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Outdoor Report

Published February 2, 2017 by the Central Office

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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).

Snowfalls ranging from 3 to 6-plus inches that fell in the last week continued to improve snowmobile and ski trail conditions. Snowmobile trails are now open and in fair to excellent condition in about the northern quarter of the state, and partially open with fair condition in many central Wisconsin counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

View of Lake Superior from the Brule River State Forest
View of Lake Superior from the Brule River State Forest
Photo Credit: DNR

Many state park and forest properties were able to re-groom cross-country ski trails and in many areas set tracks for diagonal stride skiing, with conditions good to excellent in many locations. That's good news for the 10 candlelight events that will be held this weekend at state park properties across the state. In the Northwoods there is a hard crust under the snow, so outdoor enthusiasts can go just about anywhere with little need for snowshoes.

Ice conditions on northern lakes are good, but vary depending on the water body. Travel has improved with the thaw and then re-freeze of the snow and water on top of the ice from the warm spell and there are now fewer slush spots. While in the south, the previous mild temperatures have still caused some lakes to have open water in spots.

Anglers are catching panfish on northern lakes but are having to move frequently to find active fish. Walleye have been slow with the morning and evening bite the best.

Ice conditions along the east shore of Lake Winnebago are firming up with the recent cold snap. Ice shoves are creating some access issues and fishing clubs have been busy moving bridges and creating new tree lines in recent days. White bass were being caught in large numbers for anglers willing to move and follow the fish. The cold weather and snow cover is a welcome sight for people gearing up for the upcoming Sturgeon Season, potentially maintaining water clarity and improving travel conditions on the ice.

Anglers were having success catching whitefish, perch and walleye on the Fox River at Voyageur Park. On Green Bay, anglers fishing at Long Tail report catching good numbers of perch. Anglers continued to fill the Little Sturgeon area ramps, with the majority of them reporting high catch rates with whitefish continuing to dominate the catch and many anglers were able to catch bag limits in just a few hours. Anglers off Potawatomi Park were having success with perch. Reports of multiple large cracks just outside the park are keeping anglers vigilant when traveling out into the bay.

Most bucks have now dropped their antlers, but a few are still holding onto one side or another. Coyotes are now primarily running in pairs as the mating season is about at hand and numerous red foxes that have been seen during daytime. The fresh snow has acted like a fresh painter's pallet making it a great time of the year to head out and look for fresh tracks of ruffed grouse, turkeys, deer, coyote, fox, fisher, weasel, bobcat and wolves.

Cottontail rabbit hunting season remains open through Tuesday, Feb. 28. With the return of a cold and snowy landscape, rabbit hunting conditions are ideal, and rabbit hunters are taking advantage of these conditions.

Northern shrike, rough-legged hawk, and American kestrel and other raptors such as red-tailed and Cooper's hawks have been dominating the bird scene. Southern birders noted the first uptick in numbers of the earliest "spring" migrant, the horned lark. And bald eagles are starting to tend nests in preparation for breeding season. A good diversity of waterfowl are being seen where open water remains, including common goldeneye, all three merganser species, scaup, redheads, mallards, and above-average numbers of northern pintail.

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Statewide Birding Report

Birding remains relatively slow across much of the state. Southern birders noted the first uptick in numbers of our earliest "spring" migrant, the horned lark. Check open fields and roadside edges for this seed-eater, along with the similar-behaving Lapland longspur and occasional snow bunting. All can be found in relatively large flocks of hundreds of birds, especially when concentrated to open ground by snow cover. Also check open or shrubby habitats for northern shrike, rough-legged hawk, and American kestrel. Other raptors dominating the bird scene right now are red-tailed hawks, Cooper's hawks, and bald eagles, including some eagles starting to tend nests in preparation for breeding season. Snowy owls remain relatively scarce compared to previous years. Eager to see one? Join a DNR biologist this Saturday for a field trip in Outagamie County (exit DNR) to visit areas with recent sightings of these impressive Arctic visitors. Elsewhere, a good diversity of waterfowl are being seen where open water remains, including common goldeneye, all three merganser species, scaup, redheads, mallards, above-average numbers of northern pintail, and a Ross's goose in Milwaukee. Fruit trees are hosting American robins statewide, cedar waxwings in the south, and bohemian waxwings in the north. Some of the sparrows noted in the south include white-throated, white-crowned, song, and American tree sparrow. Spring migration is not far away for some species, beginning more earnestly near the end of the month in all but the harshest winters. Help us monitor their progress by reporting your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Get outside and cut and burn up buckthorn at Whitewater Oak Opening SNA. Help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday. Protect some majestic oaks in the process. Buckthorn can spread and shade out savanna plants at this site. We will have fires going if there is snow. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Brule River State Forest - As we start February, the days are getting noticeably longer. The return to colder temperatures, after the extended January thaw, and some additional snow have made it seem like winter again. The 3-4 inches of snow that fell on Sunday helped the trail conditions tremendously. It is still icy at the trailhead, but the trails were groomed earlier this week and ski conditions are very good. The Brule Valley Ski Club is hosting a Learn to Ski event on Saturday. Check the Brule Valley Ski Club's calendar for details on signing up. Next weekend is the Candlelight Ski Event. Dedication of the new warming shelter will be held in conjunction with this event on Feb. 11. It looks as if "normal" February temperatures and some light snow are in the forecast for the coming week. These winter days are perfect for getting outdoors to enjoy the beauty of the area in which we live. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Hayward DNR Service Center area

Sawyer County - Snowmobile trails are in good condition after receiving 6-plus inches of snow during the week. Most are groomed and not receiving much for traffic at this time. Riders are reminded to follow all posted signs and that the night time speed limit is 55 mph. Ice conditions on area lakes are good, but vary depending on lake, current, etc. Travel is really good due to the thaw and then re-freeze of the snow and water on top during the warm spell. There are very few slush spots on the lakes. Use caution when going on the ice and check it as you go. Individuals catching panfish are having to move frequently to find active fish. Plastics are good for locating active fish and then live bait will get the finicky fish to bite. Individuals are reminded that a number of lakes in Sawyer County have the new panfish bag limit regulations and to check before fishing. Individuals are doing well on Lake Chetac, Chippewa Flowage and Blueberry Lake. Walleye have been slow with the morning and evening bite the best. Few individuals fishing after dark are hitting some spurts of activity as well. Most seem to have vacated the shallows and are now concentrating on deeper rock bars and weed edges. Anglers are reminded that walleye fishing on the Chippewa Flowage is prohibited during the winter. The season starts with the May opener and runs to November 30 every year. Anglers are getting walleye on Lake Chetac, Mason Lake and Conner's Lake. Those feeding deer in Sawyer County are noticing most bucks have dropped their antlers. A few are still holding onto one side or another. Individuals feeding in Sawyer County are reminded that the legal amount to feed is 2 gallons, the bait needs to be placed w/in 50 yards of an occupied dwelling, if near a road posted with a 45 mph or great speed limit the feed needs to be a minimum of 100 yards from the road. - Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - Burnett County snowmobile trails are open North of highway 70. Fishing has been slow for all species county wide. - Dustin Gabrielson, conservation warden, Burnett

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - There is a snow covered world around the Flambeau River State Forest and the temperatures have dropped. There is at least 12 inches of snow in the woods. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail was packed Jan. 31 after 6 inch plus snowfall. It will be groomed and tracked this week. We are preparing the trail for the Candlelight Ski being held on Saturday Feb. 4. The Snowmobile Trail is being groomed Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. It is in good condition. The weather forecast for this week ranges from the highs of 15 and lows of 4 early this week and toward the end of the week the high will be about 22 and low about 12 degrees. Cross-country skiing at night by candlelight will be offered for the 25th year at the Flambeau River State Forest. The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. on Saturday the Feb. 4, at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail will be groomed, tracked and lit with over 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food, and hot dogs, chili and spiced tea will be provided. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. Starting at 5 p.m. that Saturday all day-use fees at the trail head will be waived. The Flambeau Hills Trail Head is located on County Highway "W" 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Vilas County - Colder temperatures have stiffened up some of the slushy areas on Vilas and Oneida county lakes but many wet areas remain. Fresh batches of powdery snow have been received a couple times this week improving snowmobile and ski trail conditions. The most recent warms spell seems to have encouraged large boar raccoon to come out of hibernation for a bit as local trappers have reported catching a few on their respective lines - Michael Sealander, conservation warden, St. Germain

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - A few more inches of new snow and cold temperatures will enhance the winter silent sports trail grooming efforts for the upcoming weekend. There is a hard crust under the snow, so outdoor enthusiasts can go just about anywhere in the north woods with little aid from snowshoes. The days are getting a little longer which is a big plus for after work outside activities. Songbirds are hitting area bird feeders heavily to get that daily layer of fat on them so they can survive the night, only to start over the next day! The fresh snow has acted like a fresh painter's pallet making it a great time of the year to head out and look for fresh tracks. Be it mice, grouse, turkeys, deer, coyote, fox, weasel, bobcat or wolves; their tracks can lead a person on a great adventure! As some of the wildlife start to wander looking for mates, their tracks may tell the tale!

Ski Trail Conditions are very good. The Escanaba, Madeline, Raven and McNaughton ski trails were all groomed Jan. 31. - Tony Martinez, trails coordinator

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Lincoln County - In north central Wisconsin, new snow allows for fresh animal tracks along roadsides and trails. You may be able to identify tracks of a ruffed grouse, bobcat, fisher, coyote, snowshoe hare, or even a wolf. Your guaranteed to see a squirrel track. Snowshoe and cross-country ski trails can be found on county and state lands, and are in good condition. Owls can be heard hooting as they prepare to mate. You may also see a northern shrike looking for prey alongside the road as you drive by to your outdoor adventure. - Janet Brehm, wildlife biologist, Merrill

Florence DNR at the Florence Natural Resource Center

Florence and Forest counties - Florence County snowmobile and ski trails are open. The cold week has firmed up the ice conditions on area lakes and the slush layer has been minimized on most lakes, making walking/atv/snowmobile travel on lakes very good. - Gregory Matzke, fisheries biologist, Florence

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Oconto County - Geano Beach anglers have been having some success catching whitefish and some perch jigging with live bait south of the landing. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - On Tuesday of last week there was still ice on the Fox River at Voyageur Park and anglers were having success catching whitefish, perch and walleye. Since then the ice has broken up and only a few open water anglers have been observed. Their success rate has been low. The majority of anglers have been accessing Long Tail from either Linesville Road or Harbor Lights Road. Anglers report catching good numbers of perch in 5 to 9 feet of water using jigs and minnows. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Anglers continued to fill the Little Sturgeon area ramps, with the majority of them reporting high catch rates and good conditions. Whitefish continue to dominate the catch in the area and many anglers were able to catch bag limits in just a few hours on the lake. Being set up and fishing in the early morning hours proved to be key to catching those limits, while holding tight to any structure played a close second. Lime Kiln and Big Rock Place continue to be the launching point for the majority of anglers throughout the weekend. The large amount of open water in Sturgeon Bay shipping channels made for very little fishing and no interviews conducted this week. Potawatomi Park produced the majority of perch this week with anglers reporting catches in the 40-50 fish per trip, however only 5-10 keepers. Once again wax worms fished near structure and just off bottom preformed the best. Reports of multiple large cracks just outside the park and also near Larsens has been keeping anglers vigilant when traveling out into the bay. - Emily Kursewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Kewaunee County - Large numbers of anglers were seen late in the week off of Volks and Bayshore, however catch rates in this area have continued to be lower than those to the north. Very few interviews were conducted this week, with all parties targeting whitefish. The ice in the area continued to hold with most people reporting 14-18 inches and good conditions. - Emily Kursewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Fresh snow this week has really helped the snowmobile trails in the area. Trail conditions are in good shape for the upcoming weekend. The colder weather has also helped with ice conditions. Fishing has been slow but some area lakes are producing good catches of panfish. As a reminder, some local trail systems remain open to ATV/UTV use during the winter. Check trail maps and contact local clubs for areas open to ATVs and UTVs. - Tim Werner, conservation warden recruit

The weather is colder and the snow got a little deeper this week.  We now have around 8 inches in Wausaukee and 12-14 inches in more northern parts of the county.  Most of the trails appear to have been groomed and are in good shape.  Snow in the woods has a very hard crust  with just a couple of inches of fresh powder on top--- very good conditions for hiking in most areas.  In areas where the crust won't quite support your weight, strap on some snowshoes and you'll be able to go just about anywhere you want!  The conditions are also great for tracking wildlife in the fresh snow. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Governor Thompson State Park - Packed and groomed 2-3 new inches of new snow. The skate lanes are set nicely. The classic track looked good but broke up in some areas due to the previous track being frozen in. Fresh snow is covering most of the bare spots and the system is in very good condition. - Matthew Leischer, ranger

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Although we have received 4-6 inches of snow across the county, the snowmobile trails are still not open. If you plan on riding in the ditches of the roadways be sure to follow the regulations, including riding with traffic at night and being 10 feet off the state and county highways. For some family fun, this Saturday, February 4th, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary will be holding Frosty Family Fun Night from 5-8pm. It will be a nice event for family to get out and take a lighted night hike, enjoy some music and games. Enjoy the snow while it lasts. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Green Bay

Manitowoc County - The county received about 4-5 inches of snow this past week. Not enough to open the snowmobile trails though. Point Beach State Forest has packed down the ski trails but there was not enough new snow to groom in a ski trail. A reminder that hiking on marked ski trails is not allowed. Anglers are reporting success on the ice for various fish including northern pike and panfish. Anglers are also reporting good winter ice conditions but are cautioning that the landings are getting worn out from vehicles driving on and off. Reminder: Weyers Lake has a new aeration system which substantially alters the ice conditions! The aerator has three diffusers at different locations, operates continuously, and will produce unsafe ice surfaces. On all lakes use cautions as ice conditions can change quickly. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors! - Alyssa Neff-Miller - conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Yellow loop has been groomed and is in poor condition with icy areas underneath the new snow. The orange loop was last groomed on Jan. 13 and is in poor condition with icy areas and standing water. It is recommended that skiers stay off this trail. Purple and Blue loops were last groomed on Jan. 13 and are in poor condition with icy areas underneath the new snow.- Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - Ski trails are in fair shape after we received about 3 inches of snow on Jan. 31. Trails were last groomed on Feb. 1. The track depth is shallow in some areas. Trails may become slippery with the colder temperatures arriving today. Snowmobile trails opened in the park on Feb. 1 with trails in fair to poor condition. There may be ice under the snow in some areas. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Newport State Park - A haven for quiet sports, the park has trails groomed for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and fat tire biking. See the winter map for trail information. There has been a thaw and rain, making ski trails icy in patches. Recent snow has helped some. Though it is light and powdery, there is currently about 4-5 inches of new snow. The trails are being groomed Feb. 2. Since the snow is dry, it may not be tracked. More snow is in the forecast for this weekend and early next week, so conditions could change rapidly. Winter birding will be going on Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. Meet at the Nature Center, Lot 1. A Candlelight Ski, Snow Shoe and Hike event will be held on Feb. 11 from 5:30-8:30 p.m., starting at Lot 3. Refreshments will be served in the picnic shelter after. These are weather dependent, so please visit the website of the Newport Wilderness Society, the official friends group of Newport State Park, for program and event schedules. Find them at www.newportwildernessociety.org.

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - The 3 to 4 inches of fresh powder should have trails in good shape for the weekend. Local snowmobile trails have been groomed since the snow. Some people out ice fishing, no reports came in of success or not. Cold spell has made early trout fishing near impossible again with many streams icing up again. Rough-legged hawks have shown up, must be tough conditions north of here as they are irruptive migrants. With up to 12-plus inches of crusty snow, deer and turkeys are out all hours of the day feeding. Coyotes now primarily running in pairs as the mating season is about at hand. Lot of great-horned owls calling in the last two weeks, they should be nesting now or very shortly. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - The park received approximately 3-4 inches of snow Monday night Jan. 30. The cross-country ski trails have been groomed as of Feb. 1 and are in good condition. - Jarrod Kehring, ranger

Waushara County - Waushara County has seen a turn to bitter cold that might help the outdoor recreation. The cold is firming up low areas along the snowmobile trails and recent snows have given the clubs enough to groom. Nearly all the trails are open as of Feb. 2, but be sure to call the snowmobile hotline before you go. Respect landowner's property and stay on the trails! The weather looks like it will cooperate for a couple of ice fishing contests happening this weekend too! Come out and enjoy Waushara County's winter sports! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Calumet County - Ice conditions on Lake Winnebago along the east shore in Calumet County are firming up with the recent cold snap. Thickness varies from about 12 inches to 16 inches in most areas; however, some thinner spots have been reported. Ice shoves are creating some access issues and fishing clubs have been busy moving bridges and creating new tree lines in recent days. White bass are being caught in large numbers if anglers are willing to move and follow the fish. The snowmobile trails remain closed due to poor snow conditions in fields and marshes; however recreational vehicle activity has remained steady on Lake Winnebago and area rivers. - Michael Disher, conservation warden, Stockbridge

Fond du Lac County - Snow conditions in Western Fond du Lac County have improved with the snowmobile trails in Zones 1 and 2 opening this week. Snowmobilers should travel with caution as there may be bare ice at some trail locations. White bass are hitting on Lake Winnebago, with ice conditions improving due to the recent colder weather. As always, users are advised to be careful, especially around the landings, islands and pressure cracks where ice might be less stable. The cold weather and snow cover is a welcome sight for people gearing up for the upcoming Sturgeon Season, potentially maintaining water clarity and improving travel conditions on the ice. For those who enjoy winter conditions it's a good time to be out and about in Fond du Lac County. - William Hankee, conservation warden, Fond du Lac

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Southeast Region

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 for ice fishing like Milwaukee or Kewaunee instead. Fisherman have been targeting some steelhead and brown trout around the piers and harbor with some success. Spoons and spawn sacs have been the baits of choice. When the water is dirty a few burbot have been caught using golden shiners on the bottom. With the Mid-January warm up, there was quite a bit of run off and that should attract a fair amount of steelhead into the river. The Sheboygan River should have a fair amount of Steelhead in it for anglers to target. The bait of choice is typically spawn sacs under a bobber.

Ozaukee County - Anglers have been targeting the power plant area for brown trout and steelhead, with some days being better than others. Anglers typically cast jig and plastic minnows, spoons or crank baits as well as use 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. Anglers have occasionally caught a few small coho salmon recently as well. Boat anglers have occasionally been able to launch when ice isn't blocking the ramp and have had some success trolling around the harbor for brown trout and the occasional steelhead. Please use extra caution when boating on Lake Michigan in the winter months.

Milwaukee County - McKinley 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. A fair amount of ice was lost with the Mid-January warm up and created some unsafe areas of ice that are now re-freezing. 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. The Riverfront launch has not been plowed and looked to be completely locked with ice up to 30 or so feet out from the launch. Anglers have occasionally targeted brown trout, burbot or perch by the Hoan bridge with some success at times. Typical baits this time of year include fathead minnows, golden shiners, and spawn sacs under a bobber or using a 3-way rig on the bottom. Anglers also have success casting spoons, jigs with plastic minnows or crankbaits for brown trout or steelhead. With the Mid-January warm up, there was quite a bit of run off and that should attract a fair amount of steelhead into the rivers. The Milwaukee River and Menomonee River should have a fair amount of Steelhead in them for anglers to target. The bait of choice is typically spawn sacs under a bobber. The Oak Creek power plant fishing pier has been closed since November 15th and will not reopen until March 15th (weather pending). Anglers can occasionally access the warm water discharges of the power plant by boat by launching at times from the Bender Park launch. Fishing has been good for brown trout and a few small coho for these anglers typically trolling near the power plant or casting spoons, jigs with plastic minnows, or crankbaits. The road leading down to launch is usually plowed, but can take a few days after a storm to do so. Also, the small area around the boat launch can freeze during cold temperatures and become inaccessible, but occasionally some diehard boat anglers will cut this ice, wait for a warm spell or wait until after south or east winds break up the ice in this area to access Lake Michigan. Please use extra caution when boating on Lake Michigan in the winter months.

Racine County - With the Mid-January warm up, there was quite a bit of run off and that should attract a fair amount of steelhead into the river. The Root River should have a fair amount of Steelhead in it for anglers to target. The bait of choice is typically 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 a report of 7 to 8 inches of ice currently for the parts of the marina that are typically fished in the winter months. Remember to avoid the aerators and the river, as the ice in those areas can be extremely variable. 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 stickbaits 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.

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 4 inches of light, dry snow. The entire trail system was packed and skate skiers should find good skiing with their rock skis, the snow is too thin for a track to be set though. The snow was enough to freshen up the 1.5 K man-made loop. Skate lanes were groomed and a new track was set. Conditions are excellent for both. Trail lights are on until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, no trail lights Sunday evenings. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Pike Lake received 2 inches of fresh powdery snow, allowing for all the trails east of Powder Hill Road to be groomed for cross-country skiing. There is not currently a track set for classic skiing as we are still waiting on more snow to do so. As soon as the groomed trails receive a few more inches of snow, track will be laid. Hiking Trail conditions may be icy on uphill and downhill sections of the trail. The 28th Annual Candlelight Ski/Hike is on Saturday, Feb. 11 from 6-9 p.m. Meet at the North Shelter near the beach to hike on two 1-mile loops lit by over 350 luminaries. Hot chocolate, snacks and chili will be available inside the shelter. Skiers, snowshoers and hikers are welcome and will be sharing the candlelit trails. Astronomers from the Northern Cross Science Foundation will also be here with their telescopes for night viewing! If weather conditions are inclement, we will cancel 48 hours or more ahead of time. A re-scheduled date is Feb. 18. The event is free and does not require a voucher to be picked-up ahead of time, however annual or daily vehicle admission stickers are required. - Robb DeGraff, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest has received up to 3 inches of fresh snow over last week's storm total. The base has settled nicely, and temperatures have stayed below the freezing mark to make for good conditions on the ski trails. Zillmer skate lanes were combed and the track reset Feb. 1, and the trail is a bit soft yet. Greenbush has not yet been groomed, but retains plenty of good snow cover. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Washington County - All Washington County snowmobile trails remain closed to snowmobiles due to a lack of snow base. Recent wildlife sightings on Theresa Marsh Wildlife Area include otter tracks and sign near the marsh dam, and a pair of bald eagles seen along Hwy 28. The archery deer season in the Milwaukee Metro Subzone (includes eastern Washington county) closed on Jan. 31, as did the squirrel season. The hunting season for cottontail rabbits remains open through the end of February. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford

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South Central Region

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Weekly Riverway Report  (exit DNR) The river is up with some open water at Muscoda, which would normally be iced in this time of year. Lots of fisheries are being held in the area. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Dodge County - Numerous coyotes and red foxes that have been seen during daytime. - Paul Nell, conservation warden, Horicon

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Dane County - Early trout fisherman have been pretty successful when the weather permits. The snowmobile trails are open in the northern part of the county and many trappers have been successfully filling their otter tags over the last couple of weeks. - Nate Kroeplin, conservation warden, Madison

Columbia County - With the recent snows and fairly warm weather, it's a great time to get out and explore the world around you. Many critters have been active lately, with deer, turkey, crow, squirrels, opposums, coyotes, foxes, wolves and bobcat prints noted on a recent track survey. Bald eagles are beginning to rebuild their nests and are getting territorial around nest sites once more. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Snowmobile trails in Columbia County were opened this week, but conditions are fair at best. Reminder to check that your snowmobile is properly registered and you have the 2017 trail pass before heading out. With the warmer weather there have been a few fishermen trying the open water on the Wisconsin River. That might change with the predicted drop in temperature coming later this week. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

