Timely rain this week has brought a reprieve, at least temporarily, to the high to very high fire danger the state had been experiencing last weekend and early this week. Burning permits were periodically suspended in numerous counties. In the past week, 123 wildfires burned 142 acres in Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources protection areas around the state. This is wildfire prevention week and to mark the event DNR launched a new “live status wildfire occurrence” map on the DNR website.
Despite the rain, many parks and forests are now reporting that mountain bike and even some horse trails are open for use but additional rain in the forecast could change that status, so as always call ahead to confirm that trails are open.
Ice is now off almost all but the largest lakes in the Northwoods, with some ice still reported on Trout Lake in Vilas County. The walleye spawning season has been going very quickly and the musky are just now beginning to show up in the shallows. Perch also are in the midst of their spawning ritual. Angling pressure on northern lakes has been generally light, with just a few sucker and panfish anglers out trying their luck.
The 2016 lake sturgeon run on the Lake Winnebago System has been progressing rapidly. The run has been very intense and condensed into a short time period. Fisheries biologists think this year will likely go down as one of the shortest spawning runs on record. DNR survey crews have found a number of fish larger than 75 inches in total length, with the largest fish being 81.7 inches.
Anglers took advantage of the nice calm weather this weekend out on Green Bay and Lake Michigan and were out in high numbers trolling close to shore for brown trout and walleye. Southeastern Lake Michigan harbors and piers had high fishing pressure over the weekend with anglers catching some brown trout. Tributaries have cleared up from last week and most were running clear. Steelhead fishing was still good on the Sheboygan and Root rivers.
The spring turkey season is off to a great start with hunters doing well during the early periods with plenty of gobbling and turkey breeding activity. An 800-pound bull elk was seen at the Flambeau River Forest this week with an 8-inch velvet antler growth already. Cow elk are searching for that perfect calving spot and deer does are busy chasing last year’s fawns away preparing for this year’s fawns. There has already been a report of a doe with three fawns in Columbia County.
Migratory bird conditions and numbers have been steadily improving over the past week with white-throated and chipping sparrows arriving in force and yellow-rumped, pine, and palm warblers reported statewide. Belted kingfishers, woodpeckers and phoebes are building nests, while common ravens and great horned owls fledging young and bald eagle chicks hatching. Soon, more than 200 species of birds will be nesting across the state! Join our massive statewide citizen project by contributing observations of nesting birds to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas wsobirds.org/atlas (exit DNR).
Chorus frogs are vocalizing along with spring peepers. Black rat snakes and brown or Dekay’s snakes were on the move during the warm weather. Snapping and painted turtles have been seen crossing roads. Spring wildflowers in bloom include trout lily, hepatica, Virginia waterleaf, bloodroot, violets, and spring beauty.
This coming weekend will be the best opportunity for people to celebrate Earth Day with 14 Work*Play*Earth Day events scheduled at state park and other properties across the state.