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Outdoor Report

Published February 7, 2019 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).

Rollercoaster weather continued across Wisconsin in the last week, again hampering winter outdoor recreation across much of the southern half of the state. One of the first good snowfalls of the season was followed by the polar vortex with frigid temperatures keeping many people inside. Then when snowmobile and ski trails were finally opened in the south, the state was hit by warm temperatures and rain that rendered many trails unusable.

Snowmobile trails are now again open only across the northern third of the state and only in good condition across the norther tier of counties according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-country ski trail conditions fared better and are in good to fair across about the norther half of the state.

The picnic area at Pattison State Park shows how much snow the area has received. Trees show the freezing rain. - Photo credit: DNR
The picnic area at Pattison State Park shows how much snow the area has received. Trees show the freezing rain.Photo credit: DNR

New snow was falling in the north Thursday, but it was freezing rain falling across the south making driving and walking conditions hazardous. Most northern properties were indicating they planned to regroom ski trails on Friday after the snow clears out and many expected ski conditions to be good for the weekend. As always, check the Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR) or county and chamber websites for updates on snowmobile conditions as grooming is handled locally by snowmobile clubs.

Ice thickness is variable with most northern lakes holding 14 to 22 inches of ice. Anglers have been fishing for walleye, crappie, walleye and perch with some success. On Big Green Lake, there have been some decent catches of ciscoes and lake trout in about 100 feet of water. One happy angler recently caught a lake trout that measured 34 inches.

On Green Bay, a few limits of whitefish have been coming in from the west shore, but overall action has slowed. Heavy fishing pressure was again observed on the Fox River at Voyageur's Park with anglers catching a decent numbers of walleye, with a few perch and whitefish mixed in as well.

Along Door County folks were coming in from the northern part of Little Sturgeon Bay with small perch along with the occasional whitefish. Perch anglers coming in from the middle of Little Sturgeon Bay did well this week.

The sturgeon spear fishery on the Winnebago system begins on Saturday Feb. 9. Water clarity is the biggest predictor of sturgeon harvest from Lake Winnebago. Typically an average clarity is 12 feet or more. Anecdotal reports from spearers suggest that clarity ranges from 6-10 feet on the southern end of Lake Winnebago to 8-12 feet on the northern. Water clarity is pretty good on the Upriver Lakes, but most spearers are fishing in 4-6 feet of water so clarity does not play as big of a role. There seems to be more cracks on the lake this year relative to years past, so use caution. Local fishing clubs around the lake do a great job of monitoring ice conditions and maintaining access points and lake roads. More details about sturgeon spearing throughout the Lake Winnebago system, including the complete 2019 rules and a list of the 10 registration station locations, can be found at "Winnebago system sturgeon."

Seven candlelight events are scheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 9, including two of the longest running events: the 29th annual events at Newport and Pike Lake. Snow and rain were falling across the state Thursday. With the precarious weather, check the DNR website, Twitter feed or contact properties directly for cancellations.

Wildlife has been hunkered down and not moving much but one of the few sightings of note is otters moving in trout streams. A few more birds have been showing up and moving around, including common redpoll, pine siskin, and brown creeper.

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

If the weather cooperates, seven candlelight events are scheduled for this Saturday, Feb. 9, including two of the longest running events: the 29th annual events at Newport and Pike Lake. There is also a snowshoe hike to Fern Glean at Mirror Lake (registration required) and winter hikes at Harrington Beach, Havenwoods and Newport. Learn to cross-country ski at Richard Bong or work on winter tracking skills at Kettle Moraine North. Snow and rain were falling across the state Thursday. With the precarious weather, check the DNR website, Twitter feed or contact properties directly for cancellations.
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.
Saturday, February 9, 2019

For all events search Get Outdoors

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Feb. 9, 9 a.m.-noon - Observatory Hill Workday: Cutting and burning cedars: A large-scale restoration is taking place at Observatory Hill State Natural Area and this is your chance to help. We will be removing downed woody debris and selectively cutting cedar to increase the population of understory plants present at this site. We will throw the cedar on the fire. The day will require energy and take place on sloping to steep terrain.

Feb. 9, 9 a.m.-noon Bluff Creek workday: Cutting and burning brush - Come enjoy the winter fire 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 - This week started with some freezing rain and has transitioned back to a more typical early February. With new snow accumulations expected to total around 8 inches (light and fluffy) and wrapping up on Friday, the weekend looks ideal to for whatever you have been looking to get outdoors and enjoy. AfterHours Ski Trail packing/grooming for the weekend is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. We expect this fresh snow to improve the uniformity of the trail and produce excellent skate and classic ski opportunities. Conditions for skiing are very good! Also check Skinny Ski: http://skinnyski.com. Check these links for trail condition reports on the local snowmobile trails. Douglas County: Douglascountywi.org or call 715-378-4528 or Bayfield County: Bayfieldcounty.org - Matt Leischer, ranger

Pattison State Park - The park received some freezing rain and snow early this week, with more snow in the forecast. At least the polar vortex has moved on for now! The cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked last Friday. Trails were in excellent condition, and with snow in the near future, look for the trails to be in great shape by the weekend. Douglas county has received a decent amount of snow so far this winter, and if you are a cross-country ski enthusiast, it would be worth the drive to northwest Wisconsin to ski the Pattison State Park trails, Afterhours ski trail in Brule, and the Superior Municipal Forest ski trails in Superior. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - There are currently 17-22 inches of snow on the ground and looking to get more. Currently, 3-5 inches of fresh inches of snow cover a half inch of crust. After the predicted snowfall later in the week, the crust layer should be topped with enough snow to put houndsmen and houndswomen at ease when running their dogs in the county. Skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and outdoor recreationists will be elated to see a foot of fresh snow fall over the week. The Turtle River Pursuit ski race taking place on the DNR Little Turtle Waterfowl Production Area will have perfect conditions this weekend. Fisherman on the other hand may have difficulties getting out on the ice with the predicted snowfall. Ice thickness is variable with most locations holding 14 to 22 inches of ice. That being said, trucks have been breaking through near springs and along river channels in areas that appear to be lakes—always be aware of a lake's topography! - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - The snow from Tuesday was groomed in Wednesday and the results are excellent. Both track and deck seemed to bond to the icy base great. We are looking forward to another snow event Thursday and will be out grooming it early on Friday in preparation for the Turtle River Pursuit Ski Race on Saturday. I believe conditions will be fantastic for the race so bundle up those skis and head up to MECCA for the first leg. The trail will remain open until Friday morning when we will start getting ready for the race on Saturday the Feb. 9. We will reopen right after the race, probably by 1:30. - Brett Bockhop, parks and recreation specialist

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Wildlife activity is still low in the Grantsburg area. Temperatures are warmer than they were last week, but we are still having lows that are below zero. We have seen a few more birds showing up and moving around the area this week, including common redpoll, pine siskin, and brown creeper. Keep your eyes open for the golden eagle, sharptailed grouse, and numerous rough legged hawks. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Ski Trail should have approximately 10 inches of snow depth by the end of the day Thursday. The trail was rolled and tracked as of Saturday Feb. 2. The plan is to groom the trail again after Thursdays snowfall. There have been skiers using the trail and enjoying its beauty. Snowmobile trails are open, and grooming will be completed by Friday morning. The lakes are ice covered with 20-plus inches of ice. They have been fishing for walleye on Connors Lake and crappies on Lake of the Pine with some success. Mason and Evergreen Lakes are being fished for crappie, walleye and perch. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be cold and breezy with a high near -1 and a low of -18. Saturday, partly sunny with a high of 12 and a low of -1. Sunday, partly sunny, with a high of 18 and a low of -1. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The forest received about 6 inches of new fully snow Tuesday night. All trails were groomed and are in good to excellent condition. The forest was receiving more snow Thursday and plans are to regroom trails Friday.

