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Wisconsin outdoor report for April 1

April 01, 2011 at 12:29 PM

Colder temperatures in the last week have allowed the snow from last week’s snowstorm to linger on in northern and central Wisconsin and is delaying ice-out on lakes across much of the state. Snowmobilers were still out last weekend in the Sawyer County area and people were still cross-country skiing there as well as in Door County. Snow depths still ranged from 4 inches to nearly a foot in some central and northern portions of the state.

Some southern lakes are opening, but others remain ice covered. Some bays of Lake Mendota in Madison were open, but ice remains on the main body. Devil’s Lake in Sauk County remained ice covered as of this week. With night temperatures in the single digits in the north, ice cover on Northwoods lakes remains at up to 16 inches and there is still 2 to 3 feet of ice on Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior.

Although snow cover and patches of snow may remain in many areas, the spring wildfire season is underway in Wisconsin. In the past week, 12 wildfires were reported across the state. People are urged to be extra cautious this time of year with anything that can cause a wildfire to start. Debris burning is the main cause of wildfires in the state. In those areas that no longer have complete snow cover an annual burning permit is required. Current fire danger levels and information about burning regulations and permit requirements can be found on the DNR web site.

Despite the cold weather, late-season ice anglers should be very cautious as access and ice conditions can change in a hurry with sunny skies and warm temperatures. Ice fishing pressure has been light, with perch providing the most consistent catches in the north.

The cold temperatures and runoff from last week’s storm slowed action on Lake Michigan tributaries, which were running high but have now begun to drop. Some steelhead have been reported on the East and West Twin, Manitowoc, Menomonee and Root rivers. The Root River Steelhead Facility started processing fish March 30, with just a few fish spawned.

The Mississippi River and tributaries in southwestern Wisconsin remain very high, with many at or near flood stage. As of Monday, the Mississippi River was up to 15.94 feet at Prairie du Chien and rising and expected to reach 16.5 feet this week then hold steady for a while. The Kickapoo River crested at just over 14 feet at Gays Mills on Saturday and is now falling. Most Mississippi River backwater areas are now ice free and the ice fishing season has come to an end. Many boat launches are underwater now and not usable.

The cold and delayed ice out has set back the migration of some waterfowl, though Canada geese numbers are at their spring peak now at Horicon Marsh, with cackling and white-fronted geese also reported in the area, along with tundra swans stopping over on their way to Alaska. Diver ducks like canvasback, redhead, scaup, golden eye, bufflehead and mergansers are showing up by the thousands on the Mississippi River.

Maple sap slowed with the colder weather, but the warmer weather forecast for this week should get it running again, just in time for the MacKenzie Environmental Center’s Maple Syrup Festival (exit DNR) this Saturday, with free guided tours of the sugarbush, demonstrations on tapping maple trees and making syrup, horse-drawn wagon ride, and more. Check their website for details.

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