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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar

February 15, 2018

The Wisconsin Outdoor Report is updated weekly by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
( Reports from conservation wardens, wildlife and fisheries staff and property managers from around the state )

Northern | Northeast | Southeast | South Central | West Central
Outdoor Calendar

Over halfway through February already, and it's been a mixed bag weather-wise. The month started off cold with lows below zero nearly every night but the high temperature Wednesday was in the mid-40s to low 50s.

As of Thursday, snowmobile trails remained open and in good to excellent condition in about 20 northern counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report. Cross-Country Ski Trail Conditions remain good to excellent across the north, but the warm-up this week shut down much of the short-lived skiing in southern Wisconsin after just receiving the first decent snow last week.

Ice anglers in the Northwoods report approximately 20-plus inches of ice on inland lakes with some success for crappies and walleye. Fishing has begun to pick up in central Wisconsin with some nice crappies being caught in deep water.

Along Green Bay anglers report catching a few perch and whitefish along the west shore. Fishing slowed at the Fox River at Voyageurs park for walleyes and whitefish. Longtail Beach fishermen reported catching a few keeper perch. Anglers are also catching a some decent sized northern as well on tip-ups with large shiners. Along Door County most anglers were having pretty good luck over the weekend with some coming in with limits of whitefish while other had varying luck.

There were 24 sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago Wednesday bringing the season total to 253. The Up River lake season closed Tuesday after the eleventh adult female was harvest, reaching 100 percent of the harvest closure limit. An 84.5-inch fish registered Tuesday was the longest fish confirmed on harvest records dating back to the early 1970s, but at least one longer fish was harvested prior to the 1970s. That fish was and 85-inch 168-pound sturgeon harvested during the 1957 season. Regardless of the length of fish harvested during past seasons, fish records are based off weight not length. The current state record lake sturgeon harvested via spear was 212.2 pounds (84.2 inches) and taken during the 2010 spearing season. The season will continue for another 11 days, so spearers will have some time to get out and harvest a fish yet this season.

Otter slide, Amnicon Falls State Park, Wisconsin
An otter slide was seen this week at Amnicon Falls State Park that went down the river and over the upper falls.
Photo Credit: Dave Lindsley
The deer and elk in the Flambeau River State Forest are conserving energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. Whitetail deer should be dropping their antlers in increasing numbers so it is a good time to get out in the woods and shed hunt. Activities of bobcats, otters, turkeys, grouse and birdlife galore seems to have picked up in the warmer temperatures. An otter slide at Amnicon River State Park went down the river and then over the over the upper falls.

Daylight is noticeably longer than just a few weeks ago. Migrating Canada geese have been moving through the area, looking for open water where they can rest and feed as they head farther north. Winter is a great time for birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There have been several common goldeneyes bobbing in the waves near the shoreline at Whitefish Dunes State Park. Breeding activity among resident bird species already signals the change of seasons including turkeys displaying, chickadees singing their see-dee songs, increasing singing activity among cardinals and dark-eyed juncos, pairs of common ravens and pileated woodpeckers, displaying common goldeneye ducks and dueting barred owls.

It's a good weekend to get out and play in the snow with several state properties holding winter fun festivities. Merrick State Park is hosting a winter fest with a candlelight snowshoe hike. The Capital Springs Recreation Area is holding a winter fun day with ice fishing, snowshoeing, a bonfire, treats and warm refreshments. Lakeshore State Park is holding a Let's Play in the Snow with snow sculptures and snow castles and snow painting. And while candlelight skis are winding down, along with Merrick, four other events are being held Saturday night at Governor Knowles State Forest and Governor Thompson, Willow River and Wyalusing state parks. For all event details, search the DNR website for keywords "Get Outdoors."


A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling 608-266-2277.
A new report is put online each week.

Statewide Birding Report as of February 15, 2018

Winter birds continue to dominate the birding scene, highlighted by many snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, American tree sparrows, increasing numbers of horned larks in the south, common redpolls, and more. Spring migration is not far off, however, as cranes, geese, and a few other species are typically on the move by the end of the month. Moreover, breeding activity among resident species already signals the change of seasons. Turkeys displaying, chickadees singing their see-dee songs, increasing singing activity among cardinals and dark-eyed juncos, pairs of common ravens and pileated woodpeckers, displaying common goldeneye ducks, and dueting barred owls, to name a few. In addition to bald eagles, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks - all notoriously early nesters - breeding was also confirmed recently for Eurasian collared-dove in Dunn County and red crossbills in Douglas and Bayfield counties. This week's rare bird list was highlighted by a Clark's nutcracker photographed in Oneida County, the first documented in Wisconsin in nearly a half-century. Also of note was a boreal owl found dead in Bayfield County, and a northern mockingbird so far surviving a Wisconsin winter in Washington County. Last but not least, this year's Great Backyard Bird Count is here! Running from February 16-19, this fun and easy event provides scientists a snapshot of late winter bird populations worldwide. And it's not even limited to your backyard! Go birding anywhere you want for at least 15 minutes and report the birds you can identify. Learn more here http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/ Good birding! - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Feb 17, 10 am - 1 pm, Chiwaukee Prairie Workday: Restore Chiwaukee Prairie! Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Remove invasive brush threatening the prairie. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite. Click for more information.

Feb 21, 9 am - noon, Blue River Sand Barrens: Join the new volunteer effort to care for Blue River Sand Barrens State Natural Area! We are teaming up with The Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) to care for this site. Blue River Sands is known for its dry prairie (including cactus) and globally rare oak barrens. DNR crews have been working to clear brush and conduct burns. Volunteers will continue this effort by cutting and burning (if there is snow) brush with DNR crews. This will benefit turtles and understory plants. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.

Feb 24, 9 am - noon, Sugar River Wetlands Workday: Cutting and burning brush: Cure cabin fever! We are partnering with the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association to restore the Sugar River Wetlands State Natural Area during our series of "fourth Saturdays" winter 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 during the winter. Refreshments including hot chocolate and coffee will be available to fuel you through the morning. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.

Feb 25, noon - 2 pm, York Prairie: Get rid of brush at York Prairie State Natural Area near New Glarus. York Prairie is a remnant grassland in an agricultural landscape and provides important habitat for a variety of rare plants and animals, including some recognized as endangered in Wisconsin. We will be cutting, piling and burning brush in an ongoing effort to restore this special 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

DNR Northern Region

Superior DNR Service Center area

Canada geese, Brule River State Forest, Wisconsin
Canada geese were seen at the Brule River State Forest resting and feeding before heading farther north.
Photo Credit: DNR
Brule River State Forest - Over halfway through February already, and it's been a mixed bag weather-wise. The month started off cold with lows below zero nearly every night-but yesterday's high temperature was in the mid 40 degrees! While the warm weather was a nice break, spring is not here quite yet. Colder temperatures and snow are in the forecast for early next week. The After Hours Ski Trail remains in excellent condition. Trails were groomed on Feb. 5 and gave a base of about 5 inches and about 13 inches of snow on the ground in the woods. The River View Loppet ski races for youth and adults in the skate and classic styles, will be on March 3 at After Hours Ski Trails. This race is sponsored jointly by the Brule Valley Ski Club, the Brule River State Forest, and the Brule Lions Club. Check out the Ski Club's website for more information and a registration form. Snowmobile Trail information is available for Douglas County at Douglascountywi.org; search "snowmobile" or call 715-378-4528 and for Bayfield County at Bayfieldcounty.org; search "snowmobile trail conditions" or call 800-472-6338. Even though spring isn't here yet, there are signs that it is coming. Daylight is noticeably longer than just a few weeks ago. Migrating Canada geese have been moving through the area, looking for open water where they can rest and feed as they head farther north. Mallards, too, have been making their way into the area. It won't be long now! - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Amnicon Falls State Park - A fresh otter slide was seen this week on the frozen surface of Amnicon River at the park. The slide actually continued over the Upper Falls. There was a light snow overnight Monday and now have a total of approximately 8 inches on the ground. - David Lindsey, ranger

Pattison State Park - No new snow this week, but the cross-country ski trails are still in very good condition. The hiking trails at Pattison are in great shape with three trails to choose from. Come out and enjoy viewing Big and Little Manitou Falls.- Gervase Thompson, ranger

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Copper Falls State Park - Cross-country ski trails are groomed and tracked and in excellent condition. Maps are available at the office, which identify the different ski trails for skate and classic skiing. Expect changing trail conditions with fluctuating temperatures and snow in the forecast. - Brent Couperus, ranger

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Birds are still scarce in the Grantsburg Area, but spring is just around the corner. The best way to bird watch right now is by the feeders at the Visitor Center and also the ones on Klarquist Road. Highlights this week included rough-legged hawks, northern shrike, common redpolls and American tree sparrows. There was a flock of Pine Grosbeaks spotted on Klarquist Road, which is a fairly unusual sighting. - Lauren Finch, wildlife educator

Governor Knowles State Forest - Cross-country ski trails Due to the warmer temperatures, the ski trails have not been groomed since Feb. 9. The Riverview Trail has been closed due to icy conditions. - Brandi Buchholz, ranger

Interstate Park - Cross-country ski trails are in good condition as of Feb. 14. If conditions allow they will be groomed the first part of next week. - Thomas Faschingbauer, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail is in good condition and snow is in the forecast. The Birkebeiner in Hayward is coming up and there is always an increased amount of use on the Flambeau for folks that are preparing for the competition. Snowmobile trails are in very good condition. The groomers are out almost daily. The snow depth varies throughout the forest from 18 to 22 inches depending upon the location. Lake of the Pines is reported to have approximately 20-plus inches of ice and fishermen are catching crappies and rock bass. Connors Lake ice depth is reported to be about 20 inches and fishermen are catching walleye. Logging operations on the Forest are going full speed ahead. Conditions are perfect for good logging practices and loggers are working diligently to get as much done before break-up. The deer and elk are conserving their energy and aggressively browsing in the logging areas. Many of the loggers and forest staff are viewing groups of deer and elk daily and it's a thrill for them to view the majestic bulls that wander in. Activities of bobcats, otters, turkeys, grouse and birdlife galore seems to have picked up in the warmer temperatures. Ravens and eagles are actively courting in February and the Great Horned owls are making their nests now. Usually by early to mid-March there are owlets in the nests. Wolves and coyotes are mating. The weather forecast for the weekend falls for Friday to be sunny with a high of 17 and a low of 6 with a slight chance of snow. Saturday, there is a 30 percent chance of snow, then partly sunny with a high of 30 and low of 6. Sunday, there is a chance of snow, with a high of 27 and a low of 13. Monday, Washington's Birthday, snow, 5 to 8 inches, and 1 to 3 inches at night, with a high of 24 and low of 6. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - Conditions are still perfect for any wintertime activity on the forest. There is plenty of snow cover, but one should watch for icy patches on ski trails and roads with the recent warm days. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

Cross-country ski trails remain in good to excellent condition. They were last groomed Feb. 12. There has been no new snow since Feb 3. There are 14-16 inches undisturbed snow in the woods. Tracks remain in good shape. - Tony Martinez, parks and recreation specialist

DNR Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

Oconto County - Geano Beach anglers report catching a few perch. Using larger minnows seems to be ticket for catching the larger perch and keeping the small ones at bay. A few whitefish are still being caught off the reefs out from Geano's as well. Oconto Park II, Little River, Peshtigo Harbor and the Menomonee River had low fishing pressure and no one fishing during the week. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Slow fishing and low numbers of fish being caught were reported all along the west shore for this week. Anglers fishing the Fox River at Voyageurs park are reporting slow fishing for walleyes and whitefish. With very few fish being caught. Aggressive jigging with spoons and jigging raps tipped with minnow heads caught the few fish reported. Longtail area fishermen reported catching a few keeper perch. Anglers are also catching a some decent sized northern as well on tip-ups with large shiners. Out of Sunset Beach anglers are reporting hit or miss perch fishing with some groups catching their limit and other groups reporting zero. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Early in the week many anglers were out at Sand Bay Resort with an average of 25 vehicles and trailers, on Lime Kiln Rd with an average of 15 vehicles and trailers, and at George Pinney Park and Murphy Park both averaging around 5 vehicles and trailers. Over the weekend most anglers were having pretty good luck. Cabots Point anglers were coming in with their limits of whitefish while other anglers going out of Oak Avenue had varying luck, some coming in with 2 whitefish and others coming in with their limits after a full day on the ice. One group of anglers out of Rites Cove reported coming in with their limit of whitefish and one walleye, which have been an uncharacteristic catch as of late. - Kara Winter, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Warmer temps on Wednesday began to melt the snow a little. Sunshine and 40 degrees forecasted for Thursday, so likely another day of melting snow. Trails should firm up on Friday but be sure to check the trail condition report for up to date conditions. Ice fisherman are reporting good ice with a little snow making for fairly easy travel. Fishing has begun to pick up with some nice crappies being caught in deep water. The weekend weather forecast looks great for the Candlelight Ski at Governor Thompson State Park and for the Lake Noquebay Kids Fisheree. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Oconto County - Most snowmobile trails north of Suring in Oconto County are open and in good condition. There is an ice fishing tournament on Crooked Lake, Wheeler Lake, and Townsend Flowage this weekend. I am assuming the Northern Half of Oconto County will be very busy with this being one of the last weekends to get out and enjoy snow. Temperatures will be warm this week and even warmer next week. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Newport State Park - On Europe Bay and Newport cross-country ski trails, there is still a good base, but warming temperatures have tracks getting soft. Monarch Trail, which has been rolled but not tracked, still has a good base for skate skiing. Trail conditions are expected to degrade with above freezing temperatures. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Peninsula State Park - Cross-country ski trails vary from excellent to poor condition depending on the trail. The most recent grooming was Feb. 8. - Jennifer Birkholz, property supervisor

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Cross-country ski trail conditions are fair but are expected to degrade further throughout the day on Feb. 15 with temperatures being above freezing. They were last groomed Feb. 9. Winter is a great time for birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There have been several common goldeneyes near the shoreline by the office and they are fun to watch bobbing in the waves. The bird feeder has been busy with downy, hairy, red-bellied woodpeckers, and squirrels. If you ski the yellow trail out in the meadow there are many coyote tracks along the trail. - Fred Viste, park manager and Jaclyn Moer, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Hartman Creek State Park - Cross-country ski trails have degraded to poor condition. - Randy Busch, ranger

Waushara County - Waushara County nearly hit 50 degrees on Wednesday and that pretty much took care of any hope to have trails open this weekend. The ice still appears solid, however remember that with warming and freezing the ice begins to deteriorate so take time to find out local conditions though bait shops and fishing clubs. The snow melt has made for some slippery areas where the water is pooling, but it is also clearing snow from the trails and paths around the county so make sure to get out and enjoy the warmer temperatures this weekend. It's about time for deer to be dropping their antlers. A good time to get out in the woods and shed hunt - just another reason to get up and get out there. Enjoy and be safe out there! - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System - There were 24 sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago Wednesday bringing the season total to 253. Calumet Harbor paced the way with seven fish while Stockbridge Harbor and Jerry's Bar in Oshkosh each registered four. On the season, Wendt's has a pretty good lead on all other stations with 67 fish registered thus far. The largest fish of the day was 92.5 pounds (67.2 inches) and registered at Calumet Harbor. The season will continue for another 11 days, so spearers will have some time to get out and harvest a fish yet this season. An 84.5-inch fish registered Tuesday was the longest fish that I had confirmed record of being harvested. We have fairly reliable harvest records dating back to the early 1970s, but only intermittent records prior to that. Yesterday's fish was the longest fish in our data set during this time period; however, at least one longer fish harvested prior to the 1970s. That fish was Bill Mortimer's 85-inch 168-pound sturgeon harvested during the 1957 season. Regardless of the length of fish harvested during past seasons, fish records are based off weight not length. The current state record lake sturgeon harvested via spear was 212.2 pounds (84.2 inches) and taken during the 2010 spearing season. Many of the top 11 heaviest fish on record were taken during the 2010-2013 seasons. Although we have not had a 170-plus pound fish registered in the past five years, we have had a number of fish harvested that were certainly long enough to be on this list had they been in better condition (plumpness). - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

