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Outdoor ReportPublished February 16, 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).

Warm weather has swung back around, putting winter back on its heels and bringing changes to the outdoors. Snowmobile trails now only remain open in about a dozen of the most northern counties, but are still being reported as fair to good on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-country ski trails in northern parks and forests were also in good condition this week but are now closed on many central and southern properties. With much warmer weather and some rain in the forecast this weekend and early next week conditions could deteriorate rapidly.

Open water fishermen were seen this week on the Menominee River below the Hattie Street Dam trying for walleye and whitefish. A few open water anglers were casting spoons on the Fox River at Voyageur Park but success has been slow.

On Green Bay, perch and whitefish were being caught in good numbers at Long Tail and Little Tail points, where a few walleye were also being caught. Along Door County, anglers were out in droves again this weekend around the Little Sturgeon and Sherwood areas, with most reporting a good bite for whitefish. Those fishing for perch had decent action in Sawyer Harbor. The shipping channel remains open from the bay shipyard to the lake.

Ice conditions continue to deteriorate on the Lake Winnebago system. Spearers and anglers are encouraged to check daily on ice conditions. Many ice roads have already been closed due to significant deterioration of the landings. With temperatures forecast in the 50s for the weekend conditions will only get worse. Predictions are still for a full run of the sturgeon spearing season, with the season coming to a close on Feb. 26. The largest sturgeon registered so far was a female weighing in at 154.9 pounds and measuring 83.4 inches long.

Inland lakes are still producing some panfish, but ice anglers may want to start thinking about getting there shacks off the ice soon with the real warm temperatures coming this weekend and into next week. Central Wisconsin trout streams are wide open but high and murky making for tough catch and release fishing conditions.

Some crop fields are opening up and deer have been out in full force so be cautious driving at dawn and dusk when movement is at its peak. Some bucks are still holding their antlers. Turkey flocks are beginning to break up and begin their spring territory battles and mating rituals. Raccoons have been very active recently.

Lots of waterfowl were migrating across southern Wisconsin this week. Geese are moving through en masse with multiple observers reporting the first large pushes of Canada and white-fronted geese. Also the first pushes of sandhill cranes have moved into the area. There has been lots of territorial song activity from resident birds in the morning including titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and house finches. A great blue heron was seen flying overhead in Waupaca County, a very early return for this species.

Red-tailed hawks are scoping out nesting locations, bald eagles are laying and great-horned owls are already incubating their eggs in the lower half of the state.

Candlelight events are winding down with just two hikes scheduled this Saturday at Rib Mountain and Governor Thompson state parks. More than 200 people attended an event at the Brule River and 1,300 people at showed up at the Pike Lake unit of the Kettle Morain state forests last weekend.

The big news in the north is that it is already time to start maple syruping with sap already running in the sugar bush and many people have already started tapping.


2016 Wisconsin deer harvest summary now available

With all 2016 deer hunting seasons officially closed, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff would like to thank hunters for another great season in the field. Registration totals for the 2016 deer hunting seasons can be found at, keywords "weekly totals." For more information regarding deer hunting in Wisconsin, search keyword "deer." - Brian Dhuey, research scientist


Statewide Birding Report

On average the first noticeable migration occurs in southern Wisconsin by very late February or early March. Perhaps not surprising given this year's mild, low-snow winter the northbound march is already underway for some species. Birders in southern counties noted a large push of Canada geese this week, along with fewer, but respectable numbers of greater white-fronted geese. Though not in large numbers, the first migrant sandhill cranes also returned, along with increased abundance and diversity of various duck species. Warm weather and southerly winds will only bring more in the week ahead so visit a local wetland or wildlife area near you to catch a glimpse of the action. Other short-distance migrants are also becoming more visible now, including American robins, both meadowlarks, belted kingfishers, great blue herons, and the first red-winged blackbirds. Expect some bald and golden eagles to be moving north this week as well, perhaps joined by a few turkey vultures, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks. Breeding activity is also kicking up. Great horned owls are incubating eggs now in the lower 2/3 of the state. Bald eagles have just begun egg-laying while others are renovating nests. Resident red-tailed hawks might be seen paired or investigating nest sites. One observer also found mourning doves courting and mating already. Many other residents have ramped up their territorial singing behavior, including tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, northern cardinals, house and purple finches, and various woodpeckers. Winter's not over by a long shot though, and traditional "winter" birds remain, including bohemian waxwings in the north, pine siskins, lapland longspurs, snow buntings, rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, and a few snowy owls. As with many birds, their exit from the state is driven more by the length of daylight (photoperiod) than weather. The most unusual bird spotted this week was a slaty-backed gull in Milwaukee. Lastly, don't forget to participate in the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count held Feb 17-20 around the world. Anyone can contribute from any location -- simply tally the birds you can identify during at least 15 minutes at your feeder or out in the field. More details on this easy yet valuable citizen science project at Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland


Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Ridgeway Pine Relict, Feb. 17, 9 a.m.-noon. Warm up with some fires! Volunteers have been hard at work creating brush piles of invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive adjacent to scenic pine relicts at Ridgeway Pine Relict SNA. Help us burn these piles and cut more brush to throw on the fire. Native seeds collected in the fall will be scattered on these areas.

Waubesa Wetlands, Feb 18, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Join the new volunteer effort to restore Waubesa Wetlands! Waubesa is known for its large high quality wetlands and spring complexes. With increased prescribed burning and brush control DNR crews and volunteers have increased efforts to improve this site. This workday will focus on removing brush patches in a sedge meadow through cutting, treating, and burning. Some areas could have uneven terrain.

Lodi Marsh, Feb. 18, 9 a.m.-noon. Come help save a native goat prairie at Lodi Marsh State Natural Area. Work with volunteers to remove encroaching eastern red cedars and invasive brush. We will be cutting the cedar and brush, piling them, and (weather permitting) burning them as we go. These work parties are a lot of fun, and you get to see some really big bonfires.

Observatory Hill State Natural Area, Feb. 18, 9 a.m.-noon. A large-scale restoration is taking place at and new gaps in the canopy have been created. We will be spreading native seed to get the native understory plants started. We will also be cutting and burning cedar (if there is snow) that was missed in the harvest. Cedar was appropriate at the top of the hill but has increased in number over the last 150 years.

Chiwaukee Prairie, Feb 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Remove invasive brush threatening the prairie. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards.

Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program /topic/lands/naturalareas/volunteer.html 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 - Last Saturday evening was perfect for the Candlelight Ski and Grand Opening of the new ski chalet at the AfterHours Ski Trail. The weather was warm, the luminaries were lit, the trails were groomed, the bonfires were blazing and the chalet was finished! Well over 200 people came to ski, snowshoe, visit the new chalet, and enjoy the evening. The Classic Trail was re-named Sally's Classic in a short presentation honoring long-time ski enthusiast and benefactor Sally Vilas. Thank you to The Brule Valley Ski Club, Brule River State Forest staff and all the volunteers that not only made this event possible, but keep the ski trail operational throughout the season! The ski trail skate lanes were groomed earlier this week. Base is at about 5 inches and conditions are excellent. With warmer weather in the forecast, trail conditions may change over the next few days. With the warm temperatures and deteriorating conditions, some snowmobile trails are closed. Be sure to check on trail conditions and closures before you head out. Below are links to trail condition reports on the local snowmobile trails. Douglas County: or call 715-378-4528; Bayfield County: - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Copper Falls State Park - The weather here at Copper Falls State Park has been extremely mild for this time of year. The ski trails are open and were last groomed and tracked on Feb. 15th. With 40 degree temperatures and rain in the forecast, trail conditions will deteriorate quickly. The snowshoe/hiking trails offer opportunities to view the waterfalls as they undergo the spring transformation. The big news in the North is that it is time to start collecting maple syrup. Many have already started tapping, and with the current weather forecast now is the time to get out and enjoy the weather. - Brent Couperus, ranger

Pattison State Park - As of Feb. 14 the cross-country ski trail was in excellent condition. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail hasn't been groomed this week and there has been some considerable wind so there may be debris on the trail. The last time it was groomed was Friday, Feb. 10 and it was in good condition then and it has been used daily by folks. Because of the weather conditions it will not be groomed this week. The Snowmobile Trail is in decent condition in the deep woods but in open areas the trail is deteriorating. There is a culvert lifting up on the trail about 1 mile south of the Tuscobia Trail. There are hazard cones on the trail so use caution in that area especially. Logging operations on the Forest are frantically moving wood off the sales as the roads will be posted soon because of the mild temperatures. There is at least 12 inches inches of snow in the woods. The deer and elk are conserving their energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. The deer are shedding their antlers. The warm temperatures were a reprieve to active winter residents like the deer, elk, wolves and coyotes though they are poised for more winter weather. Ermines are active and ravens begin nesting, wolves are mating and the bald eagles are also beginning to nest. Great horned owls are nesting. Typically there are young in the nests by early March. The weather forecast for Friday, Saturday, Sunday has the temperatures in the high 40s and night time temps hovering from 29,30, to 36 respectively. Rain is likely starting next Monday and that possibility Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The recent winds have left much leafy debris on the cross-country ski trails with reports of the tracks being icy and fast. The forecast calls for another stretch of warm weather over the next couple of days. Raven trail blue and green loops have been cut and tracked and has good conditions. Madeline trail had all loops cut and tracked and has good conditions. - Tony Martinez, trails coordinator


Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

With the warm weather expected this week and upcoming weekend remember to use caution on the ice as ice conditions can change rapidly.

Marinette County - Pike anglers are fishing from Thompson Park north to the point by Winnager Pond, fishing in four to 15 feet of water. Anglers report a slow bite at times. Open water fishermen have observed below the Hattie Street Dam trying for walleye and white fish. Anglers at the Sixth Street Slip on the Menominee River are still catching some walleye, crappie, perch and whitefish. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Some perch, whitefish and walleye are being caught out of the Geano Beach Landing and Lade Road. Jigs tipped with minnows or wax worms have been the baits of choice. Anglers at the Oconto Breakwater have been catching white fish in and around the mouth of the Oconto River. Jigs, Swedish pimples, and jigging raps tipped with minnow heads or wax worms have been producing fish. Northern pike anglers report having success in 4 to 12 feet of water using dead smelt in the round or large shiner minnow. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - A few open water anglers are casting spoons or plugs looking for walleye at Voyageur Park, success has been slow. Long Tail and Little Tail is seeing the most action. Perch and white fish are being caught in good numbers using jigs and wax worms or minnows. A few walleye are also being caught. Pike anglers in these areas report fishing to be slow. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Anglers were out in droves this weekend around the Little Sturgeon and Sherwood areas. Most anglers reported a good bite for whitefish in all areas. Most people were not coming off the ice with limits but those that stuck it out were coming off the ice with good numbers. Anglers reported seeing a lot of fish checking out their bait, but most wouldn't bite. Those fishing for perch had decent action in Sawyer Harbor over the weekend fishing in 8-12 feet of water. Most anglers are driving on at most locations now, but remember to check local ice conditions before taking to the ice as conditions can change rapidly. There were anglers spotted fishing around the Yacht Club on the canal and off of Bullhead Point in Sturgeon Bay this weekend but no interviews were conducted. The shipping channel remains open from Bay Ship to the Lake, there is ice again close to shore but conditions are unknown. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Kewaunee County - Low numbers of anglers were seen out around the Bayshore/Dyckesville area earlier in the week. Those anglers that were out were concentrated around Bayshore and the Sugar Creek areas. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Snow is slowly melting here and the forecasted high temps are likely to speed up the process. There currently are about 6-8 inches of snow on the ground in Wausaukee with deeper snow to the north. No early migrants showing up yet, but one sign of springs future arrival is there is talk of road weight restrictions going into effect on Monday. An indication that the roads are thawing and will be susceptible to damage. Rabbit season is open for about another week and a half. As the weather warms and rains fall, ice fisherman will need to be especially cautious about traveling on ice - especially in those areas with current that can increase with snowmelt. Road killed deer numbers are increasing as the roadsides melt and the deer attempt to take advantage of a newly exposed food source. Drive carefully and watch out not only for live deer, but birds of prey feeding on dead deer. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Governor Thompson State Park - The cross country ski and snowshoe trails are open. Six miles of ski trails are groomed for both classic striding and skate skiing. The entire trail system was last groomed Feb. 10 Skate lanes had very nicely set corduroy. The system was in very good condition with a few low snow/bare spots under heavy tree canopy and/or full sun areas. The existing classic track is still in good shape. Matthew Leischer, ranger

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Snow conditions have deteriorated considerably and will continue to do so with temperatures reaching into the 50s this weekend. Snowmobile trails remain closed, and in most places there is not even enough snow to ride in the ditches. Most ice fishermen are using ATVs instead of snowmobiles, but a reminder that ATVs cannot be operated on the road or in the ditches, and need to be trailered to the landings. For those still going to venture out onto the ice, a reminder that ice around cattails and other emergent vegetation tend to thin out much faster, and these areas should be avoided. Stay safe. - Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Green Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Snow is deteriorating and the sledding hill is now closed. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition with several bare spots out in the open areas of the park. Trails were last groomed on Feb. 1 and there has been no new snowfall since. Weekend temperatures predicted to be warmer than normal and in the upper 40s. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate.

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Snowmobile trails are shut down as warm snap has melted much of the snow leaving bare ground in spots. What may be a record heat wave for Feb. in central WI may shut down most winter outdoor recreation. Trout streams are wide open but high and murky making for tough catch and release fishing conditions. Ice is up to 20 inches in places on area lakes but is slushy on top and deteriorating along shore lines. Some crop fields are opening up and deer and turkeys have been foraging in them all hours of the day. Fair amount of geese have returned and are hanging out in areas where springs and current have made open spots. Saw a great blue heron fly overhead early this week - indeed a very early return for this species. Supposed to be 50s and sunny all weekend, get outside and enjoy it! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Sturgeon spearing on the Up River Lakes has been pretty good from the onset. However, high winds and warmer weather has deteriorated the ice conditions. Most landings are still passable but standing water and ruts have been issues. Snow conditions on the ice are very good and if one can access the lake, you can operate a vehicle in most places. Sturgeon spearers are reminded to keep their sturgeon carcass tag with them while they are actively spearing. There is still snow in the woods in the Waupaca area but we have also lost some snow recently. Eagles seem to be migrating northward again as many have recently been seen in Central Wisconsin. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - The warm weather has further deteriorated our cross-country ski trails. The trails are now in poor condition throughout. - Jarrod Kehring, ranger

Waushara County - With the weekend warming up it looks like it may be the end to most winter recreation. The snowmobile trails are closed and the cross-country ski trails are deteriorating quickly. The ice has still been pretty solid in most places, but the sun and warmth coming this weekend will weaken the edges making access very tricky. Be sure to check locally with bait shops to see what they have heard before venturing out and remember no ice is ever 100 percent safe. The deer have been out in full force now that the fields are beginning to open up so be cautious during the dawn and dusk times especially when movement is at its peak. Turkey flocks are beginning to break up and begin their spring territory battles and mating rituals. Don't forget, especially in this area, with bare ground and warm weather we will be welcoming ticks back out and being active. I would imagine the first ticks of the season will be out this weekend, so remember to take caution to check yourself and your animals if you are out and about. Other than being wet with the snow melt it should be a great weekend to explore the outdoors! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago Area (Winnebago, Calumet, Fond du Lac and Outagamie counties) - Ice conditions continue to deteriorate on the Lake Winnebago system. Spearers and anglers are encouraged to check with local clubs daily on ice conditions. Many ice roads have already been closed due to significant deterioration of the landings. With forecasted temperatures in the 50s for the weekend ice conditions will only get worse. We encourage individuals with ice shacks on the lakes to have a plan to get them off the ice if conditions dictate removal. Remember there is no such thing as safe ice. Travel only on tested ice, use the buddy system and tell someone where you are going and when you will return. - Christopher Shea, conservation warden supervisor, Oshkosh


Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The 1.5k man-made loop was groomed Feb. 16 and ranges from fair to great condition depending on what section of trail. There are a few icy areas that can be skied around or across using extra caution. 1. Just before the entrance to Summerstage (must ski across about 10 feet) 2. Half way down Magic Carpet Ride (can be skied around outside edge) 3. Bottom of Magic Carpet Ride to northeast corner of loop (100 foot section to be skied across) 4. Northwest corner of loop (small patch can be skied across). To ski the lower loop you must use the Nordic Playground area. Skiers must use their discretion and are encouraged to check conditions themselves. Classic track was reset in some areas and is in poor to fair condition due to the the hard pack, icy conditions. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Waukesha County - Ice fishing in the Summerfest Lagoon for brown trout has been slow the last couple days and ice conditions are deteriorating rapidly. The rest of the Milwaukee Harbor is mostly ice free and the Riverfront Boat Launch is open. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Waukesha

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Continued warm temperatures have taken a toll on the ski trails. Skiers will find coverage throughout, but it will be marginal conditions at best with several stretches of pure ice. With a forecast for temps in the 40s and 50s through the weekend, there are no plans to do further grooming at Zillmer until the return of more snow and colder temperatures. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate


South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Blue Mound State Park - As of Feb. 15 the cross-country ski skate and classic trails were in fair condition. The campground look was groomed Feb. 15, no tracks have been set. Some small asphalt patches starting to show. Icy in places. - park staff

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Canada geese have been seen in the Horicon area as well as a handful of sandhill crane reports. Black-capped chickadees and cardinals are singing and great-horned Owls are on nest. Northern harriers and rough-legged Hawks are commonly seen hunting the cattails. DNR staff have been conducting winter prescribed burns. These burns help control cattails and are an important management tool to help provide critical habitat for wildlife. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - With warm temperatures, snow conditions have been deteriorating rapidly across the county. Be careful as ice conditions are extremely variable. Raccoons have been very active recently. Some whitetail bucks are still holding their antlers. A few midges have been sighted, and bird songs have been ramping up. It feels like spring is in the air. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Local lakes are still producing some panfish. Ice fishermen may want to start thinking about getting there shacks off the ice soon with the real warm temperatures coming this weekend and into next week. Still plenty of ice, but they will freeze in hard when the weather changes again. Large flocks of turkey have been seen in the past few weeks and Canada geese are coming back into the area already. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

Dane County - Lots of waterfowl migration this week across Southern Wisconsin. Geese are moving through en masse with multiple observers reporting our first large pushes of Canada and white-fronted geese. Also our first pushes of sandhill cranes into the area. Deer have been very active before dark on my commute and numbers appear to be very strong in the Southern Dane county region. Lots of territorial song activity from resident birds in the morning including titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and house finches. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg


West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Local birdwatchers are reporting lots of diurnal and nocturnal raptor activity in Vernon County. Bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, rough-legged hawks, kestrels, great-horned owls, screech owls, barred owls, and saw-whet owls are present and active. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The above average temperatures this past week melted a lot of snow in the area. Bare ground is starting to show throughout the forest and with warmer temperatures continuing into next week, much of the remaining snow will soon be gone. All trails, including ski trails, are now open to hikers. Trails are becoming slushy and muddy with the melting snow so remember to bring boots if you are planning to hike. Spring like temperatures are expected this weekend with highs in the mid-50s. Cross-country ski trails are no longer skiable. Thanks for another great season. ATV, UTV and snowmobile trails will close on Thursday, February 16 due to warm temperatures. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County -Ice conditions in Eau Claire County are still good, but staff are worried about the landings and access to the lakes. If we get a few days up to 50 degrees the landings will get real bad and people might have a hard time getting ice shacks off the lake. Staff saw a pair of Wood Ducks on Feb. 13th, especially early in the year. The snowmobile trails in Eau Claire County are in terrible shape and are closed now. Cross country ski trails are still open but are pretty icy and in poor condition. - Ken Thomson, conservation warden, Fall Creek

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Most of the ski trails will probably be clear of snow by the weekend. Expect hiking trails to open back up until more snow allows ski trails to be groomed again. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The ski trail is in poor condition and will most likely be unskiable by the weekend. If the trail is no longer snow covered it will open back up for walking and biking. Expected visitors may just have to put up the skies for a while and dust off the bike. Expect some icy spots and soft trail conditions throughout. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Weather looks good for this weekend, but trails are not groomed due to lacking snow and are melting fast.- Heather Wolf, park manager

Last Revised: Thursday, February 16, 2017

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