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Outdoor Report

Published April 5, 2018 by the Central Office

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Winter is not letting up on Wisconsin, with Mother Nature playing an April Fool's joke on the state bringing just a couple inches of snow in the south to 10 or more inches in the north. The Brule River State Forest, Pattison State Park and the Turtle Flambeau Scenic Waters area groomed ski trails and report good conditions. All other properties have discontinued grooming and trails are open to multi-use including skiing, snowshoeing and on some properties fat biking. All snowmobile trails are closed for the season.

Lakes Mendota and Monona opened last weekend. Some central Wisconsin lakes are completely open and others still have a good amount of ice, but the quality is poor and the shorelines are bad making access difficult.

This was a snowy Fish Lake in Waushara County on March 31. - Photo credit: Ben Mott, DNR
This was a snowy Fish Lake in Waushara County on March 31.Photo credit: Ben Mott, DNR
This was the same view of the lake April 3.  Lakes are opening up through central Wisconsin. - Photo credit: Ben Mott, DNR
This was the same view of the lake April 3. Lakes are opening up through central Wisconsin.Photo credit: Ben Mott, DNR

The snow, cold temperatures and ice didn't deter opening day anglers for the spring steelhead fishing opener last Saturday on the Brule River. Angler numbers were good and there were reports of success. It also didn't stop Fox River anglers out to catch a trophy walleye as hundreds were fishing from boats and shore. Fishermen were also out after walleye on the lower Wisconsin River with some on and off action.

The ice is mostly gone in the Manitowoc harbor but the landing is still closed. The Manitowoc River has been producing some steelhead. Upstream in both the East and West Twin Rivers, anglers have been doing well catching steelhead. The Sheboygan River has been producing decent numbers of steelhead and the occasional brown trout. Good numbers of steelhead are being spotted throughout Sauk Creek but fishing has been reported as slow. With more cold weather in the forecast we may be in for a slow drawn-out steelhead run.

Snowshoe hare and weasel coats are beginning to turn brown. The snow and cold temperatures have temporarily slowed or suspended a lot of wild animal activities. Skunks, raccoons, and opossums that previously emerged have reduced their nocturnal forays. They adjust rapidly, however, to weather changes, as the urge to eat and procreate is difficult to suppress for any length of time.

Robins, black birds, geese and trumpeter swans may be regretting their decisions to make their appearances "early" this year in Iron County, where there is still 16-22 inches of snow and 1-2 feet of ice on most lakes. A newly arrived saw whet owl looking for an unsuspecting mouse didn't know what to do from its perch in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. The 20 inches of snow on the ground in Washburn County has postponed sharp-tailed grouse viewing at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area. Normally viewing blinds to watch sharp-tailed grouse dance are available starting April 1. This year it won't be until the snow has melted.

Turkeys are still starting to get fired up in spite of the snow. Gobbles can be heard and birds have been strutting and displaying too.

Maples trees trying to break bud, but the weather will put them in a holding pattern. The cold nights and slow warming days put a damper on tapping operations last week. Most sugar bushes will likely not be operating this week as the temperatures will stay at or below freezing most of the week.

The annual Spring Fish and Wildlife Hearings and county Conservation Congress meetings will be held across the state on Monday evening in every county of the state beginning at 7 p.m. Check the DNR website for a list of questions to be voted on.

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Statewide Birding Report

Another week of cold, snow, ice, and northerly winds hindered bird migration, leaving most areas of the state with fewer birds of fewer species than would be expected this time of year. Of note, however, were the first ospreys, yellow-rumped warblers, and blue-winged teal, all about as far north as Green Bay. Horned grebes and the first Bonaparte's gulls appeared across the south, where golden-crowned kinglets, fox sparrows, and eastern phoebes were noted in decent numbers. Geese numbers also remain high there with Canadas numbering in the thousands, greater white-fronted by the hundreds, and just a few snow, Ross's, and cackling.

Horned grebe - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Horned grebePhoto credit: Ryan Brady

The week's snow brought many blackbirds, redpolls, and juncos to feeders across much of central Wisconsin. Unfortunately, most impacted by the weather may have been early-arriving American woodcock, which were noted in some unusual habitats and all-too-well represented at wildlife rehab facilities from central Wisconsin southward. Farther north, American robins and common grackles made a small push into the region but otherwise the landbird migration has been very slow. Some of the wintering birds holding on statewide include snowy owls, short-eared owls, snow buntings, northern shrikes, rough-legged hawks, and pine siskins. On the up side, American goldfinches are getting brighter yellow by the day.

Some of this week's rarities included Franklin's gull in Sheboygan, western grebe and early black-necked stilt in Manitowoc, continuing varied thrush in Door, and hoary redpolls at multiple locations among the many commons. What lies in the week ahead? More of the same for the next few days but then winds finally turn south mid-late next week, which should usher in a nice wave of new migrants. As always, track migration progress by species at http://bit.ly/2oznJKK and put your sightings on the map by submitting them to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Saturday, April 7 & Sunday April 8, 2018

For all events search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."
Find a park, forest trail or recreation property

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Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

The mouth of the Brule River at Lake Superior. - Photo credit: DNR
The mouth of the Brule River at Lake Superior.
Lake Superior at the mouth of the Brule River. - Photo credit: DNR
Lake Superior at the mouth of the Brule River.Photo credit: DNR

Brule River State Forest - It is still winter in Brule. There is about a foot of snow on the ground in the woods, but bare ground is starting to show in the open areas. The Brule River is open to the mouth now, but there are ice shelves along the banks and the ice on Lake Superior is piled up along the shore. The heavy snow that fell this past weekend missed us: we only got 3 inches or so, but more snow is in the forecast. Temperatures have been below average, but warmer temperatures are in the forecast for next week. Flocks of robins have been seen in the area, and a pair of swans was spotted on the Brule River. The birds of spring are making their way into the area. Afterhours ski trails are still being groomed when new snow falls. The base is holding up well for skate skiing, classic tracks are good in some spots, but shallow in others. We are starting to see some thin or bare spots in the areas with a strong southern exposure, but overall the trails are in good condition. Spring Steelhead fishing opened on March 31 for the lower stretch of the Brule River. Opening day angler numbers were good and there have been reports of fishing success. The snow, cold temperatures and ice aren't deterring the spring anglers. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

A not too happy robin. - Photo credit: Kevin Feind, DNR
A not too happy robin.Photo credit: Kevin Feind, DNR

Pattison State Park - Winter is hanging on. We received 4 inches of snow over the weekend. The cross country ski trails are in very good condition. There is around 6 inches of ski base and 12 inches of snow in the woods. The trails were groomed and tracked on April 2. There are a few bare/thin spots on River View Trail, but otherwise the track was set at full depth. If you would like some late season classic skiing, come to Pattison State Park and enjoy! A Robin that was not too happy with the new snowfall was also spotted at the park in a Tamarack. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are still ice covered. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Pattison State Park is one of three northern properties that was able to re-groom ski trails after this week's snowfall. - Photo credit: Gervase Thompson, DNR
Pattison State Park is one of three northern properties that was able to re-groom ski trails after this week's snowfall.Photo credit: Gervase Thompson, DNR

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Iron County has seen a few signs of spring. Robins, black birds, geese and trumpeter swans may be regretting their decisions to make their appearances "early" this year. Throughout most of the county there is still 16-22 inches of snow and 1-2 feet of ice on most lakes. However, channels within waterbodies seem to be thinning and inlets/outlets of lakes continue to open up. MECCA ski trail in Mercer has been taking advantage of the 8 inches of fresh snowfall and continues to groom tracks for those of us holding onto winter--or patiently waiting for spring. Good skiing conditions throughout Iron County may continue into next week as we will be seeing cold days and nights into the near future. Snowmobile and ATV trails closed on March 19 and will remain closed until break-up conditions recede. The cold nights and slow warming days put a damper on tapping operations last week. Sugar bushes will be not be operational this week as the temperatures will stay at or below freezing most of the week. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Recent heavy snow and ice in the area has delayed the migration of smaller waterfowl, but trumpeter swans, Canadian geese, and sandhill cranes are returning to Grantsburg. Recent reports tell us that the bald eagles and common ravens are nesting. Although spring migration is beginning and some species are nesting, there are still several winter residents still around, including rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, and common redpolls. Rare birds that were sighted this week include a golden eagle and red crossbills. There was also a northern saw-whet owl heard on Klarquist Road. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Interstate Park - The park has received a foot of snow since the beginning of April. Please use caution on the trails this time of year as snow and ice can create slippery conditions on trial surfaces. The trails that lead into the bluffs are not maintained for winter use, please use caution if you decided to utilize those trails. All trails are open to hiking and snowshoeing. Spring was trying to make its way into the park before the snowstorms. A variety of different bird species have been utilizing the bird feeder at the Ice Age Center. Species include the American golden finch, house finch, purple finch, cardinals, and a variety of woodpeckers. Turkeys have been seen near the Ice Age Center as well. With the St. Croix River open, the eagles and ospreys have been seen soaring overhead. Sandhill cranes, eastern bluebirds, and great blue herons were all seen before the snowstorms. The St. Croix River is open, but the boat launch is not available at this time due to snow. The Lake O' the Dallas is still ice covered. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. - Matthew Densow, ranger

Washburn County - There is 20 inches of snow in Washburn County with more expected. We've had to postpone sharp-tailed grouse viewing at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area because of the weather. Normally viewing blinds to watch sharp-tailed grouse dance are available April 1 through May 31. We are waiting for snow to melt and then will set up the blinds as soon as we can. If you are interested in viewing sharp-tailed grouse, please watch for updates and sign up on the calendar available at www.fnbwa.org. There are still days available, especially later in May. This year, later dates may be the best dates. For more questions, please call Nancy Christel at 715-635-4091. - Nancy M. Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - Winter seems to be marching on. The weather continues to challenge the Flambeau River wildlife with the snow depth and cold temperatures. Snow depth is between 20 and 24 inches. Despite the new snow the Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail and the Flambeau Snowmobile Trail are closed for the season. Last year's deer fawns are beginning to show signs of stress. Thin ice is a risk for wildlife. Some segments of the Flambeau River are open, some are not. The snowshoe hare and weasel coats are beginning to turn brown. Otter sign has been seen next to Connors Lake. Kestrels and hawks have been hovering at road sides and open areas looking for prey, and eagles for prey and carrion. We are watchful of all the usual spring-like activities when temperatures rise and we have the extra daylight hours. We're eager for any sign, as winter has seemed very long. Lake of the Pines and Connors Lake have reported to have approximately 15-plus inches of ice but there's heavy snow on top of the ice. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be mostly sunny with a high of 26 and low of 10. Saturday, will be mostly sunny with a high of 29 and a low of 6. Sunday, will be mostly sunny then a slight chance of snow showers, with a high of 35 and a low of 21. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Mother Nature played an April Fool on the State Forest bringing 6-10 inches of snow to the area, adding to the significant amount still on the ground! It looks like early March, not early April. The newly arrived Saw Whet owl didn't know what to do as it perched near the building looking for that unsuspecting mouse. The sharp shinned hawk is still taking advantage of the slower moving northern birds as it plucked an unsuspecting redpoll out of the air. Red crossbills are still feeding along the roadsides and are getting hit by vehicles as their slow flight is no match for a fast moving car or truck. The ski trails have plenty of snow on them but are not being groomed anymore. Those snowshoes are still coming in handy for the Northwoods hiker. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Brown County - Locations from Duck Creek up to Geano Beach are mostly still ice covered with patchy open water. Fox River water temperatures have been staying relatively cool, approximately 41-44 degrees, which in turn has been keeping the walleyes in deeper water. There has still been hundreds of shore anglers and boaters out to catch a trophy walleye. Fairgrounds and Fox Point seen high numbers of boaters on the warmest days, along with shore anglers at Voyager, numerous Whitefish have been caught while shore angling at Voyager. Due to the high size limit the few walleyes that were caught were then released. - Megan Radtke, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Manitowoc County - The ice is mostly gone in the Manitowoc harbor and marina but the landing is still closed. Hardly anyone has been fishing the piers or harbor so there is not much to report but anyone willing to give it a shot usually finds browns and pike this time of year. In the last week Silver Creek has thawed out but the mouth is still mostly blocked with sand. No fish have been spotted upstream yet. The Manitowoc River has been producing some steelhead. Most angler effort has been around the park on Mill Rd. No word if the Branch River has produced any fish yet. At Two Rivers, the wind and cold in the last week has kept most anglers off the lake who are trolling for browns. Upstream in both the East and West Twin Rivers, anglers have been doing well catching steelhead on spawn. Cleos and various small jigs have also produced fish. Shoto dam has been the most consistent spot and also sees the most fisherman. The river channel downstream at the sportsman's club has also produced fish including some nice browns. The East Twin has also been producing fish both at the Mishicot dam and in the holes downstream through town. The recent rain last Tuesday and Friday was just enough to add some flow and get the fish moving. The water is still very low for this time of year and temps remain cold. With more cold weather in the forecast we may be in for a slow drawn out steelhead run. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Spring has given way to winter with nearly a foot of snow on the ground now in the Wausaukee area. Woodcock are still being seen using low creek bottom areas. Meadowlarks have been seen using the same areas as snow buntings. Turkeys are still in large winter flocks. This weekend is the kick-off of turkey hunting in Marinette County with a special Learn-To-Hunt turkey event being held for 14 first time hunters. A few walleye are being caught in the rivers and some anglers are still ice fishing at Lake Noquebay. The north shore has deteriorated quite a bit and most fisherman seemed to be accessing off of Oak Lane. This new snow will weigh down the ice and cover up some of the bad areas--please be extremely careful if venturing onto the ice. Spring hearings will be held across the state on Monday evening--Marinette counties meeting will be at the Wausaukee High School at 7pm. Check out the DNR website for a list of questions to be voted on. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Governor Thompson State Park - The 16 miles of hiking trail are open and ready for your snowshoes. Several spring snow storms have made for great snowshoe conditions on the trails. The park has finished grooming the ski trails for the season. - Maggie Kailhofer, park manager

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Newport State Park - Typical of northern Door County, we are getting hit with a late winter snow storm. As of this Tuesday, there was 4-6 inches of new snow on the ground, with the possibility of 10-12 inches total when all is said and done. And it's not over; more snow is forecast for later in the week. Don't put away those snowshoes just yet. As happens so often this time of year, migrating birds have returned and are searching for food. Robins are plentiful. Sandhill cranes have been spotted in the fields for a few weeks now. Turkey vultures have returned. There have been reports of bluebirds in the county, but we have not seen them here yet. There has also been a confirmed sighting of yellow rumped warblers last week, but that was before the heavy snow showed up. Juncos are still around. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Potawatomi State Park - The park received about 6 inches of snow April 3. All trails are open to hiking at this time. Grooming trails for skiing is done for the season. The suggested hiking trails are the Ice Age Trail section, Picnic trail and nature trail identified on the winter map. Please see the Potawatomi winter use map for trails open to winter hiking and snowshoeing. Bikes may be ridden on park roadways. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - The park received about 8 inches of snow on April 3. All trails are open to hiking but snowshoes would be recommended this weekend with all the snow and drifts on the trails. The park is done grooming trails for skiing this season. The beach is free of snow for hiking. This is a great time for birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There have been several common goldeneyes and buffleheads near the shoreline by the office and they are fun to watch bobbing in the waves. A visitor spotted an American woodcock along the trail this week. The bird feeder has been busy with juncos, American tree sparrows, woodpeckers and squirrels. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - We got around 10 inchesof snow over the last 36 hours. Turkeys have been displaying, had a woodcock peenting in my backyard late last week. Although it is depressing to get such a blast of snow so late in the season, the local streams were pretty low for this time of year and could use the water. Maples trees trying to break bud, but the weather will put them in a holding pattern. The only new migrants I have seen are a pair of blue-winged teal and a meadowlark. Am sure they are regretting their early arrival. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Waushara County - The snow did arrive this week and will be staying into the near future it looks like with some single digit temperatures. On the bright side it gives folks a little bit longer to break out the snowshoes in April which doesn't happen too often. The turkeys are still starting to get fired up in spite of the snow. Gobbles can be heard on some properties and birds have been strutting too. Some northern visitors are still present with some rough-legged hawks around while an increase in the number of resident bird species have returned, including a few whooping cranes in the NW portion of the county. The lakes are pretty rough right now especially with the added weight of the snow. Some are completely open and others still have a good amount of ice, but the quality is poor and the shorelines are bad making access difficult. As always, get out there and take advantage of what Waushara County has to offer - more of a winter sport kind of weekend, but nonetheless enjoy! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Sheboygan County - The Sheboygan River has been producing decent numbers of steelhead and the occasional brown trout, primarily around the Kohler Dam area, but fish can be found throughout the river. Several steelhead and brown trout were caught by fly fishermen, who were mostly drifting spawn sacs off of Indiana Avenue, between the Highway 43 overpass and the Taylor Street bridge. Other anglers had success using a variety of baits including bead rigs, wooly buggers, and spoons. One angler, who occasionally fishes near the 8th street bridge caught and released several respectable smallmouth bass using shiners and one 14 pound northern, which was caught on a spoon. Due to rain, water levels rose slightly and water temps have been steady throughout the week, hovering around 40 degrees. A few boats were spotted at the Deland Park ramp, but only one angler who was using crank baits reported success catching browns. Fishing pressure on the Pigeon River has been fairly low, due in part to some less than desirable weather conditions, but there are some steelhead to be found. Anglers who were drifting spawn near the Lake Shore bridge and Mill Road reported the highest catch rates, although others had luck landing fish using spinners and streamers. Despite some heavy rain Saturday morning, water levels remain relatively unaffected, with fairly clear water, and temperatures ranging in the high 30s.

Ozaukee County - Pressure at the Port Washington ramp was very low and only one boat was observed trolling in the harbor. The fisherman stated that he had caught one brown that was approximately 4 pounds on a stick bait in 20-30 feet of water. One angler was spotted fishing the South side of Coal Dock Park with wax worms, but had little luck at this location. Due to recent rain and windy conditions, the harbor has become considerably murky, but is producing a few small browns and the occasional steelhead for a few persistent anglers. The bait of choice is spawn fished on the bottom; however one very small coho was caught by an angler using wax worms. Although fishing has been reported as slow, good numbers of steelhead are being spotted throughout Sauk Creek. Pressure has been relatively light, but the West Grand Avenue bridge and several spots behind the high school saw the most activity. Spawn sacs, night crawlers, and spinners were all used in an attempt to entice a bite, however all proved to be unsuccessful. The water level has risen sightly, clarity re-mains good, and temps range from 37-41 degrees.

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South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Bird watchers have been flocking to Park Lake in Pardeeville for the spring migration of loons coming through on their way up north. The bluegills also started to bite on the lake as well making the lake a very active place. Fishermen have been reporting some on and off action for walleye on the Wisconsin River as well. As of Tuesday it was snowing and we are to get somewhere in the 3-5 inch range which should push everything back again with the cold that is to follow. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Recent snowfalls and cold temperatures have temporarily slowed or suspended a lot of wild animal activities. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, meadow jumping mice, and black bears have yet to emerge from their winter burrows, and it will likely be several weeks before they arise from their patient slumber. Skunks, raccoons, and opossums reduce their nocturnal forays in efforts to deal with the cold, snowy weather. They adjust rapidly, however, to weather changes, as the urge to eat and procreate is difficult to suppress for any length of time. Most wood frogs, Wisconsin's earliest calling frog, have yet to initiate calling. These small frogs hibernate above ground in rotting logs and beneath leaf litter, so they are able to rapidly respond to thawing wetlands. Male wood frogs emit a squawking duck-like call to attract females to the chilly waters of small wetlands and ponds. It does not take much warmth for these frogs to become active, but it does require some. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The Black River Falls area received 7-9 inches of snow earlier this week; however, bright sunshine and above freezing temperatures is melting it quickly. Spring migrants continue to move through the area. Robins, nuthatches, brown creepers, hawks, woodpeckers, geese, sandhill cranes and ducks are just some of the species seen recently. All hiking and biking trails are open but may be muddy, slushy or icy in places. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the low to mid 30s with a chance of snow Sunday night. There is not enough snow for snowshoeing. Trails are open for hiking. ATV and UTV trails are closed for the season. They will reopen May 15, weather permitting. Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek campgrounds are open on a first-come, first-serve basis. East Fork campground and Outdoor Group camp are closed and will reopen on April 15.- Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area/Red Cedar State Trail - The trails received a pile of snow from 8-10 inches in places this week ending our spring warmup for the foreseeable future. There's plenty of snow to do some late season skiing or snowshoeing but trails are not being groomed for skiing. Trails are open for multi-use now and this would be a good opportunity to do some fat tire biking on the Red Cedar or Chippewa Trails. A lot of waterfowl are moving through the area as the rivers are completely open. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Ice has freed up by Launch C and many spots of the lake. We are still in draw down and piers will not be installed until the lake level is normal (should be around the last week of April to beginning of May). Sandhill cranes, herons, robins and more are making their way back to the park. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and camping are now closed through May 5. Parking is in the winter/prairie lot on Czech Ave and park stickers are required. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, April 05, 2018

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