Outdoor Report is your weekly snapshot for all things outdoors from across the state. Here is a brief look at what Wisconsin has in store for you this week.
The recent cold snap had many lakes and secluded bays beginning to freeze over unseasonably early, yet ice conditions are inconsistent. It may be one of the earliest years ice anglers have headed out. Anglers who do venture out should let someone know their plan, wear a life jacket and carry ice picks. Better yet, wait a little while for more ice.
Farmers are struggling to get crops off the fields due to wet and snowy weather, which may throw a wrench in gun hunters' plans later this month. Cold weather pushed quite a few geese down, and field hunters are having success.
Traveling flocks of arctic snow buntings are a sure sign of what's coming. The peak of the tundra swan migration is taking place on the Mississippi River, where thousands were seen near Stoddard
The cold has allowed snowmaking operations to start at Lapham Peak. Crews at Kettle Moraine Southern Unit have rolled the McMiller trail to create a base after the forest received 4 inches this week, but skiing is not advised. And remember hunting begins this week at many state park system properties, so anyone venturing out should wear blaze orange or other brightly colored clothing.
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The extended fishing seasons for the lower segments of many Lake Superior tributaries, including Fish Creek, Sioux River, and Flag River close Nov. 15. Steelhead (rainbow trout) is the most common species that migrate into the tributaries during this time of the year. Anglers can also find brown trout and Coho salmon. Anglers need to check the regulations to determine what segments of streams are open to fishing. The recent period of cold air temperatures has brought river water temperatures into the 30s, with fewer anglers on the streams.
The extended fishing seasons for lower segments of many Lake Superior tributaries in Douglas County, including the Bois Brule River from U.S. Highway 2 downstream to Lake Superior, also close on Nov. 15.
Anglers started ice fishing some secluded bays on Nov. 10 around Menomonie. Early ice panfish are being caught for those braving the cold conditions.
Near Marinette, some of the area launches had their docks removed this week as cold weather has started. Most fishing pressures were seen on the Menominee River from the Highway 41 bridge upstream to the dam. Shore fishing and fishing off Hattie Street Bridge were popular as anglers were searching for whitefish, walleye and brown trout by using jigs with crawlers or minnows. Overall the whitefish bite was good this week with catches of two to five fish reported over two hours. Water temperatures were in the mid-30s by the end of the week.
Good perch fishing was seen at Oconto Park II and the Oconto City docks. Better catches were coming from Oconto Park II as the Oconto River was yielding smaller size perch primarily. Minnows were the best bait with anglers fishing them on the bottom having better luck than using slip bobbers. Some of the backwaters and shallow ditches were seeing ice this week as temps have dropped. Water temps were in the mid-30s by the end of the week.
Many lakes are beginning to freeze over, and ice conditions are not consistent. Some anglers are venturing out onto the ice; please use extreme caution.
The first ice fishermen are testing the backwaters of the Wolf River and the nearshore areas of Shawano Lake. Be careful out there. Let someone know your plan and carry a PFD and ice picks. Better yet, wait a little while for more ice.
Walleyes have been biting pretty good on the Wolf River near New London. It may be one of the earliest years we've seen ice anglers heading out on the backwaters of the Wolf River and smaller lakes.
Hunters are still reporting strong rutting behavior in local bucks as of this past weekend near Poynette. Farmers are struggling to get crops off the fields due to wet and snowy weather, which may throw a wrench in gun hunters' ability to harvest deer later this month. Stocked pheasant properties will slow to once a week stocking starting this week.
The rut is in full swing, with many bucks being taken and observations of bucks pursuing does in the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. The early snow has made for some easy tracking. Horicon Marsh has very little open water, and waterfowl hunting is complete in the marsh.
Bucks are still rutting but are in the lockdown phase, and hunters are reporting feast or famine when it comes to deer activity. Not many ducks are being seen, and the cold weather has pushed quite a few geese down. Field hunters are having success.
Hunters will undoubtedly be able to hear, if not see the approaching game with the snowy, crunchy conditions. Deer scrapes are showing up along trails and use caution when driving with the start of the rut. A few grouse and turkey have been seen along roads looking for grit.
For the past two weeks at Richard Bong State Recreation Area, there have been bucks following doe trails around, so we might be just starting to reach the end of the rut. There are still a lot of fresh rubs and scrapes on public lands in the area. Pheasant stocking is still occurring. The cold might limit competition a little bit this week. Larger ponds were open last weekend but will probably be frozen most of this week for duck hunting, perhaps concentrating birds onto the fox river and cut fields.
At Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest, most bays and boat landings are now iced in along Caldron and High Falls Flowages of the Peshtigo River. Currently, it is difficult to find a place to hunt waterfowl or do any open water fishing.
Rut activity is present but never seemed to show signs that it was in full swing. From public comments and reports, hunters have been harvesting deer, but it has been slow and tough hunting. All-day sits have been difficult with the frigid temperatures this past week. As a reminder, when getting ready for the gun deer season, identification must be visible on your tree stand or blind when leaving it overnight on state-owned lands. Also, remember that two gallons of bait is the legal limit.
With the arrival of cold and snow, inland duck hunting has ended on wetlands with ice formation near Shawano. River duck hunting was good last weekend, but many lakes have thin ice over them. Deer are moving, and hunters know this is the best time for the older bucks to be vulnerable. Seeing some hardy souls out in their stands, even with sub-zero windchills early in the week. It looks to be good hunting weather coming up. Trappers are out in force enjoying the not too thick ice and snow, as they pursue bobcat, otter, and beaver. Bobcats coming in for tagging look good with their winter coats and body weights in prime condition.
It has gotten cold, and there is just enough snow to make the ground white. The bucks are rutting, and chasing does. Hunters are asked to help to monitor the health of our northern deer herd by submitting deer heads from adult deer harvested this year. Monitoring is especially important with the recent detection of the CWD positive captive elk in Burnett County. Self-service kiosks are located at the Spooner, Minong, Cumberland, and Grantsburg DNR buildings, as well as many other convenient locations. We only need what is usually thrown into the garbage. Please remove antlers and capes before submission.
The annual deer rut is in full swing, and deer are commonly being seen at all hours of the day. Archers near Waupaca have reported seeing bucks "locked down" on does and bucks are cruising to find more does. Archery hunters have had success in harvesting deer. Many hunters have been staying in their stand most of the day.
Waterfowl hunters have reported a lot of ducks and geese heading south as ponds and wetlands are now frozen. With the recent snowfall, it will be interesting to see if the waterfowl in the area will be leaving or not. So far, most hunters have had a good season.
As the cold settles in and leaves have dropped, more deer have been seen at Newport State Park. Ruffed grouse are also showing up along the edges of roads and woods -- a sure sign of what's coming is the annual appearance of snow bunting. Traveling in flocks, these artic birds can be seen feeding and flying together along fields and roadsides.
Deer are still in "peak" rutting activity and are very active near Dodgeville. Numerous wintertime birds have arrived in recent weeks: fox sparrows and ruffed-legged hawks.
Chipmunks have disappeared for their winter sleep. Snow depths range from an inch to around a foot in the northern reaches.
Near Stoddard, cold temperatures have initiated the peak of the Tundra Swan migration on the Mississippi River. Early in the week, there were thousands of swans on Pool 8 near Stoddard. There was also excellent swan and waterfowl viewing at the Brownsville Overlook on the Minnesota side of the river.
Temperatures will continue to be below average as we head into the last part of November.
In the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest, the frigid temperatures of the past week have aided the start of ice on many ponds and some lakes. With the high-water tables, outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of changing conditions on lakes, trails, and the forest in general. Most leaves are off the trees, but oaks and a few maples will have leaves that will rattle in the wind for a while yet!
Most of the leaves are off the trees and shrubs except for some of the oaks and buckthorns.
Ice has formed on the lower Menominee River, making it inaccessible to boats. Some open water remained immediately below the Hattie Street walkway for hardy anglers looking to catch whitefish or trout.
Leaf drop has finished for the most part at Lake Wissota State Park. Winter weather has set in early this year and has caused the boat landing to freeze sooner than usual. The ice does not look safe, so people should stay off until it gets thicker. The trails are still in good shape.
Winter has arrived and has a hold on the Brule River State Forest. There have been well below average temperatures and a light "white" covering on the ground. Forecasted temperatures for the weekend are calling for highs in the mid 30s, so it may be a great time to get outdoors. Archery deer and small game seasons and are in full swing. Reports and successful harvests have been mixed; however, deer activity, movement and rutting behavior has picked up in the last couple weeks. Angler activity has declined as ice forms near the banks of most of the river. Fishing on the Brule River closes Nov. 15. Staff have been busy preparing the After Hours Trail for the upcoming ski season. The entire trail system has been cleared and mowed, so it is ready for some base layer snow.
Snowmaking operations have started at the Lapham Peak unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The snow 'whales' will be not be spread until there is sufficient coverage to complete a loop. The trails within the park have a general 1 to 3 inches of ungroomed snow. Skiing is possible, but rock skis are highly recommended. Best bet for a little old school skiing would be on the woodchip or grass covered trails. Trails are still open to hiking. Lots of leaves on the trails.