Wis. Outdoor Report: Free Fun Weekend

Updated: 06/06/2014 5:25 PM
Created: 06/06/2014 5:23 PM
By: Wisconsin DNR

This weekend is Free Fun Weekend in Wisconsin, with free admission to all state parks, forests, and trails, free fishing with no license or trout stamp needed, and free all-terrain vehicle operation on state trails. This is the first year the annual state park open house, which had historically been just the first Sunday of June, has been extended to Saturday and Sunday. All campground fees still apply, as due all size and bag limits for fishing.

Many properties have special events going, including fishing activities to allow visitor to take advantage of both free activities. Fishing clinics are being held at many locations around the state. And for people who are new to fishing and don't have equipment, loaner equipment is available at many locations. For a complete list of activities, search the DNR website for "Free Fun."

Heavy rain in the last week - as much as 3 inches in some areas - again has many rivers running very high, with sections of the St. Croix River at slow no-wake. The lower Wisconsin was beginning to recede some, and there are limited sandbars available for camping.

The constantly changing weather, and scattered thunderstorms made for some challenging fishing conditions in the Northwoods. The warm weather quickly pushed up water temperatures and many lakes have already reached the low 70s. This has spurred on spawning activity for warm-water species, with both smallmouth and largemouth bass heavy into their nesting activity and bluegill, rock bass and pumpkinseed beginning to nest. Bass are especially vulnerable when they are on their nests, so anglers should use discretion when fishing for this species. Walleye action slowed some this week but was still fair, but musky action has been slow.

Walleye action was good on the Winnebago system, and angling and recreational boating activity has been heavy. A walleye tournament this weekend will bring out many boaters, so it will be even more critical that boat operators pay attention so waters can be safe and enjoyed by everyone. A walleye tournament last weekend on Green Bay and the Fox River had more than 250 boats participating, with the winners weighing in 15 fish at more than 89 pounds.

Large schools of alewife continued to make fishing conditions difficult at a number of Lake Michigan harbors, but anglers were still reporting some coho salmon and brown trout. Trollers fishing out of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha have been catching more of a mixed bag including coho, rainbow and chinook.

Increasing numbers of white-tail deer fawn are being seen, with some twins and even triplets seen in central Wisconsin. Again, does leave their fawns unattended for long periods as a way of protecting them; fawns are rarely abandoned. If you see a fawn alone in the woods, slowly move away and its mother will take care of it.

The first turkey poults are being seen, with one hen in Washington County seen with clutch of 12. Some early nesters, like owls, crows, ravens, robins, blackbirds, and waterfowl, are fledging young. And osprey young are nearing full grown and will soon get their flying lessons.

An amazing number and variety of plants are blooming, including shooting stars, violets, wild geranium, phlox, false and common Solomon seal, anemones, jack-in-the-pulpit, and wild indigo. Many trees are also blooming, such as apples, American plum, black and choke cherries, and service berries.

Butterflies are slow in appearing including swallowtail, western-tailed blue, checkerspot, monarchs, and dreamy duskywing. And for those heading out for some free fun this weekend, remember to bring along the repellant as hoards of mosquitoes and gnats are out.

Statewide Birding Report

Spring migration is just about over in Wisconsin. Dickcissels are traditionally the last songbird to arrive from their South American wintering grounds and have now returned to the state's grasslands and other open areas, especially in southern and central parts of the state. Shorebirds continue to trickle through as well, notably including semipalmated plovers, semipalmated and white-rumped sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, and a willet along the Lake Superior shore. Also lingering in the cold waters there have been several red-throated loons. A different kind of migration was also noted this past week - the "molt migration" of Canada geese. These are southern birds flying north to capitalize on rich summer resources across the tundra to provide the much-needed energy to molt new feathers for the upcoming year. Elsewhere, nesting season is firmly upon us and many birds should be on eggs now. Some, like early nesting owls, crows, ravens, robins, blackbirds, and waterfowl, are even fledging young. If you find a baby bird that may need assistance, please seek guidance at, keyword "keep wildlife wild" and look for the bird resource at right. The seasonal status of two federally-endangered species in the state was updated this week. At least nine male and seven female Kirtland's warblers have returned to the traditional Adams County breeding site, while one male is back on territory in Marinette for a third straight year. A full report is available on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Green Bay office website. Farther to the north, biologists at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore on Lake Superior report at least six pairs of piping plovers are present, with at least two nests so far. Unusual birds spotted across the state this week included continuing crested caracara and black vulture in Door County, a pair of king rails in Dane, blue grosbeak in Sauk, western kingbird in Rock, little gulls in Manitowoc, and northern mockingbirds in various locations. As always, help us track the migration and find out what others are seeing at - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland

Regional reports

Brule River State Forest - Baby animal sightings are becoming common now. It is a good time to remind people that many animals will leave their young for long periods of time. These babies are not abandoned so please leave them where they are so their parents can find them later. No one takes care of them better than their parents. Many well-meaning people will bring these animals home only to have these animals die of stress, sickness or improper nutrition. Numerous activities are planned for this weekend around the area, so it's a great time to get out and enjoy the outdoors!

- Catherine Khalar, visitor services associate

Bayfield County - Reports of some very small fawns have been received this past week from the Drummond area, which is good news to the Northwoods. Although people are seeing many does without fawns, it looks like some does did hold onto their fawns through the rough winter months. A reminder to everyone to view the fawns from a distance. They may appear abandoned but it is normal for the doe to leave the fawns unattended for more than 24 hours. Warm weather has caused lake water temperatures to rise, causing bluegill to move into the shallows. Anglers fishing local inland lakes are finding success using both earth worms and wax worms as bait. Walleye fishing has slowed considerably but those fishing in 9 to 12 feet of water on Lake Namakagon were still finding success. Bass activity has picked up on the Eau Claire chain with many largemouth taking up part of peoples bag limits. Floating baits appear to be working best. Don't forget your mosquito repellent, as they are heavily present in the area.

- Jill Schartner, conservation warden, Drummond

Crex Meadows State Wildlife - Trumpeter swan and sandhill crane babies are hatching! Watch for swan families in most of the flowages - one family has at least 7 cygnets on the east side of Crex! Crane colts have been seen in both Fish Lake and Crex Meadows Wildlife Areas. A pair of red-necked grebes are nesting on Phantom Lake Road near the Auto Tour stop 3 in the marshy area. Yellow-headed blackbirds and sedge and marsh wrens may also be observed near this location. Lupine plants are beginning to form buds. Prairie buttercup, Field pussytoes, and Wood anemone are blooming. Amelancher and cherry trees have blossoms. Butterflies are slow in appearing. Western-tailed blue, gorgone checkerspot, monarchs, and dreamy duskywing were sighted this past weekend. Others are likely present, but none were reported. Check out for up-to-date sightings throughout Wisconsin.

- Kristi Pupak, natural resources educator

Interstate Park - The St. Croix River is still high and the high water in Lake O' the Dalles is receding. Watch for large birds including bald eagles, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks and great blue herons soaring overhead. Deer are easy to spot throughout the park. Blooming wildflowers include marsh marigold, violet, woodland phlox, trillium, miterwort and rock cress. On Friday, June 6 come to Ancient Trails of Fire and Ice at 3 p.m. at the Pothole Trail sign. Learn about the ancient geology that makes the area look like it does today on a beautiful hike around the Pothole Trail. This hike will be repeated on Wednesday, June 11 at 10 a.m.

- Julie Fox, natural resources educator

Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - The constantly changing weather, the scattered rain/thunderstorms and the hordes of mosquitos have made for some challenging fishing conditions in the Northwoods in the last week. The warm weather has quickly pushed up water temperatures and many lakes have already reached the low 70s. This has spurred on a slug of spawning activity for our warmwater species, with both smallmouth and largemouth bass heavy into their nesting activity. Bluegill, rock bass and pumpkinseed have also begun to nest on many waters. Musky and crappie have pretty much finished up their spawning activities. Walleye have still been the main target for many anglers in the area and action has continued to be generally good. Live bait combinations have produced the best success but casting crankbaits along shorelines has also produced some good catches. The walleye bite has started to slow in the last few days and look for it to get a little tougher when the mayflies start to hatch out in the next few weeks. Both largemouth and smallmouth bass have been very active and many are just finishing up their spring nesting period. Large smallmouth bass are especially vulnerable to anglers when they are on their nests, so anglers should use discretion when fishing for this species. Musky action has been generally slow, with most anglers casting small bucktails and stick baits along and over any newly forming weed beds. A fair number of musky in the 30 to 38 inch size have been reported, with a few fish in the low 40s also being caught. For panfish the crappie, bluegill and perch have all provided some good action, with most being found in relatively shallow water. With perch finishing up their spawning period in the last couple weeks, nicer fish have been showing up on the mid-depth mud flats and starting to key on the mayfly nymphs that are getting ready to hatch.

- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls

Copper Falls State Park near Mellen
File photo

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