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Outdoor Report

Published April 12, 2018 by the Central Office

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[EDITOR'S ADVISORY: This report has been updated to correct that the first spring turkey season period opens April 18.  We regret the error.]

Winter simply refuses to surrender this year in northern and central Wisconsin. Snow depths range from just a couple inches in central Wisconsin to some areas with still more than 20 inches in the far north. And it doesn't appear that it is letting up: there is a winter storm warning this weekend with predictions of another 8 to 10 inches in some areas.

The Brule River State Forest and Pattison State Park have continued to maintain ski trails but grooming has ended at all other properties. And a reminder, even if areas do get substantial snow this weekend, snowmobile trails are now closed in all counties. Many trails run on private property through easements that have ended for the season.

Steelhead fishermen on the Bois Brule River April 11, 2018. - Photo credit: DNR
Steelhead fishermen on the Bois Brule River April 11, 2018.Photo credit: DNR

Some northern lakes also still have substantial ice cover with 20 inches or more of ice. Lakes are opening up through central Wisconsin and most lakes in the south are open.

Walleye runs are on on both the Wolf and Fox rivers and there has been some great walleye action on the Wolf for the past 10 days. There have still been hundreds of shore anglers and boaters out to catch a trophy walleye on the Fox with one group catching upward of 60 walleye this week. The Oconto River downstream of Stiles Dam is open and the walleye run is currently underway there as well. The number of anglers is slowly beginning to increase along the Menominee and Peshtigo rivers. However, the number of fish being caught is still low.

The ice fishing season is definitely over on the west shore of Green Bay, with ice breaking up and the ice mass shifting and open water visible over the weekend. All Door County boat landings on the Bay side are still locked with ice. There are pockets of open water in some near shore areas but the harbors are still frozen solid. The Sturgeon Bay canal has been producing some northern pike and brown trout for anglers trolling and shore fishing. Boat landings on the Lake Michigan side are all open and a few anglers have been out in search of browns, with a good bite in Baileys Harbor. Steelhead fishing has been picking up with anglers having success fishing spawn sack in local creeks.

On Lake Michigan tributaries anglers were targeting steelhead on the Sheboygan River with reasonable success. Sauk Creek remains low and few steelhead have been reported.

There are 15 fishing clinics [PDF] set for April 14 in southeastern Wisconsin. Kids 15 and under can learn how to fish with clinics run hourly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Milwaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties at park ponds stocked with fish.

Turkeys are gobbling, displaying and toms can be seen roaming around all hours of the day in perfect timing for the youth turkey hunt this weekend April 15 and 16, and the start of the spring turkey season on April 18. Hunters still looking for a leftover turkey permit, can check availability on the DNR website searching keyword "turkey." The hunt this weekend could be a struggle with the cold weather but the upside of our current weather pattern is no reports of ticks out.

Loons and other waterbirds continue to stack up south of Wausau and Green Bay where water bodies are ice free. Raptor migration has been excellent the past few days with many red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, sharp-shinned hawks, and bald eagles moving north, a few golden eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and ospreys among them.

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Statewide Birding Report

Migration was limited most of the week, although Wednesday night brought a wave of new migrants to far southern Wisconsin. Shorebirds made a splash with increasing numbers of greater and lesser yellowlegs, a few pectoral, Baird's, and least sandpipers, a dunlin, and the first spotted sandpipers. Savannah, vesper, chipping, and white-throated sparrows are also becoming more common. Dark-eyed juncos remain numerous in the south and central while the north eagerly awaits their passage to come soon. Other arrivals in the south, albeit in small numbers so far, include purple martin, barn swallow, and northern rough-winged swallow, yellow-bellied sapsucker, rusty blackbird, black-crowned night-heron, brown-headed cowbird, and both pine and palm warbler. Hummingbirds are no farther north than extreme southern Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky - look for their arrival here in the last week of April across southern counties and the second week of May up north.

Loons and other waterbirds continue to stack up south of Wausau and Green Bay where water bodies are ice free. Large numbers of common goldeneyes, red-breasted mergansers, and bufflehead were reported along some portions of Lake Michigan. Raptor migration has been excellent the past few days with many red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, sharp-shinned hawks, and bald eagles moving north, a few golden eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and ospreys among them. Snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, northern shrikes, and common redpolls remain in good numbers beyond their typical migration schedules. Meanwhile, mourning doves and red crossbills have fledged young already, hooded mergansers and wood ducks have begun egg laying, turkeys are gobbling and displaying statewide, and pine siskins were observed carrying nest material this week.

Some of this week's rarities included Eurasian wigeon in Fond du Lac County, cattle egret in Grant, Franklin's gulls in various southern counties, and continuing Townsend's solitaire in Dane. This weekend does not look conducive for migration but things should pick up again mid-next week with lighter winds and warming temperatures. 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 State Natural Area Workday

April 13, 9 a.m.-noon, Ridgeway Pine Relict Workday - Ridgeway features towering cliffs of pine with northern plant species underneath and extensive oak savanna. Help the Friends of Ridgeway Pine Relict, Inc. care for this site by removing invasive plants and planting native plants. Workdays are once a month on the second Friday. We will work on spraying garlic mustard or cutting and piling brush. No experience is necessary, you will be trained on site.

April 14, 9 a.m.-noon, Bluff Creek Workday - It's spring! Cut up buckthorn at Bluff Creek SNA. Come enjoy spring weather and help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday. Enjoy a short hike, then help cut and pile brush, learn something, meet knowledgeable people, and enjoy the beauty of this fen area in the process. We will remove buckthorn that can spread and shade out rare fen and savanna plants at this site. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. 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 past few days have brought temperatures above the freezing mark. Slowly the snow is receding, but there is still plenty on the ground. We have had a couple of small snowfalls in the past week, and a cold and snowy weekend is on the way. 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. Temperatures for next week are predicted to be more normal for this time of year, so hopefully we'll see more snow melted. The lakes in the area still have significant ice cover. The Brule River is open to the mouth, but there are still ice shelves and snowy paths from the angler parking lots to the river. With the slow snow melt, the river is running at only about 150 cfs. The 72-year average for this time of year is closer to 250 cfs. The USGS website for the Brule River has timelapse photos of the river near the Ranger Station as well as discharge flow and gage height data. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Amnicon Falls State Park - Winter is hanging on in the North. Snow cover is nearly complete with some exceptions beneath conifers and on south facing slopes. A woodcock was seen in one of these open patches, and the first chipmunk was spotted this week. On the Amnicon River, Lower Falls remain open but the others falls are still ice-covered. - David Lindsey, ranger

Little Manitou Falls - Photo credit: DNR
Little Manitou FallsPhoto credit: DNR

Pattison State Park - Well, winter is still hanging on at the park. We have had trace amounts of snow this past week. The ski trails are still open and are being used. They are in good condition, but skiers should be aware of changing track conditions with the changing weather and temperature. There is about 5-6 inches of ski base with 12 inches of snow in the woods. According to the weather forecast, a large winter storm is headed this way this weekend. So, we have a good opportunity of very good skiing next week. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are still completely ice covered. We will need some warm days and nights before the ice begins to lose its grip. Please join us at Pattison State Park for some late winter hiking, waterfall viewing and cross country skiing. A trail pass is not required, but a vehicle admission sticker is. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Snow is starting to melt leaving only 18 or so inches left throughout most of the county. Ice is still 2-3 feet thick on most lakes. Tree wells, roadsides and south-facing slopes have melted down exposing last year's grasses and forbs. Dirt roads have become soft and are either closed or difficult to drive on. This is true with most walking trails and snowmobile trails as well. The MECCA ski trail in Mercer continues to groom from the Fierick Road trailhead. If the weatherman is right, MECCA may be able to groom until June, or maybe just the end of April. Snowshoeing is still excellent. A person can easily stay above the snow and travel a long distance with little effort. It is a great time to get out and explore the vast wilderness and public lands before the bugs and rain come! Try to find a bird of prey on a nest, a historic deer yard, marten or moose tracks; whatever you decide, enjoy the spring sun upon your back! - 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 spring migration greatly. Numbers are way down from what they normally would be in a "normal" spring. There are some small waterfowl arriving, but in small numbers. Blue-winged Teal showed up in the area this week. There are still several winter residents still around, including rough-legged hawks and common redpolls. Rare birds that were sighted this week were the red crossbills. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - In normal years, April would be greening faster. Ice would be closer to being off, we'd be seeing and hearing frogs and spring peepers. Maybe we would see some fiddleheads, early wildflowers, tree buds and tree flowers. We were all fooled with the warm days we had. 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 and more in the forecast for the remainder of this week. The Winter Severity Index is rising in the north. Last year's deer fawns are showing the stress. Thin ice on rivers, creeks and beaver ponds are a risk for wildlife. Some segments of the Flambeau River are open, some are not. 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 20 to 24 inches depending on location. Wildlife can be seen readily along the open east to southeast slopes where vegetation is visible, especially along roadsides. The snowshoe hare and weasel coats are turning brown. Kestrels and hawks have been hovering at road sides and open areas looking for prey, and eagles for prey and carrion. Some mallards, robins, grackles, red winged blackbirds, morning doves and purple finches have braved the weather. 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. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be windy with rain/snow then rain, with a high of 39 and low of 25. Saturday, will be windy with a chance of wintry mix then snow, with a high of 33 and a low of 22. Sunday has a chance of snow, with a high of 34 and a low of 20. Be safe, and bundle up if going outside and come see us at the Flambeau! - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Mother nature continues her wintery grip on the state forest. A couple of sunny days have melted some southern exposure hillsides giving the locals a glint of what spring will look like before the storms hit again this weekend. Most spring migrants are still pushed back to the snowless line for good reason. The Canadian redpolls and crossbills are still visiting area feeders and roadsides so they know what is still in store for the Northwoods! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

Antigo DNR Service Center area

Council Grounds State Park - Lingering snow has meant opportunities for some late-season snowshoeing, but the forecast includes rain, ice, and snow so trail conditions may deteriorate. Cross-country skiing is not advised. We are having a late migration and our local birders report ring-necked ducks, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and kingfisher all spotted along the river below the dam where there is open water. - Sara Gilbert, ranger supervisor

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Ice fishing season is definitely over on the Bay for the west shore. The ice is breaking up and open water was visible over the weekend but the ice mass is shifting so fishermen should use extra caution if they intend to fish along the west shore. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries team supervisor, Peshtigo

Marinette County - The number of anglers is slowly beginning to increase along the Menominee and Peshtigo rivers. However, the number of fish being caught is still low. A handful of brown trout have been caught between Stephenson Island and the Hattie Street bridge over the past week. The Menominee River water temperature has stayed at about 35 degrees throughout the past week. A handful of walleye have been caught at the mouth of the Peshtigo River and near the Peshtigo dam. The Peshtigo River has increased to 37 degrees over the last couple of days. - Benjamin Olsen, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Despite the cold weather, fishing pressure has increased over the last week. Although, angler catch rates have been low, some anglers found success fishing for walleye at the Stiles damn over the weekend. Other anglers have had some success catching northern pike and the occasional walleye at the Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park II. The Oconto river is had temperatures of around 35-37 degrees throughout the weekend. - Benjamin Olsen, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Locations from Suamico up to Geano Beach are still mostly ice covered with patchy open water. No anglers were observed at either locations. Locations from Longtail to Duck Creek are mostly open water with only a few anglers observed. Although the Fox River water temperatures have been varying throughout the week, approximately 37-44 degrees, more walleyes have been caught and spotted in the shallows. The latter of the week has produced the highest numbers of walleyes caught this week with one group catching upward of 60 walleye. They have been biting on just about anything according to anglers, from jigs with plastics to live bait. 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

Door County - All Door County boat landings to Green Bay are still locked with ice. There are pockets of open water in some near shore areas but the harbors are still frozen solid. There have been no ice anglers fishing in the protected areas. Anyone planning on ice fishing in these protected near shore areas should proceed with caution. Ice conditions will deteriorate quickly with the warm weather in the forecast. The Sturgeon Bay canal has been producing some northern pike and brown trout for anglers trolling and shore fishing with spoons and crank baits. Boats in the canal need to watch for floating ice depending on the wind direction. The area of the canal west of the Michigan Street bridge still has a lot of ice. No walleyes yet. Boat landings on the Lake Michigan shore are all open and a few anglers have been out in search of browns. There was a good brown bite in Baileys Harbor over the weekend with good numbers of fish and a couple over 10 pounds. Natural colors fishing dirty water was the best pattern. West winds have since blown the dirty water out making the bite difficult. A few browns have also been caught off the piers. Steelhead fishing has been picking up with anglers having success fishing spawn sack in local creeks. Heins Creek has been a popular spot. Rain and warm weather in the forecast should melt the remaining ice blocking the streams, increase flow and bring in more fish. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Oconto County - Currently most of the snow is gone but there is ice on most lakes. The Oconto River downstream of Stiles Dam is open and the walleye run is currently underway. This weekend predictions are calling for another snow storm which could bring up to 10 inches of snow and strong winds. Be careful if traveling and recreating in the northern part of the state this weekend. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Newport State Park - Winter does not want to leave this year. As of April 12 there was 4-8 inches of snow on the ground, with another late storm coming in the next few days. Early predictions are calling for an additional 10-20 inches of snow, so check with the park before heading out. Trails are no longer being groomed. Don't put away those snowshoes just yet. Birds are slowly returning, even with the abundance of snow. Woodcocks are around and peenting. Bluebirds and yellow rumped warblers have been spotted. With the current wintry conditions, juncos are still hanging around. Waterfowl such as golden eye and red breasted merganser have been spotted on open water. A pair of young bald eagles are regular visitors to the shoreline as well. Deer, sandhill cranes and turkey are abundant in the farm fields surrounding the park. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Winter simply refuses to surrender this year. Still snow in the woods in most of central Wisconsin. Most Waupaca area lakes still have some ice on them and are neither ice fishable or open water fishable. Greenup and bud break have not begun and will not begin until we lose the snow and get some warmer weather. New migrant bird arrivals include great-blue heron and killdeer. Deer are very active lately feeding out in ag fields that lost their snow cover. The only birds acting like it is breeding season are turkeys. They are gobbling, displaying and toms can be seen roaming around all hours of the day. The only upside of our current weather pattern is that I have yet to see a tick. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

There has been some great walleye action on the Wolf River for the past 10 days. Anglers are catching mostly male fish with a jig and minnow. There are very low water levels and the weather has not been cooperation but the fish are biting. Woodcock are back - despite winter like conditions. Several have been seen in low lying areas near stream and open water. Several learn to turkey hunt events took place the past weekend. The birds are still flocked up in their winter areas but the gobblers are strutting. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waushara County - The county is in a false spring Wednesday and Thursday, but winter will be back in full force this weekend with freezing temperatures and snow possible. That being said the turkeys have been gobbling and strutting all over the county. The youth hunt could be a good one if everyone is prepared for the cold. The migration has been in full swing with sandhills, whooping cranes, geese, ducks, swans, and hawks returning. We also have our northern visitors that are still around due to the cold, but they should be heading back north soon. Slowly, but surely there are a few buds popping on trees. Other than that spring seems to be in a holding pattern as the warm temps just will not commit. Just a reminder to folks that it doesn't seem like bird nesting season, but it is just around the corner and that means that starting April 15 all dogs must be on leash and under control on state properties. Remember get out there and stay warm! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System

Lake sturgeon spawning normally occurs on the Winnebago System between April 15-May 1. Water temperature is the biggest predictor of when lake sturgeon, and most other fish, will start spawning. On the Winnebago System lake sturgeon typically spawn when water temperatures are 52-58 degrees. Currently the Wolf River water temperature is 41 degrees, so there is some warming that needs to take place yet before fish will get active. The 10-day forecast still includes highs in the 30s and 40s for most days, so a late sturgeon spawn is anticipated this year. It's too early to predict exactly when, but I would anticipate late April and potentially into May. - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

Walleye report for the Winnebago System. DNR fisheries crews began their annual walleye stock assessment on the Wolf River on April 8. There have been 750 walleye tagged so far and crews will continue tagging efforts over the next few days. Water levels continue to be very low on the Wolf River, which has left many of the traditional walleye spawning marshes dry. Water temperatures have been increasing throughout the week, which should make fish more active. Walleye fishing has been good on the Wolf River so far this spring with anglers reporting good action from Fremont to Shiocton. - Adam Nickel, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

Outagamie County - Walleye fishing (boat, raft and pier) is picking up on the Wolf River north of Hortonville as the fish spawn north. Fishermen are reporting catching walleyes primarily with jigs and minnows. A reminder to register boats, buy fishing licenses and carry appropriate PFDs. - Tom Sturdivant, conservation warden, Appleton

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - Gobblers have been seen strutting for hen turkeys in open fields, in perfect timing for the youth turkey hunt on April 15 and 16, and the start of the turkey season on April 18. If you are still looking for a leftover turkey permit, you can check availability on the DNR website, keyword "spring turkey". Spring songbird migration has also picked up, and you can see migrant songbirds such as golden-crowned kinglets, yellow-rumped warblers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and the start of the sparrow push. You may also see some ephemeral wildflowers starting to pop out of the ground, although the ground is still pretty cold for any blooming. Visit the DNR Events link to find some exciting Earth Day activities near you, ranging from hikes to work days to arts and crafts activities for the whole family. With the weather warming up and spring now here (mostly to stay) you'll see more young wildlife in your neighborhood, including fox, raccoon, and squirrel kits. If you see any young wildlife, take pictures but please don't touch! If you find a wild animal that is clearly injured or sick, or truly orphaned, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator before approaching the wild animal, using the directory on the web page, dnr.wi.gov, search word "rehab." These volunteers are licensed to handle specific types of wild animals; call in advance so they can help you make the best decision for the animal. Never attempt to rehabilitate wildlife on your own. For tips on how to deal with injured, sick or truly orphaned wildlife, visit the web page dnr.wi.gov and search "Keep Wildlife Wild." - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Milwaukee - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Milwaukee

Lakeshore State Park - At Lakeshore State Park, our first forbs (flowering plants) of the season are starting to emerge! Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) plants have reddish-pink drooping flowers sprouting from a leafy rosette. Look for them in the demonstration gardens at the north entrance of the park, and along the edges of the western shoreline prairies. A pair of common loons (Gavia immer) was spotted in the north end of the lagoon early this week, and we have begun seeing some tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) return. The park's resident red foxes (Vulpes Vulpes) have been very active at dusk this week as well. The ice has been gone from the lagoon and Milwaukee Harbor shoreline for a while now, and we have begun seeing the return of fishing boats, the majority of them trolling for trout. We will be starting our public event season next week already, so keep an eye on the Get Outdoors site! - Angela Vickio, naturalist, Milwaukee

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

15 southeastern Wisconsin fishing clinics set for April 14

One day, 15 great locations, and a lifetime of memories! Kids 15 and under can learn how to fish at 15 free fishing clinics in southeastern Wisconsin on Saturday, April 14. The clinics run hourly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Milwaukee, Racine, Washington and Waukesha counties at park ponds stocked with fish. Get the details [PDF]!

Sheboygan County - A few boats were spotted at the Deland Park ramp, but only two anglers who were using flicker shad reported success catching browns. The fish ranged in weight from 1.5-11 pounds and were caught in 8-20 feet of water. Despite moderate pressure, trout action has been tough at the Sheboygan piers, but a few determined anglers fishing off of the south pier have had success catching browns. Spoons and minnows were used to catch fish that averaged 4.5 pounds. Pigeon River fishing has been reported as very slow and anglers targeting steelhead had little luck. Water temperature hovered in the mid to high 30s, but the water level remains low. Although Weedens Creek remains mostly iced over, an angler reported that he had landed two decently sized male steelhead on spawn. The water temp was 29 degrees with limited visibility. Anglers targeting steelhead on the Sheboygan River near the Kohler dam are reasonably successful despite the cold weather conditions. Streamers, nymphs, and spawn sacs have all successfully enticed a bite, although one angler fishing off of County A reported landing a 14 pound brown that fell for his bead rig. Water clarity is good and temps range from 34-36 degrees.

Ozaukee County - Pressure at the Port Washington ramp was light, with only a few boats spotted fishing this week. Several small brown trout and one coho were caught by anglers using flicker shad in 10-20 feet of water. Fishing pressure on the Port Washington piers was very light. Two fishermen casting spoons off of the North pier stated that they had no luck landing any fish, but one of them had a bite. Along the Port Washington shoreline only one angler fishing for brown trout was seen near Rotary Park. He had little luck catching any trout, however he did accidentally snag a hefty 31-pound carp by its tail, which was immediately released after being weighed. Several brown trout and the occasional steelhead have been taken by the Port Washington Utility, however action remains very hit or miss. Successful anglers report night crawlers as the bait of choice. Sauk Creek fishing has been reported as slow with just a few steelhead being caught along with some suckers. Spinners, spawn, and nymphs were used to entice a bite, yet wooly buggers seemed to work the best. The water level remains very low, water clarity is good, and water temperature ranged from 36-37 degree.

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South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Dane County - New migrants for me today at the office included Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Rusty Blackbirds. Turkey hunting this weekend will be a struggle. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg

Lake Kegonsa State Park -All trails are open to hiking. Some areas may be muddy and slippery. The boat landing and fishing piers have been put in the lake for the season. The campgrounds open May 1. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Skunk cabbages are blooming in wet lowlands. Not a true cabbage, skunk cabbage is related to Jack-in-the-pulpit and a member of the Arum family. Do not be put off by the pungent odor given off by skunk cabbage, should you break or tear a part of the plant. The plant's odor attracts carrion-feeding insect pollinators, mainly stoneflies, bees, and flies. The odor also serves to protect this perennial plant from being eaten by hungry animals. Its leaves contain crystals of calcium oxalate, making them toxic to most animals, but hungry snapping turtles and black bears have been observed eating the leaves in spring. Skunk cabbage is one a few plants that can actually generate heat through cellular respiration, a process known as thermogenesis, and melt through snow. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Lake Wissota State Park - The recent cold weather has slowed the progression of spring. The rivers are becoming mostly open water. Most lakes continue to hold ice but areas with current or areas along the shoreline may be unsafe. Sugar maple tapping has been slow due to the cold weather but should pick up once we get some warmer weather. Many areas are still holding snow. It is over one foot deep in some areas but forecasted rain should help reduce the snow cover. Species of birds seen or heard include: crows, phoebes, northern juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, red headed and pileated woodpeckers, mourning doves, bald eagles, blue jays, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, mallard ducks, and robins.- Nathan Fries, ranger



Last Revised: Thursday, April 12, 2018

Contact information

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608-267-2773