DNR Outdoor Report: Moderate to Excellent Trout Opener | Environment
Winter continued to hang on this week, with a mid-week storm dropping from 2 to six to 8 inches across a swath from northwestern to south eastern Wisconsin. Snow depths range from a low of 6 to 8 inches in the south to nearly 2 feet in some areas the north. That could change rapidly, though with warmer temperatures and rain in the forecast for this weekend across southern and central Wisconsin.
Snowmobile trails reopened in many counties in southern and central Wisconsin with conditions generally fair to good, while many trails in the north range from good to excellent. State recreational safety wardens are cautioning snowmobilers that while many trails have reopened, rain and warm temperatures this weekend could cause conditions to deteriorate rapidly, especially on waterways. Wisconsin has already recorded 18 snowmobile deaths this winter, and wardens are reminding sledders to slow down and avoid travelling on rivers and lakes.
Some very good cross-country skiing is being reported statewide, from trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine all the way to the Northern Highland-American Legion state forests in good to excellent condition. Again, that could change this weekend, so call ahead to check on current conditions.
Participation was quite heavy in some locations for the opening of the early catch-and-release trout season that enjoyed clear water and sunny warmer weather. Trout anglers reported success ranging from moderate to excellent. Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay is still locked in ice, though there is a lot of snow on top and the sunny days have been creating slush, and ice fishing has generally been slow. Along Lake Michigan, anglers were now open water fishing on the Fox River at Voyageur Park with some walleye and perch being reported. Northern pike action has been good through the ice on the bay in several locations. Some perch and whitefish were being caught along Door County. Trout and steelhead action has been spotty at Lake Michigan harbors.
Ice depths on inland Northwoods lakes continue to hold in the 18-20 inch range and travel remains tough with the deep snow and slushy conditions on many waters. Ice fishing pressure has been rather light in the past week with these difficult travel conditions and the closure of the game fish season March 3. In the south, northern pike are starting to stage for spawning at Theresa Marsh and other spawning sites.
Wisconsin fishing and hunting licenses for the 2013-14 seasons went on sale Wednesday. Licenses are available through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). Licenses for 2012-13 seasons expire March 31.
Snow has temporarily grounded the early March bird migration. Warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend should bring significant thaw to open fields and will likely bring another large push of migrants. Expect to see eagles, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, song sparrows and sandhill cranes. Trumpeter swans are beginning to claim their territory on iced over flowages and goldeneye drakes are starting to display some of their mating rituals and calls.
Statewide Birding Report
Snow, snow and more snow has grounded the early March migration. Despite the weather, birders are reporting some adventurous sandhill cranes, song sparrows, robins and a few other early migrants. Warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend should bring significant thaw to open fields and will likely bring another large push of migrants. Expect to see migrating eagles, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, song sparrows and sandhill cranes. Open water and sheet-water in agricultural fields will be good places to look for migrant geese and puddle ducks. Mid-March is the best time to look for larger flocks of white-fronted geese in southern and western Wisconsin. Birders in far southern Wisconsin may also detect their first peenting woodcock of the year on calmer evenings. Please report your bird sightings to Wisconsin eBird www.ebird.org/WI (exit DNR) so that we can better track our migratory bird populations.
- Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator
Bayfield County - The northern half of Bayfield County was not hit by the snowstorm that affected the lower half of the state. Regardless, snowmobile trails in the area are still in great condition, especially in the forested areas. The trails nearest cities and where logging activity is occurring are deteriorating quickly. The ice on Chequamegon Bay is still locked in, though there is a lot of snow on top of the ice, and the sunny days have been creating slush. The ice on Lake Superior outside of the Bay has been good, though people going out on the ice are encouraged to go only where they know it is safe and take safety precautions. Ice fishing has not been the greatest, though it is expected to pick up within the next few weeks. Wardens also want to remind the ice fishermen that permanent ice shanties need to be off the ice by Sunday, March 17.
- Cara Kamke, conservation warden recruit, Bayfield
Pattison State Park - The park currently has a little over 11 inches of snow on the ground. The ski trails are still in good condition. The trails were last groomed on March 6. Please call the park at 715-399-3111 for an up to the minute grooming report as trails are continually groomed as new snow falls.
- Phillip Brown, Ranger
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Snowshoeing and cross country skiing conditions are great right now. There are 15-18 inches of snow in the woods, and 18-20 inches of snow in the open areas. Animal tracks are harder to identify with deep snow. Trumpeter swans are beginning to claim their territory on iced over flowages. Other new bird sightings include northern harrier and horned lark. A Spring Walk is scheduled for Sunday, March 17 at 1 p.m. Learn more at www.crexmeadows.org/wildlifehighlights.htm.
- Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator
Washburn County - Anglers have reported some good catches of panfish on county lakes. Snowmobile trials are still open and in fair condition.
- Dave Swanson, conservation warden, Minong
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Ice depths continue to hold in the 18-20 inch range on most lakes across the area and travel remains tough with the deep snow and slushy conditions that are found on many waters. Ice fishing pressure was rather light in the past week with these difficult travel conditions and the game fish harvest season ended on a rather quiet note. Panfish harvest does remain open, but many anglers seem to be waiting for a spring thaw to improve conditions out on the ice. The anglers that have been out have been seeing some spotty success. A few crappie have been found suspended 4-5 feet up in deeper water areas, and some perch and bluegill have been caught near old weed beds in 6-8 feet of water.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - The entire trail was groomed and tracked Wednesday and is in very good to excellent condition. The forest received a dusting of snow on Tuesday, but not enough to cover the small twigs and needles scattered on the trail. The northern trails are relatively free of debris and are in excellent condition. Cold nights and sunny days have local maple syrup producers getting ready for tapping trees.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate