Spring migration in full swing for many species

Weather around the state has and will continue its fickle behavior as we close out an exceptionally warm week. Currently snowmobile trails remain open in a few northern counties, but conditions are very poor with bare spots and some standing water according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report.. Ski trails have similar conditions where they remain open.

The warm front has also strongly affected ice-cover on state water bodies and the ice on southern lakes is deteriorating fast and is unsafe to fish. Even in the Northwoods some waters are breaking up and where the ice is still thick there is plenty of water on it, and areas of open water have started to show up along shorelines and in marshes and especially around beaver lodges.

As a result, many anglers have taken advantage of warm temperatures for open water fishing. This past weekend 100 plus boats were fishing the Fox River from the 172 Bridge to the dam at Voyageur Park. Anglers in boats have been having mixed results catching coho salmon and brown and rainbow trout in the Milwaukee Harbor and in Oak Creek. Anglers were open water fishing the Rock River for walleye and sauger, where the bite was on at the Indianford Dam. Sauger and walleye were biting on Lake Wisconsin. Warm temperatures and rain will have the Wisconsin River back above flood stage .Anglers at Geano Beach in Oconto reported several pike and 30 fish were registered at a tourna- men. Along Door County, anglers fishing in Little Sturgeon were reporting about 14-16 inches of ice with many inches of standing water on top, but some decent success for whitefish.

The Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season has also been affected by poor ice conditions. The season had been running on a one-fish per day harvest for the last two days, but on Feb. 23 there were no fish registered on the Upriver Lakes or Lake Winnebago, so harvest numbers remain at 552 on Lake Winnebago; 295 on Upriver Lakes; system total 847. There were reports of some folks walking out with portable shanties, but effort remains low.

The stretch of record-breaking warm temperatures have also thrown normal Wisconsin phenology a bit off kilter. Sightings this week included painted turtles sunbathing, leopard frogs calling, big brown bats actively flying, eastern comma butterflies, honeybees, grasshoppers, splendid tiger beetles, woolly bear caterpillars and other insects active, the first ticks, pussy willows budding and sap running even as far north as Lake Superior. A black bear was seen snoozing in the sun next to its den and a young bear was up and walking in the farm fields surrounding Antigo.

Spring migration is in full swing for many species. Thousands of Canada geese have returned to Horicon Marsh and sandhill cranes are also making a strong appearance, along with numerous waterfowl species. Eagles are hunting open water and sheltering in early-budding trees. Red-winged and rusty blackbirds have been spotted, as well as killdeer, American woodcock and song sparrows in the southern region.

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