Around the Badger State

Over halfway through February already, and it's been a mixed bag weather-wise. The month started off cold with lows below zero nearly every night, but the high temperature Wednesday was in the mid-40s to low 50s.
As of Thursday, snowmobile trails remained open and in good to excellent condition in about 20 northern counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report. Cross-country ski trail conditions remain good to excellent across the north, but the warm-up this week shut down much of the short-lived skiing in southern Wisconsin after just receiving the first decent snow last week.
Ice anglers in the Northwoods report approximately 20-plus inches of ice on inland lakes with some success for crappies and walleye. Fishing has begun to pick up in central Wisconsin with some nice crappies being caught in deep water.
Along Green Bay, anglers report catching a few perch and whitefish along the west shore. Fishing slowed at the Fox River at Voyageurs park for walleyes and whitefish. Longtail Beach fishermen reported catching a few keeper perch. Anglers are also catching some decent sized northern as well on tip-ups with large shiners. Along Door County most anglers were having pretty good luck over the weekend with some coming in with limits of whitefish while other had varying luck.
There were 24 sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago on Wednesday bringing the season total to 253. The Up-River Lakes season closed Tuesday after the 11th adult female was harvested, reaching 100 percent of the harvest closure limit. An 84.5-inch fish registered Tuesday was the longest fish confirmed on harvest records dating back to the early 1970s, but at least one longer fish was harvested prior to the 1970s. That fish was an 85-inch, 168-pound sturgeon harvested during the 1957 season. Regardless of the length of fish harvested during past seasons, fish records are based on weight not length. The current state record lake sturgeon harvested via spear was 212.2 pounds (84.2 inches) and taken during the 2010 spearing season. The season will continue for another 11 days, so spearers will have some time to get out and harvest a fish yet this season.
Deer and elk in the Flambeau River State Forest are conserving energy and aggressively browsing in logging areas. Whitetail deer should be dropping their antlers in increasing numbers, so it is a good time to get out in the woods and shed hunt.
Activities of bobcats, otters, turkeys, grouse and birdlife galore seem to have picked up in the warmer temperatures. An otter slide at Amnicon River State Park went down the river and then over the over the upper falls.
Daylight is noticeably longer than just a few weeks ago. Migrating Canada geese have been moving through the area, looking for open water where they can rest and feed as they head farther north. Winter is a great time for birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline. There have been several common goldeneyes bobbing in the waves near the shoreline at Whitefish Dunes State Park. Breeding activity among resident bird species already signals the change of seasons including turkeys displaying, chickadees singing their see-dee songs, increasing singing activity among cardinals and dark-eyed juncos, pairs of common ravens and pileated woodpeckers, displaying common goldeneye ducks and duetting barred owls.
It's a good weekend to get out and play in the snow with several state properties holding winter fun festivities.
Merrick State Park is hosting a winter fest with a candlelight snowshoe hike.
The Capital Springs Recreation Area is holding a winter fun day with ice fishing, snowshoeing, a bonfire, treats and warm refreshments. Lakeshore State Park is holding a Let's Play in the Snow with snow sculptures and snow castles and snow painting.
And while candlelight skis are winding down, along with Merrick, four other events are being held Saturday night at Governor Knowles State Forest and Governor Thompson, Willow River and Wyalusing state parks. For all event details, search the DNR website for keywords "Get Outdoors."