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Marinette County - Two anglers fishing the Peshtigo Harbor reported 8 flags but no fish in a morning of fishing around the Peshtigo harbor area. The Menominee River has seen decent fishing pressure at the Sixth Street Slip over the warm weekend. With anglers reporting catching quite a few walleyes under 10 inches, a few small northerns, and a handful of smaller perch thrown in as well. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - A few limits of whitefish have been coming in from Geano Beach off the reef with a few bonus walleyes throw in the mix as well. With most of the whitefish coming to the hole have been on jigging raps. Anglers fishing away from the reefs report catching a few smaller perch and northern. Anglers fishing the Oconto breakwater area report slow fishing for whitefish with only a hand full reported caught over the weekend. An angler fishing tip-ups in the harbor area reported slow fishing with no fish caught all day. Oconto Park 1 anglers report slow fishing for perch and northerns. Fish are being seen on angler electronics but catching them is another story. Anglers fishing Oconto Park 2 (North Bayshore County Park) report fast action for perch under 6 inches with very few if any fish over 6 inches. Anglers fishing outside the breakwater area report slow fishing for whitefish off the rock piles. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Heavy fishing pressure was observed on the Fox River at Voyageur's Park. Anglers report catching a decent numbers of walleye, with a few perch and a few whitefish mixed in as well. Early morning and late afternoon seeing the best action. Anglers fishing Longtail area are still struggling to find and catch fish. A few perch and northern are being caught by anglers willing to stick it out all day. Anglers report good catches of keeper perch at the Hook Road access. Anglers using small minnows and jigs seem to be doing the best. A few northern have also been caught on tip-ups with shiners. Little fishing pressure was observed at Sunset Beach. Anglers report catching a few keeper perch and some pike in the high 20-inch range. Anglers venturing north of the landing report slow action on tip-ups for pike. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Whitefish anglers were relatively unsuccessful at Red River County Park this weekend though seemed to do better out in 15-17 feet of water using wax worms and small jigs. Ice was reported to be 13 inches or more. Many folks were getting lost out in the thick fog. Use precaution while traveling. Fishing pressure at Volks Landing was low late this weekend due to fog and a slow whitefish catch rate. The catch for whitefish has remained slow at Bayshore Park. Foggy weather conditions made fishing difficult.- Aeden White, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Door County - Most folks were coming in from the northern part of little sturgeon bay with reports of small perch in 20 feet of water with the occasional whitefish. Ice was reported to be 13 inches or more. More whitefish were reported in 25 feet of water closer to the north end of Henderson Point. The catch rate for whitefish has remained high at Lime Kiln Road. Most folks out in 25-30 feet of water did very well while those in 35-40 feet of water had lower catch numbers. Ice was reported to be 10-12 inches with some in the 13-17 inches range due to shove. Good luck was had using wax worms, raps, and Swedish pimples. Shanties were observed mostly on the east side of Sand Bay with a low catch rate for whitefish. Anglers were about a mile out in 30-35 feet of water and stopped before the heave. Ice was reported to be around 14-16 inches or more. Folks were catching with wax worms and jigging techniques. Access to Riley's Bay from Town Park Road has been difficult due to lack of plowing and snow. Most folks went onto the bay from Riley's Bay Road. Folks tried out in 25 feet of water with some luck getting whitefish using wax worms and jigging raps. There were still large amounts of shove reported around the mouth. Not too many perch were reported. Anglers were out at the mouth of the bay in 25-30 feet of water catching the occasional whitefish. Ice was reported to be 15-20 inches thick. Perch anglers coming in from the middle of Little Sturgeon Bay did well this week. Most were in 12-14 feet of water and reported around 12 inches of ice. Good luck was had using wax worms or minnows on little jigs. Very few anglers were fishing Chaudoir's Dock due to the hazardous shove conditions that have remained even after the polar vortex. A low catch rate was reported for whitefish this week at Sugar Creek County Park. Many anglers were in 13-17 feet of water with ice at 14 inches. The thick fog made it difficult to view fish with cams due to decreased sunlight. Folks used wax worms and small stick baits. - Aeden White, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Oconto County - In Oconto County we received about 3-4 inches of snow in the southern half and about 6 inches of snow in the northern half. The southern snowmobile trails south of Suring are closed but may open up with the next snowfall we get Thursday. The snowmobile trails north of Suring are open and in good condition. Ice fishing: Oconto Falls pond they are catching some crappie and perch, ice depth is approximately 30 inches. Kelly Lake, Leigh Flowage and surrounding lakes have been slow, ice depth is about 2 feet. Just remember though no ice is safe ice. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Newport State Park - The park received fresh snowfall Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. More precipitation expected Thursday, bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain. Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked for classic skiing on Wednesday and were in excellent condition.- Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Approximate 3-4 inches of moderately moist new snow was rolled, packed, combed and tracked Feb. 6. The new snow mixed in nicely with existing snow to add to an increasing base, allowing for relatively firm, full depth tracks and solid pole plant areas. Overall, we have enough snow so we can finally begin leveling the trails, which make for a smoother, less "lumpy" areas. With the exception of the few low snow areas, tracks are clean and free of debris. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Most snowmobile trails in central Wisconsin were open, but due to warm weather and recent rain, now most trails are closed. In the Waupaca area, only about 5 inches of snow remain. On Big Green Lake, there have been some decent catches of ciscoes and lake trout. Most anglers are finding fish in about 100 feet of water. One happy angler recently caught a lake trout that measured 34 inches. Most anglers on Big Green Lake are traveling on foot or ATV. Trail conditions are icy or wet in many areas. More snow is needed for trail conditions to improve. Still lots of eagles in the area. Watch for them near open waterways. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Snowmobile trails were briefly open, now closed. Wildlife hunkered down and not moving much. Between last week's bitter cold then a couple days of rain early this week, nobody has been out and about lately. The only wildlife sighting of note is the otters are really moving in the trout streams. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - Hartman Creek received approximately 7 inches of snow earlier this week. The Pope Lake Trail System is in poor condition (icy) with tracks set on Tuesday Jan. 29. The Oakridge Trail System is in poor condition (icy) and was tracked on Friday Feb. 1.- James Abbott, ranger

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System

The sturgeon spear fishery on the Winnebago system begins on Saturday Feb. 9. Water clarity is the biggest predictor of sturgeon harvest from Lake Winnebago. Typically an average clarity of 12 feet or more will result in a shorted season where the harvest caps are reached. DNR staff have not been out to check water clarity yet this year due to the variable weather, but anecdotal reports from spearers suggest that clarity ranges from 6-10 feet on the southern end of Lake Winnebago to 8-12 feet on the northern end. Reports indicate that water clarity is pretty good on the Upriver Lakes, but most spearers are fishing in 4-6 feet of water so clarity does not play as big of a role. Many people are questioning what ice conditions are like for this season. The DNR does not monitor ice conditions during the winter months, but it's important to express that spearers use caution when going out on the ice. There seems to be more cracks on the lake this year relative to years past, so use caution. The local fishing clubs around the lake do a great job of monitoring ice conditions and maintaining access points and lake roads. Please support these clubs as they rely on donations and all of the work is done by dedicated volunteers that want to keep people safe on the lake. The weather forecast for Friday night into Saturday morning is calling for some pretty cold temperatures. It won't be as cold as the polar vortex last week, but still cold nonetheless. More details about sturgeon spearing throughout the Lake Winnebago system, including the complete 2019 rules and a list of the 10 registration station locations, can be found at keywords "Winnebago system sturgeon." - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit - It was raining Thursday. The plan is to try to get out and groom Thursday night before the temps drop too far. We will have to see what the loop looks like after today's weather.

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Prevalent mild temperatures, fog, and drizzle have deteriorated skiing conditions. Expect lots of ice, bare patches, and thin spots throughout. Not recommended for skiing at this time. TRAILS ARE CLOSED FOR HIKING. We will continually reassess conditions as precipitation occurs and will groom again once there is enough measurable snow. - Roy Kenast, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - Snow conditions this week at Northern Unit are pretty minimal. Just enough to cover the ground but not enough to warrant snowshoes. We had great conditions until the big meltdown Sunday-Monday. On Saturday Feb. 2 we held our annual Candlelight ski/hike and about 650 attended. The ski trails at Zillmer are ice covered and closed to hiking at this time. Anyone looking to hike should checkout the Mauthe Lake Rec Area, hiking trails at New Fane, or the Ice Age Trail. There is some ice on area trails and parking lots, so traction-assisting footwear/studs are recommended for those hiking/biking. The parking lot at Parnell is gated this time of year and there's only room for 1-2 cars at the entrance so please plan accordingly. This Saturday there will be a program, featuring winter animal tracking from 10-11:30 a.m., at the Ice Age Visitor Center a half mile west of Dundee on Hwy 67. The program is best for families/groups with children ages 6-12. The Visitor Center will be open only on Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. - James Enigl, park ranger

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Blue Mound State Park - Warm weather has caused severe ice rivers along the entire trail system, coupled with some open and patchy areas. The campground is open and in good condition for skate skiing. - Kevin Swenson, property manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Devil's Lake State Park - As of February 7, snow conditions consist of 1-2 inches of snow, ice, frozen rain, and crunchy old packed layers. There will be a candlelight walk/snowshoe on Saturday, February 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Meet at the north shore Rock Elm Shelter and walk the candlelit route or just linger and enjoy the outdoor campfire or the inside woodstove. Snacks and hot drinks will be available for purchase through the Friends of Devil's Lake State Park. Even during the cold and snow, at least a dozen campsites are open, with at least a few campers each weekend. - Richard Hesed, visitor services associate

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Pierce County - Pierce County just got 10-plus inches of snow Tuesday night - trails will be opening Wednesday at noon with another 8-12 inches forecast to come down Thursday. - Kyle Kosin, conservation warden, Baldwin

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Lake Wissota State Park -Cross-country ski trails were rolled on Feb. 6 to create a base. We plan to groom Friday morning after this next system of snow moves out. - Nathan Fries, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Staff attempted to pack trails to hold a base during the warmup, but trails melted fast and turned to ice with the drop in temperature. Base on trails is 0-1 inch in most areas. Trails will be groomed when there is enough snow again. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, February 07, 2019

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