DNR Outdoor Report: Prime Winter Weather | Environment
After running hot and cold for weeks, teasing and taunting Wisconsin outdoor enthusiasts in the process, weather conditions are now prime for winter activities. Ski, snowmobile and ATV trails are increasingly open. Inches have been added to many state waters, and ice anglers are out, but always keep in mind ice conditions vary and are subject to change.
So, when going out, especially on the ice, think safety first. Ice should be at least 4 inches thick before walking out onto it, 5 inches if taking a snowmobile, ATV or other vehicle.
Wear proper clothing and equipment – dress in layers including wool hats, mittens and waterproof boots. Include a float coat to help you stay afloat and slow body heat loss should you go into the water.
And don’t go out alone. Go out fishing or spearing with friends, take a cell phone with you, and make sure someone knows where you are and when you expect to return.
For many, the big event of the week is the opening of the 2013 sturgeon spearing season opens Saturday at 6:30 a.m. The season will run for 16 days, or until harvest caps are reached. More information about the upcoming season, including regulations and harvest caps, can be found at the sturgeon spearing page of the DNR website.
Ice angling success has increased in Marinette County especially crappies on the flowages. Ice depths vary from 12-17 inches of ice pretty much on every lake in Marinette County.
In Milwaukee County anglers have been fishing the harbors at McKinley Marina and South Shore Park, as well as the lagoon at Lakeshore State Park. Success has been mixed for brown trout and steelhead.
In Polk County, anglers have had success catching largemouth bass with tip-ups on smaller lakes.
Snow depths have also improved in many places; for current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report. There are still some counties that have snowmobile trails closed, or in poor condition, but many regions report major improvements.
Snowmobile trails in are groomed and in good to excellent condition across the northern tier of counties and through much of central Wisconsin. Trails are good to poor father south.
All of the snow makes for beautiful cross country ski and snowshoe hikes as well. Skiing and snowshoeing opportunities are good at the Northern-Highland, Brule River, Peshtigo River and northern unit Kettle Moraine state forests, and Council Grounds, Potawatomi and Willow River State parks. Eight state park properties are hosting candlelight events this weekend.
Snow has also improved conditions for cottontail and coyote hunting.
Wyalusing State Park bird sightings at park feeders include juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and purple finches.
A western Sauk County resident reported seeing a wolf. Eagles are being seen in good numbers at traditional wintering areas along the Mississippi and Lower Wisconsin River and a golden eagle continues to be seen in the skies over Waupaca County. And as one of our earliest breeding species, some great horned owls have likely begun nesting activities in the south.
Statewide Birding Report
Two stories are dominating the birding headlines in the Wisconsin this week. First, in central and southern Wisconsin, white-winged and red crossbills are visiting backyard bird feeders with unusually high frequency. Dozens of excited birders have reported these boreal finches at their sunflower and thistle seed feeders recently, suggesting the birds’ usual supply of spruce, pine, and other cone seeds has become scarce. Readers hosting crossbills at their feeders in the past month are encouraged to report their sightings to Ryan Brady (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a statewide tally. To the north, boreal owls are causing a stir across northeast Minnesota, with dozens of individuals being seen in broad daylight as they extend their hunting activity to survive winter’s snowy cold. Wisconsin has at least three records of this small, rarely seen owl this year, and birders in northern Wisconsin should continue to be on the lookout. Listening for mobbing, scolding chickadees is the best way to find roosting boreals. Slowly driving roads through suitable conifer-laden habitat may produce an active hunting owl. In some cases, they also hunt rodents under backyard bird feeders, especially near dusk. In other birding news, northern hawk owls continue in Door and Douglas counties and up to 14 short-eared owls have been reported from Bong Recreation Area in Kenosha County. As one of our earliest breeding species, some great horned owls have likely begun nesting activities in the south. Eagles are being seen in good numbers at traditional wintering areas along the Mississippi and Lower Wisconsin River. Birders are also buzzing over the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count to be held across the continent from Feb 15-18 (www.birdsource.org/gbbc) is an easy way for bird enthusiasts of all skill and age levels to contribute to bird monitoring. As always, please contribute your daily bird sightings to Wisconsin eBird at www.ebird.org/wi to help us better track bird populations.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Brule River State Forest - The entire trail system was re-groomed Tuesday after 3inches of new snow fell. Skiers can definitely bring good skis. It is wonderful out there.
- Kevin Feind, ranger
Ashland County - Cold weather has set in and ice continues to spread farther across Lake Superior. Extreme caution, however, should always be used before traveling onto any ice. Everyone should check the ice, avoid areas with consistently poor ice and or open water. Pay close attention to channels, around docks, or other large structures, the ends of break walls, near springs or other moving water. Remember to wear a personal flotation device and carry safety equipment such as ice picks and rescue ropes. While snow cover is found across the entire area, snow depth is not always sufficient to allow for snowmobiling and or grooming of some stretches of the trail.
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Bayfield County – The Bayfield Peninsula received abundant snow in the last week. Snowmobile trails are groomed and excellent riding is reported. All of the snow makes for beautiful cross country ski and snowshoe hikes as well. Ice conditions on Lake Superior have been improving with the cooler temperatures, but at the northern reaches of the ice, strong winds can cause ice conditions to change quickly. People recreating on the ice are encouraged to be mindful of the changing ice conditions and go only where they know it is safe. Ice fishing on the bay has not been ideal even for the best anglers. But with a little patience some nice catches of whitefish and splake have come off the water.
- Cara Kamke, conservation warden, Bayfield
Douglas County - Snow continues to slowly pile up throughout the far northwest corner of the state, but still not enough to properly groom snowmobile trails, which remain in rough shape. Ice anglers are reporting good ice conditions on inland lakes throughout the area. A number of local clubs and lake associations have had, or will be having, their yearly fishing contests.
- John Krull, conservation warden, Superior