Outdoor Report for March 7, 2013

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

Winter continued to hang on this week, with a mid-week storm dropping from 2 to six to 8 inches across a swath from northwestern to south eastern Wisconsin. Snow depths range from a low of 6 to 8 inches in the south to nearly 2 feet in some areas the north. That could change rapidly, though with warmer temperatures and rain in the forecast for this weekend across southern and central Wisconsin.

Bob and WalleyeSnowmobile trails reopened in many counties in southern and central Wisconsin with conditions generally fair to good, while many trails in the north range from good to excellent. State recreational safety wardens are cautioning snowmobilers that while many trails have reopened, rain and warm temperatures this weekend could cause conditions to deteriorate rapidly, especially on waterways. Wisconsin has already recorded 18 snowmobile deaths this winter, and wardens are reminding sledders to slow down and avoid travelling on rivers and lakes.

Some very good cross-country skiing is being reported statewide, from trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine all the way to the Northern Highland-American Legion state forests in good to excellent condition. Again, that could change this weekend, so call ahead to check on current conditions.

Participation was quite heavy in some locations for the opening of the early catch-Eagle-Baraboo29and-release trout season that enjoyed clear water and sunny warmer weather. Trout anglers reported success ranging from moderate to excellent. Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay is still locked in ice, though there is a lot of snow on top and the sunny days have been creating slush, and ice fishing has generally been slow. Along Lake Michigan, anglers were now open water fishing on the Fox River at Voyageur Park with some walleye and perch being reported. Northern pike action has been good through the ice on the bay in several locations. Some perch and whitefish were being caught along Door County. Trout and steelhead action has been spotty at Lake Michigan harbors.

Ice depths on inland Northwoods lakes continue to hold in the 18-20 inch range and travel remains tough with the deep snow and slushy conditions on many waters. Ice fishing pressure has been rather light in the past week with these difficult travel conditions and the closure of the game fish season March 3. In the south, northern pike are starting to stage for spawning at Theresa Marsh and other spawning sites.

Wisconsin fishing and hunting licenses for the 2013-14 seasons went on sale Wednesday. Licenses are available through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). Licenses for 2012-13 seasons expire March 31.

Snow has temporarily grounded the early March bird migration. Warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend should bring significant thaw to open fields and will likely bring another large push of migrants. Expect to see eagles, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, song sparrows and sandhill cranes. Trumpeter swans are beginning to claim their territory on iced over flowages and goldeneye drakes are starting to display some of their mating rituals and calls.

Statewide Birding Report

Snow, snow and more snow has grounded the early March migration. Despite the weather, birders are reporting some adventurous sandhill cranes, song sparrows, robins and a few other early migrants. Warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend should bring significant thaw to open fields and will likely bring another large push of migrants. Expect to see migrating eagles, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, song sparrows and sandhill cranes. Open water and sheet-water in agricultural fields will be good places to look for migrant geese and puddle ducks. Mid-March is the best time to look for larger flocks of white-fronted geese in southern and western Wisconsin. Birders in far southern Wisconsin may also detect their first peenting woodcock of the year on calmer evenings. Please report your bird sightings to Wisconsin eBird www.ebird.org/WI (exit DNR) so that we can better track our migratory bird populations.- Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator

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