22. Door County snowmobile trail conditions can be found at this website - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - With about a foot of new snow on the ground, the ski and snowmobile trails are open in the park. The red and black ski trail loops in the north area of the park are groomed and in very good condition. In the south area of the park, the green loop is in good condition, but the blue loop is in poor condition due to hiking activity on the trail. The snowmobile trail is in fair to poor shape. Above-freezing temperatures are predicted through the upcoming weekend, so trail conditions may deteriorate rapidly. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - About 12 inches of snow fell on Dec. 17. Ski trails are tracked and in good condition. Predicted warmer temperatures for the weekend will impact trail conditions. Ski trails are the Red, Yellow and Green trails. Hiking with snowshoes or boots is allowed on the Black Trail and beach. Hiking is not permitted on ski trails which are groomed by volunteers which takes a lot of time and effort to keep in skiing condition. There have been several sightings of eagles soaring along the beach. With less people on the beach, geese have been grouping up along the shoreline. This past weekend visitors spotted a porcupine on the Red ski trail and also a ruffed grouse on the Black snowshoe trail. The Nature Center during the holiday week is Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and closed December 24, 25, 31, and January 1. The park is open daily 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - We had 9-11 inches of fresh snow, but it is settling rapidly. Some snowmobile trails are open, some not. We had ice on most area lakes before the latest snow. The 7+ inches of snow will hinder ice production but help deer hunting with fresh white backdrop. Some geese still around, but most have departed with the fresh snow. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Many Bald Eagles have been recently seen in the Waupaca area. A good place to look for them is along the Wolf River corridor. Some anglers are just beginning to ice fish on area lakes and even the Wolf River. Caution should be used when going on this early ice. Snowmobiles in Waupaca County have not yet opened. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

High Cliff State Park - Volunteer groomer was able to double track the classic ski trails tonight. They are in good condition. You will encounter some drifting on the east west trails south of the campground. Only a single track was set from the trailhead to the campground due to mechanical difficulties with the groomer. Hoping to get the problem resolved with the groomer before the next substantial snowfall. The skate trail was combed and it very good condition. Linda Guelig, property supervisor


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - All trials have been groomed and the track remains intact. Skate lanes are in excellent condition and the classic tracks are at full depth and in great condition. This is the best early skiing at the Peak in more than five seasons! Grooming generally occurs daily. More comfortable temps are coming so be sure to enjoy before the forecasted rain arrives Sunday! Lights will be on until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Hiking is not allowed on any of the groomed ski trails. Snowmaking will not resume for sometime but the piles of snow will continue be spread over the next few days. We are about a third to half way done. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - All ski trails are open and snow-covered, and were last groomed on Dec 20. Warm temperatures and a continued warm forecast through Christmas will mean heavy, sticky snow and slow going. We're hoping to maintain a base until fresh snow and more seasonal temperatures return. Visitors can check the website for the latest conditions. Hikers and pets are now prohibited from the Greenbush and Zillmer ski trails. Snowmobile trails in the forest and Sheboygan County are closed, and warm temperatures will likely soon close the remainder trails in the area. Riders should remember that snowmobile trail passes are required for riding public trails. Check the website for the latest snowmobile trail status in any county of Wisconsin. Winter storm Decima has brought 7-12 inches of snow to the forest over the last weekend. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Zillmer Ski Trail - All loops were packed, groomed and tracked Dec. 20. Good to very good conditions throughout, but still a little soft. The trail received about 7 inches of snow over the weekend. There is about a 4 inch base; the snow was light and fluffy, so the trails are a little soft. - Reagan Arndt, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - The McMiller Ski Trail was groomed Dec. 20. Tracks were set throughout the system, and even though the snow was still a little soft, they should set up nicely in time. Anne Korman, superintendent

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

Sheboygan County - This year, the marina installed aerators to keep the ice from damaging the docks in the marina and they are no longer allowing access for ice fishing. Due to the aerators, the ice is kept from thickening and becomes very unsafe for walking. It is advised to go to other harbors like Milwaukee or Kewaunee instead from now on.

Ozaukee County - Anglers have been targeting the power plant area for brown trout, with some days being better than others. Anglers typically casting jig and plastic minnows, spoons or crank baits as well as using spawn sacs or golden shiners under a bobber or on a 3-way rig on the bottom for the brown trout during the winter months. The same area has been targeted for burbot when the water is dirty in the harbor. The choice baits for burbot have been baby shad, golden shiners, or fathead minnows all dead, or alive fished on the bottom using a 3-way rig.

Milwaukee County - The marina and the Summerfest Lagoon are both locked up in ice and a few anglers were targeting and catching a few brown trout and steelhead. As of Tuesday, Dec. 20, an angler reported about 6 inches of ice on the south end of the Marina (from K dock through P dock) as well as 6 inches of ice reported on the very south end of the Summerfest Lagoon. There is quite a bit of snow on the ice making it very hard to tell what is safe and what is not. If you do go out, please proceed with caution as the ice conditions can be extremely variable in very short distances. The typical baits of choice are spawn sacs or golden shiners set up under Automatic Fishermen or tip ups, or using a varying assortment of spoons or jigging rapalas while jigging for brown trout or steelhead.

Racine County - The Root River is typically iced up this time of year, but occasionally some areas are accessible for some adventurous steelhead anglers (with a few brown trout around as well). Some of the lower sections are occasionally ice fished by some anglers, but caution is advised as river ice can be extremely variable. The typical bait used in the river during the winter is spawn sacs under a bobber. The harbor is typically heavily targeted by anglers during the winter months and brown trout and steelhead are occasionally caught in the marina. There is no current information on ice conditions. The typical baits of choice are spawn sacs or golden shiners set up under Automatic Fishermen or tip ups, or using a varying assortment of spoons or jigging rapalas while jigging for brown trout or steelhead.

Kenosha County - The harbor is occasionally open water fished during the winter months for brown trout, but this harbor can freeze, and is usually quite unsafe as there are aerators in operation around the docks near the boat launch. Typical baits this time of year are crankbaits, spoons, golden shiners under a bobber and spawn sacs.

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Point Beach State Forest - Cross country ski conditions on the Ridges Trail are very good. The trails were packed and tracks set for classic skiing on Dec. 18. The Ridges Trail has three loops totaling 7.5 miles through pine and hemlock forest. The Red Pine Trail (our only skate ski trail) is only partially groomed due to an active logging operation going on now. Please call for further information (920) 794-7480 - Melanie Kozlowski, visitor services associate


South Central Region

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Weekly Riveway Video Report. The river is frozen at Muscoda. Snow is in the forecast for Friday and rain on Sunday. Upstream the river is running at about normal flow. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Wyalusing State Park -There are approximately 8 miles of ski trails that are groomed and tracked. There are also seven miles of hiking trails. The water is high at the boat landing. The water is on top of the ice. Have had ice anglers and fishing is very slow. There are sites in the Wisconsin Ridge Camp ground for winter camping. The sites are electric and non-electric sites. One site being an electric site on the bluff for the beautiful winter view of the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin River. Visitors have reported the sighting of bald eagles, deer, and pheasant. - Pam Dressler, visitor services associate

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Dane County - Initial results of DNR deer flights suggest good numbers of deer remain in Rock/Dane/Green counties for the later bow seasons. On colder days deer have been moving mid-day to early afternoon. Open water in Dane County is attracting a lot of waterfowl including some very good tundra swan viewing conditions right now. The recent Madison Christmas Bird Count was a success with 84-plus species and good numbers of individuals. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

Mirror Lake State Park -Groomers had been working the trails all weekend. All of the trails have been packed and most have had corduroy set for skate skiing. The snow is still pretty dry and fluffy so we hope the warmer temps coming the next couple of days will bring some moisture to help set the base. - Becky Green, park manager

Lake Kegonsa State Park -The cross-country ski trails were rolled on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 17 and will likely be groomed and tracked on Sunday, Dec. 18. - Sarah Bolser, park manager


West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Willow River State Park - Wildlife has been abundant. Pheasants, deer and waterfowl can be seen throughout the park. There are many swans and other waterfowl that winter in the open waters of the Willow River. Little Falls Lake has been drawn down due to safety issues with the previous dam. The river will continue to flow through the lake bed, however, the water is no longer impounded to create the lake. The dam has been approved to be replaced, but this is a significant project that is expected to last several years. For more information, see the Little Falls Dam web page. Ski Trails are open and are designated for skiing only. Please no pets on ski trails. There are approximately 5 miles of hiking/snow-shoeing trails also available in the winter. The hiking/snow-shoeing trails are also open for pets on leash. All firearms hunting in the park is now closed. Archery hunting will be open in the park until Jan. 8. - Aaron Mason, property supervisor

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Wild turkey hunters have been reporting recent good success. Since there was a widespread hard mast failure this year across southwestern WI, wild turkeys are concentrating their feeding efforts in open areas, seeking waste grains, weed seeds, and greens. Unpicked corn fields and manure-spread fields are areas receiving heavy wild turkey feeding activity. As opportunistic feeders, wild turkeys will rapidly shift and adjust their feeding behaviors to match prevailing food availability. Successful fall wild turkey hunters are able to adapt their hunting strategies to match turkey feeding behaviors. The 2016 fall wild turkey hunting season is open through Dec. 31. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Wildcat Mountain State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked on Sunday, Dec. 18, and are in very good condition. There are about 6 miles of ski trails at Wildcat Mountain. The classic ski trail was Parking for skiers and snowshoers is located at the visitor center and near the shower building. Hiking and snowshoeing trails may be snow-covered, icy and slippery during the winter season. Snowshoeing is allowed on the path to the Observation Point, but not on trails marked for skiing. Please remember that hikers, pets, and snowshoers are NOT allowed on the cross-country ski trails when the trails are snow covered.

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The Black River Falls area received another 4-6 inches of snow this past weekend. Ski trails were packed and tracked on Monday Dec. 19. Some areas still have a thin base (down hills and pine stand areas); otherwise they are in good condition. Temperatures are expected to be warmer this week with highs in the high-20s to low-30s. Mark your calendars for Saturday Jan. 28. The Black River Forest Trail Foundation will be holding their annual Candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe event from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Smrekar warming shelter. Food and refreshments will be available as well as a raffle with great prizes. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Chippewa Moraine Ice Age State Recreation Area - - Winter has arrived with about 7 inches of snow in the woods. We have snowshoes, maps and binoculars that you can borrow at no cost for an exciting adventure. Otter tracks have been spotted among the numerous animal signs that you will find in the reserve. The bird feeders at the Interpretive Center are busy with dark-eyed juncos, goldfinches, chickadees, nuthatches and many woodpeckers. The red squirrels are still around to clean up around the base of the feeders. The lakes are frozen, but use caution because the snow came just as the ice was forming. - Brenda Rederer, natural resources educator

Lake Wissota State Park - The cross-country ski trails have been groomed and are in fair condition with a thin base. Volunteer trail groomers post conditions on the website, or call the park office at 715-382-4574 for current trail conditions. The park has a new multi-use winter trail system that is groomed and designated for all silent sport activities. This provides lots of parking options and great trails for our snowshoeing, hiking, fat biking, skijoring and sled pulling folks! Check out the new winter maps available at the park shop and at the trailheads.- Dave Hladilek, park manager

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Adams County - Snowmobile trails remain closed but are set to open soon. Folks must call the Adams County Parks Department for current openings and conditions. - Wade Romberg, conservation warden, Friendship

Last Revised: Thursday, December 22, 2016

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