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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar

March 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

With the exception of northern Iron County, which received 6-8 inches of snow early this week, the rest of the state has received no new snow and with the return of warmer weather snow and ice conditions are deteriorating rapidly.

Pattison State Park, Wisconsin
Ski trails in the north are still in good condition, like these at Pattison State Park thanks to some sunrise grooming efforts.
Photo Credit: Gervase Thompson, DNR
Only about 10 counties in the far north still have snowmobile trails open on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report and ski trails now remain open in only the far northern parks and forest, but with some still reporting good cross-country ski trail conditions. There is still one to two feet or more of snow on the ground throughout the Northwoods making for some very good snowshoeing.

Most northern lakes still have plenty of ice on allowing ice fishermen to continue ice fishing late into the season. While in the south open water fishing is picking up on the Wisconsin River below the Wisconsin Dells dam with good walleye action last weekend, but with the majority of the fish under the minimum 15-inch size limit. Water temps were still too cold for the actual fish run to begin. On the Fox River boat anglers continued to catch good numbers of walleye and there were still a lot of whitefish in the river.

A U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker broke ice from the Menominee River down to the Port of Green Bay this week. With the breaking up of the channel expect ice conditions to vary greatly on Green Bay. Several vehicles including cars, snowmobiles, and a truck have broken through in the Little Sturgeon Bay area over the last couple weeks. A reminder the last day to keep unoccupied shanties on the ice north of Highway 64 and on Green Bay is Sunday, March 18.

On the west shore anglers fishing off of Oconto report limits of whitefish still being caught along with the occasional bonus walleye but they have to sort through lots of smaller perch to find a few keepers. Along the east shore the whitefish bite has been decent from Sugar Creek north to Stone Quarry. Perch action has been slow. The last day of the season to keep perch on Green Bay waters is March 15.

The public can attend any of three public meetings on a proposed update to the Winnebago System Walleye Management Plan and update on the status of the system's walleye population. This is the first major update to the plan since it originated in 1991. The meetings will be March 19 in Oshkosh, March 20 in Chilton and March 28 in New London.

Turkeys are still grouped up but toms can be seen practicing their strutting and have begun gobbling on warmer sunny days. Bonus turkey harvest authorizations will go on sale the week of March 19 with each zone having a designated sales date. They can be purchased online through GoWild.Wi.Gov and at all license agents.

Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 will mark Wisconsin's first managed elk hunt in state history. The area of the planned hunt is within the Clam Lake elk range with 10 tags issued for this first hunt.

Cool northerly winds slowed the bird migration across the state but the first whooping cranes have arrived. The snowy owl departure has commenced. Some pairs of great horned owls have already hatched young in the south. Hundreds of bald eagles are staging on the Mississippi River south of La Crosse with a report of 300-plus eagles and 200-plus American white pelicans simultaneously observed north of Prairie du Chien.

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 March 15, 2018

Snowy Owl, Wisconsin
The tagged snowy owl known as "Arlington" has lefts its wintering area north of Madison and moved 120+ miles northwest near Black River Falls. Some snowy owls have begun their northward migration while others remain on their winter territories yet.
Photo Credit: Map and data courtesy of
As expected, cool northerly winds translated to a slow week for bird migration across the state. Most notable were exceptional numbers of greater white-fronted geese continuing in the southeastern quarter, where thousands were reported from Columbia, Dane, Rock and adjacent counties. Relatively few white geese (snow and Ross's) were found, however. Speaking of white birds, the first whooping cranes have arrived, while the departure of some snowy owls has commenced. In other owl news, some pairs of great horned owls have already hatched young in the south and farther north saw-whet owls have begun tooting in their coniferous haunts. Reports of starving barred owls are on the rise in the north woods as deep, crusty snow and a long winter combine to take a toll. Consult our wildlife rehabilitation directory for owls and other critters you think may need help. To the west, hundreds of bald eagles are staging on the Mississippi River south of La Crosse. One notable report came from Gremore Lake north of Prairie du Chien where 300-plus eagles and 200-plus American white pelicans were simultaneously observed.

Rarities spotted this week included black-backed woodpecker in Polk County, boreal owl in Ashland, varied thrush in Door, and Townsend's solitaire in Dane. This weekend should provide good conditions for both migrating birds and birders that seek them but then northerly or easterly winds forecast for the remainder of the week are likely to suppress arrivals of new birds until a more southerly flow returns the following weekend. As always, track migration progress by species at and put your sightings on the map by submitting them to Good birding. - Ryan Brady, conservation biologist, Ashland

Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

March 17, 10 am - 1 pm, Chiwaukee Prairie Workday: Cutting and piling brush 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.

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

Brule River State Forest - Temperatures have been above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The snow is slowly going away but there is still a foot or more in spots. Deer are finding that south facing slopes are becoming snow-free, giving them access to the grasses there. Keep an eye out along the roads, as deer are looking for the un-covered grass along the roads' edges, too. Spring steelhead fishing is just over two weeks away now. March 31 is the opening day of fishing on the Brule downstream (north) of Highway 2. The river has opened up, but there are still ice shelves along the river and snow in the woods. Two more weeks of daytime melting should make it easier for walking the paths from the angler parking lots to the river's edge. Want to take a look at the river? The USGS website for the Brule River now has timelapse photos of the river, as well as discharge flow and gage height data. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

There is still plenty of base on the Afterhours cross-country ski trail, and conditions are great! The warmer weather and sunshine will degrade the classic track during the day, but the skate lanes are still fantastic. There are a few areas where pine cones and needles are abundant and 1 bare spot on the white pine trail. Groomers are planning to groom the skate lanes Thursday, but are unsure if conditions will allow the track to be reset. - Daniel Kephart, forestry specialist

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Northern Iron County received 6-8 inches of snow early this week, making ski and snowmobile conditions like new again. Two feet or more of snow remains on the ground throughout most of Iron County. There is still plenty of ice on most lakes (30 inches in portions of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage and other lakes) allowing ice fishermen to continue ice fishing late into the season. However, some channels are starting to open up at mouths of rivers and streams. Sap harvesters have been in the sugar bushes for a couple of weeks now. Sap is flowing during those warm days and cool nights very well. What is unknown is how great the sap to sugar ratio is. Last year in central to lower Iron County, some early tappers found themselves with an 80:1 ratio; that's a lot of boiling-down! - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Copper Falls State Park - Cross-country ski trails are groomed and tracked and in good condition, but expect varying trail conditions with the fluctuating temperatures. Grooming efforts will only occur with cooperating weather conditions and additional snow. Maps are available at the office, which identify the different ski trails for skate and classic skiing - Brent Couperus, ranger

Amnicon Falls State Park - There are currently about 15 inches of crusted snow on the ground. Trails are well packed from hikers and snowshoers so it is easy to get around on the trail. It's pretty tough going if you decide to leave the trail. The first robin of the year was seen March 15 at the park. Amnicon may be the northernmost property to report this annual milestone. - David Lindsey, ranger

Pattison State Park - The park has not received any new snow in the last week. There is about 8 inches of base on the ski trails and 18 inches of snow on the ground. The ski trails were groomed and tracked the morning of March 15. Due to the fluctuating air temperatures, expect changing trail conditions during the course of a day. Tracks were set, but they will vary from shallow to full depth on the trails. A trail pass is not required but a vehicle admission sticker is. - Gervase Thompson, ranger

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Governor Knowles State Forest - The Grantsburg area received about 4.5 inches of snow Monday, March 5. The Ridge Line and Ravine cross-country ski trails were groomed Tuesday, March 6 and are still in fair condition. - Brandi Buchholz, ranger

Interstate Park - The cross-country ski trails are taking a big hit with the warm weather. They are snow covered with some ice underneath and are in poor condition. Mid-day the trails are getting soft. - Thomas Faschingbauer, ranger

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail has not received any new snow. It is usable, hard in the mornings and soft in the afternoon. Snowmobile Trails are in poor condition in some areas and fair condition under tree canopies. Connors Lake ice depth is reported to be about 18 inches and fishermen are catching some perch. Fishing has been slow and folks have mentioned some slush under the snow. Sap had started to flow when temperatures were above 40 degrees but temps have dropped again. Daily temperatures will be going up the rest of this week. There will be sap flow. One of the most exciting moments for us northerners is when the first geese fly through and the first robin is sited. Well, we are happy to say that the geese have been flying overhead, some swans were seen, and a robin was sighted. Turkeys have begun gobbling and looking to mate. Snowshoe hares are mating. Spring is coming. The weather continues to challenge the Flambeau River wildlife. Snow depths ranges from 18 to 30 inches. The snow is such that predators and prey alike are unable to traverse the landscape easily. The weather forecast for the weekend calls for Friday to be sunny with a high of 40 and low of 13. Saturday, will be sunny with a high of 45 and a low of 19. Sunday, will be mostly sunny with a high of 43 and a low of 18. Logging road bans are in effect as of Thursday, March 15. - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Despite the warm weather, cross-country ski trails are still in good condition. Expect them to be hard early in the day, but they'll soften significantly as the temperature rises. If temperatures permit, the areas that have had heavy traffic will be groomed early tomorrow morning. Get out and enjoy while it lasts! - Natalie Brown, ranger

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The promise of warmer, longer days may bring on a case of spring fever in the north! At present time snow is still knee deep in most of the forest, but with warmer weather ahead and cool nights, one might be able to walk on a hard crust soon! Folks are getting ready to tap trees, squirrels are busy chasing each other and tracks of some winter sleepers are starting to show up. The winter birds from Canada are still hanging around so they must know more than we do as far as weather prediction. - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

The two short loops of the Escanaba cross-country ski trail were cut and tracked, the green and yellow. The outer loops was in good shape yet. Still over 15 inches of snow in the woods. The road in will be muddy after noon. The tracks will be firm and fast in the morning and slow in the afternoon. Plenty of snow and nice tracks in good spring condition. McNaughton. Madeline and Raven trails were groomed on Tuesday, March 13. McNaughton still has decent base yet but some areas feel like solid ice. There are some spots on the classic loops that have shallow tracks but for the most part the tracks turned out fairly well. The skaters loop is in real good condition minus the one area near the lake where large drifts accumulated in previous weeks. Considering the time of the year, the trails are in good condition. Raven was tracked but has much leafy debris under the conifers on the Red and Yellow loops. - Tony Martinez and Dan Jacoby, parks and recreation specialists

Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area - There was an inch-and-a-half of fresh snow March 14 when the MECCA trails were groomed. Then, there was another half-inch overnight. We skied tonight, and the trails were beautiful. Brett Bockhop, park and recreation specialist, Mercer

DNR Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report

The US Coast Guard icebreaker Machinaw broke ice from the Menominee River down to the Port of Green Bay today. With the breaking up of the channel expect ice conditions to vary greatly on the bay. The last day of the season to keep perch on Green Bay waters is March 15. With the breaking of ice and perch season closing this was a short week for creel.

Oconto County - Geano beach anglers report slow fishing for whitefish and perch off the reefs, with fish being seen on camera but being tight lipped. Anglers fishing off of Oconto Park I report having to sort through lots of smaller perch to find a few keepers. There are reports of limits of whitefish still being caught farther out in 15-20 feet of water with the bonus walleye being caught as well. Pike anglers out of Little River report getting a few flags but being unable to land fish. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Brown County - Fox River walleye action has been slow this week. With very few fish caught from shore and the majority of fish coming after sundown. Boat anglers still continue to catch good numbers of walleye in the 15-22 inch range with a few larger females being caught down river. Jigs with minnows are catching the majority of fish. There is still a lot of whitefish in the river and water temperatures was 39 degrees. Sunset Beach continues to see heavy fishing pressure. With anglers reporting catching limits of decent sized perch and the occasional whitefish. Most anglers are fishing in closer to shore to the north in 8-10 feet of water. Pike fishing has also been consistent in shallow water as well with anglers reporting catching decent numbers of fish in the 22-28 inch range. - Ben Ewoldt, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - With cold temps at night, ice conditions remain decent. Most areas still have 18-24 inches of ice with 2-4 inches of snow cover. Most anglers are leaving the trucks parked on dry ground and venturing out on foot or by ATV. Follow known routes and stay safe. Many cracks are covered in snow and may have patches of thin ice. Also avoid rock bars and reefs as current over structures can cause thin ice. I suggest not parking on the ice, access and near shore areas are starting to deteriorate. What looks like a nice firm ramp in the morning is often a sloppy mess filled with holes once the sun comes out. Ice conditions may change soon. Warm weather forecasted for this week will melt the snow and leave lots of water on top of the ice. Ice conditions will only get worse from here on out. The whitefish bite has been decent from Sugar Creek north to Stone Quarry. Anglers fishing deep and near shore are finding fish. Action can be inconsistent but some angers are still catching good numbers. No good reports from the southern end of the east shore. Walleye action has been tough but a few persistent anglers have had success. Perch action has been slow, anglers report finding the fish but they don't seem to cooperate. Pike action has been good with some large individuals being caught around Sturgeon Bay. Fishing pressure has been fairly high with many anglers taking advantage of the good late ice conditions. Be safe and good luck. - Ben Thome, fisheries technician, Sturgeon Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Snow is gone in the most of the southern part of the county. There is knee deep snow with a thin crust on top in most of the north, making snowshoes your best bet for navigating the woods. Pine plantations in the north have only about 6 inches with a solid crust and can be easily walked without snowshoes. The migration of the spring arriving birds seems to have stalled at about the county line. Robins, Canada geese, Sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds, and grackles have all been seen in the far southern portions of the county. Ice remains fairly thick on area lakes, but be aware of deteriorating conditions especially in the afternoons along the north shores. Remember that 20 inches of late ice is not as strong as 20 inches of mid-winter ice. Deer are still congregating in active timber sales and loggers are reporting seeing some bucks still holding onto antlers. Turkeys are also still grouped up but toms can be seen practicing their strutting on warmer sunny days. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Oconto County - Trails in the Northern half of Oconto County are still open but the reports haven't been updated since last week. If riding snowmobile trails this weekend please check the Oconto County Tourism website for updated reports as temperatures continue to rise. Forest County has closed its snowmobile trails as of Monday. Regarding ice fishing, I don't see many people out on the ice anymore and haven't seen any vehicles on the ice since last week. No updates on what is being caught. Individuals are catching walleye on the Fox River in Green Bay since the river is open. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Door County - Many small tributaries in southern Door County are still ice covered, inhibiting the search for early season steelhead. Snowy owls and American Robins sighted in the same general area of southern Door County. Geese are paired up in the smallest of open water areas in snow covered farm fields. Recent snows have caused turkeys and deer to scratch openings in fields for food. Ice conditions are slowly deteriorating on Green Bay. Several vehicles including cars, snowmobiles, and a truck have broken through in the Little Sturgeon Bay area over the last couple weeks. Most fishermen have resorted to foot travel on the bay. The US Coast Guard is also beginning ice breaking activities on Green Bay which will allow for more ice movement and increased dangers for ice fishermen. A few shacks still remain on the ice of Green Bay. A reminder the last day to keep unoccupied shanties on the ice N of 64 and on Green Bay is Sunday, March 18. - Christopher J. Kratcha, conservation warden, Sturgeon Bay

Newport State Park - Cross-country ski trails were groomed after a brief snow shower brought another inch of fresh wet snow but are in generally poor condition. Newport Trail is in the best shape for classic skiing, though there are bare spots along the lake area. Monarch Trail is in fair condition for skate skiing/multi-use. - Beth Bartoli, naturalist

Potawatomi State Park - The park received about 8 inches of wet heavy snow on March 6. Trails were groomed March 7 but are now in poor condition for classic skiing; the skate lane is in better shape. A heavy layer of ice remains under the snow. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition with several bare spots on the Red Trail. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Snowmobile trails never did open in central Wisconsin. Snow is mostly gone in the area except northern Waupaca county. Sap must be running as many folks are currently tapping maple trees. We are still almost completely frozen up so I haven't seen much for migrants except for a few sandhill cranes and a couple of wood ducks. The only early vegetation I have seen was a skunk cabbage sprouting up on Radley Creek. I have been told there is still up to 16 inches of ice on area lakes, and have seen plenty of folks out panfishing but have heard no reports of success. Am seeing increased fishing activity on trout streams for the early catch and release season, and almost all area streams are now wide open. Heard a grouse drumming on the Willow Creek Fishery Area - first of the year! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Hartman Creek State Park - All cross-country ski trails are showing bare spots with icy/muddy conditions throughout. - Jarrod Kehring, property manager

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Lake Winnebago System

The public can attend any of three public meetings on a proposed update to the Winnebago Walleye Management Plan. The meetings will also offer the public an update on the status of the Winnebago System walleye population. The Winnebago system is well known both for its healthy, self-sustaining walleye population and the decades-long history of public input in support of fisheries management. This is the first major update to the plan since it originated in 1991. Winnebago System waters include lakes Poygan, Winneconne, Butte des Morts and Winnebago and all their tributaries, including the Wolf and upper Fox rivers, from their mouths upstream to the first dam. The meetings will be March 19 in Oshkosh, March 20 in Chilton and March 28 in New London. See web page for details.

