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Outdoor Report

Published February 21, 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).

After starting out the winter with a lack of snow February is making up for it. Earlier in the week the southern half of the state received 4 to 6 inches of snow and in the last couple of days the north and northwest received from 4 to 8 inches of snow.

Snowmobile trails are now open in most, but not all, counties across the state with conditions rated as good or excellent in many counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Many state properties were regrooming cross-country ski trails and ski trail conditions ranged from good to excellent. Some freezing rain fell in the south after the snow, resulting in some icy conditions in some locations. Temperatures are expected to warm this weekend, especially in the south where more rain is also in the forecast, while the north is expected to get more snow.

With all the recent snow, conditions should be excellent for the American Birkebeiner Ski Race this weekend in the Hayward-Cable area. It is the largest ski race in North America and attracts thousands of skiers from all over the country and world -- skiers from 49 states and 36 countries participated in 2018 -- and draws tens of thousands of spectators to the area.

The recent snow events made for difficult access and travel on the ice was severely limited. Fishing pressure shadowed these limitations with low fishing pressure everywhere after the snow storm. There have been a few fishermen out on northern lakes enjoying limited success for walleye, crappie and perch.

Ice conditions on the Lake Winnebago System ranges from open water to 20-plus inches. Anglers have been having some success with walleye, sauger, and perch mid lake. Only three days remain in the 2019 sturgeon spear fishery on Lake Winnebago. Many sturgeon spearers have been moving their shacks to areas of better visibility. Wednesday's harvest brought the season total to 373 fish from Lake Winnebago and 680 fish registered from the entire Winnebago System.

Some anglers continue to fish the west shore of Green Bay catching a few whitefish and lots of smaller perch. The Fox River had high fishing pressure at Fox Point landing, where there were reports of yellow perch and walleye being caught but with little success of catching keepers. Voyageur Park had low fishing pressure this week.

A porcupine out eating way up in a tree on one of the super cold days near Woodruff - Photo credit: DNR
A porcupine out eating way up in a tree on one of the super cold days near WoodruffPhoto credit: DNR

Deer are now starting to travel on plowed roads to get out of the snow - not good as several road kills have been observed recently. The snow is making trapping and tracking difficult. Ermine and porcupines are active; ravens are engaged in mating behavior; and wolves are mating.

Bald eagle watching has been good at many traditional sites where open water remains. For example, observers at Prairie du Sac reported from dozens to 100-plus eagles recently. The Mississippi River is another great destination, especially this weekend during the Bald Eagle Appreciation Days event in Prairie du Chien.

This is one of the last weekends of the winter season for candlelight events at state properties. On Saturday, the Urban Ecology Center is hosting an Urban Candlelight Hike on the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, Rib Mountain State Park is having a candlelight snowshoe hike and Pattison State Park is having a ski/snowshoe/hike as part of its Winterfest, which also includes sledding, bonfire, crafts, refreshments and other activities. For all activities search the DNR website for "Get Outdoors."

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Statewide Birding Report

More snow led to more winter-like birding conditions across the state this week, with few signs of any migration activity quite yet. Horned larks and a few Eastern and Western meadowlarks were spotted along roadsides in southern and central parts of the state but it's hard to know if these are true migrants or overwintering birds pushed to bare ground by snowcover elsewhere. Other winter field birds like rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, northern shrikes, snow buntings, and some snowy owls also continue to be seen. It's standard fare at most feeders too, although this week saw a slight uptick in reports of common redpolls as natural food supplies wane and become less accessible. Still, this species has been very scarce this winter compared to last.

