Published February 23, 2017 by the Central Office
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).
Weather around the state has and will continue its fickle behavior as we close out an exceptionally warm week and move toward a significantly cooler weekend. Rain and snow are predicted across the state, with temperatures expected to fall rapidly Friday into Saturday, leading many to wonder if any of this precipitation will stick around long enough to revitalize the snowmobile and ski trails. Currently snowmobile trails remain open in a few northern counties, but conditions are very poor with bear spots and some standing water according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Ski trails have similar conditions where they remain open.
The warm front has also strongly affected ice-cover on state water bodies and anglers are also eagerly waiting to see what the weekend's cold front will provide. The ice on southern lakes is deteriorating fast and is unsafe to fish. Even in the Northwoods some waters are breaking up and where the ice is still thick there is plenty of water on it, and areas of open water have started to show up along shorelines and in marshes and especially around beaver lodges.
As a result, many anglers have taken advantage of warm temperatures for open water fishing. This past weekend 100 plus boats were fishing the Fox River from the 172 Bridge to the dam at Voyageur Park. Anglers in boats have been having mixed results catching coho salmon and brown and rainbow trout in the Milwaukee Harbor and in Oak Creek. Anglers were open water fishing the Rock River for walleye and sauger, where the bite was on at the Indianford Dam. Sauger and walleye were biting on Lake Wisconsin. Warm temperatures and rain will have the Wisconsin River back above flood stage this weekend.
Anglers at Geano Beach in Oconto reported several pike and 30 fish were registered at a tournament on Saturday. Along Door County, anglers fishing in Little Sturgeon were reporting about 14-16 inches of ice on Saturday with many inches of standing water on top, but some decent success for whitefish.
The Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season has also been affected by poor ice conditions. The season had been running on a one-fish per day harvest for the last two days, but on Feb. 23 there were no fish registered on the Upriver Lakes or Lake Winnebago, so harvest numbers remain at 552 on Lake Winnebago; 295 on Upriver Lakes; system total 847. There were reports of some folks walking out with portable shanties today, but effort remains low. Three more days remain for the 2017 season.
The stretch of record-breaking warm temperatures have also thrown normal Wisconsin phenology a bit off kilter. Sightings this week included painted turtles sunbathing, leopard frogs calling, big brown bats actively flying, eastern comma butterflies, honeybees, grasshoppers, splendid tiger beetles, woolly bear caterpillars and other insects active, the first ticks, pussy willows budding and sap running even as far north as Lake Superior. A black bear was seen snoozing in the sun next to its den and a young bear was up and walking in the farm fields surrounding Antigo.
Spring migration is in full swing for many species. Thousands of Canada geese have returned to Horicon Marsh and sandhill cranes are also making a strong appearance, along with numerous waterfowl species. Eagles are hunting open water and sheltering in early-budding trees. Red-winged and rusty blackbirds have been spotted, as well as killdeer, American woodcock and song sparrows in the southern region. Some winter fliers remain in the north, with pine and evening grosbeaks, red and white-winged crossbills and pine siskins continuing to hang on.
Candlelight hikes are winding down with two scheduled this Saturday at the Hank Aaron State Trail and at Yellowstone Lake State Park. And this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24 and 25, is Prairie du Chien Bald Eagle Appreciation Days, with reports that eagles are starting to gather near the river in greater numbers.
The rush of early migrants continued in southern Wisconsin this week. Canada geese, sandhill cranes, and a wide variety of waterfowl species have returned in significant numbers. Now is a great time to see tundra swans, greater white-fronted geese and a few snow and Ross's geese there. Red-winged blackbirds, a spring favorite of many, also pushed as far north as Marinette, Marathon, and Eau Claire counties, with a few common grackles and rusty blackbirds mixed in. Other arrivals in the south include killdeer, American woodcock, song sparrows, and turkey vultures. More snow and ice in the far north has limited migration there, though trumpeter swans were commonly reported this week and Canada geese have reached the Lake Superior shore. Some winter birds remaining in the north, most in small numbers, include Bohemian waxwing, pine grosbeak, evening grosbeak, common redpoll, red and white-winged crossbills, and pine siskin, the latter seemingly becoming more widespread of late. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Sugar River Wetlands, February 25, 9 a.m. - noon. 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.
Blue River Sand Barrens, March 4, 9 a.m. - noon. We are teaming up with The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) to care for this site. Blue River Sands is known for its dry prairie (including cactus) and globally rare oak barrens. DNR crews have been working to clear brush and conduct burns. Volunteers will continue this effort by cutting and burning (if there is snow) brush. This will benefit turtles and understory plants.
Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - We have experienced a wide variety of weather over the past week--starting the week with sunny blue skies and record-setting temperatures approaching 60 degrees, followed by rain, and ending with gray skies and a dusting of snow last night. The warm temperatures and rain really impacted the ski trail and snowmobile trail conditions. As of today, skiing is not advised on the AfterHours ski trail. The AfterHours Riverview Loppet ski race is scheduled for next Saturday, March 4. The forecast for the coming week looks like cooler temperatures and some snow may be coming our way. We are hopeful that the race can go ahead as planned. Stay tuned! With the warm temperatures and rain earlier this week, many 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: Douglascountywi.org or call 715-378-4528; Bayfield County: Bayfieldcounty.org - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Iron County - Some waters are breaking up and where the ice is still thick there is plenty of water on it. We are down to very little snow and the ground has started to show. Snowmobiling is minimal to none with many riders cancelling their vacation to Iron County. Cross-country ski trails are not being maintained. Iron County put out weight restrictions on gravel roads which has halted logging operations. Bicyclists in the Mercer area are starting to bike again using the bike trails and open roads. A mallard was seen this week in a river; first mallard of the year. Swans have also been seen at the Little Turtle Flowage sitting on the ice. No southern songbirds as of yet--good thing because we're pretty sure winter is not over. Staff out walking lately have seen a lot of deer sign. With this mellow of a winter, wouldn't be surprised to see another increase in their population. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer
Pattison State Park - Temperatures reached into the 50s on Friday and Saturday. Deer were check on the newly exposed grass around the conifers in the park. People were out hiking and skiing in the warm weather. The Pattison Ski trail was still in very good condition except for a few bare spots back near the river where there is southern exposure. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor
Spooner DNR Service Center area
Burnett County - The mild weather of recent days has melted most of the snow. Ice conditions will rapidly diminish near the boat landings. Small areas of open water have started to show up on area marshes and especially around beaver lodges. Several small flocks of migrating waterfowl have been observed returning to Crex Meadows. Stay tuned for changes as there is a lot of winter to come. - Christopher Spaight, conservation warden, Grantsburg
Washburn County - Sap was (or still is) running. We have ticks, which is nothing to brag about. The birds are singing like it is spring. It is supposed to go back to winter Friday. - Nancy Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - There are about 4 to 6 inches of snow in the woods yet but any open ground is snowless. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail is currently closed due to lack of snow. If conditions change the trail may reopen. The Snowmobile Trail has deteriorated with the warm temperatures we have received. This time of year during the spring thaw hikers to Little Falls will hear a roar from the snow and water flowing through the falls that is deafening. Connors Lake and Lake of the Pines have about 14 inches of ice but the landings seem to be soft. There has been folks out on both lakes fishing. February 21 brought an inch of rain and temps in the 50s. Geese were heard in the dawn's gray, and the snow banks disappeared after six days of near 60 degrees. A bear has been seen snoozing in the sun next to its den and the turkeys are enjoying the bare roadsides and a gobble was heard in the early morning. The deer and elk are breathing a sigh of relief. Just 2 weeks ago they experienced sub-zero temps and the crusting snow. Crusting does not bode well for the hoofed animals so this is a relief for them. Groups of deer are being seen soaking up the sun in the mild weather during the noon time brightness. For the most part the deer have shed their antlers. The sap is running, maple sugarers have been collecting sap these past 10 days though the recent warm nights have stifled the flow. Logging operations on the Forest are virtually over till road bans are lifted. Ermines are active and ravens, great horned owls and eagles have begun nesting. The weather forecast for this week indicates snow likely Friday, possibly on Saturday and Sunday with temps in the range of 33 for a high, 17 for a low on Friday,26 and 7 on Saturday and 26 and 7 on Sunday respectively. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Oneida County - Bald eagles are building nests in Woodruff. Geese have showed up in the county. Trumpeter swans are bumping around the open water. Large flocks of Bohemian waxwings have been seen in the Rhinelander area. The area lost about half its snow with yesterday's rain. Bare ground is being seen under thick conifer cover. - Michele Woodford, wildlife biologist, Woodruff
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Green grass in February? There are bare spots everywhere as well as a lot of standing water in the frozen swamps and mud puddles. Conditions will certainly be different this weekend, depending on how the upcoming storm tracks. Snowmobile trails are bare, cross-country ski trails are soft and covered with debris and not groomable at the moment. The recent warm spell has taken its toll on the trail base. The forecast calls for a good amount of snow on Friday - Saturday. We will try to get the trails groomed on Saturday if conditions permit. Standing water on the trail or excess moisture in the snow may delay grooming until conditions improve. Chickadees are singing their "cheeseburger" song and trumpeter swans have returned to the Northwoods. Eagles are watching the open waters and feeding on road kills. Raccoons are out looking for love and everything in general has a case of spring fever. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Rhinelander DNR Service Center area
Oneida County - Birds are noticeably starting to sing. Noted singers have been chickadees and northern cardinals. Canada geese, pileated woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatches are also calling. The snow is rapidly melting, and with the warm weather the smell of the spring microbiome warming up has been noticeable. - Diane Ten Pas, water supply specialist, Rhinelander
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Langlade County - In the Antigo Area a majority of the snow has melted in some instances has caused some low land flooding. Pairs of Canada geese have arrived on the Ackley Wildlife Area about one month ahead of their normal arrival to begin nesting. Staff received a call earlier in the week stating a young bear was up and walking in the farm fields surrounding Antigo. Winter is not over as another winter storm is predicated to hit our area this weekend.- Eric J. Borchert, wildlife technician, Antigo
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
This report is for the week of Feb. 12-18. Warm weather this past week is starting to reek havoc on the landings and with more warm weather on the way things will become more difficult getting on and off the ice.
Marinette County - Anglers on the Menominee River report catching a few brown trout and steel head by the Hattie Street Dam using small spoons, stick baits, and fly's either streamers or nymphs. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Oconto County - A few anglers were observed at Geano Beach mostly in search of pike, using tip ups with large shiners or dead smelt in the round. A race on the ice at Geano Beach was cancelled because of poor ice conditions. The annual Gator Fest Tournament was held on Saturday along the Bay in Oconto and Marinette County. Over 100 participants sign up and 30 fish were registered, with a 35 inch pike taking 1st place. Anglers report 12 to 14 inches of ice on the Bay where they fished, but the landing are starting to break up. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Shore anglers at Voyageur Park on the Fox River fishing open water are catching perch, whitefish, and the occasional walleye. Many anglers are using crappie type rigs tipped with minnows to catch perch and white fish as well as casting small spoons and stick baits for walleye. This past weekend 100 plus boats launched from Fox point and scattered along the Fox River from the 172 Bridge to the Dam at Voyageur. Angling pressure at Long Tail and Little Tail has dropped with anglers reporting some smaller perch being caught jigging with minnows or wax worms. Those fishing at Bayshore and Red River reported a tough bite, but those that toughed it out all day came home with a bucketful of fish. Once again ice conditions were not great and they reported many inches of standing water on top of the ice and a decent current. There were still a few anglers at Volk's landing this weekend but no interviews were conducted. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician
Door County - Anglers fishing in Little Sturgeon over the weekend had decent success for whitefish, mostly a three to five fish average per person, with the occasional limit reports. Anglers were reporting about 14-16 inches of ice on Saturday with many inches of standing water on top. Most anglers were pulling their shacks off the ice this weekend after the warm temperatures have the ice melting fast. There were multiple reports of vehicles and sleds going through the ice this weekend from all over as well. Those fishing in the Sherwood area late in the week were having decent success for whitefish as well off of Oak Avenue, Potawatomi Park and Cabot's point. There have been anglers seen at the yacht club in Sturgeon Bay fishing for northern pike with little to no success reported. Anglers fishing at Sugar Creek and Chaudoir's dock had good success for whitefish over the weekend with limits being reported. Ice conditions were rapidly decreasing at these locations as well, as open water could be seen. - Emily Kurszewski, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - Like the rest of the state, the area is experiencing extremely warm weather. The snow is still ankle to shin deep in the wooded portions north of Wausaukee, but much of the county is now bare ground with only spotty snow. Nearly four-tenths of an inch of rain fell overnight and it is over 60 degrees Tuesday. Road weight restrictions are now in place across the county, indicating the roads are thawing and in danger of becoming damaged under heavy weight. Turkeys have been seen practicing their strutting and harriers (marsh hawks) are now hunting over newly exposed marshes and fields. The warm weather has opened up the rivers and depleted ice (especially on flowages). A few anglers have been seen casting below the dam in Peshtigo. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Shawano County - Crappie have been biting in Cecil Bay in Shawano Lake on small minnows. Bluegill, crappie, and bass are also hungry off the Spinning Wheel launch. Although there is still adequate ice on the lake, take caution when heading out to fish, especially at the landings onto the lake. White Clay Lake has been providing some nice bluegill fishing as well. Try early mornings if you want to bring home some fillets. A reminder that only up to 10 of each panfish species can be kept, with a total daily bag limit of 25. All Shawano County snowmobile trails are currently closed due to warm weather and inclement trail conditions. - Clark Delzer, conservation warden, Shawano
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Most snow is gone with the crazy warm weather. Snow sports are likely done for the winter as frost is out of the ground in many places. Edges of the ice on lakes has gotten very honey-combed and rotten by the shoreline, making access to the ice difficult in spots. Trout streams are a raging torrent right now making fishing nearly impossible. Heard my first Sandhill crane yesterday, and saw two swans. Still waiting to hear the first grouse drumming and first turkey gobble. Had the first deer tick of the season crawl up my leg on Monday - be careful out there! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The county is feeling the heat, from sandhills returning to ticks making an appearance to the ice becoming unsafe in most areas. The February heat wave has left its toll on those trying to enjoy what winter usually offers. Folks are still finding a few spots of safe ice and catching some panfish, but access and areas remain few and far between. Remember - especially after the rain and heat no ice is safe ice. Birds have been singing and it appears some have returned from their southern migration. The cold, rain, and snow will return for a brief period this weekend and then back to more seasonable 30s and 40s. Bundle up this weekend, but until then enjoy the last days of warmth. It does remind us though that spring is right around the corner! Also remember folks to get your burning permits as they are required in areas with no snow cover this time of year in Waushara County! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Oshkosh DNR Service Center area
Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Harvest Report - As of Feb. 23 the season has been running on a one-fish per day harvest for the last two days, but today was zeros across the board. There were no fish registered on the Upriver Lakes or Lake Winnebago, so harvest numbers remain the same as yesterday, 552 on Lake Winnebago; 295 on Upriver Lakes; system total 847. There were reports of some folks walking out with portable shanties today, but effort remains low. Three more days remain for the 2017 season. - Ryan Koenigs, senior fisheries biologist / Winnebago System sturgeon biologist, Oshkosh
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Milwaukee County - Some anglers were catching brown and rainbow trout as well as the occasional large northern pike through the ice until conditions deteriorated. Anglers in boats have been having mixed results in the Milwaukee Harbor and in Oak Creek. Some coho salmon and brown and rainbow trout were caught in Oak Creek. Some browns were caught in the Milwaukee Harbor. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Waukesha
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - No new cross-country ski trail grooming will take place until we get enough natural snow. The mountain bike/horse trail is closed at this time, due to wet conditions. They will remain closed until the trail dries out. This includes fat tire bikes. - Brett Johanen, ranger
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The warm spring-like days have left all of our trails a mix of ice and mud. The mountain bike and horse trails are closed until further notice. Hikers and pets remain prohibited from the ski trails to prevent damage, in the event winter returns and we are able to resume grooming. Folks looking to break their cabin fever and enjoy the beautiful spring weather are encouraged to come on out and explore any of our other 150 miles of trail - but use caution on those icy stretches. Anglers should use extra caution on the deteriorating ice. Forest staff do not monitor ice conditions, thickness or safety. You must use your own judgment in deciding to venture out onto any ice. Tips on staying safe on ice. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Milwaukee County - Lake Michigan anglers reported significantly improved results for many species in 2016, reeling in nearly 385,000 salmon and trout, including the third highest number of coho salmon since 1992. Factoring in other species such as northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass and yellow perch, the 2016 harvest totaled 557,375. The sport harvest from ramps and marinas totaled 395,549 fish, while charter captains helped clients bring in 112,150 fish.
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Most of the channels and waterways in the wildlife area have opened up but there is still some thin ice covering the main impoundments. New wildlife seen includes shovelers, sandhill cranes, and several bald eagle sightings in the Theresa Marsh area and Holy Hill area. Canada goose numbers are picking up. Most bucks have lost their antlers so now is a good time to look for shed antlers. Hunters and non-hunters are encouraged to attend their local County Deer Advisory Committee (CDAC) meeting which is coming up in March. The meeting schedules are on the CDAC website. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - Weekly Riverway Report (exit DNR). River flow is at record levels for this time of year. Normally there are not record levels this time of year. Trend is for high flows for the foreseeable future. Ice is going out fast. Lots of waterfowl are being seen, including many geese. Sandhill cranes have returned to the area. - Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
Horicon DNR Service Center area
Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - The mild temperatures have brought in a large wave of hardy migrants to the Horicon area. Thousands of Canada geese have arrived and many of the resident geese are paired up and laying claim to territory and muskrat huts for nesting. Sandhill cranes are being seen and heard calling and even a few reports of their ritual mating dance have been documented. Robins and bluebirds are back in small numbers and red-winged blackbirds are also defending territory and calling from atop many dead snags in the marsh. Where there is open water we have had waterfowl reports of wood ducks, pintail, green-winged teal, hooded and common mergansers, tundra and trumpeter swans. White-fronted geese can be seen in some of the flooded farm fields in the southern part of Dodge County. A lone leopard frog was heard calling in the city of Mayville. Wasps, box elder bugs and big brown bats have been seen flying around as well. A few garter snakes have been reported out and moving around. Ice conditions continue to deteriorate and it is not recommended to walk on the ice even though the entire marsh is still open to foot travel until March 15. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - Migrating sandhill cranes have been seen in the county this last week. Warm temperatures and rain will have the Wisconsin River back above flood stage this weekend. Sauger and walleye were biting on the head of Lake Wisconsin. Ice fishermen need to start thinking of getting shacks off as the deadline is approaching. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage
Mirror Lake State Park -All trails are open for hiking. Conditions are mixed with some areas of patchy ice and snow conditions. Trails are wet and muddy in some places. Warm spring-like temperatures have melted the snow enough to end cross-country skiing for now. Patches of trail remain but conditions are wet and ice. We have opened up all trails for hiking at this time. Bike trails, including Fat Tire Bike use, are closed for the season. They will re-open May 1, weather permitting. - Becky Green, park manager
Janesville DNR Service Center area
Rock County - Remember that the rivers are continuing to rise and the water is moving quickly. Make sure that if you decide to fish the open water that you take the extra precautions. This time of year hypothermia can set in within minutes. The walleye and sauger bite is on at the Indianford Dam. Anglers have been catching some nice fish over the last few days. The anglers have also been catching nice size perch. The ice on the area lakes is deteriorating fast and is unsafe to fish. Colder weather is in the forecast! Remember safety over the next few weeks. We have had unseasonably warm temperatures and it will take a strong cold front to strengthen the ice. Also a lot of turkeys are being seen out in the fields, so make sure you are getting geared up for the spring turkey season. It will be here before you know it! - Jacob Cross, conservation warden, Janesville
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - With the surge of warm weather and the disappearance of snow, many observers are reporting robin and bluebird sightings. Both of these birds are members of the thrush family and are short-distance migrants--songbirds that nest in North America and migrate but do not leave the continent and generally move in response to local weather conditions. In addition to robins and bluebirds, other prominent short-distance migrants are blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, northern flickers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, eastern phoebes, cedar waxwings, Eastern towhees and yellow-rumped warblers. Short-distance migrants also include many species of sparrows. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua
Eau Claire DNR Service Center area
Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Ski trails are closed and expect muddy conditions if planning a hike. Bird watching will probably be the most active outdoor activity right now. There were flocks of red winged black birds already coming back. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Red Cedar State Trail - Cross country skiing is effectively done. Trail is ice covered in some areas and turning to mud in others. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger
Chippewa River State Trail - Parts of the trail are expected to flood sometime this week due to heavy rain and snow melt. The Chippewa River is predicted to crest Wednesday night but expect the trail to be flooded possibly through the weekend. The sections of trail that aren't flooded expect patches of ice and snow especially in areas of shade. Recreational use on the trail will be limited for the foreseeable future. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger
Lake Wissota State Park - Our snowy owl appears to have vacated the area, other than that, let's see if we get some snow this weekend. - Dave Hladilek, park manager
Wausau DNR Service Center area
Rib Mountain State Park - Trails are in good condition for a late winter hike, please note that trails may be wet in some areas as the snow melts and the frost works its way out. Lots of deer, woodchucks and even an occasional turkey can be seen. Early spring birds are arriving and can be heard while out and about - Bill Bursaw, park manager
Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area
Buckhorn State Park - The drawdown of the lake has started. Remember, park staff do not monitor ice conditions. - Heather Wolf, park manager
Roche-A-Cri State Park - Many people were out hiking with the warmer weather last weekend. - Heather Wolf, park manager