DNR Outdoor Report | Environment
Wild rice on northern lakes is ripe and will be harvestable for the next few weeks.
Last week northern Wisconsin was very wet with heavy rain on multiple days and some areas also experienced winds of 50 mph or more with the rain. Water levels in some area are very high. Meanwhile, the west central part of the state remains very dry and fire dangerremains high in many counties, with burning permits suspended in some areas.
The Lower Wisconsin River continues to be at fairly low levels for the fall. However, there have been some big fluctuations in the past week, caused by discharges at the Prairie du Sac dam. The river has come up or dropped down as much as one foot in 36 hours, so paddlers are urged to take that into account when choosing sandbars for camping.
Musky have been the highlight of the past week in Northwoods fishing and action was very good. Nearly all anglers were reporting sightings, follows and strikes. Artificial baits have provided most of the action. Largemouth and smallmouth bass have also provided some very good action, northern pike fishing remains excellent and panfish activity has been sporadic with some decent crappie and bluegill found suspended around deeper water cover.
Lake Michigan trollers have been reporting decent catches with a mixed bag of large rainbows, coho, and chinook. Fishing pressure has remained steady on harbor piers with some chinook reported at Sheboygan, Port Washington, Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha. A few chinook were caught near the mouth of the Pike River, but there were no reports this week of salmon moving up rivers.
The early goose and dove hunting seasons opened last weekend and some hunters did very well on doves during opening weekend, especially in the Columbia County area. Some goose hunters reported success, while others reported that it was pretty hard to locate geese due to the late farming season. Few fields have been cut so the birds are still spending time in retention ponds and elsewhere.
Whitetail bucks are starting to shed their antler velvet and the red coats on deer are starting to turn to the darker winter color. Fawns are also changing, their coats are starting to turn dark and they are beginning to lose their spots. Cooler weather is increasing deer movement, especially during the day, so drivers should beware.
Coyotes have been very vocal over the last several weeks, enlivening quiet nights with their barking, howling and yipping. Family groups have established rendezvous sites where family groups will meet to socialize and prepare for hunts. Coyote pups are especially vocal this time of year and will readily respond when howled at by a human.
Some of the late summer-early fall flowers that can be seen now are large-leaved aster, native sunflowers, evening primrose, goldenrod, and jewelweed. Wild rice on northern lakes is ripe and will be harvestable for the next few weeks. Numerous regulated wild rice lakes have opened in the last week. Search the DNR website for wild rice for information on what lakes are open and harvest rules.
Fire danger remains high in many Wisconsin counties. Burning permits have been suspended in many areas. Check the DNR web page for county-specific information: dnr.wi.gov (search ‘fire danger’). As vegetation begins to cure and leaves fall, the dried out plant material becomes easily ignitable. Many of our fall wildfire starts can be attributed to equipment sparks or the hot exhaust of a vehicle too close to dry grass. Roadside fires can start when vehicles pull off the road and hot exhaust pipes or axels come in contact with dry grass, during roadside mowing operations, when tow/safety chains are dragging and throwing sparks. Other equipment-related fires this time of year are caused by disc blades striking rocks, sparks emitted during welding operations, bearing failure on farm equipment, torches used too close to dry vegetation, and dry vegetation getting wrapped around exhaust systems, hot manifolds or moving parts. Here are some tips to help keep you from starting a fire as you work outdoors this fall: Keep equipment clean and free of debris. Make sure spark arresters are in place and in proper working order. Take frequent breaks to give equipment a chance to cool down. Check for debris trapped or wrapped near heat sources or moving parts and clear it away. Do not pull off roadways or ATV trails onto dry grass. NEVER use mowers in dry vegetation. When towing a trailer, check to make sure the safety chains are off the ground (dragging chains throw sparks). Make sure all workers carry a cell phone and know the directions to the work site. Always carry a fire extinguisher. Call for assistance early if you do start a wildfire.
Statewide Birding Report
Songbirds are next up in the parade of migratory birds to stop in Wisconsin this late summer and fall as they fuel up and rest before heading south. Following the shorebirds of late summer, millions of songbirds comprising dozens of species represent the second large wave of migrants and they’re now on the move. Songbirds often ride northerly winds behind cold weather fronts en route to wintering grounds thousands of miles to the south, so recent fronts brought greater numbers of warblers, thrushes, grosbeaks and vireos. That trend that should continue in the weeks ahead – mid-September typically features the greatest abundance and diversity of migrating songbirds across the state. Having nested anywhere from Wisconsin north through the Canadian boreal forest, these long distance, neo-tropical migrants – including such familiar friends as Baltimore orioles, ruby-throated hummingbirds, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks – face many challenges en route to wintering areas in the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Brule River State Forest - Labor Day may have come and gone but Brule River State Forest is still open for business and remains so year round. Camping is great this time of the year, the biting insects are diminishing, the Brule River is flowing nicely, and the cooler nights welcome the campfires. Don’t forget the beaches on Lake Superior…they are open year round as well, whether it is for swimming, beach combing, or in winter, checking out the ice formations. Although Sept. 22 is the first official day of fall, signs of fall are becoming more apparent. Bucks are starting to shed their velvet on their antlers. The red coats on deer are starting to turn to the darker winter color…which sure blends in with the vegetation along the roadsides. Fawns are also changing, their coats are starting to turn dark and they are beginning to lose their spots. Canada geese can be found in large flocks in preparation for migration. Fall color peak may be weeks away but keep the Wisconsin state parks or forests in mind if you plan to view the fall colors this year. In the past years the colors have peaked around the end of September to beginning of October in the Brule River State Forest area. Some of the late summer/early fall flowers that can be seen now are large-leaved aster, native sunflowers, evening primrose, goldenrod, and jewelweed, which seems to paint the area with gold and purple. Jewelweed goes by another name…touch-me-not. If the ripe seed capsule of this plant is touched the capsule will shoot its seeds out. Milkweed plants have some very noticeable seed pods that will eventually break open to let the wind carry its seeds away... another interesting way plants disperse their seeds. To learn more how plants disperse their seed check out the DNR's EEK! Environmental Education for Kids website.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Ashland County - Last week was very wet with heavy rain on multiple days and some areas also experienced winds of 50 mph or more with the rain. Area water levels are very high and fishing success is mixed. Night time temps are dropping and skunks are starting to feed along roadways at night as such. Dove season and early goose hunting opened on the weekend and bear season with dogs open this week.
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Burnett County - Fishing on area lakes will be picking up as cooler nights bring the water temperatures down. The St. Croix River is at a very low level for upcoming canoeing and fishing trips. Wild rice on area lakes is ripe and will be harvestable for the next few weeks. Crex Meadows is an excellent place to observe migrating waterfowl over the next few months. Does and fawns have been very active in the area, so use caution while driving.
- Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - Even with the erratic and ever changing weather, fishing activity has been pretty good in the Northwoods. Musky have been the highlight of the past week and action was very good. Nearly all anglers are reporting sightings, follows and strikes, and many catches have been made. Artificial baits have provided most of the action and some of the favorite baits have included jerk baits, bucktails, and top waters. The musky have been found in a variety of locations including the less-dense weed beds, the deeper weed edges, and some even suspended in the deeper water areas. Most of the musky have been in the 30 to 38 inch size but a few in the 42 to 46 inch range have also been reported. Largemouth and smallmouth bass have also provided some very good action, with smallmouth being very active on the local flowages and larger rivers. The smallmouth bass have been found near cover around deeper water areas, with the successful baits being small plastic finesse lures and spinner baits. Largemouth action has also been very good, with most of the fish being found in the mid-depth areas around cover. The shallow-water bite never really developed this summer and it seemed the largemouth have been holding around cover in 3 to 6 feet of water. Soft plastics, jig/craw combinations, and crank baits have been the more successful baits lately. Northern pike action continues to be good to excellent. The cooler water temperatures favor this species and great action can be had on spinner baits along the mid-depth weed edges. Walleye success has remained slow, with many of the anglers having given up until the fall patterns set in. Panfish activity has been sporadic with some decent crappie and bluegill found suspended around deeper water cover.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls