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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar

April 28, 2016

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

Rain, though it paused for a spell, was back in force this past week, with as much as two-and-a-half inches reported in the north. The rainfall has lowered fire dangers levels statewide and is leading to green-up of grasses and leaf out of trees. The lower fire danger is welcome as pine trees are candling, meaning the new growth in the crowns are very dry and if fire conditions are high there is a greater chance of crown fires.

Views of Big Manitou Falls, Wisconsin
View of Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park on April 26
Photo Credit: DNR
The recent rain also have waterfalls running high in the north and brought mud back to the trails and paths in parks and forests, so those planning for a hike may want a good pair of boots and mountain bikers should call ahead to confirm if trails are open. Another sign of spring is the three tunnels on the Elroy-Sparta State Trail have been opened, although the grading and packing of the limestone surface will not begin until next week, so expect to encounter rough spots, ruts and branches. Many campgrounds are beginning to open and some have even begun to open shower buildings.

The sturgeon are done spawning and it was very short run this year. Walleye spawning is also pretty much over and the steelhead run is slowing down on Lake Michigan tributaries. Anglers out this past week reported some difficult conditions, from rain to the hard winds driving it, but also several catches for boat and shore anglers alike.

White bass anglers are coming out in larger numbers on the Fox River, but catch rates have only been modest. Catfish seekers along the Fox saw good numbers, particularly near Green Bay, while those near De Pere reported sighting some musky. Walleye, brown trout, steelhead, northern pike and smallmouth bass were all being targeted around the south and north shores of Green Bay.

Sharp-tail grouse, Wisconsin
Sharp-tail grouse dancing the site of a fresh prescribed burn at the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area.
Photo Credit: DNR

Turkey hunters report an abundance of jakes and older toms gobbling along and egging on hunters, a benefit of the previous mild winters. Geese are being seen with goslings as heron and osprey continue nest construction. Grouse are drumming and there are currently blinds open on certain dates for sharp-tailed grouse viewing at Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area. For scheduling information, visit www.fnbwa.org/blinds. So far this spring, reports from viewing blinds have been very positive.

Several song-birds, from finches to sparrows, are starting to bring more music to the woods and savannahs. They're adding their song to the croaking, burbling sounds of chorus and wood frogs.

Black cherries are blooming in the woods and wood violet, marsh marigold bloodroot and other early spring ephemerals are now in bloom.. Honeysuckle is beginning to leaf and garlic mustard is getting ready to bolt, so this is an excellent time to cut and treat woody invasives and to pull and bag garlic mustard.

If there weren't enough reasons to get outside already, the morel hunt is beginning "early" this year, with some mushroom hunters already reporting their first finds in the southern counties.

While some areas are reporting heavy tick activity, we seem to have evaded any early mosquito company, making this a great time to get out in the woods or around the streams and rivers, despite the otherwise damp conditions.

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

Wildfire Report

Precipitation has varied wildly across the state lately, resulting in a range of fire danger conditions. Burning permits were periodically suspended in some counties that reached High fire danger. In the past week, 44 fires burned in DNR wildfire protection areas. The main causes were equipment (20), debris burning (8) and railroad (6). The DNR wants to remind everyone to be careful with anything that can start a wildfire when you're out fishing, hunting, camping, doing yard work, or looking for mushrooms. Fire danger can vary from one day to the next this time of the year, depending on weather and dryness of the vegetation. Check this site for current statewide fire danger and burning permit restrictions: dnr.wi.gov (search fire danger).

Firewise Tip: Create firebreaks around your home. Use rock and stone landscaping materials next to buildings instead of wood mulch. Keep your lawn raked free of debris and mowed short. Clear a 10-foot space around propane tanks. - Joanne Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison

Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

Grub out winged euonymus adjacent to Pope Lake SNA in Hartman Creek State Park On Saturday, April 30 from 8:50 a.m. to noon. Celebrate Earth Day by helping out! Euonymus is shading out native understory plants and decreasing the biodiversity of this area. No skills needed as you will be trained onsite. Bring your boat and/or boots and spend the rest of the day boating on the Upper Chain and/or hiking in Hartman Creek State Park. Lunch will be provided! More information can be found here [PDF]. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane

Statewide Birding Report as of April 21, 2016

It's an exciting time to be a birder in Wisconsin as large numbers of early-season migrants are being seen across the state. Lake Superior birders had a spectacular flight of American robins, northern flickers, rusty blackbirds, common redpolls, and others on Friday, April 15 (ebird.org/ebird/wi/view/checklist?subID=S28970725). Numbers of dark-eyed juncos, American tree sparrows, and fox sparrows are waning, while white-throated and chipping sparrows have arrived in force. Yellow-rumped, pine, and palm warblers have been reported statewide, with expectations of black-and-white, Nashville, black-throated green and other warblers in southern and central Wisconsin this upcoming week. Other Neotropical migrants like Baltimore orioles and ruby-throated hummingbirds usually arrive around the first of May but keep an eye out now following any warm front with southerly winds. Other notable migrants seen recently include brown thrasher, eastern towhee, blue-gray gnatcatchers, both kinglets, and house wrens. Waterfowl migration is peaking across the north and likely past peak in the south. Thousands of Bonaparte's gulls are on the move now along Lake Michigan, inland lakes and flooded fields, and likely soon north to Lake Superior. Shorebird migration has also ramped up, dominated by both species of yellowlegs, pectoral sandpipers, some Amer. golden-plovers, and even a couple reports of American avocet and black-necked stilt. The first broad-winged hawks of the year arrived this past week - expect big numbers over the next two weeks as this common raptor returns from central and south American wintering areas. Sharp-shinned hawks and 10-plus other raptor species are also on the move this time of year. Nesting season is underway for many resident and early-arriving species. Great horned owls and common ravens are fledging young, bald eagle chicks are hatching, and the first Canada goose goslings were seen this week. Eastern phoebes, common grackles, American robins, belted kingfishers, and various woodpeckers are nest building. Trumpeter swans, mallards, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, American crows, and other species are incubating eggs. And soon, more than 200 species of birds will be nesting across the state! Join our massive statewide citizen project by contributing your observations of nesting birds to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas at wsobirds.org/atlas. Enjoy the migration! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

DNR Northern Region

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Pattison State Park - Big and Little Manitou Falls are providing wonderful photo opportunities for park visitors. With the recent rain we have received, the waterfalls are really displaying their power. The rainfalls also have trails wet and muddy, so bring proper footwear. Come check out Wisconsin's largest waterfall. A variety of waterfowl species have been spotted on Interfalls Lake. Some of these species include Canada geese, mallard ducks, wood ducks, and common mergansers. Visitors have seen many deer feeding to recover from winter and some turkeys are displaying. With warmer temperatures on the way, be sure to bring the camera along as the critters will start to become more mobile. - Kevin Feind, property supervisor

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - There are currently blinds open on certain dates for sharp-tailed grouse viewing at Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area. For scheduling information, visit www.fnbwa.org/blinds. So far this spring, reports from viewing blinds have been very positive. - Nancy M. Christel, wildlife biologist, Spooner

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The area received 2.5 inches of rain the past two days; fire danger is very low. The lakes and river water temperatures are still pretty cold. The walleye are spawning and the redhorse are running and the river users are enjoying fishing for the redhorse. The docks will be put in the area lakes very soon. Some folks have been taking advantage of the bugless weather and good water level on the Flambeau River and paddling down river and using the scenic river sites for camping and day-use. The hiking trails are open at Lake of the Pines and Little Falls, though the water level may be high and it would make it difficult to cross over to Slough Gundy. Due to higher water the waterfalls in the area will be quite a site. The juncos are flittering around the fields and roadways and the potholes and ponds are home to a variety of ducks. Swans, geese, sandhill cranes, and ducks of various species are just a few of the birds that have come north. Some of the flycatchers seem to be back. The grouse are still drumming, which is associated with their mating season. Tom turkeys are gobbling and the hens are clucking. Wood frogs, chorus frogs, and spring peepers are only a few of the critters out there that have been croaking a melodious virtuoso. ATV/UTV trails are closed until May 15. The pussy willows and leeks are out and crocuses and daffodils are up. The red maples are flowering and much of the grass is green. The pine trees are candling, meaning the new growth in the crowns are very dry and there is a chance of crown fires, and the public still needs to be careful when burning. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The recent rain will fuel a fast green up as the temperatures warm up next week. This is a great time of the year to perform random acts of kindness, like picking up trash and recyclables along your favorite trail, natural area or walk in the State Forest. In a couple of weeks the grasses will cover up that bottle or can that can be put back to good use! You may be rewarded with spotting a rare spring flower or plant, or witnessing a heron, osprey or song bird gathering materials for their nests, or listen to a grouse drumming in his territory. A few song birds are working their way back. Gold crowned kinglets, purple finches and white throated sparrows are delighting the days with their songs. Various waterfowl are protecting their nests and mates from visitors and of course the spring peepers and wood frogs are happy that it is getting warmer out! Lake and stream water level on the NHAL SF are still in the normal to above normal range. We have installed about half of our 50 boarding docks and should have most of the docks in before fishing opener. - Kimberly Krawczyk, Visitor Services Associate

