DNR Outdoor Report | Environment
Fall colors are now peaking in central Wisconsin, and while colors are reported as past peak in north central Wisconsin, they are still at peak in the northeast and northwest. Heavy rains in the last week brought down a lot of leaves across much of the state, but especially in the north.
The rain and fog did put a damper on last weekend’s youth deer hunt, but there were still many reports of successful young hunters. And the leaf drop should be aiding archery deer hunters as well as grouse, partridge and woodcock hunters.
With unseasonably warm temperatures recently, the waterfowl migration has been slow but this past week did see a major flight of northern ducks into the state, including many redheads, scaup, common goldeneye, buffleheads and an initial wave of canvasbacks. Canada goose numbers are slowly picking up with increased numbers at Horicon and Theresa wildlife areas.
The southern zone duck season reopens this Saturday, and with the federal government shutdown, DNR officials have been receiving many inquiries on what areas are open for hunting. While the Horicon and Mississippi national wildlife refuges are closed, the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area and all state, county and local access points on the Mississippi River and the waters of the Mississippi and all state and local public lands remain open. Additionally, while campground and facilities within the Chequamegon and Nicolet national forests are closed, the forest lands themselves are open.
The rain coupled with some strong winds made for tough fishing conditions in the Northwoods. Musky anglers continue to provide the most fishing pressure and success has continued to be generally good, with most anglers having now switched from artificial baits to live suckers. Walleye haven't settled into a solid fall pattern yet, but there has been a surge in crappie action.
The rain did draw more trout and salmon up Lake Michigan tributaries, with fish reported in the Oconto, Ahnapee, Kewaunee, East and West Twin, Sheboygan and Root rivers. Salmon were also being reported all over Door County with every major marina having some fish inside. Perch fishing has also been good along the bay side of Door County.
The Root River Steelhead Facility had more success this week and has now processed more than 375 fish. The facility will be hosting an open house this Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with guided tours, fish spawning demonstrations, fly casting lessons, knot and fly-tying, and tips for cooking fish.
The Gov. Tommy G. Thompson State Fish Hatchery in Spooner continues its harvest of walleye for stocking in state waters. The hatchery has more than quadrupled production of larger walleye fingerlings under the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative, which aims to stock more larger walleye by expanding production at state hatcheries and at private, tribal and municipal hatcheries.
Lots of other events are also taking place this weekend with the 9th Annual Harvest Moon Festival at the Capital Springs State Recreation Area near Madison on Friday, and on Saturday, Smokey Bear’s Spook-tacular candlelight hike at Peninsula State Park in Door County, and a candlelight hike and astronomy program at Governor Dodge State Park in Iowa County. For a listing search the DNR website for “Get Outdoors.”
Statewide Birding Report
What a spectacular time to be out birding across Wisconsin! Great weather, beautiful fall colors, and large numbers of migratory birds made for some great bird watching this week. Friday Oct. 4 saw the first major flight of ducks into the state, including many redheads, both scaup, an initial wave of canvasbacks, common goldeneye, buffleheads, surf scoters, and long-tailed ducks, and various dabblers highlighted by later-than-average blue-winged teal. Numbers of common loons and horned grebes are building on the Great Lakes, along with some red-necked grebes as well. Geese continue to move in modest numbers. Snow geese in particular have been showing unusually well statewide. Few reports on diurnal hawk migration were made this week, though Hawk Ridge in Duluth has noted later-than-average flights of sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks, American kestrels, and ospreys. Everyone’s favorite little owl, the northern saw-whet, is now moving in good numbers and should peak in the weeks ahead. Late season shorebirds made a nice showing this week, especially off highway 49 at Horicon Marsh, where both yellowlegs, pectoral sandpipers, black-bellied plovers, dunlin, long-billed dowitchers, Hudsonian godwit, and an American avocet were reported. Songbird migration continues to be very strong. Yellow-rumped and palm warblers now heavily dominate the warbler scene across the state. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos made a surge into the southern half of the state, while the first American tree sparrows were reported in the north. Nelson’s and Le Conte’s sparrows continue to lure birders to weedy fields and wetlands across southern Wisconsin wildlife areas. Large numbers of American goldfinches were reported along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shores. However, there has been no evidence of any “winter finch” flights yet. Best rarities of the week include the white-tailed kite continuing in Adams County and an arctic tern photographed on Lake Wausau. In the weeks ahead, birders should focus on sunlit forest edges at their favorite parks, weedy shrub lands for sparrows, the Great Lakes shorelines for water birds and overhead raptor flights, and inland lakes and wetlands for waterfowl and other species. 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 Brule River State Forest is just past it’s color peak but it is certainly worth the time to view the colors as they are still spectacular. The aspen and birch are beginning to lose their leaves but the oaks are starting to put on their show. The scent of autumn is becoming noticeable as the fallen leaves are beginning to decompose. The 2013 youth deer hunt started out cool and rainy around the Brule River State Forest. That did not stop all of the young hunters though, as several were successful in bringing some venison home. Eagles are a very common sight at the Brule Ranger station now as they are looking for fish. One was just spotted this morning (Thursday, Oct. 10) in the river, trying to drag a very large fish out. Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles near and sometimes in the warmth and protection of buildings and homes. For more information about these insects see asian lady beetle on EEK!--Environmental Education for Kids. Everyone is invited to the 17th annual Hunters Expo at the Mission Covenant Church in Poplar on Oct. 19. It will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be numerous wildlife mounts, hunting booths, great wild food, and of course...lots of hunting stories. For more information see www.missioncovenantchurch.org/FamilyHuntersExpo.
- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate
Pattison State Park - Water levels in the Black River have increased with the recent rain and Little Manitou Falls and Big Manitou Falls have excellent water flow for this time of year. The fall colors are really starting to peak in the area, providing fantastic fall scenery. All hiking trails are open and in good condition. All buildings with flush toilets and running water have been shut down until next spring.
- Phillip Brown, Ranger
Sawyer County - Leaves in Southern Sawyer County took a beating this week with wind and rain. A lot of trees are bare already. Heavy frost has also turned most, if not all the ferns brown. The plus side to this is the partridge are easier to see, which is good news since the population is low. Hunters looking for partridge are concentrating on the 4-8 year old aspen cuts bordering alder swamps. The more time spent in low lands is offering more opportunity for woodcock as well. Hunters are reminded that if they are also shooting woodcock or mourning doves they need to be HIP certified and the shotgun used can only be capable of holding three shells.
- Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter
Burnett County - Deer movement continues to be spotty possibly because of the mild weather and lower deer numbers. Rubs and scrapes are showing up in the woods, but the best action is yet to come. There is still fairly heavy leaf cover in the woods and on area hiking trails. Waterfowl numbers seem to be good in western Burnett County. Grouse numbers in the area are okay. Governor Knowles State Forest campground and trails have autumn color and are in excellent condition and open for use. Good luck and be careful!
- Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg
Gov. Tommy G. Thompson State Fish Hatchery – Hatchery crews continue to harvest of walleye for stocking in state waters. This year the hatchery has more than quadrupled production of larger walleye fingerlings, also known as extended growth fingerlings, under the Wisconsin Walleye Initiative. The funding initiative aims to stock more of the larger walleye into Wisconsin waters by expanding production at state hatcheries and at private, tribal and municipal hatcheries. Research has shown the larger fish survive better than the 1.5 to 2 inch walleye DNR has stocked more of in past years because of budget constraints. The larger walleye are significantly more expensive to produce and require more space.
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The nice Indian summer weather, coupled with some great fall colors, have made it nice to be in the outdoors in the last week. However, some strong winds have made for tough fishing conditions and overall, angling success has been fair to good. Musky anglers have provided most of the fishing pressure on the local lakes and their success has continued to be generally good. Most fishermen have switched from artificial baits to live suckers, and a medium-size sucker (12 to 14 inches) on a quick-set rig has been the most productive method. Most of the musky caught have been in the 32 to 40-inch size, though fish up to 46 inches have also been reported. Walleye success continues to be slow and it seems that the fish haven't settled into a solid fall pattern yet. Late October and early November should provide a little better walleye action with jig/minnow and slip bobber/minnow combinations working best near weed edges and along mid-depth break lines. There has been a recent surge in crappie action with some nice fish being found along and near the mid-depth cover, such as emergent weed lines and brush in 4 to 8 feet of water. With the cooling water temperatures (down to the mid to upper 50s on most lakes), bass fishing has been especially erratic and many bass anglers have put away their gear for the year.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Both the South and North Forks are up and great for paddlers. The colors are past peak but still very scenic. The forest is about 75 percent leaf off. Grouse numbers are down a bit but hunters are still having some success. Asian beetles are out in full force.