Early spring snowstorms brought up to a foot of snow to southwestern Wisconsin early in the week and then 3 to 6 inches to central and northern Wisconsin midweek. While not welcomed by everyone, the snow did alleviate very high to high wildfire conditions that were in place last week. Much of that snow has already melted, and warm weather by early next week is expected to melt the rest, so dry conditions could return very quickly.
There was not enough snow to open snowmobile trails or groom ski trails, but the wet melting snow has closed many mountain bike trails on state park and forest properties. The snow is also keeping the limestone screening on rail trails wet and soft and bicycles are asked to refrain from using these trails until they dry out.
Colder temperatures in the last week have firmed up the ice on northern lakes, with most holding at 10 to 14 inches of ice cover. However, areas around inlets, access sites and south-facing shorelines still have spots of open water. With the questionable ice conditions, many anglers have put away their ice fishing gear for the season, although there have still been a few panfish anglers venturing out and having fair success on crappie and perch.
Most boat landings on Green Bay remain covered in ice, but the Fox River landings at Fox Point and Metro are open and fishing pressure was heavy with both boaters and shore anglers. There were some walleye in the 20-inch plus range caught, along with large numbers of whitefish being caught and released. Many access points along Door County are no longer usable. The Sturgeon Bay shipping canal is open and big ships departing toward Green Bay are offering some close-up views at Potawatomi State Park.
Southeastern Wisconsin Lake Michigan tributaries are mostly open but so far the steelhead run has been slow with many steelhead just beginning to move into rivers. The Root River Steelhead Facility is tentatively planning on processing fish for the first time this year on Monday. This upcoming weekend kicks off the trout season opening on the lower portion of the Bois Brule River flowing into Lake Superior. Water levels are lower than normal but the early spring thaw is providing easy access and fresh steelhead were beginning to enter the river.
Raccoons, skunks, and small mammals are becoming more active. Red fox pups are being born.
Red-shouldered hawks and goshawks are defending nesting areas. Turkeys are dispersing and have been seen breeding already. Ring-necked pheasants are starting to crow. Larger flocks of sandhill cranes and Canada geese, along with mallards, northern shovelers and many other dabbling and diving ducks can be seen on the partially frozen wetland areas.
And a reminder that hunting and fishing licenses expire on March 31. Licenses for 2015-16 are on sale now and can be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents and 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).