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Outdoor Report

Published March 28, 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).

Snow cover is now limited to about the northern quarter of the state but with some areas still holding a foot or more of snow.

The Brule River State Forest and Turtle Flambeau Scenic Waters Area were both reporting skiing was still possible though conditions were marginal with trails icy in the morning after they freeze overnight, and then get soft as the day warms up. Some people were skate skiing on northern lakes in the early morning hours before the snow softens up, and ice skating where the snow and slush has melted into a smooth ice. The cold nights keep the snow firm making it easy walking through the woods in snowshoes and even without snowshoes, but if the crust fails you may find yourself in knee-deep snow.

Most larger lakes in the south are still holding ice, but shorelines and inlets and outlets are opening up and what ice remains is honeycombed and no longer safe. Some lakes in the north are still toting over 20 inches of ice.

The Bois Brule River at the Winneboujou Bridge. - Photo credit: DNR
The Bois Brule River at the Winneboujou Bridge.Photo credit: DNR

The trout season opens March 30 on the Bois Brule River from US Hwy 2 downstream to the mouth at Lake Superior. Anglers fishing the Menominee River off Hattie Street and up by the dam report catching a few brown trout. Lots of ice was observed floating around and jamming up the river. Anglers fishing the end of the Oconto breakwater report a mixed bag of whitefish, northern and a couple walleye. It is still early, but walleyes are in both the Wolf and Fox rivers but high water with ice chunks flowing downstream were making for challenging fishing conditions.

In the southeast, all Fox River launches are open at Fox Point and the docks are put in. Anglers fishing from boats report good catches of walleye. Ice is almost completely melted at Lakeshore State Park. Open-water fishing is available from the majority of the shoreline on the island portion, as well as along the Lake Michigan and harbor walls.

Ice melt and a high flow rate are luring steelhead fishermen to Lake Michigan tributaries in Door County, with a few fish caught. The near shore ice on the waters of Green Bay is deteriorating quickly, and despite the lack of a whitefish bite, late ice anglers were still venturing out.

Farm fields with even the slightest amount of sprouting, green vegetation are luring herds of deer out of the woods for a much welcomed meal. Elk bulls are starting to drop their antlers and shed hunters are combing the woods to find them.

Tom turkeys are starting to sing their springtime song and have been seen fanned out with their hens. Turkey hunting is right around the corner with the statewide youth hunt on April 13-14. Leftover turkey harvest authorizations will continue to be available until they are sold out.

In the south day lilies are poking out of the ground on south facing slopes; skunk cabbage is emerging, and prairie smoke rosettes are starting to green and grow. Maple tappers still going strong in central and northern Wisconsin and a decent amount of fresh syrup is being produced.

Tundra swans made a big move this week with hundreds seen in flooded fields and wetlands. A water bird watch at Harrington Beach in Ozaukee County tallied over 1,600 on March 23 and another 2,000-plus on March 25. Large numbers of migrant eagles continued, including an impressive 267 bald eagles and 23 golden eagles tallied overhead in Bayfield County on March 23.

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Statewide Birding Report

The north is finally getting the initial wave of early migrants as American robins, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles, Canada geese and ring-billed gulls made a good push this week all the way to Lake Superior. The first sandhill cranes, great blue herons, turkey vultures, killdeer, and American woodcock are also starting to arrive there, although it will be nearly a couple weeks before they inundate the landscape. A few purple finches, song sparrows, and even a very early savannah sparrow were also reported. Large numbers of migrant eagles continued, including an impressive 267 bald eagles and 23 golden eagles tallied overhead in Bayfield County on March 23.

Southern Wisconsin saw increased numbers of migrants, especially water birds, but not many new species this week. Dark-eyed juncos remain prevalent in many areas but the big numbers will start departing in early April. Look for more fox sparrows, northern flickers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, brown creepers, both kinglets, tree swallows, as well as ospreys, common loons, and horned grebes in the week ahead as water bodies continue to open up. Tundra swans made a big move this week with hundreds seen in flooded fields and wetlands. The Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory's waterbird watch at Harrington Beach in Ozaukee County tallied over 1,600 flying by on March 23 and another 2,000-plus on March 25. Hundreds of greater scaup, long-tailed ducks, and red-breasted mergansers were also counted there on several days, as well as a variety of gulls including ring-billed, herring, glaucous, Iceland, and great black-backed.

Good numbers of tundra swans moved into Wisconsin this week from wintering areas along the Atlantic coast. Listen for their whistling calls overhead or look for flocks of dozens or hundreds in flooded fields and shallow open waters. - Photo credit: Laurie Smaglick Johnson
Good numbers of tundra swans moved into Wisconsin this week from wintering areas along the Atlantic coast. Listen for their whistling calls overhead or look for flocks of dozens or hundreds in flooded fields and shallow open waters.Photo credit: Laurie Smaglick Johnson

On the breeding front, great blue herons are back at southern rookeries, woodpeckers are drumming to announce their territories, and the first eggs were reported for mourning dove, peregrine falcon, and hooded merganser. Rarities were again few, most notably including varied thrushes in Brown and Marinette, harlequin duck in Sheboygan, and the surviving Baltimore oriole in Juneau. Northerly winds will slow migration a bit this weekend before turning southerly early-mid next week, when large numbers of new migrants will usher into the state. Help us track the migration by reporting your sightings to www.ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

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Upcoming featured events at Wisconsin recreational properties

Bird migrations are going strong across Wisconsin and Richard Bong SRA and Horicon Marsh Visitor and Education Center are holding birding events this weekend.  Stay around at Bong afterword and help with a park workday.  On Monday the Mead Wildlife Area will host a program on Wisconsin's elk herds and a night hike will be held at the Kettle Moraine SF-Southern Unit.
Click on the links below for highlighted programs this weekend or click on Get Outdoors," for a complete listing of events.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saturday, March 30, 2019 & Sunday, March 31

Monday, April 1, 2019

For all events search Get Outdoors

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Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

March 31 9 a.m.-noon: Centennial Bedrock Glade State Natural Area - Join us for a day of clearing woody plants from the Centennial Bedrock Glade State Natural Area at Interstate Park in Wisconsin. This is a great opportunity to learn about and help improve this unique natural community. The work will increase the amount of sunlight for rare glade plants. RSVP required via email to Alex at president@nativeseedproject.org. Dress for the weather and wear clothes that are OK to get beat up, long pants, long sleeves, gloves, sturdy footwear, safety glasses (we will have extra).

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 - It is hard to believe that the month of March is on it's way out, but with April right around the corner, much of the area's wildlife and residents are excited for the long awaited spring weather. White tailed deer have been much more prevalent out in fields and open areas foraging on vegetation they can find now that exposed ground has emerged for the first time in several months. Some of the first sighting of robins and red-winged black birds were reported in our area in the past week. Temperatures have been warmer as of late and there has been several overnight's that have not dropped below the freezing mark. Raccoons and skunks are becoming much more active, and black bears are beginning to emerge from their dens in search of food and caring for cubs. With the trout season opening on the Bois Brule River from US Hwy 2 downstream to the mouth at Lake Superior on Saturday March 30, there has been increased interest on the water, ice, and snow conditions. Earlier in the week it was reported that ice was out where Hwy. 13 crosses and with the weather conditions we've experienced this week, it will likely be considerably farther north by this weekend. Most recent flow measurements were at 226CFS on Thursday, March 28 with a gauge height of just over 2 feet. The 73 year average flow for this date is 184CFS. More efforts were made this week to move snow and open up accessibility in the Copper Range campground, as well as many angler access parking lots. Keep an eye on the river's discharge on your own! Visit: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=04025500. The main portions of the ski trails were groomed earlier this week. Cool temps in the early morning hours allowed staff to freshen up, as well as flatten, the reaming base. Conditions vary from OK to very good in certain sections of the trails. Skate lanes have some equipment ruts and the tracks are thin to full depth depending on where you are. Grooming will be suspended for the season unless conditions improve. - Mitch Pauly, visitor service associate and Matthew Leischer, ranger

Amnicon State Park - The named waterfalls at the park illustrate the advance of spring. Snake Pit Falls are entombed in ice, with water flowing under the sheet. The river is high enough that Now and Then Falls are showing rivulets and jets where the moving water finds a path through the ice. Upper Falls is about halfway there--racing down the middle and bracketed with ice on both sides. Lower Falls have broken free, leaving remnants of shelf ice and scattered icicles. Come see the park as it wakes from winter. The trails are packed down but icy in places. Off trail, the crusted snow may support youHowever, if you look around, you'll see the first patches of bare ground. - Dave Lindsley, ranger

Pattison State Park - Robins have arrived at the park March 25. We didn't hear any last week. Big Manitou falls is now about half open. Little Manitou is still largely frozen.- Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - No new snow in quite a while. Skiers report that the trails are icy in the morning after they freeze overnight, and then get soft as the day warms up. Conditions are deteriorating fast and skiing is coming to an end for the season. Maybe go snowshoeing rather than ski. There is a dedicated snowshoe trail south of the cabin, and all ski trails are open to snowshoes as long as you stay off the track. - Brett Bockhop, parks and recreation specialist

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Spring has arrived! The Grantsburg Area is experiencing warming temperatures and a lot of sunlight! With the warmer temperatures, the snow is melting, causing some areas to have standing water or mud. Use caution while driving the roads in Crex, Fish Lake, and Amsterdam Sloughs. We are seeing a large increase in wildlife activity this week. The first bears were seen along Highway 70, more swans and geese are returning to the areas with open water, a few mallards have been spotted, as well as some ring-necked ducks, hooded mergansers, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, and an eastern bluebird! Sandhill cranes are also returning to the area in small numbers. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - Early mornings are filled with bird chirping, grouse drumming and turkeys participating in the spring pre-nesting activities and mating. Many of the birds are not back as of yet, but Flambeau staff have seen robins, red-winged blackbirds, a few morning doves, geese, cranes and a smattering of other species. Snowshoe hare and weasel coats are turning, river otters are giving birth; tics are active and the maple sap is flowing. Staff have seen wandering porcupines, fishers, and muskrats. It's mating season for lots of different species. Groups of deer and elk are seen grazing and snoozing in the sun and feeding on down tree branches and brush in the finished logging sales. Whitetail does and elk cows (ungulates) are getting heavy with fawns and calves, as they are in their third trimester of pregnancy, which is a period of quick fetus growth. Won't be long now and the youngsters will be out and about. Elk bulls are starting to drop their antlers and antler hunters will be combing the woods to find them. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Mother nature keeps her grips on the forest with big snowbanks, crusty knee-deep snow in many places and just a few south facing slopes starting to show brown. Hopefully the warmer week temperatures and rain will take the white stuff down some more. Skate skiing is great on the lakes in the early morning hours before the snow softens up, and ice skating where the snow and slush has melted into a smooth ice, also before the day warms up. Big flocks of redpolls are still visiting area bird feeders, with a few evening grosbeaks sprinkled in. Time will tell when their last visit will be before they head back north. The big fluctuation in temperatures is good news for sap collectors, but bad news for folks trying to get about without slipping on the icy spots or busting through the crust. The good news? No mosquitos! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Marinette County - Anglers fishing the Menominee River off Hattie Street and up by the dam report catching a few brown trout on stick baits. An angler reported catching a 24-inch male from the bridge, and a bigger female off the deck by the dam. Lots of ice was observed floating around and jamming up below Hattie Street. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Oconto County - Anglers fishing the end of the Oconto breakwater report catching a few whitefish on jigs with waxies or minnow heads. Anglers using jigging raps report catching a mixed bag of whitefish, northern and a couple walleye. Anglers tip-up fishing report slow action for pike with one or tw caught for an all-day sit. Anglers headed out of the Oconto parks for whitefish were reporting catching some limits of whitefish off the reef and rock piles. Little River pike fishermen report slow fishing on tip-ups. Anglers fishing the Mouth of the Peshtigo report catching a few northern on tip-ups off the mud flat on the far side of the channel. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Brown County - All Fox River launches are open at Fox Point and the docks are put in. Anglers fishing from boats on Wednesday report good catches of walleye. Fish caught ranged in length between 16-25 inches. Most were caught in the channel on jigs and plastics. Numbers wise, most anglers reported catching between 10-25 walleye for three hours of fishing in the morning. A few accidental whitefish are being caught as well. Anglers fishing from shore at Voyageurs report catching one or two walleye for a mornings effort also being caught on jigs and plastics. Some anglers pike fishing out of Sunset Beach still report catching a few smaller pike using tip-ups and shiners. Ice reported near 18 inches. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Stone Quarry-anglers reported seeing whitefish but were unable to get any action. - Jeremiah Shrovnal, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Shawano County - Waters in Shawano and Waupaca County are variable in their ice out progression. Several ice fisherman were out on Shawano Lake fishing yesterday. When we checked ice conditions on Manawa Millpond in Waupaca County, most of the main river channel running through the impoundment had opened up. We are hoping that by the end of this week or early next week, we will be able to get our fyke nets into Manawa Millpond to evaluate the northern pike population. - Jason Breeggemann, fisheries biologist, Shawano

Marinette County - Snow is disappearing fast and the southern two-thirds of the county now has at least a few bare ground areas. However, snow depths are widely variable with nearly a foot still on the ground in some wooded areas north of Wausaukee. The cold nights keep the snow firm making it easy walking through the woods even without snowshoes. Large flocks of robins, grackles, and red-winged blackbirds have been migrating through for about a week now. A few cranes and geese have also been seen north of Crivitz. The first chipmunk of the year made an appearance about two weeks ago. The ice is still holding on area lakes with some areas still toting over 20 inches. As always be careful! The north shores and any areas with flow are deteriorating and ice thickness can vary greatly. Turkey hunting is right around the corner with a locally run Learn To hunt taking place for a few first time hunters on April 6-7 and the statewide youth hunt on April 13-14. I saw my first landscape plants (day lilies) poking out of the ground tight to the south facing side of a building. Maple sap is flowing now and a decent amount of fresh syrup is being produced! Leftover turkey harvest authorizations went on sale on Friday and will continue to be available until they are sold out. There are still around 1,300 authorizations available for the last two time periods in Zone 5. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - Ice melt and a high rate of flow are luring steelhead fishermen to Lake Michigan tributaries in Door Co. A few fish have been caught, with anglers hoping a warm weather rain will bring greater numbers of fish upstream. The near shore ice on the waters of Green Bay off Door Co is deteriorating quickly, and despite the lack of a whitefish bite, late ice anglers are still venturing onto the ice. Fishermen need to be extremely cautious and take all safety precautions. Ag fields in So Door Co with even the slightest amount of sprouting, green vegetation are luring herds of deer out of the woods for a much welcomed meal at all times of the day. - Christopher Kratcha conservation warden, Sturgeon Bay

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - New spring arrivals include wood ducks and bluebirds and jumped a woodcock at Radley Creek Fishery Area March 27. Maple tappers still going strong in central Wisconsin. Snow pack is 90 percent snow cover up to a foot in places in northern Waupaca, Waupaca to Wautoma has open areas clear with snow still in the woods, while the only snow left in Marquette County is in drifts and snowbanks. Both Wolf and Fox rivers very high with ice chunks flowing downstream, would make for very challenging fishing conditions. Have not noticed anyone ice fishing lately, but no local lakes open yet. Have been a couple of folks catch and release trout fishing but have heard no reports of success or not. Starting to get nice out. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

It is still early, but walleyes are in the Fox River Berlin, WI) and in the Wolf River in Winnebago and Waupaca counties. There is high water currently, and still some ice flows coming downstream. - Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

Waushara County - The county is fully in the "in between" stage with some folks still braving the late season ice and having some good fishing days. The shores are starting to break up though so be sure to check locally for condition report and be cautious when you go. Turkeys are starting to sing their springtime song and have been seen fanned out with their hens so it's only a matter of time for turkey season and birds should be ready. Maple sap is running for the few maple trees we have in the county and I know some smaller operations are already succeeding in having enough sap to cook down into delicious maple syrup. Whatever you like to do now is a great time as a majority of snow is gone and the woods are pretty easy to navigate so get out there and enjoy! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Lakeshore State Park - Ice is almost completely melted at Lakeshore State Park. Open-water fishing is available from the majority of the shoreline on the island portion, as well as along the Lake Michigan and Harbor walls at the south entrance. Common loons were recently observed in the lagoon as they migrate back north for the summer. Many of the scaups and goldeneyes are starting to leave, but the red-breasted mergansers are making themselves more than at home. Look for the male mergansers racing to gain the attention of the females! Prairie smoke rosettes are starting to green and grow, a sign that we'll have our first flowering forbs in the next few weeks! These are the earliest of our prairie plants to come back from their winter dormancy. - Angela Vickio, naturalist, Milwaukee

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South Central Region

No reports.

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West Central Region

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - There is open water by the Buckhorn bridge and people have been shore fishing there and below the Petenwell Dam. Sandhill cranes, robins, and more have returned to the park! We are slowly seeing signs of spring. The Work & Play Day is scheduled for April 27 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call the office at 608-565-2789 to sign up for this volunteer park clean up day so activities and lunch can be planned. - Heather Wolf, park manager

Roche-A-Cri State Park - The main gate and camping remain closed until the beginning of May. With melting snow the creek has been high near the bridge at times. Turkey vultures have returned to the park. The Work & Play Day is scheduled for May 4 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Call the Buckhorn office at 608-565-2789 to sign up for this volunteer park clean up day so activities and lunch can be planned. - Heather Wolf, park manager



Last Revised: Thursday, March 28, 2019

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