Although the robin-like varied thrush typically resides west of the Rockies from Alaska to California, a handful or two show up in Wisconsin each winter where they are typically seen at fruit sources or backyard feeders with cracked corn or sunflower seeds, often with nearby stands of evergreen trees.  - Photo credit: Ryan Brady
Although the robin-like varied thrush typically resides west of the Rockies from Alaska to California, a handful or two show up in Wisconsin each winter where they are typically seen at fruit sources or backyard feeders with cracked corn or sunflower seeds, often with nearby stands of evergreen trees. Photo credit: Ryan Brady

Bald eagle watching has been good at many traditional sites where open water remains. For example, observers at Prairie du Sac reported from dozens to 100-plus eagles recently. The Mississippi River is another great destination, especially this weekend during the Bald Eagle Appreciation Days event in Prairie du Chien. Over on Lake Michigan, a red-throated loon, white-winged scoter, 1000-plus Canada geese, and a few other ducks were noteworthy in Port Washington (Ozaukee). Some years see migration of greater white-fronted geese and other waterfowl by late February but that has not yet occurred and is unlikely given next week's cold forecast. Unfortunately, that pattern likely extends as well to landbirds like sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, and others that sometimes arrive to the state's southern counties by March 1. Of note this week were continuing varied thrushes in Brown and Sauk counties. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland.

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

This is one of the last weekends of the winter season for candlelight events at state properties. On Saturday, the Urban Ecology Center is hosting an Urban Candlelight Hike on the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, Rib Mountain State Park is having a candlelight snowshoe hike and Pattison State Park is having a ski/snowshoe/hike as part of its Winterfest, which also includes sledding, bonfire, crafts, refreshments and other activities. Learn winter geocaching at Willow River.  On Sunday there is a bluebird nest box workshop at Interstate where for a small fee you can build a nest box to take home.
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.
Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sunday, February 24, 2019

For all events search Get Outdoors

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Feb. 23, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.: Belmont Prairie - Enjoy this small but special remnant prairie site! We are teaming up with the UW-Platteville Rec Club to help take care of this site. Join us as we remove honeysuckle and other brush and trees along an old railroad bed. Collected seeds will be spread to increase the size of the prairie on this site.

Feb. 23, 9 a.m.-noon: Devils Lake - Help cut invasive shrubs and use brush to block unauthorized trails in and around East Bluff SNA at Devils Lake State Park. Take in some of the most breathtaking views Wisconsin has to offer and help protect some of the most uncommon species and natural communities in the Midwest. If the trails are not snowy/icy we'll be concentrating work efforts around the prairie and the Devils Doorway trail segment. This will be the first of a series of monthly stewardship activities sponsored by Ben Bomkamp and Kerstyn Perrett of NatureWorks llc through 2019, who are hoping to help build enthusiasm and understanding of the role that we can all be playing to protect our state's most treasured and irreplaceable resources.

Feb. 23, 9 a.m.- noon: Sugar River Wetlands - Help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association (USRWA) restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our "4th Saturdays" volunteer work days. Volunteers will be cutting and burning invasive species like buckthorn, honeysuckle and more to promote the growth of native plant species. It promises to be rewarding, fun, and a great way to experience the outdoors in winter. If there is snow we'll have a fire. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning.

Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-noon: Bluff Creek Workday: 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, 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

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Fresh snow today and throughout the weekend will encourage snowmobilers and winter outdoor recreationalists to continue to flock to Iron County. Currently, we have anywhere from 30 to 36 inches of snow on the ground. The snow is making fishing and trapping difficult. Tracking is moderate to poor. Birding is still poor. Off-trial snowshoeing and dog sledding has been difficult in this light fluffy snow, so hopefully the new snow will provide a better base for both. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Copper Falls State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic skiing on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and were in excellent condition. Meadow and pipeline tracked/groomed. Multi-use just rolled. - Daniel Yankowiak, property supervisor

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - The MECCA ski trail was completely groomed after the 10 inches of snow we received last week. Everything has been gone over at least 2 times and some sections 6 to firm up the deck for the skaters. May still be a little soft but with these conditions it couldn't be better. Track set deep and firm so the classic skiing couldn't be better. - Brett Bockhop, parks and recreation specialist

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Ski Trail was groomed for skate and tracked for classic cross-country skiing Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. and was in excellent condition. Snowmobile trails are groomed and in good shape. As of Wed. Feb. 20 a Winter Storm Warning has been issued for the Winter area with daytime snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches of more snow. The ATV/UTV trail system is closed for the season. Snowmobile trails will open when there is enough snow to groom the trails. The lakes are ice covered with 20-plus inches of ice. With the snowfall that we received the lakes are heavy with snow and travel on the lakes with vehicles, is limited to the roads that were plowed on Lake of the Pines and on Connors Lake. There have been fishermen out on both lakes enjoying limited success. They have been fishing for walleye on Connors Lake and crappies on Lake of the Pine. Mason and Evergreen Lakes are being fished for crappie, walleye and perch. deer and the elk are conserving their energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. Ermine are active; ravens are engaged in mating behavior; wolves are mating and bald eagles begin nesting. Grouse are feeding on dormant flower buds or catkins of trees such as the aspens, birches, cherries, and ironwood. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be mostly cloudy with a high of 33, and a chance of snow and a wintry mix, with a low of 23. Saturday, slight chance of wintry mix, then chance of rain, with a high of 36 and a low of 24. Sunday, snow likely before noon, cloudy, with a high of 28 and a low of 5. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Cross-country ski trails are generally in overall very good conditions. The forest received another 6 inches of snow Wednesday and Rhinelander broke the record for snow in February at 41 inches. McNaughton, Escanaba and Raven were groomed and tracked Thursday, Feb. 21. Madeline was last groomed Feb. 18. Some decks are a little soft from the new snow but should firm up nicely with a little time. The walls/edges of the trails are falling in towards the groomed portion and there are some "skinny" spots in the more heavily wooded areas. - Dan Jacoby and Tony Martinez, recreation specialists; Beth Feind and Joe Kraetke, rangers

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

The recent snow events made for difficult access and travel on the ice was severely limited. Fishing pressure shadowed these limitations with low fishing pressure everywhere after the snow storm.

Marinette County - Sixth street slip anglers report catching a few smaller perch and a few smaller northerns on the Menominee River. - Alexandria Keiler-Klein and Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technicians, Peshtigo

Oconto County - A few anglers were seen out on the Oconto breakwater. Anglers fishing to the north of the breakwater report catching a few whitefish on gold jigs and waxies and a few came on jigging raps. Anglers using tip-ups for northern report slow fishing. Oconto Park 2 anglers report catching lots of smaller perch on jigs with waxies. Lots of sorting through the smaller ones for just a few keepers. Other reported fish caught are golden shiners, a few smaller bass, and pumpkinseed. There was extremely low fishing pressure at Geano Beach. - Alexandria Keiler-Klein and Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technicians, Peshtigo

Brown County - The Fox River had high fishing pressure at Fox Point landing, while at Voyageur there was low fishing Pressure. At Voyageur there was reports of perch, small walleye and a sturgeon caught earlier in the week. At Fox Point Landing there were reports of yellow perch and walleye being caught but with little success of catching keepers. Many had no success in catching fish after a handful of hours on the ice. One group using a camera saw walleye, whitefish and sturgeon. The ice ranged from 13-16 inches. One group used minnows and waxworms for bait, while another used jigs. Both groups had no success in catching any fish. Long Tail Point had low fishing pressure only 3 groups were spotted on the water. Sunset Beach Lane had medium fishing pressure, a group of four anglers had no luck fishing after a short handful of hours fishing. - Alexandria Keiler-Klein and Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technicians, Peshtigo

