Warm weather in the last week has continued to melt snow and ice on lakes and rivers. Only the far northern tier of counties are reporting any measurable snow remaining, with up to 8 inches still some shaded woody areas of the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, but even there most south facing slopes are bare.
The unseasonably warm temperatures of the last couple of weeks resulted in an increase in fire danger. High to Very High fire danger resulted in the suspension of burning permits in 50 Wisconsin counties over the past week. So far in March, 53 wildfires have burned 164 acres in DNR Protection Areas, with debris burning the leading cause of fires. People can stay aware of fire danger and burning permit requirements by checking searching the DNR website for ‘fire danger’ or calling 1-888-WISBURN. Information is updated each day at 11 am.
Ice conditions continue to deteriorate, with many major river systems opening. The Chippewa, Wolf and much of the Wisconsin rivers are open, as is the south fork of the Flambeau with the north fork not far behind. Northern lakes still have a foot or more of ice but it has turned honeycombed and gray. Many lakes have developed patches of open water near inlets, access areas and along south-facing shores.
The weather provided optimum conditions for early catch and release trout fishing. Trout streams in central and southwestern Wisconsin are nearly completely free of ice and levels look great for catch and release fishing, with not much run off due to lack of snow cover.
Anglers are continuing to fish Green Bay, with some success for northern pike along the west shore and whitefish along Door County. The Fox River at Voyageur Park has opened up and anglers were out in good numbers looking to catch some early season walleye. Walleye angles were also fishing the Menominee, Wolf and Lower Wisconsin with some success. Southern Lake Michigan tributaries are beginning to open and anglers were catching some brown trout on the Milwaukee River and some rainbows on Oak Creek.
Black bears are being seen in increasing numbers. Snowshoe hares have been easy to spot because they have not made their change in color yet. Turkeys are gobbling like crazy on sunny mornings and toms are being seeing strutting. The 103,516 remaining permits for the 2015 spring turkey hunting season will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis starting Monday, March 23 at 10 a.m. Leftover permits will be first issued for sale by zone, one zone per day – each zone will have a designated sales date.
Maples are tapped and sap is running and maple syrup enthusiasts are tapping trees.
Diving duck numbers are just starting to build on southern lakes that are beginning to open up. Southern counties are reporting peenting American woodcock. Early March migrants have all arrived including blackbirds, robins, bluebirds, song sparrows and Eastern meadowlarks. Lots of bird song now from resident birds including mourning doves, cardinals, tufted titmouse, nutchatches, woodpeckers and chickadees.