DNR Southeast Region

No reports.

DNR South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Open water fishing on the Wisconsin River below the Wisconsin Dells dam is picking up. This past weekend folks had good action, but the majority of the walleye were under the minimum 15 inch requirement. Water temps were in the 35 to 36 degree range. Still too cold for the actual fish run with cold melt water coming into the system. Turkeys are still in large winter flocks, but are seen moving around more from field to field. Reminder left-over turkey tags go on sale starting March 19 at 10 a.m. - Paul Nadolski, conservation warden, Portage

DNR West Central Region

Baldwin DNR Service Center area

Kinnickinnic State Park - All trails are open to hikers and pets. Ski trails have been tracked, however trails are in poor conditions. Remaining track is icy, washed out or in standing water. Multi-use trails are packed. - Eric Klumb, ranger

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Mid-March through April is the time for coyote and red and gray fox pups to be born in Wisconsin. Coyotes and fox typically excavate natal dens, but sometimes they will appropriate dens from other mammals or utilize abandoned structures such as sheds, barns, or corn cribs. Fox tend to line their dens with leaves, grasses, and shredded bark, while coyote dens are more often unlined. Regardless of species, young are born with their eyes closed and remain so for about 10 days. Weaning takes about 8-12 weeks. Starting at about 3 weeks of age, young begin frolicking near their den entrance, especially on warm sunny days. It is about this time that parents slowly introduce the young to small prey items such as mice, voles, shrews, and ground-nesting birds. Young of the year disperse from their natal areas during the fall. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Merrick State Park - Some trails remain snow-covered, while others may be icy or muddy. Trail conditions should continue to improve as spring progresses. The ice in Fountain City Bay boating channel is starting to break apart. There is ice in the backwater bays and at both of our boat landings. The spring migration has begun. Flocks of sandhill cranes, Canadian geese and tundra swans have been seen flying overhead. Eagles are being seen more frequently and blue birds have been returning to the park. The maple trees are budding.- Chris Lake, ranger

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Spring migrants continue to move through the area. Robins, nuthatches, brown creepers, hawks, woodpeckers, geese and ducks are just some of the species seen recently. All trails are now open to foot traffic. Hiking and biking trails are open but may be muddy, slushy or icy in places. Temperatures this weekend are expected to be in the mid to high 40s. ATV, UTV and snowmobile trails are closed for the season. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Jackson County - The Black River below the dam in Black River Falls, including bays, backwaters and sloughs and tributaries to the river up to the first road crossing are now open year round for hook and line walleye fishing with a daily bag limit of five. This change went into effect as of March 1, 2018. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Black River Falls

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area - The trails are now open for multiple use on all sections. Most of the trails are still snow covered but grooming is done for the season. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Red Cedar State Trail - The trail is now open for multi use. There is still plenty of snow on the trail especially between Irvington and Downsville but grooming is done for the season. - Calvin Kunkel, ranger

Brunet Island State Park - Cross-country ski trails are not being groomed anymore and are open to foot traffic.

Lake Wissota State Park - The warm temperatures have reduced the amount of snow depth on the cross-country ski trails. There are some bear spots around the prairie but most of the trails are in skiable condition but getting poor. The trails have a thin base and are getting bare in a few places. Snowshoeing conditions in other areas of the park are good with a thin crust on the snow. People are still getting out ice fishing, but be cautious of ice near the boat launch. Part of the bay has open water. Species of birds seen or heard include: mourning doves, nuthatches, ravens, black capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, and bald eagles. The park office is not regularly staffed at this time of year, so please use the self-registration station located at the office entrance.- Nathan Fries, ranger

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