DNR Outdoor Report: Inconsistent Winter | Environment
This winter has had it all, including snow and cold, rain and warm ups. It has been anything but consistent, making it a challenge to get out, or stay out on the trails or on the ice.
And this week has been no different. A late January storm brought 6 to 10 inches of snow to parts of Wisconsin and strong winds have, and likely will blow the snow around to further hamper travel and outdoor activities.
Temperatures have also plummeted and as the week winds down, highs will struggle to reach single digits and wind chills could be a dangerous -25 to -40. But then expect some warmth to return to by the weekend.
Still, there is winter fun to be had.
A host of candlelight events will occur this weekend in several Wisconsin state parks and forests, including Blue Mound, Peninsula, High Cliff, Interstate state parks and Black River, Flambeau River and Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit state forests.
Candlelight nights have become some of the most popular winter activities in state parks in recent years for many reasons, including they are family friendly and fun. A candlelight snowshoe hike at Rib Mountain State Park drew more than 450 people last Saturday and a candlelight ski and grand opening of a new warming shelter at Blue Mound State Park in January attracted more than 1,000 people.
There is also angling excitement on the state’s frozen waters, and for the 2013 sturgeon spearing seasons on the Lake Winnebago system. Prospects are good for spearing record-setting fish, state fish biologists say. The season opens on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 a.m.
In spring 2012, DNR crews captured, tagged and released an 87.5 inch, 240-pound sturgeon below the Shawano Dam and surveys show a large number of trophy fish, those over 100 pounds.
There is also success to be had ice angling, including in Brown County, where whitefish, perch, and walleye were being caught off Door County in the areas of Sturgeon Bay, south to Chaudoir’s Dock.
To the west and north on the Upper Chippewa Basin, some nice crappie, bluegill and perch are being pulled in with the best success has come from the deeper water areas with the fish suspended just off the bottom. Walleye activity also clicked up a notch in the last week and the tip-up fishermen were starting to see a little more consistent action on a day-to-day basis.
On the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park, ice anglers have been catching some crappies and bluegills. The anglers are fishing in 10-12 feet of water, downstream from the boat landing. The bluegills are near the bottom, but finicky as to what bait and jigs that they will respond to. A few crappies and small northern pike round out the fishing catch. One young angler reported while fishing in his ice shelter, he was surprised when a dog fish or bowfin jumped through the hole and landed in his shelter. He had occasionally seen a dogfish, come to the surface and look at him, but never jump out of the water.
Sightings at bird feeders include juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays purple finches and, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers.
Brule River State Forest - Conditions have been wonderful for skiing at the Afterhours Ski Trail and are considered the best skiing of the year. Excellent conditions for both skate and classic! The entire trail system was re-groomed Wednesday. Another couple inches fell the day before and it was snowing again. Staff utilized the Cragin Groomer that shaves high spots and fills in low spots, now that our base will allow it. It is really nice out there. The Brule Valley Ski Club has a Facebook page for the Brule Valley Ski Club & Afterhours Ski Trail. Ski conditions, events and pictures are posted to this page…check it out and find out what is going on at the trail.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Pattison State Park - The park currently has about 3 inches of snow on the ground. The condition of the ski trails has improved with the recent snowfall. The trails were last groomed on Jan. 30. Please call the park at 715-399-3111 for up to the minute grooming report as trails are continually groomed as new snow falls. We have had a few winter campers over the past few weeks. Pattison State Park maintains 1 electric and 1 non electric site for winter campers.
- Phillip Brown, ranger
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With some colder weather in the past couple weeks, ice depths have increased to about 12-15 inches on most lakes across the Northwoods. Recent snowfalls have added 5 to 6 inches of some heavy wet snow and, combined with some drifting, this has started to hinder vehicle travel on area waters. Four-wheel drive has pretty much become a necessity, and there are a lot of rutted and rough spots from anglers traversing the lakes. Well-traveled areas are getting packed down a bit, but there is also some slush starting to show up in spots. For fishing action, it seems that the mid-winter winter doldrums may have passed and success has started to improve for most species. Panfish anglers have still been moving around quite a bit, but many have been able to find some pretty good action. Some nice crappie, bluegill and perch have been showing up in the angler’s creels, and the best success has come from the deeper water areas with the fish suspended just off the bottom. Walleye activity also clicked up a notch in the last week and the tip-up fishermen are starting to see a little more consistent action on a day-to-day basis. Some days still produce some real finicky bites (hit & drops with a foot of line out), but other days find the fish to be more aggressive in feeding and more easily hooked. The best success has come in the late afternoon hours just before dark, with a medium sucker or X-large fathead minnow fished just off the bottom in 4-12 feet of water. Northern pike activity has remained fair and some decent catches have been made near weeds in the 4-8 foot depths.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The Flambeau Ski Trail has about a 4-inch base and has been tracked and groomed on Jan. 31 and is in good to excellent condition. Snowmobile trails are opened but not groomed with about a 8-inch base. There is approximately 8 inches of snow on the ground. Looks like there will be snow for the 21st Annual Candlelight Ski. The event will be held Feb. 2 from 6-9 p.m. at the Flambeau Hills Trail Head. A 1.8 kilometer loop of trail will be groomed, tracked and lit with over 600 candles. The trail is for skiers or hikers and winds through the heart of the forest. The trail is wide enough for diagonal striders and skate skiers. Hiking and snowshoeing are also permitted during this event. Picnic tables and a large barbecue grill will be available near the trail head for persons who wish to cook their food, and hot dogs, chili and spiced tea will be provided. Large warming fires will also be built and maintained throughout the night. The Flambeau Hills Trail Head is located on County Highway “W” 21 miles west of Phillips and 15 miles east of Winter. This event will take place regardless of snow conditions. If there is no snow, take a candlelight walk. The North Fork of the Flambeau River still has a bit of open water
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate