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Outdoor Report

Published February 22, 2018 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).

Current information on state property Cross-Country Ski Trail Conditions.

While the southern half of the state saw some significant rainfall and even some flooding this week, areas of northern Wisconsin received up to nearly a foot of new snow. Snowmobile trails remain in good to excellent condition in nearly 20 of the most northern tier counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-Country Ski Trail Conditions are also good to excellent across the north.

Cross-country ski trails are in excellent at Pattison State Park, which received nearly a foot of snow this week.  The park is hosting a Winterfest on Saturday. - Photo credit: Gervase Thompson
Cross-country ski trails are in excellent condition at Pattison State Park, which received nearly a foot of snow this week. The park is hosting a Winterfest on Saturday.Photo credit: Gervase Thompson

A kids fisheree on Lake Noquebay in Marinette County last weekend produced some very nice fish including perch, crappie, bluegill, walleye, northern, and trout. The lake ice was nearly 2 feet thick. There have been good northern pike catches on the back waters of the Wolf River.

Whitefish fishing has remained pretty decent up and down the entire Bay of Green Bay. Some anglers are targeting perch too but with moderate to poor success. Whitefish were still being caught off the Oconto breakwater in decent numbers. Toward the end of the week anglers from Sawyer Harbor had good luck and were able to come in with their limits of whitefish after a half day out on the ice. Anglers fishing the Fox River at Voyageurs park report fishing slowed with a few walleyes and whitefish still being caught.

There were 31 sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago on Thursday, Feb. 22, bringing the season total to 871 fish system wide. There were 28 sturgeon harvested Wednesday, 11 harvested Tuesday and 21 on Monday. The season is now more than three-quarters of the way through on the Winnebago System and only three days remain.

This week's snow and snow in the forecast for the remainder of the week is good news for the 44th Annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race that will be held Friday and Saturday in Cable and Hayward. The race is the largest cross-country ski race in North America, with the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation reporting the combined races over the weekend are expected to attract nearly 13,000 skiers to Wisconsin's Northwoods.

The nearly foot of new snow near Superior is also timely for Pattison State park, which will host Winterfest this Saturday, Feb. 24, with crafts, bonfire, s'mores, chili, hot chocolate, coffee, sledding and snowshoeing and culminating with a candlelight hike. This is the second to last winter candlelight event at state park system properties, with the final event next Saturday at Rib Mountain.

This week saw the first good signs of spring migration in southern Wisconsin. Birders reported an increase in duck numbers and diversity at various sites such as Lower Mud Lake and the Yahara River in Dane County. Among them were the first greater white-fronted geese, both mute and tundra swans, and no fewer than 13 duck species. A great blue heron was reported in Dodge, the first sandhill cranes in both Dane and Walworth counties and the first red-winged blackbirds were reported from multiple counties in southeastern Wisconsin. The winter 2017-18 will go down as one of the SNOWiest on record in Wisconsin with an estimated 280 snowy owls documented through February 1, eclipsing the previous high of 253 tallied in 2013-14.

Bald eagles are much more common in Wisconsin than a generation ago but seeing them is still special. There are a lot of bald eagles being seen in Central Wisconsin and this weekend is Bald Eagle Appreciation Days (exit DNR) in Prairie du Chien, Feb. 23-24, with opportunities to see these majestic birds up close in nature and in live educational programs.

Sandhill cranes were seen this week retunring to the state. - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Sandhill cranes were seen this week retunring to the state.Photo credit: Ryan Brady

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Statewide Birding Report

This week saw the first good signs of spring migration in southern Wisconsin. Birders reported an increase in duck numbers and diversity at various sites such as Lower Mud Lake and the Yahara River in Dane County. Among them were the first greater white-fronted geese, both mute and tundra swans, and no fewer than 13 duck species. A great blue heron was reported in Dodge and the first sandhill cranes in both Dane and Walworth counties. Last but not least, the first red-winged blackbirds were reported from multiple counties in southeastern Wisconsin. Expect more migrants over the week ahead, especially early next week with a looming warm-up and southerly winds. Winter 2017-18 will go down as one of the SNOWiest on record in Wisconsin ("SNOW" is the four-letter code representing snowy owl) as an estimated 280 snowy owls have been documented through February 1, eclipsing the previous high of 253 tallied in 2013-14 and 240+ in 2014-15. Get the latest snowy owl update. Bald eagles are much more common in Wisconsin than a generation ago but seeing them is still special, and Bald Eagle Appreciation Days in Prairie du Chien, Feb. 23-24, lets you see these majestic birds up close in nature and in live educational programs. Visit DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation booth on Saturday to see eagle nest videos, register to win a bald eagle license plate, and get your birding questions answered by Conservation Biologist, Rich Staffen. - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Wednesday, Feb. 21 9 a.m.-noon-Blue River Sand Barrens: Join the new volunteer effort to care for Blue River Sand Barrens State Natural Area! 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 with DNR crews. This will benefit turtles and understory plants. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Click for more information.

Sunday, Feb. 25 noon-2 p.m.-York Prairie: Get rid of brush at York Prairie State Natural Area near New Glarus. York Prairie is a remnant grassland in an agricultural landscape and provides important habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals, including some recognized as endangered in Wisconsin. We will be cutting, piling and burning brush in an ongoing effort to restore this special site. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Click for more information.

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 - Nearly a foot of new snow has fallen in the past couple of days! The Afterhours cross-country ski trails are being groomed and track was set on Feb. 20 and trails are in excellent condition. There is about 20 inches of snow on the ground, trail base is around 6 inches. Once again, tree branches are laden with a heavy load of snow, the landscape is clean and white, and the snowbanks are pushed high. Overnight temperatures have been below zero, and the forecast says more snow is on the way. Winter isn't ending quite yet!

A coyote seen this week along the Brule River decided not to try and follow deer that recently crossed the open water. - Photo credit: DNR
A coyote seen this week along the Brule River decided not to try and follow deer that recently crossed the open water.Photo credit: DNR
Late last week, we watched from the Ranger Station as a group of deer attempted to cross the Brule River. They crossed at a place of open water; stepping, jumping, stumbling, and sliding from the ice into the shallow open water and then clamoring onto the ice on the other side. They were not the graceful and elegant creatures they usually are--but you can't blame them, the ice was fragile and slippery and I'm guessing that water was cold! About an hour later, a coyote came by with the same idea of crossing the river. However, it looked over the situation, then changed its mind and went back into the woods from where it came. Next Saturday, March 3, the River View Loppet ski races for youth and adults in the skate and classic styles, will be held at Afterhours Ski Trails. This race is sponsored jointly by the Brule Valley Ski Club, the Brule River State Forest, and the Brule Lions Club. Check out the Ski Club's website for more information and a registration form. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Copper Falls State Park - Cross-country ski trails are groomed and tracked and in excellent conditions. Maps are available at the office, which identify the different ski trails for skate and classic skiing. - Brent Couperus, ranger

Iron County - Two weeks without snow made snowmobiling trail conditions poor in some areas in Iron County. However, with 4-6 inches of fresh snow on Monday, trails have been groomed and holes have been filled in. Following the fresh snow, the MECCA ski trail has been groomed and is in great shape. It's a great place for notice and professional skiers alike and offers many different types of terrain. The Uller trail was icy prior to the snowfall, but should be groomed and ready to go by the weekend. Once maintained, this trail challenges intermediate skiers and makes skilled skiers work. Montreal ski trail has also reaped the benefits of fresh snow and is a great stop if time is of the essence. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Pattison State Park - Pattison has received almost a foot of snow early this week! There is about 6 inches of base on the ski trails and 18 inches of snow on the ground. The ski trails were rolled Monday and Tuesday were groomed and tracked on Tuesday Feb. 20. There is 3 inches of base in the previously thin areas of River View Trail, and there is 6 inches of base on the rest of River View Trail and on Overlook Trail and Oak Ridge Trail. There is about 17 inches of snow in the woods. Winterfest will be held at Pattison this Saturday, Feb. 24 from 4-8 p.m., with crafts, bonfire, s'mores, chili, hot chocolate, coffee, sledding and snowshoeing with a candlelight hike from 6-8 p.m. The event is free, but a vehicle admission sticker is required at the reduced daily rate of $5. It is sponsored by the Friends of Amnicon & Pattison State Parks. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Governor Knowles State Forest - The Ridge Line and Ravine Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked Wednesday, Feb. 21. The Oak Hills Trail is expected to be groomed and tracked Thursday, Feb. 22. Just a reminder, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and pets are not permitted on the ski trails. Please use the trails located at 23409 W. River Road. - Brandi Buchholz, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and classic skiing on Thursday, Feb. 22 and are in excellent condition. The forecast is calling for 4-8 inches of snow the next few days! We will groom that fresh snow as soon as we can, but with the forecast also calling for warm weather, we may not be able to do so right away. Get out and enjoy that sunshine! The American Birkebeiner in Hayward is coming up this Saturday and there is always an increased amount of use on the Flambeau for folks that are preparing for the competition. Snowmobile Trails are in fair to good condition with more snow in the forecast. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for a chance of wintry mix Friday, then mostly cloudy with a high of 34 and low of 13. Saturday, there is a chance of snow, 3 to 5 inches, with a high of 34 and a low of 20 and more snow Saturday night. Sunday, snow likely in the morning and a wintry mix later with more snow after 5 p.m., with a high of 35 and low of 13. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - Cross-country ski trails are in excellent condition and were last groomed for skate and classic skiing on Wednesday, Feb. 21 after the ara received 3 inches of new snow Tuesday. Brett Bockhop, parks and recreation specialist, Mercer

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The Northern Highland received a few inches of snow and a thin layer of ice earlier this week making for some crusty conditions and beautiful landscapes. Conditions are ideal for the silent sports enthusiasts to get outside, especially with the daylight lengthening of this past month. One can feel a little warmth when basking in the sun out of the wind! It is a great time to get outside for some of that "fresh air poisoning!" - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

The Escanaba, Madeline, McNaughton and Raven cross-country ski trails are all in good condition. All trails were groomed from Feb. 18-20. Classic loops are in good condition. The winds from the previous couple days left a little bit of debris in the trail. Overall, trails are in good condition. Dusting of snow earlier this week covered the existing 14 inches of snow in the woods. Expect firm pole plant and tracks. - Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialist

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Oconto County - Whitefish are still being caught off the Oconto breakwater in decent numbers. Anglers are using slider rigs and Swedish pimples tipped with waxies to catch whitefish, a few perch and the occasional walleye. Geano's Beach fishing has slowed for whitefish and perch with reports of very few fish coming in. Northern pike fishing off of Oconto Park I and Peshtigo Harbor has been hit or miss. With lots of anglers out in both spots with a few fish to show for the effort. Tip-ups with large shiners took a few smaller fish. The Menomonee River no reports were taken and very few anglers out. With only one truck seen on the ice both days out of the sixth street slip and none at Menekaunee harbor or mystery ship. - Benjamin Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Anglers fishing the Fox River at Voyageurs report slow fishing. A few walleyes and whitefish are still being caught on spoons and jigging raps tipped with minnows. Lots of reports of short/light bites coming in from anglers. Finding the current breaks behind structure seems to be the key to finding fish that will bite. Longtail area fisherman report catching a few perch and a couple of big pike being caught on tip-ups with large shiners. Perch fishing off of Sunset Beach has been slow with a few fish still being caught. A couple of whitefish were also reported being caught off of Sunset. - Benjamin Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Early in the week the amount of anglers out was low at various lots in Door county. Toward the end of the week only anglers from Sawyer Harbor had good luck and were able to come in with their limits of whitefish after a half day out on the ice. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Marinette county received a mix of snow and freezing rain early in the week. The result is 5 inches of fluffy snow on the ground with a thin crust of ice on top. Some areas may be good for snowshoeing now, but the ice is just thick enough that you break through when walking with regular boots. Trail conditions are variable with those in the south looking a bit rough but the northern trails appear in good shape. It is best to check local club websites for up to date trail conditions. A kids fisheree on Lake Noquebay was produced some very nice fish; (including perch, crappie, bluegill, walleye, northern, and trout! Lake ice is nearly 2 feet thick with little snow so travel on lakes this weekend will hopefully remain good. Although a variety of fish are being caught, the general report is that fishing was slow over the weekend. The days are noticeably longer now and birds are becoming more vocal. Mourning doves can be heard again early in the morning. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - After yesterday's warm up the snow in Door and Kewaunee Counties really took a hit. If any cross country ski trails are still open they will be very icy. Out on the ice Whitefish fishing has remained pretty decent up and down the entire Bay of Green Bay. Some anglers are targeting perch too but with moderate to poor success. There have been more and more eagles and hawks spotted as conditions start to improve and the days become longer. - Brandon Bastar, fisheries research vessel captain, Sturgeon Bay

Newport State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition. Freezing rain has all trails very icy. Monarch Trail, which has been rolled but not tracked, has a base for skate skiing, but snow is ice covered. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition. Trails are icy with some bare spots. - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed on Feb. 11. Overall trails are in poor to fair condition, though a little thin on parts of the Red Trail. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Rain, sleet and a high of 38 took out most of what little snow we had. Trails have not yet opened in central WI and it is becoming evident they may not open at all. Some geese have returned and staff heard a cardinal signing the other day - small signs of spring returning. Plenty of ice but likely very slushy on top right now due to recent weather. Nice to see daylight from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

There has been a lot of great northern pike catches on the back waters of the Wolf River near Fremont and New London. Anglers are doing the best with tip ups baited with a shiner in about four to eight feet of water. There are a lot of bald eagles in Central Wisconsin right now. Keep an eye out for them along areas of open water. If you are out walking, please watch your footing due to the recent ice storm. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden supervisor, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - Warm temperatures and rain have created slippery conditions. Most of the cross-country ski trails system has deteriorated from the rainfall received on Feb. 19 and skiing is not recommended. - Jarrod Kehring, property manager

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System - There were 31 sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago on Thursday, Feb. 22, bringing the season total to 574 fish this season (871 fish harvested on the system). None of the fish harvested were larger than 100 pounds. The biggest fish of the day was 80.9 pounds, 65.5 inches and registered at Calumet Harbor by James Guelig of Mt. Calvary. Richard Halfmann (Kewaskum) and Charles Bindrich (Kewaskum) had a successful day as they each speared fish out of the same hole within a two hour period. Both fish were females with Richard's fish being 54.8 pounds, 64.5 inches and Charles's fish being 54.2 pounds, 63.7 inches. There were 28 sturgeon harvested Wednesday, 11 harvested Tuesday and 21 on Monday. The season is now more than three-quarters of the way through on the Winnebago System and only three days remain! - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

High Cliff State Park - Cross-country ski trails have more bare ground than snow on the trails. Trails are now open for hiking. - Jay Vosters, ranger

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - Cross-country ski trails are closed until further notice. The rain and warm temps have taken a toll on the man-made snow. The surface of the trail is shear ice. - Sarah Ksicinski, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Fluctuating temperatures have created very icy conditions with long stretches of bare ground on cross-country ski trails. Skiing is not recommended and trails are open to foot traffic. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Warm weather has created unfavorable skate / classic skiing conditions at both McMiller and Nordic cross-country ski trails. Prolific bare spots, ice, and patches of slush are present throughout the trail system. Forecasted moderate temperatures and potential rainfall will perpetuate these adverse conditions. The BLUE trail at Nordic off of N2 will remain ungroomable for the rest of the season due to underlying hazards on the trail. This section will be repaired in the spring; we apologize for the inconvenience.- Brian Lemke, property supervisor

Kohler-Andrae State Park - Due to warm temperatures and rain there are lots of bare spots and ponding/standing water on cross-country ski trails. Skiing is not recommended at this time. - Chanice Pitzke, ranger

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Blue Mound State Park - Cross-country ski trails have deteriorated and skiing is not recommended, but the trails remain closed to foot traffic at this time to preserve the base should the park received additional snow. - Kevin Swenson, park manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - County snowmobile trails were open for 5 days this last week but are now closed again. There will lots of water on top of the ice on area lakes due to 1.5 inches of rain received the last day and half. Reminder to parents to start checking the DNR website for upcoming spring hunter education classes. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

Governor Nelson State Park - Cross-country ski trails are bare and are now open to foot traffic. - Rene Lee - park manager

Lake Kegonsa State Park - Rain and colder temperatures have ski trails bare and icy. Trails are now open to foot traffic. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - All cross-country ski trails are tracked and in fair condition. Temperature and cloud cover can greatly effect trail conditions. Multi-use trails are packed. - Eric Klumb, ranger

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Common redpolls, irregular winter visitor songbirds, have been observed recently in central Vernon County. These hardy Arctic nesters resemble American goldfinches in size, shape, and behavior, but common redpolls have bright red caps, black throat patches, yellow bills, and gray-brown, streaked bodies. Males are distinctly pink-breasted. Weedy fields are their favorite winter feeding areas, although they readily approach bird feeders, especially those stocked with niger seed. Redpoll flocks, which may number upwards of 1000 birds, are constantly on the move from one food source to another. If you happen to see these birds, treasure the moment, as they will most likely up and leave for no apparent reason. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Perrot State Park - Recent freezing rain has created very icy trails. Cross-country skiing is not recommended and trails are now open to foot traffic. - Lois Larson, park manager

Wildcat Mountain State Park - Cross-country ski trails are not groomed and skiing is not recommended. Trails are not open to foot traffic at this time to preserve snow base. - Andrew Haffele, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Warm temperatures and rain have resulted on bare areas on cross-country ski trails. Skiing is not recommended. - Peter Bakken, superintendent

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - Cross-country ski trails are in good condition due to some recent light snow. Groomers are expected to work the trails on Feb. 23 and 24 if there is enough snow from the predicted snowfall. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - Cross-country ski trails are still in good condition. Groomers are waiting for the next snow fall to work the trail. Trail to be regroomed on Feb. 23. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Lake Wissota State Park - The cross-country ski trails is groomed and tracked. It is in good condition despite the loss of some of our snow in the recent warm weather.- Nathan Fries, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Cross-country ski trails are icy from freezing rain this week and melting snow. Skiing is not recommended and trails are open to foot traffic. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, February 22, 2018

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