DNR Outdoor Report: Good Ice-Making Weather |
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Wisconsin has had cold in abundance in the last week. Ice making conditions have been perfect across much of the state, but the other half of the winning winter formula - snow - has been missing in most areas.
Snowmobiles trails remain closed in most counties, with a few northern counties continuing to report that open trails are also in very poor condition. Same for skiing and snowshoeing conditions. Click here to view the WDIO Wisconsin trail report.
A host of candlelight events are still scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, including the Brule River State Forest, Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Kettle Moraine State Forest. In addition to cross-country skiing, many will also offer fires, snacks and hot beverages.
Ice fishing, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. In the north, some nice crappie, perch and bluegill have still been caught, but action has been spotty. The walleye bite has continued its erratic trend of the winter, and most anglers are seeing just enough action to keep them interested.
To the east, ice anglers on Poygan and Winneconne lakes in Winnebago County have had some success this past week, catching white bass of all sizes, as well as a few panfish and walleye. High winds have created some unusual January ice shoves on the north and northeast shores of Lake Winnebago, where ice fishing has been slow due to changing ice conditions. As recent as late last week there was a section of open water on Lake Koshkonong in Jefferson County.
Grant County anglers are reporting bluegills on the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park across from the boat landing near the islands. Crappies and bass have been caught at River of Lakes in the channel in front of the Campground across from the gas docks. Bertom Lake and O Leary Lake have reported a few bluegills and occasional crappie, but small size.
There are a few more days left of ruffed grouse season in the northern zone and with new snow in some areas, it may be a great time to get out and enjoy grouse hunting with your dog or snowshoes. Ruffed grouse prefer deeper snow and will snow roost or dive under the snow to stay warm. The shallow snow has not been allowing them to snow roost at this point. Large flocks of turkeys have been seen in some northern areas and now is the time to check turkey permit status. The spring turkey permit drawing has been completed and successful turkey permit winners should have been notified by a postcard in their mail. Left over spring turkey permits will go on sale in March.
Lack of snow won’t put a stop to Outagamie County’s Eagle Days on the Fox River, which will be celebrated this weekend. Bald eagles watchers have also been observing many bald eagles along most of the Mississippi River areas from Wyalusing south to Dubuque. In Dodge County, some snowy owls, pine siskins, rough-legged hawks and other winter birds can be seen.
Statewide Birding Report
It’s cold and it’s January, which means we are now in a mid-winter pattern for most birds in Wisconsin. Recent cold temperatures have severely reduced the amounts of remaining inland open water, but good numbers of waterfowl are still lingering due to lack of snow cover and a warm early start to the winter. The Madison area lakes still have some open water and a nice variety of ducks, geese and tundra swans. Birders found a Barrow’s goldeneye and red-necked grebe on Geneva Lake earlier in the month and Lake Michigan birders are seeing good duck numbers including some of each species of scoter. Mid-winter is also a good time to look for eagles and other hunting raptors. Cold temperatures have concentrated bald eagles along open stretches of rivers and lakes. Recent DNR eagle surveys found good numbers of eagles along the lower Wisconsin and upper Mississippi river systems with eagles scattered elsewhere statewide. The 9th annual golden eagle survey run by the National Eagle Center detected 140 golden eagles over the weekend in the blufflands of the driftless area. Birders wanting to see wintering golden eagles should pick sunny, warm days when eagles can be seen soaring throughout the driftless area and areas near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The winter finch invasion has tempered somewhat in January. Redpolls, including many hoary redpolls are being seen statewide. Pine grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings have seemingly dispersed now probably due to a lack of fruit production. Door County birders are still reporting good numbers of both species along with crossbills, redpolls and a lingering northern hawk owl. Last year proved to be an amazing year for birds and birding in Wisconsin. You can read more about the strange weather and the impact it had on birds at www.ebird.org/WI (exit DNR). As always, please report your bird sightings to Wisconsin eBird to better track Wisconsin’s migratory bird populations. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator
Ashland County - Last week ice fishing was started to heat up. By the end of the week, however, snow, wind and sub-zero weather moved in and most people stopped fishing. They are staying home or doing something other than standing out in the cold. Trapping continues and snowmobiling has been kind of stalled with the lack of snow. The light snow at the end of the week brought out a few sleds but not for long. Snow conditions do not allow for proper maintenance and grooming and as such trails are not ideal
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
About a foot of snow has fallen in the Bayfield Peninsula in the last week. Night temperatures have hit 20 below, so Chequamegon Bay has been making thicker ice and ice has started to form farther north of Houghton Point and Long Island. There are a few more days left of ruffed grouse season and with the new snow it may be a great time to get out and enjoy grouse hunting with your dog or your snowshoes. Snowmobiling has been almost nonexistent up to this point, but word is that some of the groomers will be out in full force starting midweek after the cold snap breaks. Fishing on the bay has been tough at times, but there has been some nice perch, walleyes, coho salmon, and brown trout caught.
- Amie Egstad, conservation warden, Brule
Brule River State Forest - The Afterhours Trail on the Brule River State Forest received its heaviest use day in a couple years. More than 250 skiers enjoyed the newly groomed trails. Brule had received about 4-inches of snow late last week. Conditions went from poor to excellent for skate skiing. New classic track was put in late on Friday and early Saturday. The skate lane was re-groomed again on Saturday night. The state forest will be hosting a free, two-mile, candlelight ski on the Afterhours Trail from 5-9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 26. A bonfire, hot apple cider, gas grill and warming shelter will be provided. The Ski trails are reported to be in great shape and the forecast is calling for 2-4 inches of snow this week, which should make for some beautiful skiing this weekend.
- Kevin Feind, ranger
Snow depths remain shallow over the area. Shallow snow affects some wildlife differently than others. Deer and turkeys benefit from shallow snow, as they are freer to move around and find their food sources. Ruffed grouse prefer deeper snow and will snow roost or dive under the snow to stay warm. The shallow snow is not allowing them to snow roost at this point. People that feed birds are reporting that they are seeing many more pine grosbeaks than normal.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Sawyer County - Nelson Lake has produced a mix bag of fish species this past week. Larger crappie were being taken on minnows, and were suspending anywhere from bottom to several feet off. Those fishing with wax worms or small plastics were getting both bluegill and crappie. Most individuals using large golden shiners were doing well on northern while those using smaller shiners and suckers were getting mixed bags of northern, walleye and bass. Most fish are relating to structure, with deeper weed and wood holding better concentrations. Anglers are reminded the daily bag limit on pan fish is 10 total. There is no size limit on largemouth or smallmouth bass; there is a 32-inch minimum size limit on northern with a daily bag limit of one and walleye minimum length is 18-inches. Ice on the area lakes is getting thicker and travel is good. Snowmobiles are having some problems getting started if hauling equipment behind them if they are not studded due to bare ice in many areas.
- Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter
Burnett County - Fair numbers of deer have been observed in areas recently logged along with open agriculture fields taking advantage of easy food. Snowmobile trails are closed and cross-country ski trails in the area are not groomed. Ice conditions vary across the county with 13-16 inches on most lakes. Use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes. Fishing activity on area lakes has been slow.
- Chris Spaight, conservation warden, Grantsburg
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Cold temperatures and little fresh snow do not make for good cross-country skiing conditions. However, Crex Meadows will still have Candlelight Night on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. If you have never tried snowshoes, this would be a good opportunity. We will have snowshoes available on a first come first serve basis. Warm up after the walk with hot chocolate and yummy baked goods. Visit www.crexmeadows.org/events.htm for more information.
- Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The frigid weather of the past week has helped thicken the ice cover and most lakes now have 10-14 inches of good solid ice. The area also received a couple of inches of new snow over the weekend - but strong winds have pushed a lot of that snow into scattered drifts across the lakes. This has made for some very slick and polished areas on many lakes, with some 2-foot snowdrifts often found a short distance away. Both foot and vehicle travel has been pretty good on most lakes, but ice creepers may still be needed when fishing some undisturbed wind-blown areas. For fishing action, it seems that the mid-winter winter doldrums have set in and success has tapered off for most species in the Park Falls area. Panfish anglers have experienced the biggest drop off in success and many of the anglers have been out searching for the “hot lake.” Some nice crappie, perch and bluegill have still been caught, but action has been spotty. The walleye bite has continued its erratic trend of the winter, and most anglers are seeing just enough action to keep them interested. Like in last weeks’ report, about 1 in 3 trips have been showing any kind of success and some of the in-between days have seen nary a bite or a flag. When walleye have been caught, the action has been concentrated in a 20 to 30 minute period and sometime in the 2 hours before or just after dark. The preferred baits seem to be medium suckers or XL fatheads, with them being fished about 6 inches off the bottom in 5 to 12 feet of water. Northern pike have probably produced the most consistent action in the last week and some fair catches have been reported from weed edges in the 4-8 feet of water.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls