DNR Outdoor Report: Great Winter Weather | Environment
Snow and cold across much of the state improved late winter recreation opportunities, especially in northern Wisconsin, including ice fishing, snowmobiling and skiing.
Snow conditions are good to excellent in Bayfield and Sawyer counties for the American Birkebeiner Race this weekend. The largest cross-country ski race in North America is expected to attract 10,000 skiers this weekend. Snowmobile trials are also in good riding condition across most of the northern half of the state, with the best conditions in the northern tier of counties. Potawatomi State Park received more than 3-inches of snow so far this week and snowmobile trials are open. They are also open in Flambeau River State Forest, where conditions are good to excellent.
Many others to the south are in poor condition, or closed, including Sauk County’s 400 State Trail.
While ice depths are good in the 18-20 inch range on most Northwood’s lakes, fishing success has been sporadic. Ice fishing has been fair in Oneida County with anglers reporting mixed bags of multiple species on the Willow Flowage.
Panfishing has picked up this past week, along with crappie, bluegill and perch on many Bayfield County lakes with jigs and wax worms as a topper working best for bluegills and smaller minnows on a jig has been working best when catching both perch and crappie. On Lake Minocqua anglers have had decent panfish action.Some nice panfish have also been caught in Shawano County.
A few browns and rainbows have been caught on spawn sacs and shiners off Racine County. In Brown County, perch are the species of choice at Sunset Beach in Suamico, jigging with minnows or wax worms. Anglers report the bite has been sporadic with mornings been the best time to fish.
The 16-day Winnebago sturgeon season will wrap up this weekend. As of Wednesday, on Lake Winnebago, 246 sturgeon had been taken despite poor water clarity in many areas.
Panfish anglers still have time to can catch one of the nearly 30 panfish plan meetings statewide February and March. The public meetings mark the opening phases of efforts by DNR fisheries management to better connect with anglers in Wisconsin. Those attending meetings will be asked to fill out a short questionnaire to help DNR understand their concerns, issues and priorities for panfish. The questionnaire and background materials presented at the meeting are available online.
The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count concluded on February 18 with more than 3,400 checklists of 134 birds species submitted across Wisconsin. Eagle Appreciation Day is Saturday in Prairie du Chien. And eagles can be seen from the park overlooks and Wisconsin Ridge Campground. They have also been seen soaring over Flambeau River State Forest this week. Turkeys have been seen and heard this week in Oconto, Sauk and Richland counties.
Birders reported significant signs of spring this past week, including singing northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees, drumming woodpeckers, courtship flights of common ravens, and trumpeter swans north all the way to Lake Superior. Sandhill cranes returned to the state in good numbers across southern Wisconsin on Monday, and, bluebirds, a sure sign of warmer, greener days ahead, are here, or on their way, so make sure you put up, or clean out bluebird houses.
Statewide Birding Report
The 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count concluded on February 18 with more than 3,400 checklists of 134 birds species submitted across Wisconsin. Thanks to all who contributed to this four-day, global event that provides our best snapshot of late winter bird populations. Speaking of late winter, birders reported significant signs of spring this past week, including singing northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees, drumming woodpeckers, courtship flights of common ravens, and trumpeter swans north all the way to Lake Superior. Sandhill cranes returned to the state in good numbers across southern Wisconsin on Monday, and the first arctic geese were seen this past week, including greater white-fronted geese in several locations and a flock of 10 Ross’s geese in Algoma. Winter isn’t over, however, and boreal owls continue to make news in the state and region with birds being seen in Douglas, Bayfield, and Oneida counties. Birders should look for these small owls hunting rodents near bird feeders during low light conditions and are encouraged to report sightings with a picture to Wisconsin eBird (www.ebird.org/WI). White-winged and red crossbills, common and hoary redpolls, pine grosbeaks and other winter finches continue in strong numbers nearly statewide. Feeder watchers have also reported several dark-eyed juncos of the western “Oregon” subspecies. Other rare birds spotted this week include a spotted towhee in Chippewa County, black-legged kittiwake near Neenah, and northern hawk owls in Door and Douglas counties. - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Bayfield County - Local snowmobile trails are in good to very good condition in southern Bayfield County. And more than 5-inches of snow is forecast for Friday, so perfect riding conditions are possible for the weekend. Area cross-country ski trials remain in excellent condition and if the additional snow falls, the timing will be perfect for the American Birkebeiner Race this weekend. For snowshoe enthusiasts, 14-20 inches of snow in area forests provides excellent opportunities. Panfishing has picked up this past week, Along with crappie, bluegill and perch on many of the local lakes including, the Eau Claire Chain and Namakagon Lake with jigs and wax worms as a topper working best for bluegills and smaller minnows on a jig has been working best when catching both perch and crappie. Northern pike fishing has been excellent this winter, even if the walleye and panfish aren’t biting. Most hunting seasons have come to an end, but a fair number of coyote hunters in the area are taking advantage of the excellent tracking conditions resulting from a few inches of snow falling every-other-day for the past two weeks. The conditions have also been good for rabbit hunters. And although most trapping seasons have also come to an end, one quickly realizes the fur prices must be on the rise because as one local trapper put it, “it was hard to find a pond or creek that wasn’t being trapped this year.”
- Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond
Douglas County - The snowmobile trail system conditions range from poor in the south to good in the far northeast. Trails that were finally ride able recently experienced heavy use this past weekend, causing deteriorating conditions. A good base is in place at this time, fresh snow is needed to improve conditions. Measurable snowfall and milder temperatures are predicted for Friday.
- John Krull, conservation warden, Superior
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With several nights of sub-zero temperatures in the last week, ice depths have increased to 18-20 inches on most area lakes. The deep snow has created quite a few areas of slush and made for difficult travel on the lakes. Some of the more popular waters have seen some packed trails, but a 4WD vehicle has pretty much been a necessity when venturing out on the ice. With the cold weather, ice fishing pressure has continued to be relatively low and success has continued to be erratic. Panfish have continued to provide the most consistent action with anglers reporting some fair catches of crappie, perch and bluegill at various times through the week. Crappies are starting to suspend in deeper water and the best success came with small minnows and or an ice jig tipped with a wax worm. As usual, the cloudy and milder days produced a more consistent bite and the afternoon hours provided most of the action. Walleye success continues to be generally slow with many anglers having a hard time finding active fish. The best catches came from tip-up fishermen using medium suckers or large fatheads in 8-12 feet of water. As with the panfish, the milder days produced a more consistent bite and the hour before dark saw most of the action. Most of the fish have been in the 11-13-inch range, but a few up to 20 inches have been reported. With the changing weather, fishing for northern pike has been variable. Catches have generally been low, though a few pike up to 30-inches have been taken.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Ski and snowmobile trails are in good to excellent condition. Ski trails are being packed and tentatively planned to be tracked on Friday if the predicted snow falls. We are expecting 2-4 inches of new snow over the next 24 hours to top off our existing 12 inches of snow on the ground. Coyotes are on the prowl and eagles are starting to set up territories.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate