Wisconsin Outdoor Report for January 24, 2013

    Wisconsin has had cold in abundance in the last week. Ice making conditions have been perfect across much of the state, but the other half of the winning winter formula – snow – has been missing in most areas.

    Snowmobiles trails remain closed in most counties, with a few northern counties continuing to report that open trails are also in very poor condition. Same for skiing and snowshoeing conditions.

    A host of candlelight events are still scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26, including the Brule River State Forest, Crex Meadows Wildlife Area and Kettle Moraine State Forest. In addition to cross-country skiing, many will also offer fires, snacks and hot beverages.

    Ice fishing, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. In the north, some nice crappie, perch and bluegill have still been caught, but action has been spotty. The walleye bite has continued its erratic trend of the winter, and most anglers are seeing just enough action to keep them interested.

    To the east, ice anglers on Poygan and Winneconne lakes in Winnebago County have had some success this past week, catching white bass of all sizes, as well as a few panfish and walleye. High winds have created some unusual January ice shoves on the north and northeast shores of Lake Winnebago, where ice fishing has been slow due to changing ice conditions. As recent as late last week there was a section of open water on Lake Koshkonong in Jefferson County.

    Grant County anglers are reporting bluegills on the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park across from the boat landing near the islands. Crappies and bass have been caught at River of Lakes in the channel in front of the Campground across from the gas docks. Bertom Lake and O Leary Lake have reported a few bluegills and occasional crappie, but small size.

    There are a few more days left of ruffed grouse season in the northern zone and with new snow in some areas, it may be a great time to get out and enjoy grouse hunting with your dog or snowshoes. Ruffed grouse prefer deeper snow and will snow roost or dive under the snow to stay warm. The shallow snow has not been allowing them to snow roost at this point. Large flocks of turkeys have been seen in some northern areas and now is the time to check turkey permit status. The spring turkey permit drawing has been completed and successful turkey permit winners should have been notified by a postcard in their mail. Left over spring turkey permits will go on sale in March.

    Lack of snow won’t put a stop to Outagamie County’s Eagle Days on the Fox River (exit DNR), which will be celebrated this weekend. Bald eagles watchers have also been observing many bald eagles along most of the Mississippi River areas from Wyalusing south to Dubuque. In Dodge County, some snowy owls, pine siskins, rough-legged hawks and other winter birds can be seen.

    Statewide Birding Report

    It’s cold and it’s January, which means we are now in a mid-winter pattern for most birds in Wisconsin. Recent cold temperatures have severely reduced the amounts of remaining inland open water, but good numbers of waterfowl are still lingering due to lack of snow cover and a warm early start to the winter. The Madison area lakes still have some open water and a nice variety of ducks, geese and tundra swans. Birders found a Barrow’s goldeneye and red-necked grebe on Geneva Lake earlier in the month and Lake Michigan birders are seeing good duck numbers including some of each species of scoter. Mid-winter is also a good time to look for eagles and other hunting raptors. Cold temperatures have concentrated bald eagles along open stretches of rivers and lakes. Recent DNR eagle surveys found good numbers of eagles along the lower Wisconsin and upper Mississippi river systems with eagles scattered elsewhere statewide. The 9th annual golden eagle survey run by the National Eagle Center detected 140 golden eagles over the weekend in the blufflands of the driftless area. Birders wanting to see wintering golden eagles should pick sunny, warm days when eagles can be seen soaring throughout the driftless area and areas near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The winter finch invasion has tempered somewhat in January. Redpolls, including many hoary redpolls are being seen statewide. Pine grosbeaks and bohemian waxwings have seemingly dispersed now probably due to a lack of fruit production. Door County birders are still reporting good numbers of both species along with crossbills, redpolls and a lingering northern hawk owl. Last year proved to be an amazing year for birds and birding in Wisconsin. You can read more about the strange weather and the impact it had on birds at (exit DNR). As always, please report your bird sightings to Wisconsin eBird to better track Wisconsin’s migratory bird populations. – Andy Paulios, wildlife biologists and Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative coordinator

    Northern Region

    Ashland DNR Service Center area

    Ashland County – Last week ice fishing was started to heat up. By the end of the week, however, snow, wind and sub-zero weather moved in and most people stopped fishing. They are staying home or doing something other than standing out in the cold. Trapping continues and snowmobiling has been kind of stalled with the lack of snow. The light snow at the end of the week brought out a few sleds but not for long. Snow conditions do not allow for proper maintenance and grooming and as such trails are not ideal – Matt Mackenzie, conservation warden, Ashland

    About a foot of snow has fallen in the Bayfield Peninsula in the last week. Night temperatures have hit 20 below, so Chequamegon Bay has been making thicker ice and ice has started to form farther north of Houghton Point and Long Island. There are a few more days left of ruffed grouse season and with the new snow it may be a great time to get out and enjoy grouse hunting with your dog or your snowshoes. Snowmobiling has been almost nonexistent up to this point, but word is that some of the groomers will be out in full force starting midweek after the cold snap breaks. Fishing on the bay has been tough at times, but there has been some nice perch, walleyes, coho salmon, and brown trout caught. – Amie Egstad, conservation warden, Bruhl

    Brule River State Forest – The Afterhours Trail on the Brule River State Forest received its heaviest use day in a couple years. More than 250 skiers enjoyed the newly groomed trails. Brule had received about 4-inches of snow late last week. Conditions went from poor to excellent for skate skiing. New classic track was put in late on Friday and early Saturday. The skate lane was re-groomed again on Saturday night. The state forest will be hosting a free, two-mile, candlelight ski on the Afterhours Trail from 5-9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 26. A bonfire, hot apple cider, gas grill and warming shelter will be provided. The Ski trails are reported to be in great shape and the forecast is calling for 2-4 inches of snow this week, which should make for some beautiful skiing this weekend. – Kevin Feind, ranger

    Snow depths remain shallow over the area. Shallow snow affects some wildlife differently than others. Deer and turkeys benefit from shallow snow, as they are freer to move around and find their food sources. Ruffed grouse prefer deeper snow and will snow roost or dive under the snow to stay warm. The shallow snow is not allowing them to snow roost at this point. People that feed birds are reporting that they are seeing many more pine grosbeaks than normal. – Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

    Hayward DNR Service Center area

    Sawyer County – Nelson Lake has produced a mix bag of fish species this past week. Larger crappie were being taken on minnows, and were suspending anywhere from bottom to several feet off. Those fishing with wax worms or small plastics were getting both bluegill and crappie. Most individuals using large golden shiners were doing well on northern while those using smaller shiners and suckers were getting mixed bags of northern, walleye and bass. Most fish are relating to structure, with deeper weed and wood holding better concentrations. Anglers are reminded the daily bag limit on pan fish is 10 total. There is no size limit on largemouth or smallmouth bass; there is a 32-inch minimum size limit on northern with a daily bag limit of one and walleye minimum length is 18-inches. Ice on the area lakes is getting thicker and travel is good. Snowmobiles are having some problems getting started if hauling equipment behind them if they are not studded due to bare ice in many areas. – Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter

    Spooner DNR Service Center area

    Baron County – Vehicles are traveling on most lakes in the area, but some parts of lakes remain treacherous. Ice fishing has been slow in the area with the only high lite being Prairie Lake. Prairie has been giving up some nice catches of 9-inch bluegills at dawn and dusk. Snowmobile trails and cross-country ski trails are still closed in the area. – Russ Fell, conservation warden, Rice Lake

    Burnett County – Fair numbers of deer have been observed in areas recently logged along with open agriculture fields taking advantage of easy food. Snowmobile trails are closed and cross-country ski trails in the area are not groomed. Ice conditions vary across the county with 13-16 inches on most lakes. Use caution when traveling on any frozen lakes. Fishing activity on area lakes has been slow. – Chris Spaight, conservation warden, Grantsburg

    Crex Meadows State Wildlife – Cold temperatures and little fresh snow do not make for good cross-country skiing conditions. However, Crex Meadows will still have Candlelight Night on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. If you have never tried snowshoes, this would be a good opportunity. We will have snowshoes available on a first come first serve basis. Warm up after the walk with hot chocolate and yummy baked goods. Visit for more information. – Heidi Rusch, natural resources educator

    Polk County – Anglers on lakes in southern Polk county were having limited success with panfish using small jigs and wax worms. – Shaun Tyznik conservation warden, Amery

    Cumberland DNR Service Center area

    Baron County – Snowmobile trails remained closed in the Rice Lake Area with no major snow predicted for the next 10 days. Ice fishing has been very slow with this recent high pressure system but should turn on dramatically with a change in the weather. Predator hunters are having a tough time with the lack of snow for tracking. – Russ Fell, conservation warden, Rice Lake

    Park Falls DNR Service Center area

    Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) – The frigid weather of the past week has helped thicken the ice cover and most lakes now have 10-14 inches of good solid ice. The area also received a couple of inches of new snow over the weekend – but strong winds have pushed a lot of that snow into scattered drifts across the lakes. This has made for some very slick and polished areas on many lakes, with some 2-foot snowdrifts often found a short distance away. Both foot and vehicle travel has been pretty good on most lakes, but ice creepers may still be needed when fishing some undisturbed wind-blown areas. For fishing action, it seems that the mid-winter winter doldrums have set in and success has tapered off for most species in the Park Falls area. Panfish anglers have experienced the biggest drop off in success and many of the anglers have been out searching for the “hot lake.” Some nice crappie, perch and bluegill have still been caught, but action has been spotty. The walleye bite has continued its erratic trend of the winter, and most anglers are seeing just enough action to keep them interested. Like in last weeks’ report, about 1 in 3 trips have been showing any kind of success and some of the in-between days have seen nary a bite or a flag. When walleye have been caught, the action has been concentrated in a 20 to 30 minute period and sometime in the 2 hours before or just after dark. The preferred baits seem to be medium suckers or XL fatheads, with them being fished about 6 inches off the bottom in 5 to 12 feet of water. Northern pike have probably produced the most consistent action in the last week and some fair catches have been reported from weed edges in the 4-8 feet of water. – Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

    Woodruff DNR Service Center area

    Vilas County – Light, recent snowfall in the area has done little to improve snowmobile trail conditions. Trails are still in poor condition and waiting for a good snowfall. Very cold temperatures below zero degrees the last few days should improve ice conditions in the area. Most fishermen are venturing out to their favorite fishing locations using ATV’s and a few vehicles are now showing up on area lakes. A light covering of snow on area lakes has made it easier to get around without the need for traction devices on boots. Panfish and northern pike action has been good on lakes with good weed bed areas and some nice catches of walleyes have been reported. Large flocks of turkeys have been seen throughout the area and now is the time to check your turkey permit status. The spring turkey permit drawing has been completed and successful turkey permit winners should have been notified by a postcard in their mail. – Rich Thole, conservation warden, Boulder Junction

    Northeast Region

    Peshtigo DNR Service Center area

    Peshtigo River State Forest – Conditions remain poor for outdoor recreation. Recent warms spells have depleted our snow cover. We need snow. Trails in the area are open, but in poor condition. Local snowmobile clubs groom and maintain the trails in the state forest. Please check Marinette County’s website for up to date conditions and any closings: Trails are in poor condition, and skiing isn’t recommended at this time. We need at least 6-8 inches of snow to get the trails back into good condition. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the forest, other than groomed ski trails. – Sara Pearson, Ranger/Assistant Manager

    Oconto County – First day of the free fishing weekend showed lots of people out. Success varied but it appeared most people were having fun. The second day had only the die-hards out with the start of the cold snap. Snowmobile trails are still closed but hopefully the upcoming predicted snows may change that. Owls seem to be quite active with a number of reports of them running into sides of cars in the early evening. There are still some waterfowl around where you can find open water below dams and still divers out on Green Bay in the open water. – Mike Stahl, conservation warden, Oconto Falls

    Ice conditions in Northern Oconto County are improving with many people driving on lakes. Fishing pressure is low due to extreme cold temperatures. All snowmobile trails and ATV trails are closed with no improvement in site for reopening.- Joe Paul, conservation warden, Lakewood

    Shawano County – Ice conditions are improving with the bitter cold weather we have had. Fishing has slowed down a bit since the cold snap. Part of that is probably due to fishermen not wanting to go out in the very cold weather. Lack of snow has made it difficult for the hunters and snowmobilers. Most people are concentrating on just staying warm – Jim Horne, conservation warden, Shawano

    Wautoma DNR Service Center area

    Waupaca County – We have cold, but need snow, so there isn’t much happening currently. Ice conditions on area lakes are improving, but ice anglers have not been out much. – Ted Dremel, conservation warden, Wautoma

    Snowmobile trails are closed and country-country ski trails also. Should now have plenty of ice. Only positive report of fishing success is the white bass are biting at Lake Poygan. Fishing pressure extremely low right now with the frigid weather. Ruffed grouse season closes a week from today. Deer and Turkeys have been pretty well holed up making themselves scarce lately. – Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma

    Sturgeon Bay DNR Service Center area

    Door County – Despite the recent cold snap anglers venturing out on to Green Bay should still be very cautious with ice conditions. Ice conditions on Green Bay vary from six inches to only two in places with an occasional spot of open water in areas where there are contour changes along the bottom. Anglers should also let others know where they intend to venture out of and what time they intend to return. For first time fishers on the waters of Green Bay anglers should check the regulations to make sure they are in compliance with the regulations for the area they intend to fish. Little snow is on the ground in Northern Door County and snowmobile trails remain closed. With a few inches of freshly fallen snow there will be some limited opportunity for those who want to participate in cross country skiing at the state parks. – Neal Patrick, conservation warden, Sister Bay

    Oshkosh DNR Service Center area

    Fond du Lac County – Slow week for outdoor recreation in central Fond du Lac County. The strong winds this weekend created very dangerous ice conditions on Lake Winnebago, extreme caution is advised. Even with arctic temperatures experienced for several days many areas of the lake have very thin ice due to the wind action creating open water just a few days ago. All snowmobile trails are still closed due to lack of snow. – Alan D. Erickson, conservation warden, Fond du Lac

    Outagamie County – Eagle Days on the Fox River will be celebrated this weekend,Jan. 26. Here is a list of events, Eagle Days on the Fox River/ Timelines are indicated under the website where volunteers will be stationed along the Fox River. Sites to visit are also highlighted with maps. We will have a rehabilitated eagle that will be released at Lutz Park in Appleton at noon with information relayed about what goes into the process for rehabbing wildlife from the Raptor Center. Two programs are to be given during the day. One is at Thousand Islands Nature Center (Debra Nowak, naturalist) at 10 a.m. telling about the biology and basic eagle information along with a self-guided tour of the many viewing sites. At 3 p.m. (Dick Nikolai) will present Bald Eagle Status Update for the state and along the Fox River. Coffee and hot chocolate will be available at Thousand Islands Nature Center in Kaukauna, Yacht Club at Lutz Park in Appleton, and at Fritse Park/Trestle Trail in the Town of Menasha. Our January count of eagles was completed on Jan. 12 covering Neenah to Wrightstown (524 eagles) and then from Little Rapids to the Bay of Green Bay (68 eagles) when tallied as of yesterday. Raptors are being seen on Killsnake Wildlife Area along Stecker Road, Lemke Road and Aebischer Road. These are harriers, kestrels, ruffed-leg hawks and occasional eagle in the Lemke Road area. Lots of grasslands for their food item of voles abound in the area. Deer have been coming out in the late afternoon on Brillion Wildlife Area near Conservation Road and Deer View Road. – Dick Nikolai, wildlife biologist, Appleton

    Winnebago County – Ice anglers on Lakes Poygan and Winneconne have had some success this past week. Ice anglers have been catching white bass of all sizes, as well as a few panfish and walleye. As reminder to those using ice shanties out on the water: the DNR does require that doors of enclosed fishing shelters be readily opened from the outside while occupied; they may only be locked while not occupied and not in use. The shelter owner’s name and address must also be legibly painted or otherwise affixed on the outside of the fishing shelter with block lettering a minimum of one inch square and in contrasting colors to the background. Fishing shelters that are occupied or otherwise in use are exempt from this name/address requirement. – Tom Truman, conservation warden, Oshkosh

    Sturgeon spearing season is fast approaching for the Lake Winnebago System and the weather has gone back and forth and cannot decide if it wants to help or hurt the ice conditions. Ice conditions were doing well until the wind storm a few days ago. Due to the strong winds much of the west shore opened up and the wind sent ice crushing the east shore of Lake Winnebago. However, if that storm proved anything it was that Mother Nature works in mysterious ways and should not be underestimated. It doesn’t take long for ice conditions to change, especially on Lake Winnebago. I had friends fishing Lake Winnebago the day of the wind storm and ice conditions were really good, but by the next morning we had 40 yards of open water. This event should remind everyone recreating on Lake Winnebago to take precautions. Know the ice, be prepared for anything and always expect the worst. – Jason Higgins, conservation warden, Oshkosh

    High Cliff State Park – High winds have created some unusual January ice shoves on the north and northeast shores of Lake Winnebago. Ice fishing has been slow due to changing ice conditions. Large flocks of Cedar waxwings have been seen in the park eating grapes and highbush cranberry. Deer are grouping together, with only a few bucks keeping their antlers. – Cynthia R. Mueller, natural resources educator

    Southeast Region

    Milwaukee DNR Service Center area

    Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit – Cold weather is helping increase ice thickness, but not helping people get outside and fish. The lack of snow cover will put a damper on the Candlelight Ski and Hike this weekend, but hopefully, Friday night will bring a light covering of snow for the trails. The Candlelight will still go on as a Hike if no snow falls. It will run from 6-9 p.m. Chili and snacks will be available for sale from the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association. There will also be a grill on bonfire available to cook food. Don’t be surprised to find a guitar player sitting around the fire for entertainment. – Amanda Prange, visitor services associate

    Racine County – Ice conditions have hopefully improved with the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing the last couple days. Fishermen are still reminded to be cautious while venturing out onto area lakes. Surprisingly enough, there is still a significant amount of open water on many lakes throughout Kenosha and Racine counties. Panfishermen have been taking a decent number of crappies and bluegills on Long Lake north of Burlington. Rockland Lake (east side of Burlington) has also been producing decent action. Tip-up fishermen would be hard-pressed to find more action than right in Burlington on Browns Lake. Although the northern pike aren’t huge, fishermen are reporting a lot of flags and a lot of action on this lake the last few days.- Kyle Dilley, conservation warden, Racine

    Waukesha DNR Service Center area

    Waukesha County – Recent cold temperatures are firming up the ice on Lakes in Southern Waukesha County. Fishing success has been marginal with some northern pike and large mouth bass being caught on tip ups baited with shiners. Anglers have had most success early in the morning on Phantom and Lower Nemahbin Lakes. – Steven Sanidas, conservation warden, Waukesha

    South Central Region

    Dodgeville DNR Service Center area

    Grant County – The latest cold snap has hampered ice fishing even for the ice fishing tent anglers. Fishing has slowed throughout the county. Anglers are reporting bluegills on the Mississippi River at Wyalusing State Park across from the boat landing near the islands. Crappies and bass have been caught at River of Lakes in the channel in front of the Campground across from the gas docks. Bertom Lake and O Leary Lake have reported a few bluegills and occasional crappie, but small size. Anglers must always be cautious when traversing the ice. During the warm weather on this past Saturday, one angler fell through the ice on the Mississippi River at Jays Lake landing near Bagley. Other fishermen were able to assist him from the water. The area out from the landing has deep water and flowing current. The recent severe cold weather has added once again to the ice depth. Bald eagles watchers have been observing many bald eagles along most of the Mississippi River areas from Wyalusing south to Dubuque. – Richard S. DeWitte, conservation warden, Cassville

    Bluegills and perch are still biting well in the backwaters of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers. Ice conditions are generally safe and favor ice fishermen over trappers (who don’t like to chop through thick ice). Most of the snow has disappeared, except on north slopes. For this reason, our deer survey flights have been postponed until we get more snow. A few raccoons have ventured out during the warmer periods. Beaver are getting primed up and muskrat are still being found, especially in open water areas. Many owls are in the swing of mating season and lots of hooting can be heard at night. – Daniel Goltz, wildlife biologist, Boscobel

    Green County – Ice on Green and Lafayette counties is uneven. As always you can never assume ice is safe. Safety precautions always need to be taken. But this year there has been cold snaps with warm ups followed by more cold snaps. There are places on area some of the area waters that have significant ice developed and then near by the ice is really unsafe. This year more than in the past, be extremely careful if you decide to venture on the area ice. – Nick Webster, conservation warden, Darlington

    Wyalusing State Park -Very little snow remains at Wyalusing State Park. Cross-country ski trails are mostly bare. Northern wooded slopes will still have some snow, but most trails are free of snow. The Cross-country Ski Clinic scheduled for this Saturday, January 26th, has been canceled due to lack of snow. Sightings at park office feeders include: juncos, chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, goldfinches, cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and purple finches. A number of bald eagles have been seen near the Washington Street Bridge in Prairie du Chien. Another good eagle viewing area is near the Prairie du Chien Regional Tourism Center which is located at the Hwy. 18 Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River. Mississippi River level at Prairie du Chien is at 7.3 today, which is down .1 from yesterday. The boat landing is a popular place for ice anglers. Reminder: we do not monitor ice conditions. – Beverly Pozega, visitor services associate

    Horicon DNR Service Center area

    Dodge County – Walleye fishermen are having success in the evening on Beaver Dam Lake. – Paul Nell, conservation warden, Horicon

    Still little snow. Deep cold has really increased ice thickness. A few snowy owls, rough-legged hawks, pine siskins, and other winter bird visitors in the area. Very quiet time of year. – Paul Samerdyke, wildlife biologist, Horicon

    Jefferson County – Ice conditions have improved greatly with the recent cold snap. However, caution should be exercised when along the shores of Lake Koshkonong. Many areas have thin ice or no ice due to springs near shore. As recent as late last week there was a section of open water on Lake Koshkonong beginning north of the Binghams Point boat launch extending south east a few hundred yards. There is a fishing contest on Lower Spring Lake on Saturday Jan, 26 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Ryan Ellifson, conservation warden

    Sauk County – Fishing on area lakes has been slow. The trout have been biting slow on Devil’s Lake. It’s a good time to clean out bluebird houses during this cold weather. The bluebird houses should be cleaned by removing all old nest material and using a bleach solution to kill eggs of flies and other insects. The bluebirds will start returning in the middle of February or early march. – John Buss, conservation warden, Prairie du Sac

    Anglers are reporting that the ice at Governor Dodge State park is getting to 12 inches and they are catching bluegill and small perch. Fishing is slow at Helen Lake near the highway 14 boat landing. Numerous adult eagles are being sighted in the Spring Green area. Be wary of the ice at Birch lake by Barneveld, despite the cold there are a number of thin looking areas.- David Youngquist, conservation warden, Spring Green

    West Central Region

    Baldwin DNR Service Center area

    Willow River State Park – The Dam Picnic Shelter is available for reservation. You can reserve up to 11 months in advance. Reservations are taken at the park office only. Willow’s ski trails survived the rain and warm up, mostly. Then the wind howled and loaded the trails with tree litter anywhere there’s trees. Several of the groomers and skiers have gone out on trails to clean up the mess. All trails are not done yet and with sub-zero wind chills for a couple of days, it will be a while before any more work gets done. What is left is a skiable trail with scattered dirty spots from remaining tree litter. Skiers may need to walk around the worst messes. Skate skiers that can get an edge will do okay on a solid deck. There is little or no classic track. It is shallow and washed out. With a rock hard base and not much snow on top we need more snow. The groomers will probably try to scratch up the base to get a new skate deck after trails are cleaned up. Don’t hold up hopes for great results. At best it will be good in scattered locations to poor in others. The proverbial hat is running out of rabbits for the ski trail groomers to pull out. Hiking trails are open. We do not have enough snow to need snowshoes so boot hiking on the snowshoe trails is good. Pick up a Winter Foot Trails map at the office or at some trail heads. The volunteer groomers will work over the hiking trails as needed. Willow will not be holding a Candlelight event this year.

    La Crosse DNR Service Center area

    Pepin County – There was good participation on Saturday for the free winter fishing weekend. Weather was very nice on Saturday which enticed fishermen to enjoy the day outside. Snow cover is almost nonexistent in the county which has obviously closed the snowmobile trails. – Bill Wrasse, conservation warden, Durand

    Vernon County – Tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, horned larks, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays, American goldfinches, and tufted titmice are the majority of songbirds currently active in the Viroqua area. Many people who feed songbirds have reported sporadic feeding activity at their feeders this winter, as the lack of snow has allowed songbirds the luxury of obtaining enough food from the fields and forests. Unfortunately, people who feed songbirds during the winter have been deprived of the enjoyment that supplemental winter feeding provides. That can certainly change in a hurry, though, if we get a significant snow accumulation. – Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua

    Merrick State Park – All trails are open with little snow and some icy spots. The river along the south campground has frozen over and many anglers are out ice fishing. Ice conditions may vary so be sure to check before heading out on the ice. If you use an ATV or snowmobile for ice fishing, you must use the boat landings to access the water.

    Perrot State Park – The hiking trails are open with some snow and ice. The ski trails are mostly bare ground with some areas of ice. Water levels are slightly below normal for this time of year. The dock has been removed for the season. The Trempealeau River will open and close daily depending upon weather conditions and temperature. Many of our overwintering birds can be seen in the prairie areas near the nature center feeding on the last of the seeds.

    Great River State Trail – The trail is in fair condition with little snow and some icy areas. Please stay off of the trail when it is soft to minimize damage to the trail surface. he trail will be open to snowmobiles when the trail is groomed and the local county trails are open. Please contact the following counties for trail conditions: Trempealeau County – 715-538-2311 ext. 205 or La Cross County – 608-782-4500 ext. 1083.

    Black River Falls DNR Service Center area

    Black River State Forest – A deep freeze has set in the past few days. We are expecting temperatures closer to averages for the weekend, but we still suffer from a lack of snow. Snow is forecast for Thursday night and Friday morning but only an inch or two of light fluffy snow is expected. Trails are closed to snowmobiles and open for ATVs, but conditions are poor. UTVs are not allowed on the trails in winter. Due to a lack of snow trails are not skiable at this time. We will need at least six good inches of heavy snow to be able to groom again. On Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, the Black River Forest Trail Foundation and the Black River State Forest will host the annual candlelight ski and snowshoe hike. The event will be from 6-9 p.m. at the Black River State Forest Smrekar Parking Lot, about four miles east of Millston off County Highway O. About 1.5 miles of trails will be provided. Food and beverages will be available in the heated shelter. Donations are accepted and a raffle offering several prizes will be held. The event will be held with or without snow. If there is not enough snow it will be held as a hike. Come enjoy a beautiful evening under the stars. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere in the forest, other than groomed trails. A new 1.5-mile snowshoe trail is available at the Smrekar trailhead. Additional trails for snowshoeing include the two mile Castle Mound trail and the five mile trail from Pigeon Creek to Smrekar Road. – Peter Bakken, superintendent

    Buckhorn State Park – People have been ice fishing on the lake. Park staff do not monitor ice conditions. Cross-country ski trails are in poor condition with bare spots and a light dusting of snow over the icy trails. Trails will be groomed when we have sufficient snow again. When there is at least 6-inches of snow, the office has adult sized snowshoes to check out to use in the park. We do not have child size snowshoes yet. – Heather Wolf, park manager

    Roche-A-Cri State Park – The main gate and campground are closed. Parking is in the winter lot and park stickers are still required. – Heather Wolf, park manager

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