DNR Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The warm weather Wednesday and Thursday have melted a lot of snow, creating bare spots and puddles on the cross-country ski trails. The man-made snow loop however, still has plenty of snow, although it will be soft as long as the temperatures remain warm. The man-made loop will be groomed when the temps drop later today. Lights will be on the man-made loop only until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday., Jay Abts, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Northern Unit - The forest received a couple inches of snow Saturday into Sunday. The Zillmer cross-country ski trails were groomed the skating lanes on all loops Feb. 12. Conditions were good to very good, still a rather thin base. The tracks were left as is, too thin of a base to reset a decent track. Track from last week is still in good condition. - Reagan Arndt, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition. The Nordic trail system was last groomed on Feb 12 but rising temperatures and saturating fog has created detrimental skiing conditions and prolific bare spots. Variable conditions throughout due to canopy and terrain. Classic track and corduroy is still present. The McMiller trail system was last groomed on Feb. 13 but rising temperatures and saturating fog has created 'slow' skiing conditions and several bare spots. Variable conditions throughout due to canopy and terrain. Classic track (double track on red, orange, and white loops) and corduroy is still present. Roy Kenast, ranger

DNR South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Governor Dodge State Park - Cross-country ski trails were packed Feb. 9, but no track has been laid. Packed snow base about 1-2 inches. Conditions are fair. - Eric Stopper, park manager

Blue Mound State Park - As of Feb. 12 all cross-country ski trails were groomed and tracked and in good condition. There is an impressive ice river occurring on the Willow Spring Trail, so please use caution as you negotiate around it. The down hills are a little thin. We did attempt to fill in some of those areas but they probably won't hold up too well during the warm week. Hill entering campground is thin and has leaf litter. - Kevin Swenson, park manager

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Mirror Lake State Park - Cross-country ski trail conditions have deteriorated and skiing is not recommended at this time. - Steven Rodenkirch, conservation biologist

Lake Kegonsa State Park - Cross-country ski trails have degraded to poor condition. The snow base is very thin and icy. - Sarah Bolser, park manager

DNR West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - All cross-country ski trails have been freshly tracked Feb. 7, and are in good shape. Multi-use trails are packed. - Eric Klumb, ranger

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - A snowy owl has been seen repeatedly during the past week in Viroqua in the vicinity of the high school football and track field. It has been several months since the last consistent Vernon County snowy owl observation, which occurred on the Kickapoo Valley Reserve near La Farge. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Perrot State Park - Cross-country ski trails are now in poor condition. Bay and Wilber Trails are groomed and tracked but have an increasing amounts of bare spots. The upper trails, Prairie View and Cedar Glade are only packed. - Justin Wershofen, ranger

Wildcat Mountain State Park - Cross-country ski trails are not currently groomed are open to hiking. - Andrew Haffele, park manager

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Warmer temperatures this week has melted a lot of the snow, especially in open areas. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the 30s with a slight chance of snow Saturday. All trails are open but may be slushy and/or slippery in places. Cross-country ski trails were packed on Saturday and tracked last Tuesday. They were in fair condition as of Feb. 15 but warm temperatures have resulted in many bare areas...will be unable to ski soon. Snowmobile, ATV and UTV trails are open but in very poor condition. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate and Gordon Hoyt, ranger

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Lake Wissota State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in good condition but conditions are deteriorating with the warm temperatures. There is still a good packed base in most areas. Trails are planned to be groomed Friday, Feb. 16 when temperatures get colder. - Nathan Fries, ranger

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - Warmer weather and lack of new snow have deteriorated cross-country ski trails as of Feb. 14. - Heather Wolf, park manager

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