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Oconto County - All snowmobile trails are open in Oconto County and in good to excellent condition. As the day goes on be careful of your speed on the trails as they get bumpy with increased use. Cross-country ski trails are available in the Machickanee County Forest South of Oconto Falls and areas near Lakewood. Oconto Falls Tubing hill will be open this Sunday. Fishing has been slow on most lakes, some individuals are catching whitefish on Green Bay. Be safe.- Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Manitowoc County - Manitowoc County Snowmobile trails are currently open. Riders must check before heading out to ensure the trails are still open. Trail conditions are available 24 hours a day by calling: 920-758-7669. All riders should ride within their experience level and be extremely cautions when crossing waterways. Ski trails at Point Beach State Forest are in great conditions. With a fresh amount of snow on Wednesday park staff will be grooming trails. Some park enthusiast have noted this is the first time in years they have been able to ski the yellow loop, the largest loop traveling through the marsh area at the south end of the park. While we still have snow it is a great time to get out and enjoy mother nature. Before you know it spring will be here. - Alyssa R Neff-Miller, conservation warden, Mishicot

Point Beach State Forest - Cross-country ski trails were tracked and groomed on Monday and Wednesday this week and were in good condition.

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country ski trails were last groomed Friday Feb. 15 and are in good condition. Trails have not been regroomed since the recent snowfall on Feb. 20 - Jessica Doell, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Currently 18 inches of snow on the level in Waupaca, locally more in some spots. There is 4-7 inches of snow predicted today, and 5-8 predicted for Saturday night. Needless to say, the snowmobile folks are in seventh heaven. Trail groomers might even have trouble keeping up! Once groomed, all trails should be in excellent shape. Ice fishing is now an accessibility problem - you need snowshoes or a fully tracked machine to get anywhere. As a result, very few have been out ice fishing in the last week. Deer are now starting to travel on plowed roads to get out of the snow - not good as I have seen several killed recently on the roads. Only other wildlife sighting of note I have is a Cooper's hawk cruising around the city of Wautoma. Probably cruising the local birdfeeders looking for brunch! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

There is about 2 feet of snow in central Wisconsin. It's a great time to snowshoe and snowmobile. Always check to make sure the snowmobile trails are open. Sturgeon season on the Upper River Lakes was one of the longest in history. Spearers did enjoy some decent weather but ice travel was difficult at times due to the deep snow. There is a plowed ice road off of Captain's Cove located on the south side of Lake Poygon. Believe it or not ...I saw a pair of bluebirds last week. Is spring on its way? - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System

Ice conditions on the Lake Winnebago System range from open water to 20-plus inches. Remember there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Check with the local fishing clubs for ice and ice road conditions. Clubs have been actively moving bridges and ice roads as cracks continue to form throughout the system. Water clarity varies greatly on Lake Winnebago. Water visibility of up to 19 feet has been reported on the north shore and as low as 5 feet on the south shore. Many sturgeon spearers have been moving their shacks to areas of better visibility. Anglers have been having some success with walleye, sauger, and perch mid lake. The bite has been slow and fish have not been hitting lures very hard. Consider using a lure tipped with bait and a spring bobber. - Chris Shea, Lake Winnebago team warden supervisor

Only three days remain in the 2019 sturgeon spear fishery on Lake Winnebago. There were 13 sturgeon registered Wednesday with Stockbridge Harbor leading the way with five fish, followed by Waverly Beach (three), Calumet Harbor (two), Payne's Point (two) and Wendt's (one). Wednesday's harvest brought the season total to 373 fish from Lake Winnebago and 680 fish registered from the entire Winnebago System. The largest fish of the day was registered at Waverly Beach by Gregory Radtke of Weyauwega. - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

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Southeast Region

Waukesha DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Lapham Peak Unit - All cross-country ski trails were groomed Thursday morning and are in great shape. There is a new classical track set on the Purple and green loops. Keep in mind, trail conditions will change as the temperature fluctuates. Trails will be groomed again later tonight. Trail lights on Monday through Saturday until 9 p.m.. After dark, please stay on lighted loop so the groomer can work on the upper trails. Brian Jacquette, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - The McMiller cross-country ski trail was groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing Wednesday, Feb. 20. The forest received 5-8 inches of dry fluffy snow on Monday that was packed down to a about a 3-inch base throughout the day, An additional 1-2 inches fell Feb. 19-20, contributing a bit more to the existing base, but rising temperatures, freezing rain, and sleet are creating slow/soft skiing conditions. Be aware that there is a layer of ice beneath the system which might appear in the base of the classic track and sunny exposed slopes. The skating lanes are soft, but in excellent condition. The track is in great condition, but a bit slow. Everything was triple packed and double track was laid on the RED and ORANGE loops. Enjoy! -poor weather is expected the rest of the week so further grooming will be assessed on a day to day basis. Be aware that there is a Biathlon practice event on the Biathlon loop scheduled for Saturday Feb. 23. Nordic trails were also groomed Monday and the track and skating lanes were in good condition. Roy Kenast, ranger