DNR Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

This report was for the week of April 17-23. Fishing pressure was low to moderate this past week, with anglers reporting water temperatures in the low 50s. Walleye spawning is pretty much over and has been replaced with suckers and sturgeon. Below the Dam at Peshtigo, on the Power House side, has been a good spot for people to observe Sturgeon on their spawning run.

Marinette County - Most anglers have left the Peshtigo Dam Area and relocated to Klingsborn's Landing and the Peshtigo River Mouth where the walleye bite has started to pick up. Jigging and trolling has worked the best. Some very nice pike and the occasional brown are also being caught by boaters and shore anglers alike. Brown trout fishing has slowed some out of Little River in the past week, but anglers expect it to pick back up. Some walleye are being caught at the Hattie Street Dam in Menominee along with a few trout. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - During the past week angling success was low but by the weekend anglers are reporting nice catches of walleye, pike, and brown trout, fishing in 4 to 6 feet of water trolling stick baits and spoons, from the landing at Pensaukee to Oconto Park II. Shore anglers are also enjoying success fishing pike on the lower Oconto River and Oconto Park II using spoons and live baits. One angler reporting catching some very large smallmouth near shore north of Oconto Breakwater Park. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Catfish anglers on the Fox River caught good numbers of fish. Most were landed near the walkway off of Polier Street (Green Bay), off of Main Street (Green Bay) and towards the North end of Voyager Park (De Pere). Fishing live bait off of the bottom landed the most fish. White bass anglers are coming out in larger numbers onto the Fox River. Catch rates have been modest. Crank baits have been the most common approach. The dam area at Voyager Park had large numbers of common carp. A few sturgeon and musky are have also been observed. Four to five locks on the dam remained open resulting in high, fast, turbid waters. The piers on the Fox River near Main Street (across from the Titletown Brewery) were put in on Monday, April 25. Very few trailers were at the Fairgrounds and Fox Point boat launches. Incidental catches included round gobies, white suckers and freshwater drum. North and northeast winds at 10-20 mph kept many boaters off of Green Bay's west shore for much of the week. Very few empty trailers were at the Metro, Suamico and Geano Beach boat launches. Fishing pressure was very light on Duck Creek. Fishing pressure on Chaudoir's Dock has been moderate with more anglers trying to find the fish further north as the water temperatures continue to rise. While fishing pressure has been moderate the catch rates do not hold the same trend with anglers finding it difficult to find walleyes in the northern stretch of the eastern side of the Bay of Green Bay. Bayshore Park has been the hot bite since last Sunday. Fishing pressure has been high all week and so have the catch rates for walleye. Boaters are reporting water temperatures hovering around the 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which seems to have switched the fish into feeding mode. Most anglers are trolling Plano boards running Flicker Shads over rocky substrate which seems to be the trick of late. It should be noted that with the latest rain the water clarity has decreased substantially in the first 100 yards from shore, due to runoff. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Door County - Fishing pressure in Little Sturgeon bay has been relatively low. From interviews taken anglers are just not seeing the number of Walleyes this far north yet while water temperatures stay just a bit colder than the more southward boat launches. The weather has also played a part in the low number of people fishing, with winds out of the Northeast making it unsafe for many anglers to fish. Fishing pressure in Sawyer's Harbor has been very low, with only one interviewed angler. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Fishing pressure was above average this past weekend due to the brown trout derby out of Baileys Harbor. Many anglers were out trolling in most of the bays in Door County with more success reported along the East shoreline. Those fishing from shore at Stone Quarry reported catching Walleye and brown trout from the wall and the break wall using spoons or rapalas. Shore anglers have also been doing well in Ephraim and Sister Bay fishing from the piers and have been catching Walleye, Northern Pike, and some Smallmouth Bass. Walleye anglers have reported their best success on overcast days fishing near shore. The rivers in Door County (Heins, Hibbards, Shivering Sands, Whitefish Bay Creek) continue to have a good flow and good water clarity. A few steelhead were still seen in the deeper pools on Heins Creek late this past weekend, but no anglers were seen fishing. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Kewaunee County - Fishing pressure on the Red River has been pretty moderate with people looking for white suckers. The white suckers are making their annual spawning run in the Red River and anglers have noticed. Whether it be netting, by hand or using rod and reel many people have taken advantage of the abundant numbers of white suckers running in the Red River. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay

At Algoma the majority of brown trout being caught have been averaging anywhere from 14-18 inches. Anglers have been doing well trolling close to shore with a few Browns being reported each day, but action seemed to vary throughout the week. Not many anglers were fishing the Ahnapee River this week, but many anglers are still fishing at Stoney Creek concentrating their efforts at the Hwy U crossing. A few anglers have been catching steelhead on their migration back to Lake Michigan using streamers and egg patterns. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

At Kewaunee, anglers fishing along the Kewaunee River concentrated their efforts at Bruemmer Park along the riffles and bends with limited success reported. The steelhead run is winding down with a few still being seen and caught in the river. Those fishing off the pier for salmon and trout species reported little success, but one brown trout was reported caught late in the week. The anglers coming in off of the lake reported moderate success for brown trout in the shallow waters close to shore. Those that were out deeper trying their luck for Chinook reported no success. Anglers also reported catching Rainbow trout and Lake trout while trolling for Browns late last week and over the weekend. - Lucas Koenig, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Manitowoc County - In the past week some anglers have done well catching browns by trolling in shallow water. Action off the piers and harbors has been inconsistent with few browns being caught. steelhead are still being seen upstream in the East and West Twin Rivers but have been difficult to catch. Water levels upstream are relatively low in Mishicot and Shoto with water temps in the low 50's. The amount of suckers near the dams has decreased in the past week but many are still present. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Mishicot

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Brown thrashers made it back this week, joining a whole host of other birds including swallows and bluebirds. Bloodroot and other early spring ephemerals are now in bloom. Honeysuckle is beginning to leaf out-making this a great time of year to identify the leading edge of an infestation or to find a new patch just getting started. These plants could then be treated later in summer or fall when treatment is more effective. Turkey season is in full swing now with the third period starting this week. Walleyes have left the main rivers and headed back to the bay. Grouse can now be heard drumming in the early mornings and woodcock peenting in the evenings. This is a wonderful time of year to get outside and enjoy Marinette County as the mosquitos have not yet started and tick activity is minimal right now. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - Anglers, the daily bag limit for panfish at Lily Lake, Town of Eaton is 10. Fishing at the urban pond at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in the City of Green Bay is open to children 15 or younger and the disabled only. Turtles have started traveling, watch out for them while you drive down roads near wetland, streams, or lakes. Don't forget to purchase your new 2016 fishing license before going out to enjoy a day of fishing. - Ka Yeng Vue, conservation warden, Shawano

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Potawatomi State Park - Trees have not leafed out yet. Visitors are looking for morels, but not many have been found yet. Some hepatica are in bloom. The launch piers are not in the water yet. We are still hoping the repairs will be complete by early to mid-May. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Current cool snap has really slowed fishing success. Many walleyes reportedly back in the Winnebago pool lakes. Sturgeon are done spawning - very short run this year. trout streams look good now, but a bit of rain would be nice to bring stream levels up. Turkeys are displaying like crazy, have not heard any hunting reports lately. Fields are now very green and growing with deer out feeding at almost all hours of the day. Many trees popping buds and starting to leaf out. Should have morels popping up in a couple of weeks. Can't wait for the trout harvest season opener! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

DNR Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - The Sheboygan and Pigeon Rivers are clear and low. Both rivers were in the lower 50s over the weekend. Not many anglers were interviewed on the Pigeon River. Anglers on the Sheboygan River reported catching a few Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass. The South pier in Sheboygan had high fishing pressure on Sunday. A large lake trout was reported being caught earlier in the day, and later in the evening there were a few browns caught on shiners and crank baits. The Eighth Street boat launch is now accessible to boats, as the docks have been moved to the side of the parking lot.

Ozaukee County - Sauk Creek is very clear and the water temperature is 48 degrees. Only one angler was interviewed over the weekend who didn't catch anything, but reported seeing a few suckers and one steelhead. There were a few anglers in the harbor targeting carp and having success with both worms and corn. The fish cleaning station and bathrooms next to Ewig's are now open. The Army Corps of Engineers has started repairs on the breakwall of the north pier in Port Washington, and access to the pier is prohibited. Construction is projected to last until July 3.

Milwaukee County - Fishing in Milwaukee has been slow this past week due to strong winds and turbid water. Few shore anglers were out over the weekend, and most boats stayed inside the harbor. Boaters caught a few browns in and around the gaps as well as near the mouth of the Milwaukee River. South of Milwaukee, shore anglers fishing the pier at the Oak Creek Power Plant have been catching good numbers of coho, browns, and rainbows in the discharge current. Tube jigs tipped with shrimp caught the most fish. Water levels on the Milwaukee River have decreased over the past several weeks, and anglers continue to catch a few steelhead on flies, spawn sacs, and crank baits at Kletzsch Park.

Racine County - After Friday's Northeast wind, the water off Racine turned quite dirty. A few trollers ventured out on the lake, but only one landed a coho. Most boats targeted the shoreline area around the water treatment plant. Racine pier anglers reported coho in the area a week ago, but fishing slowed after the strong winds. When the coho were around, anglers used shrimp under bobbers, white tube jigs under bobbers, small spoons, and crankbaits. Fishing pressure on the Root River has dropped substantially. The water level is down, and the river has cleared up quite a bit with the lack of rain the last two weeks. The water temperature in the Root is now 55F.

Kenosha County - Boats heading out on the lake reported no fish, but one caught a coho and a brown trout in the harbor casting a jerk bait. Baits of choice for trolling were peanut flies and crank baits. Nearshore water was very turbid from this weekend's north and east winds. Kenosha pier anglers reported a few browns and coho were caught last week. Water clarity was much better inside the harbor, but fishing was slow for shore anglers. The river itself is very low and clear and a few suckers could be seen in stretches of Petrifying Springs Park. Water temperature in the river is up to 54F.

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Point Beach State Forest - All trails are open and in good condition. All campsite are available on a come first serve until May 1 when reservations begin. Water is now on in the campground with shower buildings and flush toilets operational. - Guy Willman, property superintendent

DNR South Central Region

Columbia County - Turkeys continue to frustrate/bring joy to turkey hunters. From great nesting/brood rearing conditions and relatively mild winters the past two years, there seems to be an abundance of jakes and two year old toms around this year. Reports of geese with goslings are coming in. Mushroom hunters are reporting the first of the years' morels being found. Ticks are also reported to be all over, so make sure to check when you get home. Black cherries are blooming in the woods. If you are working on hand pulling garlic mustard, make sure to start bagging it, as many plants are already bolting. Prescribed burning should wrap up on state lands in the county by the end of next week. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

DNR West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Elroy Sparta State Trail - The three tunnels are open, however the trail has not been completely cleared of debris. Expect to encounter rough spots, ruts and branches. Grading and packing of the limestone surface will begin next week. Restroom facilities will be open mid-May. During this time of year, the trail is typically soft and muddy when temperatures are above freezing. Please refrain from using the trail if walking or riding leaves deep ruts or causes other obvious damage. Spring grading and packing will take less time and be more effective if the trail is not deeply rutted. Please report any damage or problems on the trail to Wildcat Mountain State Park, 608-337-4775. The Kendall Depot trail headquarters will open May 1. Walk-in campgrounds in Elroy and Sparta are closed for the season and will open mid-May. Water fountains along the trail have been shut down for the season.

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Eau Claire County - Boaters on Lake Altoona have been returning to the boat landing with some limits of nice sized perch and crappies from the east end of the lake. Shoreline anglers are having success on the Eau Claire River near the rapids upriver of the Highway 53 Bridge in the City of Altoona. Recently, anglers at Big Falls County Park are getting into some nice sized perch and crappies. Now is a great time to explore the rivers before mosquito season. - Scott Thiede, conservation warden, Eau Claire

Chippewa River State Trail - The trail is flooded and impassable between Jopke and Porterville Road south of Eau Claire. Please use the Caryville parking area to access the trail if riding south. - Calvin Kunkle, ranger

DNR Find Wisconsin Lakes


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