Janesville DNR Service Center area

Rock County - This winter has brought mild temperatures to the Rock County area, causing the area lakes to have open water in spots. Important gear to bring on the ice would be ice picks, rope, radio or cell phone, dry clothes, and always let someone know where you are going to be. One last ice safety tip is if you're going out on the ice take a buddy. The warm weather is bringing the cottontails out. The cottontail tabbit season is in until the 28th of February. Make sure you have your small game license purchased before heading out. Remember the daily bag limit is 3, so if you haven't been out yet take the family and go enjoy the great outdoors. Attention coyote trappers ensure you are getting your traps set. The season ends on Feb. 15. No luck trapping this year? Don't give up just yet; you can still bag your coyote by hunting them. Hunting season is open year around for coyotes. - Jacob Cross, conservation warden, Janesville

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

St. Croix County - On Feb. 1 a snowy owl was sighted in the middle of Erin Prairie township. It was spotted on a power pole on Hwy. T, half a mile south of the intersection of 140th Ave. This location is about 6 miles north of the Town of Hammond. This owl was mostly white, which indicates it was a mature male. - Harvey Halvorsen, wildlife supervisor, Baldwin

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Cottontail rabbit hunting season remains open through Tuesday, Feb. 28. With the return of a cold and snowy landscape, rabbit hunting conditions are ideal, and rabbit hunters are taking advantage of these conditions. Rabbits remain numerous throughout the area, and the daily bag limit is three rabbits. Watch for a network of rabbit trails in cottontail rabbit habitat, including sparse wooded areas with numerous brush thickets, grassy wetland edges, hayfields, weedy cornfields, and shrubby fencerows. Cottontails often rest in a "form," a shallow depression in the ground hidden beneath a pile of brush or grassy clump. Due to their locations, forms offer protection from predators and weather extremes. Regardless of the time of year, cottontails may be distinguished from snowshoe hares or jackrabbits by their rusty orange or reddish brown patch of hair on the nape of their necks. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -Pending significant snow fall, all snowmobile trails remain closed in Eau Claire County. Ice fishing offers many opportunities for solitude or visiting with friends on frozen waterways. An angler on Half Moon Lake in the City of Eau Claire recently caught a 26.5-inch walleye. Many anglers are catching northern pike in excess of 38 inches. Small fingerling walleye were stocked in Half Moon Lake throughout the 1990s and up until 2009. Fish biologist are no longer managing Half Moon Lake for walleye because the habitat is more conducive for northern. The DNR started stocking northern pike in Half Moon Lake in 2012, and have continued to stock northern on an annual basis. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Volunteer groomers are working hard to get the trails groomed for the weekend. Expect excellent conditions on most trails with some icy spots under the pine trees and southern facing slopes. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - Ski trail is in excellent condition with the help of the recent snow fall and the time put in by our volunteer groomers. Tracks are set to Downsville. The ice wall at mile 1.5 is an excellent destination spot and keep an eye out for eagles fishing along the river. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Brunet Island State Park - We got a few inches of fresh snow and groomed the Nordic Trail on Wednesday. The trail is in generally great condition-the base of the track is firm and fast. There are sections where the track is somewhat shallow since there wasn't enough new snow and we were unable to grind up enough of the old base to get full depth. Still very good skiing, though. We did not groom the "Candlelight Loop" on the island-trying to save the snow for next week so we can prep it for the candlelight ski being held Saturday Feb. 11. - Mike Rivers, park manager

Wausau DNR Service Center area

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Adams County - Snowmobile trails in Adams County are set to open on Feb. 2, but there are a few sections of trail that will remain closed due to conditions. Folks will have to call the Adams County Parks Dept to get further details. - Wade Romberg, conservation warden, Friendship



Last Revised: Thursday, February 02, 2017

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