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest got about 1.5 inches of snow Wednesday, far less than initial forecasts. Cross-country ski skating lanes were groomed Thursday morn. Track was reset on the northeast portion of the yellow between the connections with the red loop. I reset track on the brown. That part of the yellow and the brown had some drifting issues that I took care of. I left the existing track on the red and the little snow from yesterday was skied in. Conditions are excellent for both skating and classic throughout. Expect things to change noticeably with the forecasted freeze/thaw conditions for the next 3 days. - Reagan Arndt, ranger

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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Governor Dodge State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed Monday, Feb. 18. They have a snow base of 5-7 inches and were in good condition.

Horicon DNR Service Center area

Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area - Visitors have reported more bird song over the past week especially from northern cardinals and chickadees. Winter visitors are still present and sporadic snowy owl sightings have been documented around the Horicon Marsh area. Snow buntings, Lapland longspurs and rough-legged hawks are still present as well. Trails are no longer suitable for snowshoeing but open for hiking. Be sure to save time to visit the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center and the Explorium. The Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center is located at N7725 Highway 28 in Horicon. Open weekdays from 9am-5pm and weekends 10 a.m.-5 p.m. - Elizabeth Herzmann, natural resources educator

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Blue Mound State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked Thursday, Feb. 21 and in excellent condition, with 10-12 inches of base measured. John Minix has one icy spot marked with a cone, otherwise all other trails look great. Please note skate skiing is only allowed in the campground and picnic loops only. - Kevin Swenson, property manager

Governor Nelson State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic cross-country skiing on Thursday, Feb. 21. Conditions were good but expected to deteriorate over the next few days due to forecasted warm temperatures and rain. Sarah Bolser, property supervisor

Lake Kegonsa State Park -Cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic skiing on Thursday, Feb. 21. Conditions are expected to deteriorate on Friday, Feb. 22 and Saturday, Feb. 23 due to forecasted warm temperatures and rain. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

Mirror Lake State Park -The park received another 2-3 inches of fluffy snow Sunday. Cross-country ski skate lanes have been touched up on all trails except Ishnala and Northwest trails. Groomers were out Monday finishing up skate lanes and track will be reset as needed. Conditions range from excellent to good, with Ishnala just fair. - Becky Green, park manager

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West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked on Monday, Feb. 18 and were in excellent condition. - Eric Klumb, ranger

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Cross-country ski trails were packed and tracked Thursday Feb. 21. They are in good to excellent condition. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Red Cedar State Trail - Cross-country ski trails were groomed Friday, Feb. 15. The skate lanes and tracks were groomed Feb. 15. The trails have 8 inches of fresh snow accumulation and are in excellent condition. There is a 14 inch base and more than 2 feet of snow on the ground.

Hoffman Hills State Recreational Area - Cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked Friday, Feb. 15. Conditions were excellent with all the recent snowfall. The Squirrel Tail trails and Hawk Ridge Trail maybe soft in spots but the rest of the trails are firm and have good tracks set.

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Cross-country ski trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. Central Sands trail is packed in both directions, but track cannot be set due to 6 foot snow drifts off the lake onto the trail. Barrens trail, Glacial Lake, Timber Trail, and path from sites 26-29 through the first loop of campground are packed for snowshoeing and tracked on one side for classic skiing. Trails are in good condition and several people were skiing and snowshoeing over the weekend. Snowshoes are available to check out for free at the park office. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, February 21, 2019

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