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Outdoor Report

Published March 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).

Wisconsin's weather rollercoaster continued this week, with temperatures swinging from the 50s and 60s back down to the 20s and 30s and now forecast to go back up again this weekend. With snow March 1 and 60 degrees forecast for Sunday it makes it hard to determine if March is coming in like a lion or a lamb. Large portions of the state received snowfall ranging from 2 to 6 inches or more, but not enough to greatly improve winter recreation. Snowmobile trails remain closed in all but a few counties in far northern Wisconsin, with mostly poor to fair conditions, on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

The additional snow saved one of the last cross-country ski events on state properties, allowing organizers to move ahead with the River View Loppet at the Brule River State Forest Afterhours Ski Trail this Saturday. Heavier snows also fell through central Wisconsin, allowing the Northern and Pike Lake units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest to groom trails, but they won't last long with warm temperatures on the way.

Starting line of the 2017 River View Loppet
Starting line of the 2016 River View Loppet
Photo Credit: DNR

Last weekend's warmup continued to erode ice conditions across the state. Some smaller lakes in the south have reopened. Lake Wingra in Madison opened Feb. 27, nearly a month earlier than normal. There is still close to a foot of ice on some northern lakes, but access is treacherous with open water reported along shorelines. If they have not already been removed, fishing shelters must be removed from inland waters south of Highway 64 by March 5. The general inland game fish season also closes next Sunday, March 5. Fishing for panfish and rough fish remains open, and some lakes and rivers remain open for game fishing year round.

The Fox and Wolf rivers are mostly open, some reports of anglers catching a few male walleyes. The Lower Wisconsin State Riverway flow set records at Muscoda, cresting March 1 at 44,100 cfs, smashing the previous record high flow for March 1 set in 1930 at 16,500 cfs. It should begin to taper off but will remain well above normal flow for quite a while.

The 2017 sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago System ended in a slow fashion with only 10 fish harvested over the last seven days. The season still closed with a total harvest of 847 fish, including nine fish harvested that were 140 pounds or larger.

Last week's high temperatures have rendered most of the ice on Green Bay unsafe. In southern Green Bay, Voyageur Park and the Fox Point Landing saw the most action this week with boaters and shore anglers catching perch, whitefish, and walleye. Along Door County, the majority of the bay north of the Sturgeon Bay channel is open water.

Water levels are high on southern Lake Michigan tributaries and some anglers have been out fishing. The Sheboygan, Milwaukee, Menomonee and Root rivers and Sauk Creek have all been producing a few steelhead. The Root River Steelhead facility expects to be up and running the week of March 13. The Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha harbors are all mostly ice free and have been producing some brown trout, steelhead and the occasional coho salmon.

Tom turkeys are starting to break away from winter groups and some have started fanning.
Tom turkeys are starting to break away from winter groups and some have started fanning.
Photo Credit: Michelle Woodford

Waterfowl are loving the early spring conditions. Many picked fields are holding water making great feeding conditions for geese and ducks. A few tom turkeys are starting to break off from their winter groups. The first grouse was heard drumming last week in Waupaca County.

The sap was running, and maple sugarers have been collecting sap last week but due to the drop in temperature again, flow has slowed.

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Upcoming events at Wisconsin Recreational properties

Saturday, March 4, 2017 (click on property for location and on event for details)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

For all events, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Get Outdoors."

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Blue River Sands: 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.

Ridgeway Pine Relict: March 10, 9 a.m. -noon. Volunteers have been hard at work creating brush piles of invasive honeysuckle and autumn olive adjacent to scenic pine relicts. Help us burn (if there is snow) these piles and cut more brush to throw on the fire. Native seeds collected in the fall will be scattered on these areas.

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 - The official start of spring is only a little over two weeks away, and the signs are in the air. There are now over 11 hours of daylight each day, the sun is higher in the sky, and the temperatures are warming up. With the snow we received in the past week, the AfterHours ski trail are open and in excellent condition. The Riverview Loppet ski race, scheduled for this Saturday, March 4, is on. The forecast for Saturday is for sun and temperatures in the 40s. The schedule for the race is as follows: 7:30-9 a.m. Registration and bib pick-up at the Brule Town Hall; at 9:45 a.m. events will start in the following order: 3.5K Family Fun Tour, mass start; 9K and 18K Classic, starts by gender; 18K freestyle, starts by gender and age; 9K freestyle, starts by gender; noon until 1:30 p.m. luncheon and then awards at the Brule Town Hall. More details about the race can be found at brulexcski.com/river-view-loppet (exit DNR). During this late winter and early spring season, car/deer collisions become more frequent as deer linger along roadsides looking for the first greens of spring. If you hit a deer, please safely remove the deer to the side of the road. Eagles and other wildlife are at risk of being hit by cars when they are feeding on the car-killed deer. DNR Wildlife staff are conducting their winter health and pregnancy assessment on deer that are either hit by cars or found dead due to other factors. If you see a fresh and intact deer carcass, please notify your local DNR office or service center. Wildlife staff needs help in locating these deer so they can make their assessments. Public comments on proposed adjustments to the BRSF Master Plan will be accepted until March 20, 2017. These proposed adjustments focus on the recreation section of the existing plan and a proposed road management plan to reflect current conditions. The proposed changes were made based on public comments received last fall. Details and a link to the public comment form and on-line questionnaire can be found here.

Spring is on its Way - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - There are about 4 inches of snow in the woods. but any open ground is snowless. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail is ungroomed and in poor condition. There are a few diehards out there using what's left of the trail. Snowmobile trails are in poor condition. We haven't received enough snow to groom. This time of year during the spring thaw Little Falls is roaring from the snow, ice and water flowing through the falls and is deafening. Check out the picture of the South Fork at Hervas Landing. The huge chunks of ice are just amazing! Connors Lake and Lake of the Pines have about 11 to 14 inches of ice but the landings have open water. There has been folks out on both lakes fishing and they have caught some walleyes, crappies and northerns on Connors and lots of crappies on Lake of the Pines. Ice shanties have been removed from the lakes. Walleye season closes as of March 5. March is known as the Hard Crust on the Snow Moon. Snowshoe hare coats begin to turn brown, male red-winged blackbirds return, the river otters give birth, grouse start drumming and the maple sap begins to flow. The bear that was seen snoozing in the sun by its' den hasn't been seen again. With the return of the cold and the few inches of snow, it probably decided to head back in. Deer and elk have been busy in the logged areas feeding on down tree branches and brush. The sap was running, maple sugarers have been collecting sap last week but due to the drop in temperature again, flow has ceased. Logging operations on the Forest are virtually over till road bans are lifted. The weather forecast for this week indicates cloudy skies Thursday with high temps around 29 and lows Thursday night of 2 degrees. Friday sunny, high of 27 and low of 18. Saturday, partly sunny with highs at 44 and low at 32. Sunday, mostly sunny with a high of 52 and low of 38 with a chance of rain at night. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

This report is for the week of February 19-25. After last week's high temperatures, the ice conditions on Green Bay have rendered the ice unsafe despite the cooler weather this weekend. Very few individuals were venturing onto the ice and those who did were on foot.

Marinette County - A few pike anglers were observed south of the mouth of the Peshtigo River using live bait or dead smelt. Ice conditions are poor. The dam at Hattie Street on the Menominee River is seeing the most action with some trout, whitefish, and walleye being caught around the Dam area. Small spoons, and stick baits are being used. Dam gates are open at Peshtigo Dam and the Marinette, Menominee Dam. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Very few anglers were observed from Geano Beach to Oconto Park II. A few whitefish and northern pike were being caught in these areas. Ice conditions are poor and anglers are walking out onto the ice. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Voyageur Park and the Fox Point Landing saw most of the action this past week. Boaters and shore anglers alike were catching perch, whitefish, and walleye jigging and using live bait such as minnows and wax worms. A few anglers were fishing pike out of Sunset Beach and Long Tail using large shiner minnows or dead smelt in the round. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Only a few anglers were out this week. Those who did venture out found mixed success. Anglers in the Lime Kiln Road area reported the highest success rates, although they had to spend larger amounts of time out then previous weeks to attain limits of whitefish. The majority of the bay north of the Sturgeon Bay channel is open water with the exception of 100-200 yards of ice holding to the shoreline. The channel itself was open water from Birmingham's east to the lake. No anglers or shacks were seen on the ice from Potawatomi Park north to Horseshoe Bay and only pop ups to the south. Little Sturgeon was the only area that held anglers this week and their success remained limited. Perch continue to be caught in the area; however sizes also continue to be low. Fatheads jigged, over structure, just about anywhere in the area did produce fish in limited numbers. Ice conditions in the area continued to be variable, with most people reporting around 12 inches of extremely soft and honeycombed layers. - John Taylor, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Marinette county lakes and flowages seem to be losing more ice every day. Some, if not all, of the Peshtigo River flowages have open water. Inland lakes, including Lake Noquebay, have deteriorating north shore ice. Fisherman venturing onto the ice need to be extremely cautious and be aware that the ice conditions change rapidly, especially on sunny days. Case in point, I fished a small body of water on Sunday and had no problem walking out, but broke through in shallow water near shore only a couple hours later on my walk back to the landing. That lake had 10-12 inches of ice where I was fishing. The mouth of the Peshtigo River at the Bay of Green Bay has an open flowing thread in the middle. There are still some ice-fisherman on the Bay, mostly fishing shallow water for northern pike. Winegar pond has some open water that is already occupied by paired up Canada geese. A few red-winged blackbirds were calling from the marshes in the Peshtigo Harbor area today. We had a winter storm settle over the area on Friday and Saturday bringing a wintery mix and leaving behind just a few inches of heavy wet snow. Much of that snow has already melted leaving no little for snow related activities like skiing or snowmobiling. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Due to warm weather, most snowmobile trail systems are now closed. Snowmobiles and ATV operators are urged to use caution on all lakes around the county due to deteriorating ice conditions. Vehicle travel on ice is not recommended. Fishing has been slow on inland lakes and very few anglers are reporting good catches. Please use caution while recreating on lakes. Some lakes, including High Falls Flowage have large areas of open water. - Timothy Werner, conservation warden, Wausaukee

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - Just like most of the state Manitowoc County is wet, warm, and muddy! Small numbers of sandhill cranes are making their way back and can be seen in open fields. Farm fields and any open water spots are filled with geese. Along the East Twin River this past week one could see an array of ducks, including hooded mergansers. Now is a great time to do some sightseeing and grab photographs of wildlife. Ice fishing and cross-country skiing activities are few and far between right now. Before we know it open water fishing will be happening on inland lakes. With the warm temperatures predicted for this weekend head outside and enjoy the nice weather by taking a walk or a hike. Enjoy the great outdoors! - Alyssa Neff-Miller, conservation warden, Mishicot

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Peninsula received about 3 to 4 inches of snow between Friday and Saturday. Ski trails are icy and are in poor condition. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - The park received about 5 inches of snow on March 1. Ski trails were rolled morning, but there was not enough snow to set tracks. The trails are in fair shape, but may not last beyond Sunday due to the warm forecast. Snowmobile trails remain closed. Sawyer Harbor still has ice, but conditions may change rapidly. A few fishermen reported good catches of perch in the harbor. There is open water in the bay of Sturgeon Bay. Wild turkeys were foraging for food in front of the park office this morning.

Whitefish Dunes State Park - About 6 inches of snow fell on March 1. Ski trails were rolled with not enough snow to track. Ski trails are for classic skiing. Trails are in fair condition but won't last long with warm temperatures on the way. We recommend using older skis since there are some thin areas. Ski trails are the Red (2.8 miles), Yellow (4.2 miles) and Green (1.8 miles) trails. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - We were completely snow free until Friday when we got 5 inches back again. Have since lost about half of that. Tons of geese back, some sandhills and a few mallards. Heard my first grouse drumming last Wednesday, earliest ever. Fox and Wolf rivers are mostly open, some reports of anglers catching a few male walleyes. Inland lake still ice covered but pretty ugly ice, especially near shorelines. Very much in the "tweener" period of fishing - bad ice and little open water. Trout streams are open but very high and murky. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Harvest Report - The 2017 sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago System is now complete. As expected, things ended in a slow fashion with only 10 fish harvested over the last 7 days of the season (eight on Monday, one on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, and zero fish each of the last four days). The season still closes with a total harvest of 847 fish (552 from Lake Winnebago and 295 from the Upriver Lakes). Opening day shanty counts (>5,000 shacks) indicate that many license holders were able to take part in the early part of the season. Thus another season provided opportunities to renew traditions and create memories. There were large fish in the harvest, including nine fish harvested that were 140 pounds or larger. In comparison there were only 12 fish of this size harvested within the last four seasons combined (3 in 2013; 8 in 2014; 0 in 2015; 1 in 2016). There were 847 license holders who were able to fill their tag. This is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over last season (703 fish).

