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It may officially be spring but winter is holding on in the Northwoods with some areas receiving as much as 3 inches of new snow this week and there is even more snow in the forecast for this weekend. The Brule River State Forest re-groomed ski trails this week, and trails are also still in good condition at Pattison State Park and the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, but many other properties are done grooming even if more snow does arrive. Snowmobile trails are also closed statewide and are not likely to reopen.
There is still 15 or more inches of ice on many northern lakes but the ice went out this week on Lake Wingra in Madison, large portions are open along the shore on Monona and the ice on Mendota is very gray so it might not be long before they open.
Many river systems are open and spring trout and salmon runs are underway. The popular spring steelhead season on the Bois Brule River opens March 31 for the lower stretch of river. Reports are that the ice is out north of Harvey Road, but not quite to the mouth. There are ice shelves along the banks and snow is still deep on some of the paths.
Along Lake Michigan, fishing pressure on the Sheboygan River was moderate to high, despite chilly conditions. Anglers fishing below the Kohler Dam are catching excellent numbers of trout. Some fishermen reported that they hooked into over 20 fish in just a few hours. Farther south, anglers continued to catch steelhead along Grant Park shoreline and the mouth of Oak Creek and upstream and to the dam. Milwaukee River anglers, mostly fly fisherman, continued to enjoy the clear waters through the weekend. Those anglers that found success landed 4- to 6-pound steelhead. The Menominee River had high fishing pressure with most anglers gaining access through Miller Parkway. Water levels and flow remain very low and action was very hit or miss, with anglers seeing small schools swimming throughout the river system, but catching them was another story. Strong east-northeast winds and cold weather made piers inaccessible at times, due to high breakers and deterred many anglers from taking their boats into the water due to the high wave action.
Breezy and cold weather conditions also kept many anglers off the water and ice of Green Bay for much of the week. Anglers fishing the west shore off of Lineville report a good 12 inches of ice in most places with open water starting to form along shore. Anglers were reporting decent catches of pike there and at Sunset Beach. Along the east shore ice conditions remain decent with many places still holding ice over 20 inches thick; however, many cracks are moving. The whitefish bite was still good. Most anglers are targeting near shore areas often fishing cracks and hopping holes. Walleye action has also been picking up
On the Fox River shore anglers at Voyageur Park report catching a few walleye after dark with the majority of fish being males in the 15-18-inch range. Shore and boat anglers both report lots of whitefish still in the river.
It was a slow week for bird migration due to cooler temperatures and lack of warm, southerly winds. Waterfowl continue to provide the greatest birding opportunities wherever open water allows. A few notable counts this week included 500-plus redheads on Lower Phantom Lake in Waukesha County, 2,500-plus common goldeneyes on lower Green Bay and 1,000-plus tundra swans at Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac County.
It was a slow week for bird migration due to cooler temperatures and lack of warm, southerly winds. Waterfowl continue to provide the greatest birding opportunities wherever open water allows. Now is a great time to look for a fantastic diversity of diving and dabbling ducks, geese, swans, and other waterbirds at stream outlets, wetlands, and lakes near you. A few notable counts this week included 500-plus redheads on Lower Phantom Lake in Waukesha County and 2,500-plus common goldeneyes on lower Green Bay. A large flight of tundra swans was seen moving west over Green Bay on March 26, and another 1,000-plus were at Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac County on the March 28. Common loon numbers continue to increase on southern lakes as well.
New birds reported across the southern half of the state this week included eastern phoebes, field sparrow, Wilson's snipes, American pipits, hermit thrush, and winter wren. Up north, notable arrivals were horned lark, turkey vulture, killdeer, sandhill cranes, great blue heron, ring-billed gulls, and various waterfowl. Plenty of winter birds remain, however, such as snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, common redpolls, and red crossbills. The crossbills, which feast almost entirely on conifer seeds, are actually nesting now with many nests hosting females incubating eggs, some nests with nestlings, and at least one report of juvenile birds already fledged!
Rarities were few this week, best probably being a harlequin duck in Sheboygan. The week ahead also looks cool with persistent northerly winds so migration should again be somewhat limited. Next week, however, brings the start of the 2018 Western Great Lakes Owl Survey. A few more volunteers are needed conduct the two-hour roadside night surveys. Learn details, see available routes, and sign up at wiatri.net/projects/birdroutes/owls.htm. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland
Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties
Saturday, March 31, 2018
Superior DNR Service Center area
Brule River State Forest - Spring steelhead fishing opens on March 31 for the lower stretch of the Brule River--from Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior. The 2017-2018 Fishing Regulations and 2018-2019 Trout Fishing Regulations are available on the DNR website. Please be sure to know and follow the Rules that apply to you. Reports are that the ice on the river is out north of Harvey Road, but not quite to the mouth. There are ice shelves along the banks and snow is still deep on some of the paths from the angler parking lots. Angler parking lots have been plowed in preparation for the weekend. Some campsites at Copper Range have also been plowed and a few folks have made camping reservations. Significant snow amounts are in the forecast for Friday night. The AfterHours Ski Trails is still in good condition. Trails were groomed on Tuesday after the 3 inches of snow Monday night. The base is holding up well for skate skiing, classic tracks are good in some spots, but shallow in others. There are a few bare spots on White Pine trail. Trout and salmon migrating upstream in the Brule River are monitored with digital video equipment as they pass through the fish ladder at the lamprey barrier. Year to year comparisons are made in fish populations and sizes. The most recent information is available on the Lake Superior fishing page of the DNR website. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate
Ashland DNR Service Center area
Amnicon Falls State Park - Amnicon River is still covered in ice, however, another annual milestone has been met. Holes are opening up along the river and an open channel is now visible at Lower Falls. - David Lindsey, ranger
Pattison State Park - Pattison received around 2 inches of snow Monday night. Just enough to cover the trees. The cross-country ski trails are still in fair to good condition. It was last groomed and tracked on March 15. The track depth will vary as well as skiing conditions. There are a few bare spots on Riverview Trail. Ski base is around 5 inches with around 12 inches of snow in the woods.
Even through the ski season might be winding down, don't forget about winter camping! Pattison SP keeps two electric campsites open all winter. We also have three backpacking sites that are open in the winter as well. The falls are still ice covered as of today, but if you are looking for a unique view of the frozen falls, stop by for a visit. - Gervase Thompson, ranger
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail and the Flambeau Snowmobile Trail are closed for the season. Snowshoe trails are open throughout the Forest. Snow depth varies throughout the Forest from no snow to 24 inches depending on location. It is still very difficult to hike without snowshoes. This time of year during the spring thaw, as you hike to Little Falls the roar from the snow, chunks of ice and water flowing through the falls is just deafening. Lake of the Pines is reported to have approximately 15-plus inches of ice and fishermen are catching some crappies. On Connors Lake they have been catching a few perch and some northern. Sap is flowing when temperatures are above 40 degrees and the sun shines. The rest of this week doesn't look to be good sap flowing weather as temperatures are dropping again. The snowshoe hare coats are beginning to turn brown. The red-winged black birds return, the river otters give birth, the grouse start drumming and displaying and some bear have been seen out of their dens. Some swans were seen and heard with their nasal honking, and many robins were sited. A few turkeys have begun gobbling and looking to mate. The great horned owl eggs should be hatched soon and eagles are sitting on their nests. Deer and elk have been seen soaking up the sun in the mild weather and feeding on the snowless side of the roads and logged areas. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for a chance of snow Friday then rain/snow with a high of 38 and low of 14. Saturday, there is a chance of snow with a high of 32 and a low of 11. Sunday, will be mostly sunny with a high of 34 and a low of 14. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate
Woodruff DNR Service Center area
