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Winter made a brief return to the state this week, with snowfall ranging from 1 to 5 inches reported across parts of southern and northern Wisconsin. Snow melted quickly in the south, but from 1 to 5 inches was still reported on the ground across the north. More snow is in the forecast in the north, but even if it arrives, snowmobilers are reminded that trails are now closed for the season, as trail easements have expired for the year, and state parks and forests will not be grooming ski trails any more this season.
Lakes are now opening up through central Wisconsin with open water reported from the Eau Claire through Waupaca areas. The North and South Forks of the Flambeau River are open. Ice depths still range from 14 to 16 inches on some Northwoods lakes, but access sites are in poor condition and shorelines are beginning to open up on shallow bays. The waters of Green Bay remain frozen, but large patches of open water are now present. Strong winds from the southeast this week shoved large amounts of ice onto the west shoreline of Lake Winnebago, with up to 25 feet measured along the Neenah shoreline.
Ice fishing pressure in the north has been light and panfish success has been limited, with anglers having to move around quite a bit to find active fish. Some crappie have been found in deeper water suspended 4 to 5 feet off the bottom. Perch have been moving up to shallower water and near old weed beds. Although northern rivers open or have open stretches, water temperatures have been holding in the 35 to 38 degree range and sucker runs have not yet begun.
The Menominee River was providing a few early boat anglers with some walleye action at Marinette and shore anglers were getting a mixed bag of steelhead and walleye. Angling pressure picked up on the Oconto River with some success for steelhead. The steelhead run was slower this week on Manitowoc, Twin, Sheboygan and Pigeon rivers. The Milwaukee River remains relatively high, but some steelhead have been caught. Water levels on the Root River are good, but the temperature has dropped down and steelhead have moved into the deeper pools. Boaters have been fishing open water at harbors and have had some success with brown trout and steelhead at Sheboygan, Port Washington, and Milwaukee.
The Wolf River saw a lot walleye action this week and the Fox River was also producing bag limits of walleye. The water temperature in the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du Sac Dam is at 42 degrees. The walleye activity has been increasing with a number of people catching nice fish. Water levels are still extremely high on the Rock and Crawfish rivers and snow-no-wake ordinances remain in effect in Rock and Jefferson counties. Anglers fishing the Rock River have been catching some legal size walleye and white bass were still being caught in below the dam in Jefferson. As of April 1, the Mississippi River stage was at 11.4 feet at Prairie du Chien, up from 10 feet last week, and expected to climb to about 11.7 feet over the weekend. Walleye and sauger action was very spotty this week, but some decent fish have been taken.
Turkey flocks are breaking up with increasing reports of tom turkeys displaying with tail feathers all fanned out.
Skunk cabbage is starting to emerge. With daytime temperatures above freezing and night time temperatures below, conditions have been good for maple sap tapping. Sugar houses have been filled with steam as the sap is boiled down to make syrup. The MacKenzie Environmental Education Center in Poynette will be holding its Maple Syrup Festival this Saturday, April 4 with guided tours of the center's sugar bush and maple syrup-making process, horse-drawn wagon rides, and, of course, maple syrup tasting.