DNR Outdoor Report: Fall Colors Popping | Environment
Fall color is now at or very near peak across much of northern Wisconsin, about nearing peak in central Wisconsin and probably a week away in the Black River State Forest area and about two weeks off in the far south. Remember you can check progress on the Department of Tourism’s Fall Color Report.
DNR offices have been receiving inquiries on the status of state properties in light of the federal government shutdown. All state park, forest, trail and wildlife and fisheries areas remain open for public recreation and enjoyment.
Autumn activities continue this weekend at many state properties, with a fall festival at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Burnett County, the 25th Colorama Run-Walk at the Lapham Peak unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Waukesha County, and Run Wild and Potawatomi State Park in Door County. On Saturday the C.D. “Buzz” Besandy Anadromous Fish Facility in Kewaunee will hold an open house from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be tours, egg collection demonstrations, wagon rides and an “Adopt a Sturgeon” event where individuals will get to release a baby sturgeon into the river.
A cool foggy mornings made for a great southern duck opener in east central Wisconsin while sunny and breezy conditions greeted hunters in the southwest. Hunters reported good numbers of mallards, wood ducks, and teal. Goose hunters are beginning to have much more success with the increase of corn being harvested.
With waterfowl hunting seasons underway and trapping on the horizon, it’s a good time for outdoor enthusiasts to consider whether their gear might be transporting harmful invasive species to and from a favorite hunting spot, Wisconsin invasive species experts say.
Archery hunters have been out in large numbers on both state owned and private lands, with deer activity picking up during the evening hours. Some young whitetail bucks have already left their bachelor groups and started to chase does. A youth gun deer hunt will be held statewide this weekend and bow hunters are reminded that they are required to wear blaze orange in the field.
Musky fishing has been bordering on excellent in the Northwoods with anglers reporting multiple catches on a single trip. The sucker bite really turned on in the last week. Walleye have also begun to get more active and anglers are having increased success.
Strong winds limited activity on Green Bay this week but when possible to get out anglers have been catching some nice walleye. Perch fishing has been good at Sturgeon Bay, Little Sturgeon Bay and Sawyer Harbor. There were a lot of king salmon being caught from the piers in Sturgeon Bay and in the shipping canal.
Lake Michigan tributary fishing pressure has increased and catch rates have improved, with chinook and coho salmon and brown and rainbow trout all reported. Action was reported on the Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Milwaukee rivers. Flows on the Root and Pike rivers remain low and fewer fish have been seen.
Sandhill cranes have been seen in large flocks along the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. The fall bird migration continues strong across Wisconsin. Saturday and Tuesday nights saw especially large migration events as millions of birds moved south across the state, including the last of the warblers and a slew of short-distance migrants. The hawk migration is in full swing with peregrine falcons, merlins, American kestrels, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawks nearing their seasonal peaks.
Prairies are now in the late fall stage with showy goldenrod expressing its golden colors and a variety of asters in bloom. Milkweed plants are dispersing seed.
A prescribed burn used to restore wildlife habitat in Crex Meadows Wildlife Area spread beyond planned containment lines Oct. 2. The fire’s forward progress was stopped about 7 p.m. by DNR crews with Minnesota air mutual aide. Crews will continue to work throughout the night. The prescribed burn was 505 acres, but burned about an additional 600 acres on state land in Burnett County north of Grantsburg. No structures were damaged and no one was injured. The fire burned grass, marsh and limited upland forest, including jack pine.
Statewide Birding Report
Fall migration continues strong across Wisconsin. Saturday and Tuesday nights saw especially large migration events as millions of birds moved south across the state, primarily including the last of the warblers and a slew of short-distance migrants. Birders in the north reported huge numbers of yellow-rumped warblers, including nearly 6,000 individuals in just one morning in Bayfield County. Well known as the last migrant species to move through in fall, yellow-rumps have been increasing in southern Wisconsin as well and that trend will continue over the next couple weeks. Other land birds winging their way south this week include American robins, rusty blackbirds, cedar waxwings, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern flickers, hermit thrushes, winter wrens, both kinglets, brown creepers, purple finches, and American goldfinches. Now is the time to practice your sparrow identification skills as numbers of many species are peaking statewide. White-throated sparrows have reached the south in numbers while holding on in the north as well. Look among them for white-crowned, Harris’s, and fox sparrows, all of which have been found recently. Weedy fields are also hosting song, swamp, and Lincoln’s sparrows, along with a few Le Conte’s and Nelson’s sparrows, which are always rare and an exciting find here. Overhead, hawk migration is in full swing, including a wide variety of species now. Peregrine falcons, merlins, American kestrels, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s hawks are nearing their seasonal peaks. Night skies are now seeing some northern saw-whet and long-eared owls on the move, though early data indicate an unusually high proportion of adults, suggesting these species had a poor breeding season. A bit later than usual, waterfowl appear to have finally made a push into the state this past week. Redheads, canvasbacks, scaup, wigeon, pintail, green-winged teal, coots, snow geese, and other species were found in increased numbers, along with Bonaparte’s gulls and both common and Forster’s terns. Rare finds this week included an arctic tern in Superior, lark bunting at Mead State Wildlife Area in Marathon County, and a white-tailed kite in Adams that was still present as of at least Oct. 2. Birders are reminded that while most federal lands are closed as a result of the federal government shutdown, all state properties remain open as usual. Find a birding site near you and help us track migratory bird populations by reporting your sightings to Wisconsin eBird.
- Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Brule River State Forest - The Brule River State Forest is blanketed in a patchwork quilt of color. The maples are close to their peak, aspen have turned gold, and the oak are just starting to turn. We are at about 80 percent color and expect the peak to occur within a few days...if the winds from the upcoming storm don't blow the leaves down first. Fishermen are reporting that some steelhead are starting to be caught. Fishermen are reminded that the area open for fishing on the Bois Brule River is from Highway 2 to Lake Superior. The Copper Range Campground has become busier due to the fall fish run. If campers find the Copper Range Campground filled, the Bois Brule Campground, which is south of Highway 2 by the ranger station, usually has openings during this time of year. It is reported that deer are moving about more and more car/deer collisions are occurring. This will continue to increase until the rut is over. The youth deer hunt [PDF] will be taking place on Oct. 5-6. Archers are required to wear blaze orange during the youth hunt and non-hunters who want to get out and enjoy the colors are recommended to wear bright colored clothing to remain highly visible to everyone else out in the woods. Snow may not be on the ground….yet, but the Brule River State Forest staff have been busy preparing the trails for the upcoming ski season. Trails are being cleared and soon they will be mowed and hazard trees removed.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Ashland County - Trees continue to show fall colors with some already dropped, fishing on the big lake continues to be good in deeper water while shallower water becomes more littered with end of year weeds and harder to troll in without fouling baits. Duck hunting is picking up interest while bear hunting winds down. Grouse reports are not good with few birds being seen.
- Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland
Sawyer County - Colors are near peak in the Winter area. Because of large numbers of red and sugar maples in the area, this area reaches peak color earliest. Aspens and tamarack too are starting to turn gold, while oaks are hinting their reddish purple in western parts of the county. With mild temperatures and sunny days turkey broads continue to come to the sides of roads and forest openings for grasshoppers and crickets. Bull elk are toning down their bugles with the fading rut, but deer are becoming more active. Though some local ducks continue to fly, the sunny days haven’t lured northern ducks to come down.
- Laine Stowell, wildlife biologist, Hayward
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The beautiful fall weather of the past week has made for some great fishing conditions in the Northwoods. Success has been generally good to excellent, despite anglers having to battle some heavy winds on several days. Musky fishing has been bordering on excellent with several anglers reporting multiple catches on a single trip. Artificial baits such as bucktails and large stick baits have been doing okay, but the sucker bite has really turned on in the last week. Suckers in the 12 to 14 inch size seem to be producing the best action and many of the musky are being found suspended near mid-depth cover such as fish cribs and rock bars. Most of the musky have been in the 32 to 40 inch size, with a few up to the 45 inches and a few nice tiger musky as well. Walleye have also begun to get more active and anglers are having increased success with this species. Walleye are starting to show up in shallow water and along weed lines, with minnows and crank baits producing some decent catches. Look for this pattern to develop further as we continue into fall. Largemouth bass seem have to continued their erratic trend of the last few weeks, with some fish being found in the shallow water (less than 2 feet) and others being found near mid-depth cover. Soft plastics such as sinkos and rubber worms have produced that best catches, and top-water baits have been okay at times. Smallmouth bass action has been fair, and a few anglers have reported some decent action on finesse plastics near mid-depth woody cover. Panfish success has been improving with crappie showing up near the shallow-water weed lines. Small minnows fished a foot below a bobber in the late evening hours has been producing some nice catches.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Both the North and South Forks of the Flambeau River have been running a little low. The North Fork is still good for paddlers and would be just beautiful right now with the fall colors at peak. We are seeing lots of turkeys and geese are flocking up and becoming a common site in the area. The leaves are peaked for color and the over story leaves are falling while the understory leaves are still turning. Winter berries are turning red.
- Judy Freeman, visitor services associate