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - Water levels are high on the Lake Michigan Tributaries in Milwaukee but some anglers are catching steelhead on spawn sacs. All the ice is gone from the rivers and the harbor. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Waukesha

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Lapham Peak received about 2 inches of wet snow Wednesday March 1st. It is not enough to groom as it compacts to a very thin base and becomes slushy. The horse/mountain bike trails remain closed until they dry out. - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - The recent snowfall has left the forest with up to 7 inches of wet heavy snow. Zillmer ski area started with a base of bare wet ground, but the groomer was able to roll the trails March 2. There is enough snow for skiing, and the red trail is best, but there will be some thin and mushy parts. Greenbush trails also received plenty of snow for skiing, and groomers are expected to be out there as well. With snow present, hikers and pets should stay off the ski trails until further notice. Fat-tire bike riders may ride the mountain bike trails while the snow lasts. The horse trails remain closed until further notice. - Deb Harder, visitor services/financial specialist

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest got about 6 inches of snow March 1; cross-country ski trails were being groomed on March 2. There was about zero base left before yesterday. - Reagan Arndt, ranger

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

Sheboygan County - The Sheboygan River has been producing a few steelhead throughout the river when the water hasn't been high and muddy. Anglers have primarily been using spawn sacs under a bobber. The harbor rea has seen little effort lately, but typically brown trout or steelhead can both be found around the harbor or even off the beaches. Typical baits are little cleo spoons or small crankbaits for either casting or trolling.

Ozaukee County - The Port Washington harbor has been producing a fair amount of brown trout and steelhead and the occasional coho salmon. Anglers have been using spawn sacs on the bottom near the power plant discharge or casting jigs with plastic minnows or crankbaits throughout the harbor. The North Pier is currently undergoing construction in the area known as "the catwalk" at the very beginning of the pier and will be closed until the end of June. A few boats have tried trolling around the harbor and the shallows as well and have done well for brown trout using small spoons or crankbaits. Anglers have been doing fairly well for steelhead in Sauk Creek using spawn sacs under a bobber.

Milwaukee County - Bender Park ramp has been fairly busy as of late with quite a few boats targeting the oak creek power plant area for brown trout or coho salmon. Boats have been trolling a variety of smaller spoons or crankbaits behind planer boards. Some boats decide to cast or jig spoons, bobbers with tube jigs or spawn sacs on the bottom near the discharges as well with some reporting great success. The Oak Creek power plant fishing pier has been closed since Nov. 15 and will not reopen until around March 15 (weather pending). The Milwaukee River was quite high, but clarity is not too bad, after this past warm up. Reports of a fair number of steelhead have been caught from the mouth all the way up to Kletzsch Park Dam. The Menomonee River had some decent action last week for steelhead with fish throughout the system now from Miller Park all the way past the Mayfair Mall stretches. Due to the rehabilitation effort and concrete removal in the lower sections of the river over the past few years, these fish can now make it all the way up to the dam in Menomonee Falls. There are many places to try along the entire Menomonee River Parkway with lots of public access and parks. Please remember, to target trout or salmon you still need a Great Lakes Trout and Salmon stamp all the way up to the Lepper Dam. The Milwaukee harbor is pretty much clear of ice, even in McKinley Marina and the Summerfest lagoon, but any cold nights could produce some skim ice again, but should clear out again as the days warm up or after rain. Brown trout have been caught by anglers around the MMSD discharge and even a few off McKinley pier. Baits of choice are crankbaits or little cleo spoons.

Racine County - Fair amounts of steelhead have been caught in the lower sections of the Root River, but there should be fish throughout the river after last month's warm up. Baits of choice are spawn sacs under a bobber or, for fly fishing, egg imitations or colorful streamer patterns. Watch the flow rates on the USGS website, as with more rain or another warm up the river can become unfishable, but many fish should move up as flows drop. The Root River Steelhead facility currently has the stop logs in at the weir and expects to be up and running the week of March 13. The harbor is open and free of ice. The harbor and breakwater have been producing some steelhead, brown trout and some coho salmon. Casting little cleo spoons or using spawn sacs or a tube jig and wax worm under a bobber also are working well.

Kenosha County - Kenosha Harbor is open and free of ice. A few brown trout and steelhead have been caught casting little cleo spoons or using a bobber with a tube jig and wax worms or spawn sacs. The Pike River is open and should have a few steelhead in it after last month's warmup. Bobbers with spawn sacs or yarn flies for those looking to fly fish.

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South Central Region

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway - River flow records at Muscoda continue to be set. It appears the river crested March 1 at 44,100 cfs smashing the previous record high flow for March 1 set in 1930 at 16,500 cfs. Looks like it will stay at this plateau until Thursday and then begin to taper off but will remain well above normal flow (7,000 cfs) for quite a while. Snow March 1 and then 60 degrees on Sunday. I'm not sure if that means March is coming in like a Lion or a Lamb.- Mark Cupp, executive director Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - The Wisconsin River is running extremely high. Currently, Levee Road that runs through the Pine Island Wildlife Area is closed to vehicles. If you venture out onto the wildlife area, bring your waders. It's wet. Many small ponds and lakes have lost their ice already. The waterfowl are loving the conditions in the county right now. Many picked fields are holding water making great feeding conditions for geese and ducks. There are thousands of geese hanging around (if you love watching Canada geese, take a drive along the north side of the river on County Highway O), with many ducks as well. I've seen a few sandhill cranes flying around, but not in big numbers. A few tom turkeys are starting to break off from their winter groups. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Mirror Lake State Park -As of March 2, all hiking trails on the North side of Fern Dell Road (the park office side) are open for hiking. Conditions are mixed with some areas of patchy ice and snow. Trails are wet and muddy in some places. Please use caution. Cross-country ski trails on the South side of Fern Dell Road are OPEN for skiing with a Poor - Fair condition rating. Fern Dell Trail is very wet on the north half. Turtleville Trail is snow-covered but thin and wet in spots as our snow is beautifully sticking in the trees. Hastings Trail is snow-covered with a few thin spots but the driest of the three trails. Due to the low depth we are not able to set track on any of the trails. Bike trails, including Fat Tire Bike use, are closed for the season. They will re-open May 1, weather permitting. - Becky Green, park manager

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Meadow jumping mice remain in their deep winter slumber and will remain so until consistently warm spring weather arrives about mid-April. These interesting long-tailed mice enter hibernation soon after fall's first heavy frost, weighing almost two times their normal weight of 10-15 grams. A winter leaf-lined nest is typically 2 feet or more underground, and meadow jumping mice may hibernate for 6-8 months. Their body temperature drops to an amazing low temperature of 36-39 degrees Fahrenheit, and they survive by metabolizing body fat reserves. Winter is challenging, however, as up to 75 percent of hibernating individuals may die before spring arrives, simply running out of fat reserves before fresh food is available. Catch and release trout fishing activity in area streams slowed this past week with the return of snow and colder weather. Stream temperatures are running at about 40 degrees F. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Ski trails are snow covered but there's not enough to groom. Warm weather this weekend will likely melt what snow we have. Trails will be opened back up for hiking this weekend. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The ski trail is still snow covered but there's not enough to groom and there's no frost in the ground to keep a base. Expected warm conditions this weekend will likely melt what snow we have. The trail will be opened back up for walking and bicycling for the coming weekend. Please refrain from using the trail when it's thawing out and it turns muddy. Deep footprints and bike ruts are difficult to grade out of the trail. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger

Chippewa River State Trail - Water levels have come back down on the Chippewa River and the trail is no longer flooded. The trail is still snow covered but expect conditions to change quickly with warm weather expected over the weekend. Biking will be hazardous on some sections of the trail especially in shaded areas where snow and ice may stick around for a while. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Weather looks good for this weekend. There is open water north and south of the Buckhorn Bridge but still ice covering bays. The drawdown of the lake has started. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - As of Sunday, Feb. 26, Carter Creek is still over the bridge from the prairie into the park. Turkey Vulture trail is dry. Many people hiking with the warmer weather. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, March 02, 2017

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