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Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

DNR report: Week of Nov. 13 to 19

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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Some parts of far northern Wisconsin received up to several inches of snow last weekend, with the Hurley area in Iron County reporting 5 inches, but the snow cover had all melted by mid week.

The leaf drop is now nearly complete in southern Wisconsin, with mostly oaks still holding leaves. Smaller lakes, bays and ponds in the north have continued their trend toward ice up. Water temperatures have fallen into the low 40s and, with single-digit temperatures in the last few nights, some ponds and small lakes have developed a thin layer of skim ice.

A few of the larger lakes do have some shoreline ice in the shallow back bays, but full ice cover is still a couple of weeks away.

Wisconsin's regular nine-day gun deer season is now just over a week away, so this weekend is the last opportunity for hunters to sight in firearms and make sure hunting gear and clothing are ready for opening weekend. Most reports from across the state indicate the deer rut, or mating season, is near its peak this week.

The Nov. 22 opening this year is one of the latest opening days possible, so deer will likely be at the end of the rut or in post rut conditions.

This weekend is also the last weekend for early season archery deer hunters and turkey hunters, with both seasons closing today, Thursday, Nov. 20.

A reminder -- it is illegal to hunt with a firearm the day before the gun deer season opens, except for waterfowl hunting or hunting on licensed game farms or shooting preserves.

Seasonably cold weather has kept fishing pressure to a minimum and only a few die-hard anglers have been venturing out on local waters. Most of the fishing pressure continues to be for musky and nearly all of these late-season musky anglers are dragging large suckers around. Success has been fair, with a few catches of 36 to 40-inch fish have been reported, but several anglers have said that the musky just seem to be hitting and dropping the suckers. A few walleye anglers have also been sighted, but action has been generally slow.

Along Lake Michigan shore anglers fishing off the piers have been catching a few brown trout, rainbow trout and coho salmon. A few coho and browns were still being caught on the Manitowoc River. Shore anglers in Milwaukee have been catching a few browns and chinooks. Anglers on the Milwaukee River have reported a few salmon.

There were 9,596 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing licenses sold for the 2009 spearing season. That number is up considerably from the 8,782 licenses sold for the 2008 season. There were 4,031 Upriver Lakes Sturgeon applications sold this year.

The Mississippi River rose almost 8 inches by the end of last week reaching the 7.6 foot stage. However, the river quickly dropped back down to the 7.0 foot mark by early this week. Crappie action ws really picking up on the river, but walleye and sauger action was spotty.

Waterfowl hunters were reporting fair numbers of mallards, gadwall, widgeon, bluebill, bufflehead, redhead, and ring-necks along the Mississippi River.

Gold finches, purple finches, chickadees, juncos, tufted titmice, blue jays and a few cardinals are regular visitors at bird feeders. Tundra swan numbers are increasing rapidly along the Mississippi. The next few weeks should offer excellent viewing opportunities until the river is frozen over. Tundras are also numerous on Green Bay.

A number of snowy owls are still being reported in Wisconsin. The owls are likely being found here due to a drop in the rodent population that they depend on in their normal arctic habitat. Several snowy owls in the Oconto area have been taken in for rehabilitation due to starvation. Birders are reminder to not disturb owls by only viewing them from a distance.

And a sure sign that bike trail riding season is coming to a close, the three tunnels on the popular Elroy-Sparta State Trail were closed for the season this week. Snowmobilers using the trail are routed around the tunnels in the winter.

A three-minute audio version of this report can be heard by calling 608-266-2277.