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Wisconsin Outdoor Report and Calendar

January 11, 2017

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

The warm temperatures the last few days gave wildlife and people a short break from the bitter cold we had been experiencing last week. Snow was falling Thursday in the north, with forecasts for some areas to possible get up to 8 or 9 inches. Unfortunately the precipitation in the south was rain and freezing rain. What little snow the south we had on the ground is all but gone. A candlelight ski at Lake Kegonsa scheduled for Saturday has been cancelled, but Wildcat Mountain will go ahead with a candlelight hike and astronomy program Saturday night.

Snowmobile trails remained open or partially open in just the norther tier of counties with conditions from fair to good. Cross-country ski conditions remained fair to good across roughly the northern third of the state. The additional snow falling Thursday and this weekend could improve conditions, so check the Department of Tourism Snow Conditions Report for updates.

Ice depth on the northern lakes is reported to be between 16- 20 inches and 10 to 12 inches on central and southern lakes. More and more ice fisherman are being seen on lakes and the warmer weather has been great for folks wanting to get outside. Anglers report fish are starting to bite in the afternoon to evening, with crappie, perch and bluegill being caught.

Wolf River anglers near New London have been catching walleyes through the ice. Anglers are having luck catching a mixed bag of walleye, white bass, perch, and crappie through the ice on Lake Poygan. On Lake Winnebago, anglers are having some luck catching walleye and finding intermittent schools of white bass and perch. The 2018 lake sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago Pool Lakes starts on Saturday, Feb. 10. DNR staff checked water clarity at a few locations on Lake Winnebago on Jan. 8 with clarity ranging from 7.5-10.5 feet.

Anglers are experiencing good ice on Green Bay with the primary target species of whitefish, walleye and perch. In Milwaukee the River Front ramp is open but access to the outer harbor is limited due to floating ice. Lake Shore lagoon is ice covered at the South end with people fishing browns and panfish. McKinley Marina is ice covered with catches of brown trout but the warmer temperatures had water coming over the ice.

Late season archery effort found some hunters able to arrow that elusive big buck they may have been chasing all fall. Deer have been seen in large numbers moving freely and taking advantage of harvested and unharvested corn fields and pawing through snow to get to alfalfa. Snowshoe hare and coyotes are abundant this year throughout the north.

Many animal species have been active recently with the warmer temperatures bringing raccoons, opossums and skunks out of their dens. Turkeys are moving around in large groups and feeding backyard bird feeders and in agricultural fields.

A midwinter waterfowl survey found more than 600 trumpeter swans and 5,000 Canada geese in the rivers and other open water areas. Healthy numbers of scaup, common goldeneye, and common merganser, as well as a handful of hooded merganser along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Reports of common redpolls surging to feeders statewide have been prevalent. Now is good time to look for flocks of horned larks, snow buntings, and Lapland longspurs along roadsides in open habitats across southern and central Wisconsin.

Bald eagles will take center stage with a variety of exciting events in the months ahead. Sauk Prairie's Eagle Watching Days kicks things off this weekend Jan 12-13. For more details search the DNR website for "eagle watching."


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 January 11, 2017

Snow bunting, Wisconsin
Snow buntings are well suited for Wisconsin's winter landscape.
Photo Credit: Ryan Brady
While birds like snowy owls, short-eared owls, pine siskins, and red crossbills continue to headline the winter birding scene, this week we draw attention to just a few news item of interest to birders. Most prevalent have been reports of common redpolls surging to feeders statewide. Natural food supplies waning, these small finches from the far north are a welcome addition to any backyard. Also watch for them at birches, alders, tamaracks, and weedy fields where they seek out small seeds. Speaking of fields, now is good time to look for flocks of horned larks, snow buntings, and Lapland longspurs along roadsides in open habitats across southern and central Wisconsin. In general snow cover pushes them to cleared roadways but they will disperse more widely into open fields when snow cover is lacking.

The week's rarest find was a tufted duck along the Mississippi River in Pierce County. The bird frequented both sides of the state line, potentially furnishing first state records for both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Birdwatchers in the far north, especially the northwest, should be on the lookout for boreal owls, a small northern species that is not seen annually in Wisconsin but is likely present in some numbers this winter. Although typically nocturnal, a hard crust atop the snow layer - as is developing with this week's warmth and subsequent storm - often reduces access to food and forces them to hunt diurnally, sometimes over backyard feeders.

Bald eagles will take center stage with a variety of exciting events in the months ahead. Sauk Prairie's Eagle Watching Days kicks things off on Jan 12-13. For more details search the DNR website for "eagle watching." Lastly, 2018 has been declared "The Year of the Bird", an international celebration of 100 years of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Read about why birds matter, learn small actions that can make a big difference, and take the pledge to help conserve our feathered friends at www.birdyourworld.org. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, NHC conservation biologist, Ashland

Upcoming State Natural Area Workday

January 13, 9 am - noon Whitewater Oak Opening SNA. Help volunteers during our monthly Southern Kettle Moraine SNA workdays on the second Saturday. Protect some majestic oaks in the process. Buckthorn can spread and shade out savanna plants at this site. We will have fires going if there is snow. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. 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

Brule River State Forest - The warm temperatures the last few days gave wildlife and people a short break from the bitter cold we had been experiencing. The snow falling Thursday may add up to around 3 inches--enough to make the landscape white and pristine again. The After Hours ski trail was groomed earlier this week and the trails have been busy, especially with the warmer temperatures. After today's snow, the trails will be groomed again-just in time for the weekend. - Diane Gobin, visitor services associate

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Iron County - Iron County is excited for the 5-9 inches of snow forecasted for later this week. Currently we have 10-13 inches in most areas. Expect to have fresh trails to recreate on whether you're on a snowmobile, skis or snowshoes. Uller trail's maintenance work includes new loops and bridges that bypass wet areas and make for an enjoyable ski trip. MECCA and Montreal trails will continue to be maintained as snow falls. Snowmobile trails were groomed on Monday and will be maintained throughout the snowfall as well. Snowshoe hare and coyotes are abundant this year throughout most of the county. Driving backroads and scanning for sign along county and state lands allows hunters to easily identify suitable hunting areas. Since much of Iron County is open to the public (open MFL, State or County lands), it is a great location for hunting and exploring. Stop by the DNR Mercer Ranger Station, Iron County Forestry Department or Iron County courthouse for maps. If snowshoers are looking for a backwoods experience, now is a great time to explore these public lands. Visit the Hemlock State Bog Natural Area or Frog Lake State Natural Area for scenic views of large hemlocks and pines. - Jenna Kosnicki, wildlife biologist, Mercer

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - The weather continues to be cold in the Grantsburg Area. There are many days that are below zero, but there are some days that are warmer-even into the 30s. Even though the weather has been cold, there have been some great bird-watching opportunities. This week, there were the regular winter birds like common redpolls, northern shrikes and tree sparrows present. Rare birds seen included the golden eagle, red crossbills, and a brown creeper. The red crossbills along with pine grosbeaks are numerous this year. Many flocks of both species are being seen in the coniferous areas around Crex but rarely come into the Crex Boundaries.

Cumberland DNR Service Center area

Barron County - There is 6-8 inches of snow on the ground, more in the north than central and southern parts of the counties. Late season archery effort found some hunters able to arrow that elusive big buck they may have been chasing all fall. Ruffed grouse numbers are average but snow conditions are conducive to some good hunting in the better aspen/alder/brushy habitats. Same with cottontail rabbits. Deer are moving freely and taking advantage of harvested and unharvested corn fields. Even with the fairly substantial harvest in these counties it appears there are still plenty of deer left. Snowy owls are being seen in various locations. The midwinter waterfowl survey found over 600 trumpeter swans and 5000 Canada geese in the rivers and other open water areas. - Kevin A. Morgan, wildlife biologist, Barron

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau River State Forest has at least 8 inches of snow with more falling Thursday. The Flambeau Hills Cross Country Ski Trail -- weather depending -- will be groomed Friday Jan. 12. Weather forecast predicts an appreciable amount of snowfall so conditions will be changing. The swampy and wet segments of the snowmobile trail have been rolled and frozen down but the trail on a whole is in rough condition. More snow is needed. Regardless, some snowmobilers have been using the trail. Lake of the Pines is reported to have approximately 17 inches of ice and fishermen are catching crappies, and as of now there are only 3 fishing shacks out and in use. Connors Lake ice depth is reported to be between 16- 20 inches and are catching walleye. From what is visible from the north shore there seems to be only one fishing shack present at this time, though lots of individual use. In the sub-zero temperatures we experienced, people often wonder how wildlife fares. In December we accrued 10 Winter Severity Index points and from what next weeks' forecast indicates, January will have at least that many. This index indicates a measurement to help gauge the effects of the winter weather on deer survival. It is calculated by adding the number of days with 18 inches or more of snow on the ground to the number of days when the minimum temperatures were zero degrees or below. Deer and elk are browsing in aspen clear cuts and logging areas where food is easier to obtain. Bears, chipmunks, ground squirrels, and wood chucks are hibernators, allowing for a sleepy, lethargic and energy conserving mode. Other hardy residents such as coyotes, fishers, owls and hawks are on a constant lookout for small mammals and rabbits. The hardier birds such as the pine grosbeaks, pine siskins, common redpoles, juncos, snow buntings, woodpeckers, and blue jays are eating seeds and insects under the tree bark or visiting seed feeders, and crows and eagles are eating carrion along the roadsides. Flambeau staff have noticed an increase in weasel, moles and mice sightings. Winter is a hungry time in the north. The weather forecast calls for a Winter Storm Warning Thursday, with a high of 38 and low of -5. Friday, sunny with a high of 8 and a low of -16. Saturday is forecasted to be partly sunny with a high of 4 and low of -17. Sunday will be partly sunny then snow showers likely, with a high near 6 and a low of-4. Be safe, bundle up if going outside and keep warm! - Diane Stowell, forestry technician advanced and visitor services associate

Woodruff DNR Service Center area

Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest - The Forest still has a pretty good snow cover base for the silent sports at least. More and more ice fisherman are being seen on area lakes and the warmer weather has been great for folks wanting to get outside. Bird feeders are enjoying many of the different winter visitors. The track of this next storm may greatly change the conditions so all one can do is wait and see! - Rosalie Richter, visitor services associate

DNR Northeast Region

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - Warm weather with drizzle and rain made this week feel more like early spring than the middle of winter. The snow has changed from fluffy and dry to wet and slushy. It' settling now to about 5 inches of wet snow in the woods. People are driving out on most lakes in the area now with around a foot of ice under a thin layer of snow. Fishing has been slow but the light snow cover makes it easy to fish around and try new spots. Some species of small game including grouse, snowshoe hare, rabbit, and squirrel may still be hunted. A few opossums have been seen wandering around during the warm weather. Eagles have been regularly feeding on road killed deer. Goldeneyes and mergansers can be seen feeding in open water stretches of rivers. Deer have been seen in large numbers pawing through snow in agricultural fields to get to alfalfa and other food. Often, deer need to cross roads to get to these fields and, as a result, reports of car deer collisions have increase. Turkeys are moving around in large groups and feeding backyard bird feeders and in agricultural fields. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Anglers are experiencing good ice on Green Bay with the primary target species of whitefish, walleye and perch. - Mike Donofrio, fisheries supervisor, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Kelly Lake there is approximately 10-12 inches of ice. There is a fishing derby on Kelly Lake Saturday Jan. 13. White Potato Lake there is approximately a foot of ice. Individuals say the fish start biting in the afternoon to evening. They're catching crappie, perch, and bluegill. Townsend area near Horn Lake individuals say ice depth is approximately 8 inches, individuals were catching perch, bluegill, and crappie. Oconto Falls pond ice is approximately 1 foot thick. Individuals are catching northern, crappie and other pan fish. As of Jan. 8, snowmobile trails Lena south are closed. Trails open include Gillett are trails, Bagley/Brazeau trails, and Lakewood Townsend area trails. Trails are in fair to poor condition and with this warmup they will only get worse. Trails may close depending on the weather Thursday, please check Oconto County Tourism's website under trail conditions for any updates. I've started to see more water on the top of ice so be cautious going on the ice after this warmup. - Paul Hartrick, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Potawatomi State Park - All groomed ski trails are in poor condition with the recent two days of 40 degree weather which melted most of the snow. More snow is needed for skiing. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Whitefish Dunes State Park - Ski trails are in poor condition with the last two days of 40 degree weather. - Jaclyn Moeri, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - During the January thaw, it is a great time to get out and enjoy your State properties. For the most part, your will have them to yourself and it is a great time to track animals in the snow and see how and what they are doing during the winter months. Some anglers have experienced some good panfishing. Most anglers have been most successful in finding feeding fish in 15-20 feet of water while using a small jig and a wax worm. Wolf River anglers near New London have been catching walleyes through the ice. Anglers have been most successful "long lining" with a jig and minnow. There are lots of eagles in the Waupaca area - so keep an eye out for these beautiful birds. - Ted Dremel, warden supervisor, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Winnebago System Report

Anglers are having luck catching a mixed bag of walleye, white bass, perch, and crappie through the ice on Lake Poygan. The evening bite has been the most successful, with some anglers reporting limits. On Lake Winnebago, anglers are having some luck catching walleye and finding intermittent schools of white bass. Anglers are also having luck catching perch in the southern portion of the lake and in numerous bays along the west shore. Many anglers are reporting that they have to sort through the smaller (5-7 inch) fish to find keepers, but there are some areas producing more larger fish. The trick to ice fishing these lakes is to stay mobile and move often.

Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Forecast: The 2018 sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago Pool Lakes starts on Saturday, Feb. 10. Veteran spearers know that water clarity is the biggest predictor of sturgeon spearing success and that typically 12-plus feet of clarity results in a higher season harvest. DNR staff checked water clarity at a few locations on Lake Winnebago on Jan. 8 with clarity ranging from 7.5-10.5 feet (average 9 feet). - Ryan Koenigs, fisheries biologist, Oshkosh

DNR Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Milwaukee County - River Front ramp is open and access to the outer harbor is limited due to floating ice. It is possible to fish the outer harbor but is limited to which way the wind is blowing the ice. Lake Shore lagoon is ice covered at the South end with people fishing Browns and pan fish but due to the recent warmer temperatures water is seeping over the ice. Under the Hoan bridge is the same story depending on which way the wind is blowing the ice. McKinley Marina is ice covered with catches of Brown trout but their too the warmer temperatures has water coming over the ice.

During the week of January 8, DNR Wildlife Biologists across the state counted waterfowl on small patches of open water. These surveys are also conducted during the same week across the US, to provide data for waterfowl population indices to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. With the blast of arctic air, Milwaukee County was quite frozen over. Nonetheless, we saw healthy numbers of scaup, common goldeneye, and common merganser, as well as a handful of hooded merganser along the Lake. We also saw a number of resident Canada geese and mallards on our river systems. The weather has now warmed, giving everyone a chance to enjoy some winter activities without the cold bite. Winter songbirds such as juncos and chickadees are frequenting feeders, along with the occasional raccoon and rabbit. Coyotes and deer are active throughout the county. If you spot coyote sign or are lucky enough to see a coyote, submit these observations to the Milwaukee County Coyote Watch program by logging in to their iNaturalist page. This information will help us learn more about coyotes in Milwaukee County and monitor behavior. The urban archery season is still open within Milwaukee County, providing hunters additional opportunities within the County until Jan. 31. - Dianne Robinson, wildlife biologist, Milwaukee

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The man made loop will be groomed nightly to keep it in good shape, or when conditions allow over the next few warm days. Please remember that with the sun and warm temps, sometimes ice forms rather quickly. - Brian Jacquette, ranger

Lakeshore State Park - Lakeshore's lagoon has been pretty busy with ice fishermen these last couple weeks. However, with the warmer temperatures, the ice has become fairly shallow. Ice fishing is not recommended at this time until we get the next stretch of colder temperatures to thicken the ice again. This does mean that there are open water areas near the south entrance along the harbor, as well as select areas near the shoreline and under the pedestrian bridge that can be fished. We are still seeing brown trout, rock bass and even some salmon being caught, as well as a few panfish. We will have one of our naturalists on hand from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20 for the Free Fishing Weekend. She will have some handouts, wildcards and fish rulers to provide to any fishermen in the park during that time (ice or not!). If you're not into fishing, there are plenty of goldeneye, greater and lesser scaup, and mallards to view, as well as the occasional sighting of shovelers, mergansers and long-tailed ducks. The waterfowl particularly like the open water near the park's docks and along the rocky shoreline in the north end. The park's red fox has been a bit more active during the day with the colder weather, and has been spotted running the park a few times a week. - Angela Vickio, naturalist, Milwaukee

DNR South Central Region

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - What little snow we had on the ground is all but gone with the recent "warm" weather. The area waterbodies are still locked up in ice, pushing what ducks and geese are left in the area to Lake Columbia and the WI River. Many animal species have been active recently with the warmer temperatures bringing raccoons and skunks out of their dens. Trappers are reporting success with and pelts at full prime with many species. With frozen ground conditions, timber sales on many area wildlife areas are currently occurring. Most of these sales are aimed at opening up sunlight conditions in the woods so that oak - a very important tree for both food and cover for many wildlife species - have favorable conditions for them to regenerate and outcompete many "shade loving" tree species. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

DNR West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

Vernon County - Minimal snow cover has made for very good winter walking conditions. Now is a great time to take advantage of these conditions and explore some new areas of your property or public lands that may be somewhat inaccessible at other times of the year. Go exploring and find new grouse coverts, deer bedding areas, winter wild turkey roosts, abandoned bird nests, or the large oblong holes in trees indicating the presence of a pileated woodpecker. Where snow is present, look for animal tracks - mink, raccoons, mice, weasels, fox, rabbits are all winter-active mammals. Keep an eye out for insect egg masses attached to tree trunks and branches or insect larva, nymphs, or pupae which may be cleverly disguised to look like a leaf, stalk, seed, or bark. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - The Black River area has been enjoying above average temperatures this week, especially after the deep freeze we experienced over the last two weeks. However, temperatures are expected to sink back down into the single digits this weekend. Cross-country ski trails are closed. They are in poor condition, with a very thin base. We will not be able to do any more work on the trails until we receive snow. Snowshoe trails are open to hiking. Winter ATV and UTV trails are open. Snowmobile trails will remain closed until we receive more snow. There is also a 28 degree temperature restriction. If temperatures are not below 28 degrees the trails are considered closed. UTVs are allowed on winter ATV trails, except for designated snowmobile only trails or any other trail that was previously closed to UTV use. - Emily Alf, visitor services associate

Jackson County - Fishing has been slow in Jackson County with anglers fishing on Lake Arbutus, Wazee, and the cranberry flowages in the Eastern half of the county. Some anglers were catching trout on Lake Wazee. - Matt Groppi, conservation warden, Black River Falls

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Buckhorn State Park - People have been going onto Castle Rock from the park to ice fish. We've had a dusting of snow but not enough for snowshoeing or cross country skiing. When we have at least 6 inches of snow, trails will be groomed. Snowshoes will be available to check out at the park office when there is enough snow. Pets are not allowed on the groomed ski trails. The trail into the new campground is open for dog walking and is packed when there is enough snow. - Heather Wolf, park manager

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