Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wisconsin Outdoor Report

Looking west off a bridge at the Wolf River (F...
Wolf River (Fox River) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dry conditions cause extreme fire danger; sturgeon spawning begins
Extremely dry conditions lead to very high fire danger this week, including a rare "red flag warning," where all outdoor burning is prohibited. Fire danger remained extremely high as of Thursday, with little sign of improving until rain in the forecast this weekend. As of Thursday burning permits remained suspended across the state. People are being asked to be very careful with any sources of ignition, including hot exhaust systems, chain saws and discarded smoking materials. Over the past week 127 wildfires burned 696 acres in DNR protection areas, including a fire near Necedah that resulted in the evacuation of 44 homes, none of which were damaged by the fire.

Sturgeon spawning has begun on the Wolf River and recent high temperatures, and correspondingly warmer waters are lending toward predictions of a quick, intense run, which may last less than a week. Those interested in viewing the Sturgeon spawning are encouraged to make arrangements to do so very soon. Search the DNR website for "sturgeon spawning" for more information.

The warm temperatures of the last week have melted the ice at most boat ramps on Green Bay but there is still some dislodged, floating ice on the bay. Shore fishing for walleye, brown and lake trout saw an increase in pressure in northern and southern waters this week, with anglers reporting good success with brown trout in particular and mixed, but improving results for walleye.

Overall the steelhead run was still taking off during the week on Lake Michigan tributaries. Heavy rains late last week raised flows, but levels are dropping and fishing should improve this week. Fishing pressure on the Ahnapee River has increased this week below the Forestville dam. The Root River Steelhead Facility continued operation, passing 224 steelhead upriver Monday, April 13 for a total of 487 this spring. So far more than 500,000 eggs have been collected for hatcheries.

Trollers have begun fishing out of most harbors and boat traffic is slowly picking up. Trollers have reported catching good numbers of coho salmon along with some brown trout.
With the beginning of first spring turkey period Wednesday, hunters were finding that there are plenty of birds moving and being vocal. Turkeys appear to have wintered well and are in good physical condition, with toms weighed during a recent learn to hunt program averaging around 20 pounds.

Waterfowl viewing has been exceptional, with many species of diving and puddle ducks seen in large flocks on wetlands. Raptors of all species and sizes have been reported in the last week off of Lake Superior, dominated by red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks along with turkey vultures, and bald eagles. Great horned owl chicks are growing to their fledgling stage and the last of the snowy owls will be seen moving across the Northern region. Canada geese have begun to lay eggs. The first warblers have arrived--mostly yellow-rumped--but also a few pine warblers. Ruffed grouse are drumming in woodlands and sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens are dancing in barrens and grasslands, while spruce grouse displaying in northern bogs.

Chorus frogs, spring peepers and numerous other frogs are being heard in southern wetlands. Hepatica, bloodroot and other early spring woodland flowers, also known as spring ephemerals, are beginning to make their appearances in the south. A later spring has kept insect levels light throughout the state. That makes this month the perfect time for a mid-spring hike, before mosquitos and gnats come to the fore.

Eight state park properties will be holding Work*Play*Earth*Day events this Saturday, April 18 with volunteers helping to spruce up their favorite state parks then take some time to enjoy the park when they are finished. Sixteen more Work*Play*Earth*Day events will be held the following two weekends, April, 24 and May 2.