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Still plenty of snow in the woods in the Northern Highland. Southern exposures along the roadsides have melted and drivers should watch out for deer feeding in the tiny bare spots. The condition of the knee deep snow varies greatly from morning to night, depending if the day is sunny or not. Ice, hard crust and slush all occur in the same day. Trumpeter swans and a few Canada geese are patiently waiting for more ice to leave the rivers, as the lakes will be in their ice covered mode for a long time yet. The visiting Canadian winter finches and redpolls are still visiting area feeders and robins stand a very slim chance of survival if they head north too soon. What type of weather will April Fools Day bring? - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Oconto County - Geano Beach anglers report catching a few smaller northern up to 28" on tip-ups with no larger fish being reported caught. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Breezy and cold weather conditions kept many anglers off the water/ice for much of the week. With the windy weather conditions and the recent ice breaking anglers report moving and cracking ice with ice shoves developing and large cracks forming throughout the day in places. Voyageur Park shore angler's report catching a few walleye after dark with the majority of fish being males in the 15-18-inch range. Shore and boat anglers both report lots of whitefish still in the river and being tough to avoid. Boat anglers report catching decent numbers of fish with reports of 5-20 fish being caught in a half a days effort. Some bigger females up to 26 inches have also been reported coming from deeper water. Jigs with plastics catching the majority of fish from shore, with boat anglers having success using jigs tipped with minnows and plastics and a few fish coming on crank baits. The water temperature in the river has been around the 38-39 degrees range for most of the week. Sunset Beach anglers report catching whitefish in the Suamico River out from the river boat launch. Anglers fishing out of the Sunset beach Lane access report catching good numbers of 20-30 inch pike with a few bigger ones thrown in as well. There is open water out of the Harbor lights access point in the Longtail area. While anglers fishing out of the Lineville access report a good 12 inches of ice in most places with open water starting to form in the marsh grass area. Anglers out of Lineville report catching decent catches of pike up to 30 inches. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Door County - There has been some good fishing for anglers still getting out on the ice over the last week. The whitefish bite is still good. Most anglers are targeting near shore areas often fishing cracks and hopping holes. The most fishing pressure has been from Sugar Creek North to Henderson Point but whitefish can be caught at most places along the east shore. Walleye action has been picking up. Many anglers have had their fill of whitefish and are now targeting walleyes. Some anglers are reporting catching a walleye while targeting whitefish and walleye anglers have had success in the evening. On the east end of the Sturgeon Bay Canal a few anglers are still trying their luck with tip ups for pike. This has produced some big fish recently but be careful as ice around the shipping canal is deteriorating daily and very inconsistent. Ice conditions from Henderson's Point south to Volks landing remain decent with many places still holding ice over 20 inches thick. However cracks are moving and thin patches can develop so tread with caution.- Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Due to lack of snow this winter, the frost and ice are hanging on tenaciously. There is very little snow left after a nice weekend and some rain. Maple sap must still be running as I see the blue bags hanging on maple trees. Heard my first turkey gobble this spring right outside the Wautoma field station. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
Sheboygan County - Very few anglers were observed along the Pigeon River; however, one angler caught two steelhead on spawn. The water level remains low, with good clarity, and temperatures range from 32-34 degrees. Pressure on the Sheboygan River has been moderate to high throughout the weekend, despite the chilly conditions. Areas around the Taylor Street Bridge, Esslingen Park, and the Kohler Dam saw the most activity. Anglers fishing the Sheboygan River below the Kohler Dam are catching excellent numbers of trout. Some fishermen reported that they hooked into over twenty fish in just a few hours. The bait of choice was spawn that was fished on the bottom, although several fish were also taken on spinners and spoons. Over the weekend, anglers fishing off of the Sheboygan Piers were presented with cold and windy weather, which made the piers inaccessible at times, due to high breakers. Anglers fishing from the piers and shore were using a variety of baits including minnows/shiners, spoons, and spawn sacs, but had very little success overall. Fishing pressure was very low at the Sheboygan Ramps due to unfavorable weather conditions that produced very rough water.
Ozaukee County - Fishing pressure was very low at the Port Washington Ramp. Several brown trout and a few steelhead have been taken by the Port Washington Utility; however action remains very hit or miss. Most of the fish at this location were caught using spawn sacs and on average weighed 2.5 pounds, but one lucky angler landed a brown trout that weighed an impressive 23 pounds. There was little pressure on Sauk Creek, due in part to very low water levels. A couple of anglers using spinners were spotted fishing behind Ewig Bros Fish Company, but no catches were reported. The water continues to be clear and the water temperature was consistent, hovering around 36 degrees.
Milwaukee County - Over the weekend along Milwaukee's Lakefront, strong east northeast winds on Saturday prevented access on the piers at McKinley and the Oak Creek Power Plant and deterred many anglers from taking their boats into the water due to the high wave action. Afternoon anglers in areas including Summerfest grounds, Veterans Park, and shoreside near the art museum/Discovery World had very little success. Anglers fishing McKinley shoreline successfully landed brown trout, up to 7 pounds and rainbows ranging from 2 - 6 pounds using spoons or spawn sac. The portions of the Summerfest lagoon, in Lakeshore State Park, that had thin ice last week, is now all open water and afternoon anglers landed 4-5 pound brown trout and smaller rainbows using spoons and spawn. Farther south along the lakefront, anglers continued to catch steelhead along Grant Park Shoreline and the mouth of Oak Creek. Farther upstream and to the dam in Oak Creek, where water levels are low and clear, success was found landing steelhead throughout the waterway, using a variety of flies, spawn, or artificial soft plastics. When the wind was not blowing, anglers at the Oak Creek Power Plant Pier were landing 2 - 6 pound brown trout using spoons or minnows. Milwaukee River anglers, mostly fly fisherman, continued to enjoy the clear waters of Estabrook and Kletsch Park through the weekend. Water temperatures range between 37- 41 degrees. Those anglers that found success landed 4-6 pound steelhead, close to the falls, using a variety of colored flies. The best time of day, with the most action, tended to be about 1 hour before sunset. Hubbard Park continues to have construction in the vicinity. Afternoon anglers also took to areas near the North Avenue access landing only a few steelhead using spawn. Menominee River continues to have higher fishing pressure with most anglers gaining access through Miller Parkway and Three Bridges. Water levels and flow remain very low and water continues to be clear with temperatures ranging between 40-42 degrees. Fly fisherman used a variety of baits, the most popular being flies (wooly buggers being a favorite) and use of spoons were used throughout the system. Action is very hit or miss and anglers continue to see small schools swimming throughout the river system, but catching is another story. At MMSD fishing pressure was low and those anglers that tried their luck targeting brown trout using a variety of bait including spoons, spawn, and minnows had little success at getting anything to bite. - Reni Rydlewicz, fisheries technician, Milwaukee
Plymouth DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Spring has arrived in the forest, with several returning bird species and just a little snow remaining on the north-facing slopes. The mountain bike and horse trails are closed until further notice, to give them time to dry and stabilize. However, the ski trails are now open for hikers and pets. Some low-lying areas are muddy, so proper footwear is recommended. Ice cover remains on most of the forest lakes, but travel by any means is not recommended. The Mauthe Lake fishing pier is installed and ready for ice-out. Some campsites in the Mauthe Lake campground are open for first-come, first-served camping until reservations begin on April 13. Spring campers must self-register for sites by following the instructions at the entrance bulletin board. The showers and flush toilets are closed, but drinking water is available from a spigot behind the entrance station. Alert: County Road GGG at Mauthe Lake campground is under construction. Campers & visitors should be prepared for periodic road closures and detours. Currently the best access is from the south at County Rd S (north of New Fane). Ice Age Trail Backpack Shelters have been very popular on weekends this spring. Advanced planning and reservations are strongly recommended. - Deb Harder, visitor services associate
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
Pierce County - Sap still running slow and steady in West Central Wisconsin, but with the big warm up it should be flowing really good. Warm weather means walleye fishing below the dams. Lots of fishing opportunities on the Mississippi river below the red wing dam. Caution of the fish refuge 300 feet below the dam. - Kyle Kosin, conservation warden, Baldwin
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Trail cameras have revolutionized the world of wildlife observations for the professional and amateur alike. These relatively inexpensive devices enable landowners and wildlife enthusiasts to visually record animal observations and behaviors previously unavailable to them. Simply place the camera in an appropriate setting and let it do its work - 24 hours a day, each and every day regardless of weather or light conditions. Periodically monitor the camera's memory card and enjoy the show. Many users of trail cameras are amazed at the species of animals and their behaviors and interactions recorded by these devices. Recently a Richland County landowner's camera photographed a raccoon and opossum on separate occasions extracting nightcrawlers from the ground and consuming them. This particular landowner's camera was set to record a short video clip, and it recorded the entire nightcrawler extraction and consumption process by a raccoon. Amazing! Sure, field guides mention the fact that both of these mammals feed on worms, but to actually see how they do this is much more impactful, especially if it occurs on your own property. Many trail camera users in southwestern Wisconsin have been treated with bobcat and black bears pictures. These two secretive species often live undetected in close proximity to humans, until the employment of trail cameras reveals their presence. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua