DNR Outdoor Report: Fall Colors Arrive | Environment
Overnight lows often dipping into the 40s in the north and Fall Color has reached 30 to 40 percent at Copper Falls State Park in Ashland County, while the Flambeau River State Forest in Price County is reporting 50 percent or more color change.
Some leaves have started to drop in the northwest and that is improving conditions for early archery hunters who are registering some nice bucks. Bucks are still be seen in velvet but more rubs are showing up.
The northern waterfowl opener had mixed results with wood ducks being the most seen bird. Fewer ducks were seen in the north with more reported in central Wisconsin. Weather for the southern duck season opener this Saturday looks to be up in the air, with the latest report calling for isolated thunderstorms and a high of 77 degrees. Hunters are reminded the season does not open until 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Thousands of green-winged teal were recently reported from Horicon Marsh.
Lake Superior run brown trout and coho salmon are being caught in the Bois Brule River. Some trout and salmon continue to make it up Lake Michigan tributaries, but still not yet in high numbers. Fish were reported on both the Kewaunee and Ahnapee rivers with chinook being caught. The Root River Steelhead Facility began operation last week, but fisheries crews have only captured 38 fish so far.
Salmon fishing along Door County was still good with boats fishing out of Sturgeon Bay on the bank reef. Musky fishing is hot on Green Bay with numerous keeper size muskies being caught. Shore and pier fishing at harbors continues to be steady with chinook, coho and brown trout all reported.
With many hunting seasons open, inland fishing pressure was a bit reduced across the Northwoods. Musky have been receiving the most attention lately and the action has continued to be good. The musky have been active at nearly all times of the day and most anglers were reporting some sort of action including short hits, follows, swirls, and a good number of catches as well. In the south, walleye were being caught on the ler Wisconsin and Rock rivers. Trout fishers are reminded the inland trout season closes September 30.
There are a lot of events and activities taking place this weekend at state park, forest and trail properties, including Art in the Park and Fall Fest at Copper Falls, a candlelight hike at Interstate Park, and Sturgeon Fest at Lakeshore Park in Milwaukee where a thousand young sturgeon will be released. And in celebration of National Public Lands Day guided field trips are being offered at several State Natural Areas and Horicon Marsh is holding a volunteer work day.
Fall birding is fantastic right now as we transition from long-distance migrants en route for Latin America to short-distance migrants likely to overwinter in the lower 48. Orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, vireos, flycatchers, and other Neotropical migrants are being replaced with sparrows, kinglets, blackbirds, robins, and other hardy migrants from the Canadian boreal forest. Yellow-rumped, palm, and Tennessee warblers have begun to dominate the warbler scene but nearly 20 species are still possible across the state. Buffalo and Montello lakes in Marquette County have been popular among birders and the public alike recently as thousands of great egrets, American white pelicans, bald eagles, terns, and other birds have been found there.
Statewide Birding Report
Fall birding is fantastic right now as we transition from long-distance migrants en route for Latin America to short-distance migrants likely to overwinter in the lower 48. Orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, vireos, flycatchers, and other Neotropical migrants are being replaced with sparrows, kinglets, blackbirds, robins, and other hardy migrants from the Canadian boreal forest. Yellow-rumped, palm, and Tennessee warblers have begun to dominate the warbler scene but nearly 20 species are still possible across the state. White-throated sparrow numbers are building in the north, and birders this week noted the first influx of dark-eyed juncos. Be on the lookout for white-crowned, Lincoln's, fox, Harris's, and other less common species in the weeks ahead. Weedy fields and shrub lands typically host good sparrow numbers, while backyard birders can attract them with bird seed sprinkled on the ground adjacent to brush piles and other areas of dense vegetation. Now is also a good time to resume regular bird feeding activities as goldfinches, purple finches, nuthatches, and other seed eaters are moving around now. On the water, goose migration is picking up statewide with reports of snow, Ross's, and cackling geese among the incoming Canadas from Hudson Bay and beyond. Meanwhile, duck migration has been slow to kick in, although a few divers have been reported on Lake Superior, blue-winged teal and wood ducks were seen in good numbers across the south, and thousands of green-winged teal were recently reported from Horicon Marsh. Horned and red-necked grebes, as well as small numbers of common loons, are now staging on the Great Lakes. Buffalo and Montello lakes in Marquette County have been popular among birders and the public alike recently as thousands of great egrets, American white pelicans, bald eagles, terns, and other birds have been found there. Broad-winged hawks made their passage through the state in large numbers this past week, en route to southern Central America and northern South America. Sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, merlins, peregrine falcons, turkey vultures, and other raptors are on the move as well. The Lake Michigan shoreline on days with west winds can be a great place for hawk watching. The birding event of the fall, known as Jaegerfest, wrapped up this weekend and lived up to its name. Both parasitic and long-tailed jaegers were found at close range – each September birders across the Midwest trek to the beach at Wisconsin Point in Superior to see these rare species. Other rare finds this week included Sabine's gull also at Wisconsin Point, western kingbird in Ozaukee, red phalaropes in both Clark and Winnebago, and both Nelson's and Le Conte's sparrows in drier, smartweed-laden wetlands of southeastern Wisconsin. With a cold front expected to move through the state on Saturday, birders should anticipate some new birds moving in by the end of the weekend. As always, help us track the migration by reporting your sightings to Wisconsin eBird.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Brule River State Forest - The color show is becoming more pronounced every day but we are still a week or so from peak color. We do have some very colorful patches here and there, but overall we are around 25 percent color. The maples and sumac are quite colorful with their red colors. The understory is showing quite a bit of color with the shrubs, ferns, and the vibrant colored mushrooms. Some areas have received heavier frost that has cured some of the fine fuels such as grasses and ferns. While our fire danger is set at low, people are asked to be careful of their campfires and debris burns and to make sure the fire is out and cold before leaving it. Winds could easily carry an ember towards the dried vegetation, causing a wildfire. Fishermen are reporting lake run brown trout and coho salmon are being caught in the Bois Brule River. Fishermen are reminded that fishing on the Brule, Highway 2 and upstream to the headwaters will be closing Sept. 30. Highway 2 and downstream to the mouth of the River will be open until Nov. 15.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Ashland County - The week ended with a full harvest moon, complete with clear skies to view it. All fall seasons are open with waterfowl starting on Saturday. Frost has occurred in many areas away from Lake Superior. Trees continue in color transformation and now the underbrush is starting too. Heavy rain fell during the last week to keep things moist and helped to add new bug hatches to an already high insect population. Fishing is mixed and reports of hunting success limited. There doesn't seem to be a heavy interest in hunting yet. However, the bait season has a few people active and corn prices are once again starting to enter everyday conversations of many non-farmers. Work ended on the White River Dam and the gates have been closed. The flowage is approaching half full or perhaps as some may see it, as still more than "half empty."
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Douglas County - Summer is struggling to hang on over the extreme northwestern portion of the state. Overnight lows often dipping into the 40s have most outdoor users putting fishing gear away for the year to concentrate on hunting activities. Musky anglers are reporting some success around the area. It appears that the very few local ducks that were around for opener have been well educated by now. Hunters looking for grouse are reporting few if any birds.
- John Krull, conservation warden, Superior
Copper Falls State Park - The trees have been turning to their brilliant fall colors. We estimate the color to be at about 30-40 percent as of Monday, Sept. 23. We expect the fall color to peak around the weekend of Sept. 27. Art in the Park/Fall Fest is on Saturday, Sept. 28. The event includes a craft show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a silent auction 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. benefiting the Friends of Copper Falls State Park, and a historical tour at Noon. There will also be an activity table for kids, and an apple cider press demonstration. The amount of water flowing through the Bad River Gorge has now receded back to normal conditions. There have been more days with higher than normal water conditions over the past several years. All the hiking trails are open and in great condition. Users of the Doughboy Trail are reminded that the Bad River Gorge is not open to the public. Please stay on this designated trail and avoid crossing over fences for your safety. The two designated bike trails (Takesson and Vahtera) have a few wet and muddy portions along them. Bikers should use caution while on these trails. We recommend walking your bikes around the wet areas until they are dry. Please contact the park office for more trail conditions. Keep in mind that our concessionaire has shut down for the 2013 season.
- Gregory P Behling, ranger
Sawyer County - Musky activity is picking up on area lakes and rivers over the past week and will get even better. Some individuals are reporting multiple fish in one day with some being of decent size. The standard buck-tail has been a good producer in a larger size with jerk baits also starting to see action now. Of all, the top producer seems to be suckers. It appears that most fish that are following artificial baits to the boat are taking the sucker once there. Fish seem to be scattered on various structures with the best being deeper drop off points and bars adjacent to weeds, wood or larger rocks. Individuals fishing with suckers in Sawyer County are reminded of a few laws pertaining to musky fishing. One is that trolling is prohibited on most lakes and rivers unless posted as a legal lake to troll. Check landings and regulations before dragging suckers as you troll with a motor while fishing for musky. Row trolling is legal and used by individuals this time of year on lakes where motor trolling is illegal. Also, if fishing with live bait that is 8 inches or longer you must use a quick-strike rig or non-offset circle hook. Game fish can be used as live bait as long as the game fish being used meets legal size restrictions (if any) and count as your daily bag limit for that species. Also, live fish and lake/river water can't be transported away from the water body they were caught or obtained. So live game fish have to be used on the body of water they were caught and all water has to be drained from buckets, coolers, live wells, etc. before leaving the lake.
- Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter
Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Fall colors are beginning to appear, with the yellows of the birches and aspens turning first. Some rain last week should allow the colors to turn slowly, making for a good show. Songbird migration is continuing but waning, with a few late warblers being sighted, and hawk migration is in mid-stream. Keep a look out for broad-winged and sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, and turkey vultures. Canada goose and sandhill crane numbers are increasing. Morning and evenings are filled with crane and goose calls as flocks pass over town. Watch the crop fields along Williams Road and at the north end of the refuge in Crex Meadows for sandhills feeding during the day. A good place to watch cranes fly over is along Main Dike Road on the south side of the refuge at sunrise and sunset. Waterfowl migration is beginning. The majority of northern nesters are still waiting to come south, waiting for cooler weather to move them into our area. Bucks are beginning to rub their velvet off in anticipation of the upcoming rut.
- Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With most hunting seasons now open, fishing pressure was a bit reduced on nearly all lakes across the Northwoods. Musky have been receiving the most attention lately and the action has continued to be good. The musky have been active at nearly all times of the day and most anglers were reporting some sort of action including short hits, follows, swirls, and a good number of catches as well. Artificial baits have still been producing some pretty good action, but live suckers have been getting more and more attention in the last two weeks. The most successful artificials have been bucktails, jerk baits, and bulldawg-type baits; and 12- to 14-inch suckers on a quick-strike rig have been the most productive. Most of the musky have been in the 34 to 40 inch size, but fish up in mid-40-inch size have also been reported. Bass fishing has continued to get more erratic on local waters, but some good action has been experienced on a couple of days. Largemouth bass have been more consistent than smallmouth, with the best action coming from mid-depth cover, near weed edges, woody structures, docks, or bog edges. Soft plastics and jig/craw combinations continue to be the best baits, though rubber frogs over the thick weeds have also produced a few fish. Smallmouth fishing has been an on-again, off-again experience, with some good days of fishing mixed in with some very poor days. Area rivers and flowages have provided the best action, with finesse plastics and lindy-rigged leeches or crawler-half being the more successful baits. Northern pike fishing has remained good, with the cool water temperatures continuing to favor this species. Spinner baits fished in or near any weeds has provided some great action. Very few reports of walleye success have come in as most anglers seem to have given up until the good fall bite begins. Panfish success has been fair, with some bluegill, perch and crappie showing up along the deeper weed edges. Sturgeon anglers continue to have fair success with many anglers reporting catching a few of these ancient fish. Most of the fish have been in the 30 to 48-inch size, with a just a few legal 60-plus-inch fish being caught. The larger rivers have been the most popular spots, with the best action coming on cut bait and gobs of night crawlers fished in the deep holes or deep river bends.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - It has been beautiful camping weather River levels on the both the South & North Fork of the Flambeau River are still at a good level for paddlers. It is becoming a beautiful drive in the forest. The forest is alive with color, especially between Phillips & Winter in Sawyer County. We are at about 55 percent for color with the peak still expected to be about the first week in Oct. The leaves are changing quickly and the ash have already dropped their leaves. We are seeing lots of geese and the turkey population is definitely up. Lake of the Pines Campground is open till Dec. 15.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate