Wisconsin's general inland fishing season opens this Saturday and while lakes across the lower two-thirds of the state are ice free, many lakes in the north are still locked in ice. Warm temperatures in the last few days have more lakes opening and some smaller northern lakes will likely be open by Saturday. As of Thursday lakes were opening up across Barron, Rusk and Price counties. Anglers who want to fish in the Northwoods this weekend should check out smaller lakes, or fish the open water of the Wisconsin and other major rivers.

Most of the snow cover is now gone statewide, but snow banks still remain in northern areas. Prior to this week's rain, fire danger conditions had reached extremely high in some areas and Red Flag Warning went into effect in several counties. In the past week, 161 wildfires burned 520 acres in DNR protection areas and 15 buildings were destroyed while another 88 homes and other buildings were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance.

With recent rain many trout streams are high and even out of their banks in some locations. Trout anglers who fish stocked waters should be aware that while stocking of catchable size inland trout has occurred in southern inland waters, deliveries of fish to some northern inland waters is delayed beyond the fishing opener due to road weight limits and ice conditions.

Both the South and North Forks of the Flambeau River are completely open, high and running fast and there has been some success fishing for redhorse. Anglers on the Menominee, Peshtigo and Oconto rivers reported fewer walleye and increasing numbers of suckers. Anglers are still making some great catches of walleyes on the Wolf River and now white bass are showing up as well. Walleyes haven't been active on the Fox River, with both boat and shore anglers catching very few. Ice is still being reported at some locations on Green Bay and even at ramps that have opened floating ice is still a serious hazard.

People interested in watching fish should note the Fox and Wolf river sturgeon runs are underway. This year's spawning run is starting a bit later than normal due to the colder temps, and there is a good chance that it will be a quick run due to the warmer temperatures this week. Fish are expected to be spawning on the Wolf River at Shawawo by the weekend.

Tom turkeys are gobbling and displaying for the hens. Spring turkey hunting is in the third period and many hunters are having success. Ruffed grouse are drumming. Groggy bears and cubs are out of hibernation and have started to visit bird feeders so remove feeders if they attract bears.

Pussy willows are blossoming and most of the trees are in the bud or flowering stages in the north and are leafing out in the south.

Swamps are full of water, and chorus frogs, spring peepers and wood frogs are singing. Pasque flowers, bloodroot and hepatica are blooming in the south.

Loons are stacked up in central and southern Wisconsin patiently waiting for the northern lakes to open up. Literally millions of birds winged into Wisconsin this week on favorable south winds. Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, ruby-throated hummingbirds, the first indigo buntings and scarlet tanagers, chimney swifts, thrushes, flycatchers, bobolinks, eastern kingbirds, and whip-poor-wills. And a remarkable 29 species of warblers were found statewide this week.

Wildfire Report

In the past week, 161 wildfires burned 520 acres in DNR protection areas (approximately half the state); 88 homes and other buildings were threatened but saved with firefighter assistance and 15 buildings were destroyed. Debris burning was the most common cause (67 fires); other causes included equipment, power line, railroad, campfires, ash disposal, and smoking. The largest fire of the week burned 124 acres and threatened 13 buildings in Eau Claire County, cause was debris burning. Fire danger ranged from Low to Extreme across the state, with Red Flag Warnings in several counties. As the vegetation dries out on the days we don't receive rain, expect fire danger to increase, particularly in areas where standing dead grass and other dry vegetation remains. As vegetation greens up, people often become complacent and conduct their burning projects during the day instead of following the time restrictions on burning permits. In DNR protection areas, if you do choose to conduct outdoor burning, remember that a free annual burning permit is required to burn small piles of debris and to burn in a burn barrel. Burning permits are frequently suspended this time of year when fire danger increases. You must check the day's burning restrictions every day you intend to burn by calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or by checking online at dnr.wi.gov, keywords "fire danger." Larger piles and daytime burning requires a special permit from a DNR Ranger. Piling your debris in a campfire pit does not make it okay to burn during the day. If your property is outside a DNR protection area, check with local officials for burning restrictions.

Firewise Tip: Homeowners are encouraged to make weekly checks around your home or cabin for windblown leaves and needles on your roof, around your foundation, and under decks and elevated porches; keep these areas clean. The debris that collects in these places could be easily ignited by flying embers produced during a wildfire. - Jolene Ackerman, wildland urban interface coordinator, Madison

Photo credit: Sara Kehrli

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