Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Report summary for March 27, 2014

For current statewide information on statewide snow conditions, log onto the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).

General | Northern Region | Northeast Region | Southeast Region | South Central Region | West Central Region

While winter is continuing in the north, the snowmobile season is coming to an end after this weekend. Many snowmobile trails are located on private lands with easements that allow them to be used through March 31. As a result, most counties officially close trails at the end of this month. Using the trails after they officially close is trespass and could result in the loss of easements in the future.

And while cross-country skiing can still be done on trails in the north that have snow, most parks and forests are reporting that grooming is now done for the season.

Snow continues to blanket about the northern half of the state, but spring like weather this week will melt a lot of that snow. In the north, people should be very alert to deer using roadways as the number of car-killed deer has spiked in the past couple of weeks. Due to the deep snow, deer are using roads as a main travel way and are looking for food along road edges. Drivers should slow down and let the deer move off the road onto a game or snowmobile trail instead of exciting them and making them jump into the deep ditches where they can become stuck, causing stress and making them burn energy.

Up to 30 inches of ice continues to be reported on northern lakes with very few ice anglers out. Most are waiting for the melt to trigger panfish activity. As of this week, the ice road was still being used to access Madeline Island on Lake Superior, and ice anglers have been venturing out to the islands in search of lake trout and whitefish. Anglers were still reporting thick ice on Green Bay, but getting out onto the ice is becoming tricky on the west shore with access points breaking up. The east shore has better access but with any sustained warm temperatures that will change quickly. Anglers continue to report success with whitefish and also with some perch.

The ice on the Fox River is breaking up and some small boats have been hitting the water in search for the walleyes. Southeastern Lake Michigan tributaries are opening up and anglers have begun catching steelhead and brown trout on the Sheboygan, Milwaukee and Root rivers.

Turkeys are still grouped up in winter flocks, but there were more reports this week of toms displaying and gobbling so the groups will soon disperse. Learn to hunt turkey events will be held all across the state over the next couple of weeks. To find an event, search the DNR website for "LTH."

Bears are emerging from hibernation and there was a report of a bear walking over the ice from Madeline Island and taking up a temporary residence in a shed by the Onion River.

Turkey vultures returned to the bluffs of Wyalusing State Park this week. With ice slowly retreating from the Mississippi River, waterfowl are rapidly moving in, with diving ducks such as canvasbacks, scaup, bluebills, common goldeneyes, buffleheads and mergansers most prevalent, along with puddle ducks, such as mallards, shovelers, teal and wood ducks, and tundra swans and white pelicans.

The maple syrup season appears to be starting late with only limited sap runs in the south and little to report in runs from central or northern parts of Wisconsin. That could change with this week's warm-up.


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Northern Region

Ashland DNR Service Center area

Bayfield County - The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore ice caves season has come to a close due to warm weather and unpredictable ice. Many people traveled to Bayfield County to see this phenomenon and locals have witnessed the economic boost from all the new visitors. Lake Superior ice conditions near the Bayfield area has held up with recent cold weather with the ice road to Madeline Island still in operation. Ice anglers have been venturing out to Madeline Island, Stockton Island and Basswood in search of lake trout and whitefish. Some ice anglers have been moving into the river mouths off of the Onion, Pike and Sioux river systems catching mostly Menominee and splake using jigs and wax worms. Recent snowfall has left northern Bayfield County snowmobile trails in great condition with base amounts of over a foot. Snow amounts off-trail are still close to 30 inches. Even though spring seems to be out of sight in northern Wisconsin, raccoons and bears have been sighted by locals. One bear had walked from Madeline Island and took up a temporary new residence in the shed of a cabin located by the Onion River. - Lynna Gurnoe, conservation warden, Bayfield

Hayward DNR Service Center area

Sawyer County - For the wild turkeys that have managed to survive the harsh winter this year, the males are starting to strut around females and gobbling is become more frequent, especially in the morning and evening. Due to the deep snow deer are using roads as a main travel way. Drivers should slow down and let the deer jump off the road on a game trail instead of exciting them and making them jump into the deep plowed ditch lines where they can become stuck. Only a few individuals continue to ice fish. Slightly warmer days with cold nights are making the travel better, putting a crust on the surface. Travel should still be done with caution as even though the weather is staying cold, springs, creeks and areas around rock piles and points still will open due to the longer days and the strength of sun. Those fishing are catching panfish, but still no heavy action as is typical in spring when the thaw begins. Maybe once a thaw starts, the fish will become aggressive. - Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

Spooner DNR Service Center area

Burnett County - The Grantsburg area snowpack is slowly melting away. With future forecasted temperatures reaching the upper 40s by the end of the week, it won't be long now. Wildlife viewing will be improving when the snow pack recedes. Ice conditions and slush vary across the county with 30 plus inches on most lakes. Use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes, ice conditions can change rapidly this time of year. - Christopher Spaight conservation warden, Grantsburg

Park Falls DNR Service Center area

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With the long, cold and snowy winter continuing its icy grip, conditions pretty much remain unchanged on lakes across the Northwoods. Ice thickness continues to be in the 22 to 30 inch range on the lakes, with the upper third of that being packed snow and frozen slush. Access continues to be very difficult and there have been very few anglers even attempting to get out onto the lakes, especially given the cold and windy conditions of the past week. With virtually no ice fishing pressure, reports of any success have been scant and most anglers are waiting for a break in the weather before even giving the late-ice panfish bite a try. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Price County - Motorists and snowmobilers should be especially careful for deer on or crossing roads and trails at this time. The number of observed car killed deer has spiked in the past couple of weeks. Many deer are looking for food along road edges where the sun has melted the snow down to the ground on south facing slopes. Packed snowmobile trails are also being heavily used by deer due to the deep snow conditions in the woods. If snowmobilers encounter deer on the trail they should continue as slow as possible not to chase the deer and make them run, which expends large amounts of energy. The deer will usually run down the trail until they find a packed trail where they can get into the woods. If the deer happen to jump into deep snow and appear to be stuck or distressed, the best thing to do is leave them be and continue on your way. You may feel like trying to help the deer out of the deep snow but you are likely causing much more stress on the animals by trying to help them. - Dan Michels, conservation warden, Park Falls


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Northeast Region

Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled by David Boyarski, fisheries supervisor, Sturgeon Bay

Marinette County - Some northern pike were caught south of the Peshtigo Harbor on large shiner minnows and dead smelt. Anglers on the fishermen's walkway at Hattie Street on the Menominee River caught some walleye and trout using spawn, fly's and yarn, twister tails and stick baits. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Oconto County - Geano Beach anglers had success catching whitefish and walleye on the reef south of the landing. Swedish pimples tipped with minnow heads or wax worms and clown and fire tiger colored #3 jigging stick baits worked well. Northern pike fishing from the Oconto Breakwater Park to Oconto Park II produced some fish and whitefish were caught near Young's reef using Swedish pimples and jigging stick baits. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo

Door County - Despite temperatures into the 30 to 40 degree range good ice fishing conditions still remained but the number of anglers was low at Dykesville, Red River, Volk's Landing, and Bayshore Park. At Lime Kiln, little to no action was seen while at Big Rock Place and Sand Bay resort there were some 16 to 22 inch whitefish were caught. Most fish are being caught in 30 feet or deeper water using wax worms on small jigs, Stick baits, or spoons. - Adrian Meseberg, fisheries technician, Green Bay

Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

Marinette County - More signs of spring have appeared this week. The snow is slow to recede, but small stretches of some rivers have opened up, giving early arriving geese and ducks a place to rest. Sandhill cranes and red-winged blackbirds have begun to appear in extreme southern Marinette County. Turkeys are still grouped up in large winter flocks, but gobbling has begun and soon the groups will disperse and birds will be seen in many more places. Conservation organizations across the state are gearing up to host Learn-To-Hunt turkey events for first time hunters. Most of the LTH events will be held during the first weekend in April. The ice on area lakes remains thick but soon fields will be open and wetlands will be filled with water and singing frogs! - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee

Snowmobile trails are open in northern Marinette County. Trails in the south are closed. - Dave Oginski, conservation warden, Wausaukee

Peshtigo River State Forest -

Shawano County - The sandhill cranes showed up this past weekend. It's unknown what they were thinking with single digit temperatures overnight and most of the fields still snow covered and frozen. There have been some robins too. Hopefully they know something we don't, like spring is just around the corner. Fishing has been pretty good with ice conditions making it easy to travel around the lakes with most snow cover melting but with plenty of ice. Take caution around pressure cracks and the landings especially on the north side of lakes. Panfish have been biting. Some turkeys have been seen in display, but most are still really grouped up. - Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano

Green Bay DNR Service Center area

Brown County - The ice fishing continues well into March on southern Green Bay but it is not without some problems. The west shore access points are breaking up so getting out onto the ice is becoming tricky. The east shore has better access at this point but with any sustained warm temperatures will change quickly. Remember that no ice shacks can be left on the ice unattended. The ice on the Fox River is breaking up daily and some small boats have been hitting the water in search for the trophy walleyes. Please check your boats over before venturing out onto the water. Make sure all of your safety equipment is present and serviceable. Double check your registration in that boat registrations expire on March 31 and might need to be renewed. The walleye bite isn't as good as it would be in most springs but we certainly are not experiencing a typical spring. Some walleyes were being caught but they're were not jumping onto the hooks. If shore fishing is your game then please respect the landowners along the Fox River. - Darren Kuhn, marine unit conservation warden, Green Bay

Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

Peninsula State Park - Snow depth varies up to 16 inches. Spring conditions exist throughout the park, watch for icy/slippery areas. Ski trails are in fair to poor condition. Grooming trails has come to an end. Snowshoe and hiking trails are open. Sledding Hill is closed. Snowmobile trails are open and in fair condition. For more information check Door County Parks (exit DNR) - Jane Barnowsky, visitor services associate

Potawatomi State Park - The snowmobile trails are closed. Ski trails have not been groomed since the first week in March, but some people are still skiing. Ice fishermen report some catches of perch. Many people report seeing and hearing pileated woodpeckers in the park. - Lois M. Hanson, visitor services associate

Wautoma DNR Service Center area

Waupaca County - Spring is slowly creeping into central Wisconsin. Maple sap is flowing, and many people are tapping trees locally to cook for syrup. Snow conditions are highly variable. There is little snow left in open areas from Waupaca southward. North of Waupaca has near 100 percent snow cover that is hip deep in protected places. Trout streams are open south of Waupaca, but there have been few anglers noticed. Trout streams in northern Waupaca County are still iced up enough to walk on. Currently 20 to 30 inches of ice remain on area lakes. Wolf River near Fremont has some open pockets, but is still probably a full two weeks away from being fishable, that is if it warms up. Turkeys have been gobbling for about a week now. A lot of geese and cranes arrived back last week. Even the critters want it to be spring! - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

Waushara County - Waushara County snowmobile trails have officially closed for the year. It was a long, cold, but safe season here in the county and we hope everyone was able to get out and enjoy a ride or two. Snow and rain make it a confusing forecast, but there may be an end in sight. Turkeys have been seen strutting and folks have heard some gobbles throughout the county. That is a sure sign of spring! Other folks have seen birds returning from the south to their nesting and summer territories. Ice is starting to recede on some small ponds and is starting to become questionable on a number of the lakes. Take even extra precautions if you decide to venture out on the ice. Long sunny days, even when cold, are causing the ice to deteriorate slowly so keep in mind that what may have been safe in the morning may no longer be safe in the afternoon. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma

Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

Fond du Lac County - Spring is slowly making progress as area streams open up but the ice continues on the lakes. Fishermen are still driving trucks on area lakes. Please use extreme caution as spring ice may be thick but doesn't have the strength anymore. Ducks and geese are migrating back into the area. Also a reminder that there are many seasonal fish refuges that are in effect in the spring time. There are three in Dodge County that are in effect from March 1 until the general fishing season opens the first Saturday in May each year to protect spawning fish. The Rock River below the Hustisford dam, Beaver Creek (off CTH FW on the northwest end of Beaver Dam Lake) and Mill Creek (from the Fox Lake Dam to Beaver Dam Lake) are posted with many signs to remind people of this. It is illegal to do any kind of fishing in a fish refuge. - Ben Nadolski, conservation warden, Waupun

Winnebago County - Spring time is technically here although most people would not believe it judging by the weather. Spring time can bring snow, rain, warm-sunny weather but it is certain to bring a busy time for outdoor users and enthusiasts. With plenty of ice still on Lake Winnebago many anglers have been catching white bass, perch and crappie not even thinking about putting away their portable shanty and jig rod. Some have begun preparing for the spring walleye run and others are preparing for their upcoming turkey hunt. There is plenty to do besides putting away your snow blower for the summer. As outdoor users we cannot forget about the Spring Conservation Congress Hearings on April 14. It is an opportunity for outdoor users to vote and express their opinion on a variety of outdoor activities. Wisconsin is a unique state that offers the ability for sportsmen and women and other outdoor users to guide and steer or natural resource use in this state. From fishing, hunting to state parks there is plenty to draw your interest. If you are planning on attending and participating you can find the location by calling or viewing Conservation Congress locations by county on the DNR website. - Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh


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Southeast Region

Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Lapham Peak Unit - The cross-country ski trail with man-made snow was groomed for the final time March 23 and was in good condition then. A new track was set but it was shallow, icy and did not set up well, therefore it's in poor condition. All other trails are closed to skiing due to extremely icy conditions. Hope everyone had a great ski season! - Brett Johanen, ranger

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit - Warm temperatures and rain have reduced the snow depth, and created some icy and wet trail conditions. Cross-country ski trail grooming has stopped for the season. There will be a "Back to Life Hike," a historical hike with the naturalist on Saturday March 22 starting near the North Shelter at the Beach Parking Lot at 1 p.m.. No dogs are allowed on this trail. The trail itself is about 1.97 miles and in a challenging terrain. - Andrew Krueger, ranger

Glacial Drumlin State Trail - There is ongoing road work near the trail in Dousman and Wales. Please be cautious around construction equipment and prepared to walk your bike over a few sections of gravel on the trail. There will be an upcoming closure on the trail in Wales at the Hwy 83 crossing. Expected closure should last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on one of the following days: April, 7,8 or 9. - Amanda Prange, visitor services associate

Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee

Sheboygan County - In Sheboygan, the base of the Sheboygan River at the south pier has opened up. The river upstream still has spots of solid ice, but it is starting to break up near the Kohler Dam. There have been anglers fishing below the Kohler Dam, and they have been catching steelhead and brown trout. Spawn sacs and flies have been effective on both fly rods and spinning rods. Near the Harbor Centre Marina and the Deland boat launch, anglers have been fishing through the ice with tip-ups. Both browns and steelhead have been caught on minnows. The Pigeon River is still frozen in numerous places, but does show signs of the ice breaking up. There has been no sign of fishing pressure there yet. Weedens Creek is open, but no anglers have been seen.

Ozaukee County - In Port Washington, public access to the north pier is not allowed at this time. The breakwall is in need of major repairs and is currently unsafe for walking. The Army Corps of Engineers will be working on it this summer, currently scheduled to begin in July. Anglers fishing near the power plant discharge on the north and south sides of the mouth of Sauk Creek have had some success using spawn sacs fished on the bottom, and some have been using minnows in the same manor. There has been a number of brown trout caught and a couple of steelhead as well. Anglers fishing in the Rotary Park area have been catching a few browns on slip bobber rigs or stick baits. There are some areas of Sauk Creek that have ice along the edges, but the creek is mostly open up to Pierre Lane. Anglers have been fishing without success. There were a few boats in the Port Washington harbor over the weekend. They were trolling with planer boards as well as casting spoons. One had success with a husky jerk bait and caught a nice brown trout.

Milwaukee County - In Milwaukee, west winds have moved out the ice that was in front of the Riverfront boat launch, making it possible to launch a boat as of Sunday. A few boats reported catching some browns either jigging or trolling off of Jones Island inside the breakwall. McKinley harbor is still completely frozen with up to 30 inches of ice reported. There have been people ice fishing in McKinley, and a few browns and steelhead were picked up using tip downs with spawn sacs or small shiners. A group of anglers were seen ice fishing the Summerfest lagoon, but there were no reports of fish caught there. Browns have been caught on the lake side behind Summerfest. Medium spoons have provided the best action, but medium shiners have also worked at times. The area under the Hoan Bridge at Jones Island has been closed to public access due to the construction on the bridge. The area has been fenced off, and it appears as though it won't open until the construction of the bridge is complete. The boat launch at South Shore is usable; however there are still some ice floes in the area so caution is advised. Fishing pressure in Oak Creek has increased, but fishing remains slow. The Oak Creek power plant fishing pier is closed until April 1 this season, unlike in past years where it was open March 15. The Bender Park boat ramp is open, and it has been used by boats headed to the power plant. The Milwaukee River has opened up in many areas in the past week. Areas with ice still limiting access include below the North Avenue dam, above the North Avenue Bridge, and some areas downstream of the Kletzsch Park falls. The overall water clarity is relatively dirty, and the water level appears to be holding steady. Menomonee River anglers have been fishing at the MMSD offices for brown trout, and a few have been taken.

Racine County - In Racine, ice cover on the Root River is diminishing through Washington Park, however there is still some areas with ice along the shore. Flows were high last week, but are dropping now. Fishing pressure at the Horlick Dam was steady over the weekend. Some steelhead were taken on spawn fished under a slip bobber or on yarn flies in green and orange. The Root River Steelhead Facility is scheduled to start running for the season on Thursday, March 27. Farther downriver, fishing has been slow. The river was still covered in ice from the Marquette Street bridge downstream to ReefPoint Marina on Sunday, but the ice cover is soft, melting, and looks dangerous to walk on. At the Racine lakefront the Pershing Park boat launch area was mostly ice free except for a pack of small ice flows drifting around the harbor. A few anglers have been landing some nice size browns and steelhead in the boat harbor recently. White tube jigs, spawn sacks and shiners have been working well. The north pier remains covered in a significant layer of ice, making fishing access dangerous. The south pier, however, is accessible, and a couple of browns have been caught on shiners under a slip bobber. Most fishing pressure at the Racine lakefront has been concentrated in ReefPoint Marina with anglers fishing through the ice. Steelhead, browns, and occasional northern pike have been caught on a variety of baits fished under tip ups, including spawn sacs, white Gulp, and shiners. Anglers have reported that the ice in ReefPoint Marina ranges from 14-20 inches thick.

Kenosha County - In Kenosha, the Pike River is open, but fishing pressure has been light. The mouth of the river was open as of Sunday, but 3 to 4 foot waves were pushing sand and gravel into the mouth. At the lakefront, most of the ice cover in the Simmons Island boat harbor has broken up, but there are still some large ice floes in the area. Kayakers trolled the harbor with crank baits over the weekend and reported catching good numbers of browns. Anglers off the north pier as well as those between the 50th Street Bridge and the Navy Memorial have been catching a few browns. Fatheads, blue and silver spoons, and white tube jigs tipped with wax worms have all taken fish.

Plymouth DNR Service Center area

Theresa Marsh State Wildlife Area - Spring wildlife activity is finally starting to pick up. Critters more visible on the landscape include deer, turkeys, sandhill cranes, mourning doves, thousands of Canada geese (both the locally nesting and migrant subspecies), mallards and other dabbling and diving duck species using seasonally flooded wetland areas. Turkey vultures, robins and other migrating birds are also being seen. Raccoons, skunks, and small mammals are becoming more active. The ice is starting to melt or honeycomb but is still thick above or below runoff waters on ponds and flowages. Use caution if ice fishing or when hiking on wetland areas. Two local "Learn to Hunt Turkey" workshops will be held this coming weekend (one in Washington County, the other in Ozaukee County) with the "hunt" parts scheduled for April 5 and 6. A free turkey hunting clinic being taught by Mike Ripp and Tom Isaac will be held Saturday, March 29 at the Public Agency Building at 333 E. Washington Street in West Bend from noon to 3 p.m. No pre-registration is required for the free clinic. - Tom Isaac, wildlife biologist, Hartford


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South Central Region

Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

Grant County - The maple syrup season is starting late this year with some limited sap runs in the south and nothing of significance to report in the central or northern parts of Wisconsin. Snow depths of greater than 24 inches in the northern part of the state are hampering access to sugar bushes and may delay the sap run until there is a significant warm-up. The upcoming forecasts will likely break the grip of winter in the north with expected highs in the 40s. - Martin R. Stone, conservation warden, Fennimore

There have been a few signs of spring in Grant and Richland counties. The ice on the river finally broke up last week. Big piles of ice are still common on the shorelines. Trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes and Canada geese have returned and staked out their territories. Beavers are busy building castor mounds and patrolling the open sloughs. Muskrats are happy to finally see sunlight and some open water in a few places. Raccoons, skunks and possum are also finally getting out of their dens after the long cold winter. The unlucky ones never woke up, and many of the survivors have very low reserves. The ice anglers are still finding 12-16 inches of ice in the backwaters, but open water near the shore, any current or springs. Be careful if you venture out on the ice anywhere. Trout anglers have been catching a few during the early catch and release season. The streams are running high and off-color from the recent rains and run-off. Some turkeys are getting in gear and strutting already. - Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

Iowa County - Cold weather may be giving way to warm temperatures this weekend, with 60 degree weather predicted. But temps may dip back to the 40-50s the following week. The only snow cover remaining is on north slopes in shady areas, otherwise snow is absent. Many migratory birds have arrived: red-winged black birds, grackles, robins, eastern meadowlarks, killdeer, woodcock and numerous waterfowl species. Sandhill cranes and Canada geese are paired up and setting up territories/nesting sites. There have been reports of trumpeter swans, white-fronted geese, and a whooping crane at Bakkens Pond on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. - Travis Anderson, wildlife biologist, Dodgeville

Richland County - The weather is warming up and the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway is starting to open up. Flooding has caused some problems on area trout streams but a slow thaw to date has enabled fishing enthusiast to continue fishing activity both along area trout streams and the Wisconsin River. - Michael Nice, conservation warden, Richland Center

Wyalusing State Park -North facing slopes remain snow covered at this time. Rain and warmer temperatures should hopefully wipeout the snow cover that remains. Friday's forecast calls for sunny with a high near 42 degrees and a low dipping down near 26 degrees. Saturday should be mostly sunny with a high reaching 48 and a low just above freezing. Sunday is expected to be mostly sunny with a high near 61 degrees. This sounds like the perfect forecast for that first spring outing or camping trip of 2014. Trails will more than likely be soft and muddy as the frost comes out of the ground. The roads to Henneger Point and the Passenger Pigeon Monument remain closed due to snow cover, but it shouldn't be long now. Bird feeders at the Wyalusing State Park Office are not seeing much use. The "resident" raccoon makes its daily visit every afternoon, much to the enjoyment of park visitors as they watch the feeder robbing antics. A few chickadees and cardinals are still taking advantage of the sunflower seed offered. The feeders will attract spring migrants such as towhees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and indigo buntings as the weather hopefully continues to warm. Just as the swallows return to Capistrano in the spring, the turkey vultures have returned to Wyalusing. Meadowlarks and flickers were also recently sighted. Bluebirds have been "checking out" the nest boxes in the park. - Beverly Pozega, visitor services associate

Fitchburg DNR Service Center area

Columbia County - Two whooping cranes were reportedly seen with a large flock of Canada geese near Wyocena. A timber wolf was struck by a vehicle and killed near the Columbia/Sauk Co line this week as it was trying to cross the interstate near Pine Island Wildlife Area. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette

Devil's Lake State Park - The first day of spring has come and gone, yet we still have a completely frozen over lake along with plenty of snowbanks, ice, and snow. Rest assured! Spring will arrive someday, along with flowers, songbirds, warmer days...and mud! Trails are a mix of snow, ice, dirt, rock, and mud. Conditions change day-to-day and even hour-to-hour at this transition time of year. Cross-country ski trails are closed and the sledding hill is no longer useable. Some areas of the trails remain snow-covered and icy, so take all precautions, and use your best vigilant judgment if you choose to walk the trails. The lake is still frozen over. The park staff does not monitor the thickness of the ice, nor vouch for the safety of the ice. - Richard Hesed, visitor services associate


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West Central Region

La Crosse DNR Service Center area

La Crosse County - There is still plenty of ice for fishing on Mississippi River backwaters in the La Crosse area, but anglers are having a problem getting on the ice. The Mississippi River water has gone up about one and a half feet in the last week, causing open water along the shoreline. The few anglers that were able to access the ice have been having moderate success. A few perch and bluegills were being caught on Lake Onalaska with many anglers having success using tip-downs baited with minnows. There have been some migratory birds that have shown up on the Mississippi River including tundra swans, great blue herons, common mergansers, scaup, common goldeneye, widgeon and gadwall. - Dale Hochhausen, conservation warden, La Crosse

Vernon County - The ice is slowly retreating from the Mississippi River and waterfowl are rapidly moving into the open water. Diving ducks are most prevalent including canvasbacks, scaup, bluebills, ring-necked ducks, common goldeneyes, buffleheads and common mergansers. Puddle ducks, such as mallards, shovelers, teal and wood ducks are occupying shallower open water areas. Sharp-eyed observers will also find gadwall, widgeon, grebes, various gull species, coots, eagles, ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers, tundra swans, and white pelicans. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

Black River State Forest - Temperatures are expected to be close to 50 on Saturday and possibly reach 60 on Sunday. There is still a bit of snow in the woods but not enough for any winter recreation. The trails are closed and will reopen for ATV and UTV on May 15. Conditions are poor for snowshoeing. Snowshoers can enjoy the 1.5 mile trail at the Smrekar parking lot, the five mile trail that connects Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road or the two mile loop around Castle Mound. Snowshoers can also go anywhere on the state forest that is not a groomed trail for a different use such as skiing or snowmobiling. Thinking of camping this spring? Castle Mound now has 14 electric sites and an expanded reservation season from May 1 through early October. East Fork and the new outdoor group camp open up on April 15. The outdoor group camp is on the reservation season from April 15 through November 30. - Peter Bakken, superintendent

Eau Claire DNR Service Center area

Lake Wissota State Park - The cross-country ski trails are going through a period of freeze-thaw conditions and consequently are not being groomed making for poor conditions. Species of birds seen or heard include: snowy owls, mourning doves, nuthatches, ravens, black capped chickadees, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls. - Dave Hladilek, park manager

Wisconsin Rapids DNR Service Center area

Wood County - Hen turkeys have been busy talking to each other. Residents report a number of nice toms in the vicinity, so there is hope for reproduction here this spring. - Bob Hess, conservation biologist, Wisconsin Rapids

All snowmobile trails are closed at this time. Fishing is slow on the Wisconsin River below Nekoosa with water temps at about 32 degrees. The river is down about 3.5 feet below summer levels. Debris was observed in the water at several locations below the dam to Plank Hill and beyond. - Barry Fetting, conservation warden, Milladore

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