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Outdoor ReportPublished January 26, 2017

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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).

A mid-week snowstorm dropped from 2 to 6 inches of snow, mostly across southwestern and central Wisconsin, with only dusting reported in the northern and southeastern portions of the state.

The snow was wet and heavy and is expected to pack down and not greatly improve snowmobile conditions. As of Thursday fewer than a dozen counties in northern and northeastern Wisconsin were reporting trails open on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), with conditions ranging from poor to good.

The snow did improve cross-country ski conditions in some areas, with properties in western to central Wisconsin able to groom trails, but generally not able to set tracks. The snow was timely for the Red Cedar River State Trail, which will hold its candlelight event this Friday, with a 1-mile ski or hike out to the illuminated ice wall along the trail. The trail was packed for skiing or hiking.

Parking vouchers are needed for a candlelight hike at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and are going fast.
Parking vouchers are needed for a candlelight hike at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest and are going fast.
Photo Credit: Perren Photography Studio

Parking vouchers were going fast this week for a candlelight event at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest on Saturday, which is being limited to 450 vehicles. The free parking vouchers must be picked up at the forest office prior to the event. Additional candlelight events will be held this Saturday at the Black River State Forest, Hartman Creek State Park and Stower Seven Lakes State Trail. Events were cancelled due to poor trail conditions at Whitefish Dunes State Park and Point Beach State Forest. For a complete list of candlelight events, search the DNR website for keyword "candlelight."

Ice conditions deteriorated across the state after last week's warm temperatures and rain, with reports of ice angles and vehicles going through the ice at various locations. The colder weather may start to firm up ice again, but currently conditions remain treacherous on many waters.

There have still been some folks out fishing on northern lakes, with reports of some walleyes, crappies, perch and northern pike.

On Green Bay anglers reported cracks, many of them large and miles long, so people need to know local ice conditions before heading out. The ice breaker and ships were out in full force this past week to get the last of the ships into Sturgeon Bay before ice breaking concludes for the year.

The Menominee River has been producing walleye, crappie, whitefish and a few perch. Anglers were having some success catching whitefish around the mouth of the Oconto River and pike anglers were having success off the Oconto Breakwater. Anglers were out by the dozens last weekend off Door County, with some reporting good catches and others not the best of luck. Anglers out for whitefish reported a pretty steady bite all week and the perch anglers reported off and on success.

A heavy crust of ice has formed on top of the snow in many northern areas, making it difficult for even deer to maneuver through it. Bucks are being seen with either one antler missing or both having been shed and some people are taking advantage of low snow conditions to go shed hunting. This weekend is the last chance for squirrel and grouse hunters as those seasons close January 31.

The past week's warmth kicked many resident bird species, including cardinals, chickadees, titmice and woodpeckers, into song as if spring were approaching. Sightings of American robins and eastern bluebirds have been more frequent across the state this winter, likely due to reduced snow cover and extensive fruit resources. Great horned owls, the state's earliest nesting species, are getting ready to lay eggs


Statewide Birding Report

It's been a relatively quiet winter in the bird world across Wisconsin this year. In general, birds are more dispersed across the landscape when the temperatures are above average, snow cover is lacking, and more water bodies are open than usual. Feeder watchers have noted low numbers of visitors, though purple finches, American goldfinches, and other regulars have persisted in some locations. Warm wet weather can lead to moldy seed and outbreaks of salmonella so be sure to clean your feeders regularly with a ten percent bleach solution. The past week's warmth also kicked many resident species into song as if spring were approaching, especially in southern Wisconsin, including cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and drumming woodpeckers. Sightings of American robins and eastern bluebirds have been more frequent across the state this winter, likely due to reduced snow cover and extensive fruit resources. Great horned owls, the state's earliest nesting species, are dueting, copulating, and getting ready to lay eggs. Check soon for incubating females on old hawk or crow nests and occasionally at tree snags or more open cavities. Speaking of owls, a few snowy owls continue on winter territories in open or shoreline habitats. Get the latest update on numbers and hotspots on the snowy owl page of the DNR website devoted to these beloved birds. Eagle watching events continue through early March, including this weekend along the Fox River. Did you know that in Wisconsin alone more than 4,000 birders reported nearly 1.5 million bird observations to the popular eBird website in 2016? Be sure to check out this fantastic review (exit DNR) of Wisconsin's 2016 birding highlights and statistics. Rare birds were few this week, including a harlequin duck in Milwaukee, great white-fronted goose in Manitowoc, and a freshly-killed American woodcock in Milwaukee. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland


Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

January 27, 9 a.m.-noon Help restore Hogback Prairie SNA. The hogback is known for its striking geology, dry prairie, rare plants, and rare animals. Due to efforts by DNR crews in recent years the site quality is improving and the prairie is expanding. However, invasive brush remains a threat and more hands are needed to remove it and encourage native plants to thrive. DNR crews will be working for two weeks here and welcome volunteer help during that time. The work requires energy and may be on steep terrain. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Join us for a picnic lunch afterwards!

January 28, 9 a.m.-noon. Help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "fourth Saturdays" winter volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.

January 28, 9 a.m.-noon. Get outside and help restore the Stauffacher unit! Help cut and pile brush, and enjoy the beauty of this savanna and remnant prairie in the process. Lack of fire has allowed mesic tree species and brush to encroach on prairie and savanna here. Cut remaining brush and trees to encourage native prairie plants to fill in. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Stauffacher Unit of Muralt Bluff State Natural Area. From Albany take Highway 59 west about 3 miles to a small parking lot on the right across from Towns Road.

Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane


Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - Half of the skate lanes at the After Hours Ski Trail were groomed Wednesday, the rest will be groomed Thursday. Conditions are very icy near the trailhead, but much better farther out. Base is still about 4 inches with about 8 inches in the woods. Classic tracks were not reset and are in fair condition (icy). We may not be able to reset until we receive more snow. - Dan Kephart, property manager

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - All outdoor activities are slowing down. Snowmobile trails are either covered in slush and ice or have areas that have been exposed to the ground. The local sports shops called booked snowmobile renters and urged snowmobilers not to come up last weekend. Trails have not been groomed since the thaw. Some ice shacks are causing concern as they melt into the ice. Fishing has slowed down but there are still people fishing the flowage in tall rubber boots and even waders. It has been snowing on and off Wednesday and Thursday with no accumulation. Dog hunting of any sort has become difficult once again due to top crust on the snow. Even deer are walking with caution as they maneuver through it. I can't imagine how the grouse, turkey and subnivean mammals are faring these conditions. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Amnicon Falls State Park - We didn't get any snow up here in Douglas County. Hiking conditions are very good. Some people are taking advantage of the low snow conditions to go shed hunting. Multiple bucks have been seen with either one antler missing, or both have been shed. Discover Wisconsin television show will be having an episode on Wisconsin State Parks on February 4. Several state parks will be shown, including Pattison and Amnicon Falls. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Pattison State Park - The ski trail at Pattison is icy and/or crystalized snow. The Friends of Pattison and Amnicon Falls State Parks will be hosting a candlelight hike/ski on March 11 at Pattison State Park. More information will be given in weeks to come. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail will be groomed Friday weather permitting. Call ahead for conditions. (715-332-5271 ext.101 or 111). The Snowmobile Trail is slushy and rough. The snow in the forecast will be a bonus. Connors Lake and Lake of the Pines have about 13 inches of ice. There has been some folks out on both lakes fishing and they have caught some walleyes, crappies and northern pike on Connors and lots of crappies on Lake of the Pines. Mason and Evergreen Lakes are being fished for crappie, walleye and perch. There will be a New Moon on Friday Jan. 27. Logging operations on the forest are going cautiously ahead and looking forward to the cold temperatures in the forecast. There is 7 to 8 inches of snow in the woods. The deer and elk are conserving their energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. Four bull elk were viewed by loggers in a forest logging operation. It was a thrill for them to see those majestic bulls. The deer have begun dropping their antlers. The great horned owls are readying for nesting. Typically there are young in the nests by early March. The weather forecast for this week indicates snow likely Wednesday, a chance on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The temperatures getting colder in the 20s for highs and 10-16 for the lows. Sunday will be sunny with high near 20 and low around 6. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Interstate Park - The recent warm weather has significantly reduced the snow cover here in the park. The Skyline cross-country ski trail is in poor condition with ice and little snow in some areas of the trail. When a significant snow fall occurs, the trail will be groomed again. For all the other trails, expect anywhere from snow to ice to bare ground. All of the trails in the bluff area are not maintained for winter use. Please use caution if you use these trails. Nuthatches, chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers, along with squirrels, have all been seen around the Ice Age Center birdfeeders along with this barred owl. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The State forest only got a dusting of snow, so trails are hard and icy. Outdoor enthusiasts need to be aware of changing ice and snow conditions as they venture out skiing, snowshoeing and fishing. More normal temperatures are predicted for the weekend leaving a new crust on the settled snow! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

The warmer weather has left the trails with a very moist base of snow. The cooler temps that are here now may improve the conditions. I attempted to groom the Raven trail Wednesday and ended up getting stuck on the first hill on the Red loop with snow packing up in the groomer. I then made an attempt to just track the inner loops without cutting up the old track and the results were not very good. The groomer for the Escanaba trail was out Thursday to see what he can do with the snow conditions out there. We will make efforts to get the trails groomed for the weekend. Please have patience. - Tony Martinez, trails coordinator

Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center

Florence and Forest counties - Snowmobile and ski trails are open, and are considered in poor-to-good condition, trails may be icy. Lakes in Florence County have a thick slush layer on top of the ice but lakes are generally in fishable condition, navigation may be tough. - Gregory Matzke, fisheries biologist, Florence


Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

This report is for the week of January 15-21. After this week's warm temperatures and rain, remember to use caution when taking to the ice. The ice breaker and ships were out in full force this past week to get the last of the ships into Sturgeon Bay before the ice breaking concluded for the year. At least two more ships were brought in to Sturgeon Bay this last week, so the ice may be moving and shifting from the impact of the increased use of the canal in the last few days. Also, many guides and anglers have reported cracks, many of them large and many miles long, so know the local ice conditions before heading out. By Sunday the guides in the Sawyer Harbor area had brought their shacks to shore and off the ice.

Marinette County - A few pike are being caught north of the mouth of the Peshtigo River on tip ups using shiner minnows and smelt. There has been no activity out of the Little River Boat Landing. Angling pressure on the Menominee River has been mainly at 6th Street Slip, and the slough at Harbor Town Marina. 6th Street Slip has been producing a variety of fish including walleye, crappie, white fish, and a few perch. jigging with wax worms or minnows has worked the best. Panfish are being caught at Harbor Town jigging with wax worms and minnows. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Anglers are having some success catching whitefish around the mouth of the Oconto River. Wax worms and minnow heads fished with jigs and Swedish pimples or jigging Raps have been working well. Pike anglers were having success fishing 3 to 9 feet of water from Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park II. Tip ups with large shiner minnows or dead smelt in the round have been the baits of choice. A few perch are being caught in the slips at both the Oconto Breakwater Park and Oconto Park II using jigs and minnows. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Anglers at Lime Kiln and Big Rock Place were out by the dozens last weekend. Many reported good catches but some didn't have the best of luck. Anglers reported decent ice with thicknesses still varying greatly, from 8 to 17 inches of ice reported with lots of slush on top. Carmody Park was busy as usual with anglers in search of perch and whitefish. The anglers out for whitefish reported a pretty steady bite all week and the perch anglers reported off and on success. Many anglers are still parking on shore or near shore and walking or taking an ATV out. Anglers fishing in Sawyer Harbor have reported a steady bite for whitefish all week with some limits reported. Those out for perch experienced a tougher bite but those that stayed at it were rewarded with some decent sized fish to take home. Cabot's Point picked up this weekend for anglers fishing for whitefish and reported a decent bite on the inside of Sawyer Harbor. Those fishing of the point on the bay side reported moving ice with cracks. Very few anglers have been seen fishing off of High Cliff Road and Oak Avenue, where there's still decent ice shoves. No anglers have been seen at Bullhead Point yet this year and a few anglers have been spotted at the Yacht Club in Sturgeon Bay. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Warm weather and some rain has taken a toll on the snow conditions. There is only 5 inches of snow remaining on the ground in the Wausaukee area but farther north in the county there is still over a foot of snow in the woods. The lakes are very sloppy with lots of slush and water on the surface of nearly a foot of ice. Fishing has been slow with only a few fish being caught. This weekend is the last chance for squirrel and grouse hunters as those seasons close January 31. There are still some open hunting seasons, including: cottontail, snowshoe, coyote, crow, and raccoon. Trails are still being groomed in some areas of the county, but are diminishing in quality. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Potawatomi State Park - After the January meltdown, not enough snow fell this past week to improve the condition of the ski trails. The base is intact, but more snow is needed to groom the trails. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Caution should be used when recreating on the Wolf River. There are several areas that have open water. Anglers have reported good success for panfish on the Manawa Mill Pond. Hiking trails in the Waupaca area are still a bit icy, but snow depth has decreased to about 5 inch, allowing hiking opportunities to people who do not have skis or snowshoes. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waushara County - The snow is back. A good 3-5 inches of wet and heavy snow is blanketing the trees and making the ground look like winter again. The snowmobile trails are still closed at this time, but will be groomed later this week in hopes of at least some of them opening again. CHECK BEFORE YOU GO! Snowmobile trespass is a fineable offense and can also lead to sections of the trails being closed. Please respect the landowners who allow everyone the opportunity to operate on their property. The snow has also covered the lakes making it difficult to tell where some of the cracks or weak spots are so also use extreme caution and check with the local bait shops for the most recent ice reports. The ski trails in Waushara County should be groomed this week and with how wet and heavy this snow is they should be in pretty good shape come this weekend. With the unpredictable weather and conditions always be sure to check locally before going. This will keep you safe and keep you out of trouble if trails are not open! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about an inch of new snow Wednesday night. Not enough to make the regular trails skiable, but enough to freshen up the 1.5 K man-made loop. Lights will be on the man-made until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Parking vouchers are needed to attend the candlelight hike being held this Saturday by the Friends of Lapham Peak. As of Wednesday, only 100 of the available 450 vouchers remained and they were expected to be gone by Thursday. The hike will be held from 6 to 8:45 at the Homestead Hollow area, with a bonfire outside and treats available from the Friends of Lapham Peak for a donation inside the Trecker Lodge. Due to a lack of snow, the event will only be held as a hike. In addition, conditions have recently been icy so hikers are encouraged to wear proper footwear, including some type of crampon. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - As of noon on Wednesday Jan. 25, the forest received about 3 inches of new snow on the ground from Winter Storm Leo, with another 6 or more inches expected. The ski trails have re-opened, although due to warm temperatures and mushy base, grooming may not begin until Thursday or Friday morning. Starting Thursday evening, temps return to near normal in the 20s, perhaps setting us up for another nice ski weekend. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

The Zillmer trail received about 7 inches of wet heavy snow this week. It is still very warm for temps but is expected to get colder. Groomers plan to wait and groom Friday morning to let the cold temps move in. Should be good for the weekend. - Reagan Arndt, ranger


South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Due to all the recent rain and temperatures well above freezing has caused a lot of spring runoff in January and has brought water levels in Park Lake to flood stage. The dam was opened to alleviate the added stress; however, this will cause problems downstream in the Fox River system. Swan Lake has already come up a lot and there are open water stretches around the shoreline on the lake. Most everyone had removed their ice fishing shelters. I would be very cautious about going out on the lake as the increased water flow will erode the underside of the ice rapidly especially on the east end of the lake. We received a wet heavy snow on top of it. Use extreme caution going out on any ice in Columbia County. If you do, wear a PFD, have ice picks available, take a friend, and spread your weight out. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

Mirror Lake State Park -With the recent snowfall, the snowshoe hiking trails (Sandstone, Lakeview, Echo Rock and Wildrice trails) are snow-covered and ready for hiking. Cross-country ski trails are open for skiing. Hiking/snowshoeing are not permitted on these three trails. Skiing conditions are fair to poor and wet. The park received about 6 inches of WET heavy snow. Groomers are out working on the trails and with the colder night temperatures coming, look to the weekend for better skiing conditions. As of noon Thursday Jan. 26, Fern Dell, Turtleville, Kilbourn and Newport trails have been groomed but no tracks have been set yet. - Becky Green, park manager

Lake Kegonsa State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in fair to poor condition. The park received approximately 3.5 inches of slushy snow on Wednesday, Jan. 25. The bottom layer is slushy and icy. Snow depth in the wooded areas is 2 inches or less. Trails are not groomed or tracked. - Sarah Bolser, park manager


West Central Region

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The Black River area received 2-4 inches of wet heavy snow earlier this week. Cross-country ski trails were being packed Thursday, Jan. 26. Stop by the Smrekar warming shelter this Saturday, January 28 from 6-9 p.m. for our annual candlelight ski, hike, and snowshoe event. Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s this weekend with a slight chance of snow on Sunday. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - The area received about 3 inches of snow Wednesday to Thursday. The ski trail deck was tracked, but there was not enough snow to set tracks. Conditions should be fair for skate skiing. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The trail received about 3 inches of snow Wednesday to Thursday. The trail was packed but no tracks were set. It should be in good condition for the Friday night candlelight event. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

A candlelight ski and hike Friday night at the Red Cedar State Trail includes an illumniated ice wall.
A candlelight ski and hike Friday night at the Red Cedar State Trail includes an illumniated ice wall.
Photo Credit: Adam Dorn

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Trails will be regroomed when we have enough snow. Snow is forecasted for Tuesday through Wednesday and roads/lots will be plowed before grooming. We are taking applications for the handicapped accessible cabin. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Last Revised: Thursday, January 26, 2017

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