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.
We're wrapping up the winter recreation season in Wisconsin, and spring is on the way. According to the Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report, most counties have closed or will soon close snowmobile trails. A few properties in the far north are still reporting good to fair ski trail conditions, but most ski trails are also closed with trails reopened to hiking.
Warmer temps brought out open water anglers fishing for walleyes and brown trout on the Menominee River. The ice fishing season is over in the southern part of Wisconsin and will soon end in the north. March 15 is the final deadline to remove permanent shelters from waters of the state.
Maple sap has been flowing, and Canada geese are fighting over breeding territories. Turkeys have been heard gobbling and spotted displaying throughout the day. Tundra and trumpeter swans have also returned. An eastern comma butterfly was seen on March 1, about 15 days earlier than usual.
For more on Wisconsin's outdoors, check out the full Outdoor Report below.
Anglers report slow fishing out of Bayshore Park. Light fishing pressure was seen on Sunday with only one or two people out at each spot. Inconsistent fishing was reported out of Red River. Anglers fishing the same depth and using the same baits reported anywhere from zero fish caught to limits being caught for a day's effort. Anglers report trying everything in their tackle boxes to try to get fish to bite. Lots of fish are being seen on electronics but getting them to bite has been difficult.
Fishing pressure was still fairly high this week with anglers catching perch of various sizes off Hook Road. Most were on the small side but some keeper size fish were being caught. Anglers reported catching perch shallower than they did earlier in the season. Tip downs with minnows was a popular method for the larger fish.
Fishing pressure during the week was low at Sunset Beach with high effort seen on the weekend. Most anglers were targeting northern pike with limited success. A few hit and misses were reported but no fish. A large ice shove formed just off the access point creating difficult travel for 4 wheelers with no real easy crossing point.
Very little fishing pressure was seen during the week at Long Tail Point with high effort seen over the weekend. Northern pike were most sought after with some anglers seen fishing in very shallow water. A few pike were reported caught with the occasional perch also caught.
Heavy Fox River fishing pressure was seen this week as boats were able to get out. Walleye were biting for most boat anglers with jig and minnows working best along with jig and plastic lures. Anglers were shore fishing also but some shore ice was limiting accessible fishing areas.
With temperatures in the 50s over the weekend, heavy fishing pressure was seen in most spots on the East shore of Green Bay. The warm temperatures and heavy traffic was causing some landings to deteriorate quickly. Anglers report ice thicknesses of 10-12 inches with the top 4-6 inches of ice being soft honeycombed ice and the bottom layer being good solid ice. Rain and warm temperatures in the forecast for this week might cause some ice to soften even more. The US Coast Guard started breaking ice in the bay on Monday March 9 so be aware of changing ice conditions.
Slow fishing was reported for most stops along Little Sturgeon Bay with most anglers coming back with two or three whitefish for half a day sit. Anglers fishing out of Sand Bay Resort report catching a few limits for an all days effort. Anglers fishing 2-3 miles out of the resort landing report doing the best while anglers closer reported slow fishing. Anglers targeting walleyes at dusk report slow fishing with no fish caught. Most anglers out of Carmody park spent their time getting their shacks off the ice. A group of anglers fishing Lime Kiln Road overnight report catching a few whitefish.
Slow fishing was reported out of Rites cove and Sugar Creek, with only a few white fish being caught. Anglers report seeing lots of bigger fish on camera but with no fish biting .
Warmer temps brought out anglers fishing for walleyes and brown trout below the Menominee River dam. There was still some shore ice and ice on the river above the train bridges limiting anglers to the catwalk on Hattie Street. and the areas right below the dam on both shores. A few perch and northern pike were caught off of Sixth Street in the turn basin and close to the landing.
Anglers were trying for northern pike and walleyes over the weekend at the mouth of the Peshtigo River with limited results. A few small walleyes were reported caught along with a few small perch.
Ice fishing season is over in the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park, and open water fishing has started up again!
A lot of anglers were seen along the shoreline and out from Oconto Park II (North Bay Shore Park). Light numbers of northern pike were being caught close to shore with various sizes reported. Sizes ranged from mid-20 inches up to as long as 39 inches. Anglers fishing out from Oconto Park II were targeting walleye. On average anglers were getting one per person with most fish being released. The reported average size was said to be large with a few 30-inch fish caught.
Ice along the pier rip rap in the Oconto Harbor was pulling away from shore creating open water areas causing access problems. Most anglers seen were leaving from the boat ramp area and heading north or south to fish near shore for northern pike and perch. No fish were reported caught.
Moderate fishing pressure was seen this week at Geano Beach with anglers targeting northern pike and perch. Pike were a little bit more active than previous weeks with a few caught measuring in the upper 20 inches. No perch were reported caught.
There are no reports this week.
An eastern comma butterfly was spotted on March 1, about 15 days earlier than the usual first butterfly sighting of the year. The eastern comma butterfly is one of about six species that overwinter as adults under bark on trees or other areas of cover. As temperatures warm, expect to see this species and others flying in sunny areas. They feed on sap coming out of trees from holes made by yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
Recent warm temperatures have gotten bird migration and early breeding season into shape! New arrivals include large numbers of waterfowl (geese, swans and ducks) through the area, along with blackbirds, bluebirds, robins, cranes and killdeer.
Small wetlands have begun to thaw, and Canada geese are fighting over breeding territories. Turkeys are gobbling and displaying in fields throughout the day.
Early migrants are arriving, including sandhill/whooping crane, Canada geese, bluebirds, robins, killdeer, great blue heron, white-fronted geese, turkey vultures and trumpeter swans. Some turkeys are also starting to be seen.
In the Dodgeville area, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, sandhill cranes, woodcock and many waterfowl species have arrived.
Tree wells are opening up, and deer are taking advantage of it. After a few deer yard surveys, deer seem to still be in good condition although still confined to paths. The lack of snow in February and already packed down trails may have allowed deer to keep thicker fat reserves later into the winter.
Birds are busy in Milwaukee. Sandhill cranes and bald eagles have been flying overhead. Chickadees, bluebirds, house finches, robins and red-winged blackbirds have been singing their spring songs. Bugs are out and about, too! The pond at Havenwoods State Forest has dragonfly nymphs, caddisfly larva and backswimmers moving around.
Open bodies of water, including Perch Lake, Angelo Pond and the Lemonweir River upstream of Lake Tomah, are being used by thousands of Canada geese and a variety of ducks. In addition, a pair of bald eagles and some sandhill cranes are back at Lake Tomah. Trumpeter swans are in the Warrens area utilizing open bodies of water. Opossum and skunk are out and about. Turkeys are still flocked-up.
Near Winter, Wisconsin, tom turkeys are starting to gobble in the mornings. They are also strutting and displaying in front of the hens and are now able to spread out and access more food since the snow is dropping. Although there is still a lot of snow in protected areas, fields and areas receiving a good amount of sun are down to bare patches in some locations.
Tundra and trumpeter swans have been seen in the last couple of days. Large flocks of geese have been observed utilizing flooded farm fields for foraging and loafing. Red-winged blackbirds, sandhill cranes also many other species of waterfowl are being seen in large numbers.
Creeks and rivers are flowing higher and faster with warm temperatures at the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area. Some cattail burning was done last week over the remaining ice and timber. Trails are muddy but all open. The auto tour at the north end of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge is now open.
There is still over 20" of snow on the ground with a hard crust layer, making melt off slow. Snowmobile trails are down to the soil in areas near wetlands and along roads that are exposed to sunlight.
Snow is rapidly disappearing. On average, there are 5 inches of snow in more open areas, but wooded land still has 12-20 inches. Channels on some flowages have begun to open, and ice is starting to get grey. Maple sap has been flowing well. Geese have started to make an appearance on the marshes, a few cranes and red-winged blackbirds have found the county as well. A few landscape plants have begun to pop up along the south side of homes.
A unique sighting was observed upstream from the Brule River State Forest ranger station on Monday March 9. Just downstream from Little Joe rapids there was a whitetail deer carcass right at the river's edge. Ravens, crows, and other scavengers were taking advantage of the meal, however the bald eagles took priority when it came to who ate first. At one point 10 different eagles were within view all taking turns feeding. They were perched in surrounding trees being quite vocal throughout the day. There is still 8-12 inches of solid base on our trails and conditions are reported good to very good with skate skiing being the better experience.
Warm weather is bringing the end of ski season at Lake Wissota State Park. We still have a good base of snow on much of our trail system, but warm conditions have made for poor skiing. We have most likely ended grooming for the year. All trails will likely open to foot traffic. Get out and enjoy the warm weather!
Lakeshore State Park and all trails are currently snow-free, and red-winged blackbirds and robins have started to return, a sure indication spring is coming.
Devil's Lake State Park trails are still snow and ice-covered in the shady areas, so if you visit, be prepared for ice, snow, mud, water and rock. A recent visitor highly recommended traction devices for your boots or shoes. The lake is still frozen over, but with every warming or rainy day, the remaining ice and snow diminishes. The only open campground, Quartzite, is still mostly snow-covered, but there are a couple dozen campsites that are accessible by vehicle. Water facilities are not yet turned on in the campground.
Snow depth has gone down drastically across the last week or so at Flambeau River State Forest with the warm temperatures. Snowmobile trails range from poor to good condition depending on the area you are riding. Ski trail conditions are fair as grooming operations have stopped, and the trails may be icy at the Flambeau Hills Ski Area. Area lakes still have great ice. Some spots onshore may be getting weak/thin, but there are still great opportunities to panfish as the game fish season is closed. Rivers and streams are beginning to open up and flow more with the melting snow.
Winter is coming to an end, which means melting and freezing are occurring. Willow River State Park trail conditions will range from slushy, icy and muddy. All trails are now open to hiking due to the end of the cross-country ski season. Robins have been seen at the falls and on the Nelson Farm trail along the river in large flocks.
The dam is functional, and we will start holding water back in the reservoir soon. The dam is in the construction zone and is off-limits to the public at this time.
The uncertainty of snow and ice is typical for this time of the year at NHAL State Forest. There is plenty of snow on the ground, which is hard and crusty in the morning and soft in the afternoon once the heat of the sun penetrates the surface. Ice cleats are a must for walking at this time of the year. The chipmunks came out of their winter slumber this weekend and are feeding under area bird feeders, so spring is coming! Red squirrels are chasing themselves in circles as they compete for dominance, another good sign.