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Five minutes after this bluebird nest box was put in place, a potential tenant stopped by to check it out in Kewaunee County Wednesday.
Five minutes after this bluebird nest box was put in place, a potential tenant stopped by to check it out in Kewaunee County Wednesday. / Kevin Naze/Special to Gannett Wisconsin Media
With boat launches finally cleared of ice, trout trollers have been able to get out along the Lake Michigan shoreline from Sturgeon Bay to Sheboygan. This duo was seen early Friday near Algoma. / Kevin Naze/Special to Gannett Wisconsin Media

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Best weekend for walleyes here

Whether joining the crowds of anglers on the Fox River below the De Pere Dam or cautiously walking out on the softening ice near shore off southern Door County, the best walleye fishing of the season is here.

Jig and minnow or jig and plastic bait combos are best on the Fox, though some are throwing stickbaits into the shallows after dark. Many of the fish are 20 to 27 inches, all of which must be released.

Jigged minnows are getting some strikes around dawn and dusk in the Little Sturgeon, Rileys Bay, Sand Bay and Sawyer Harbor areas of Door County, but ice conditions are deteriorating fast.

Strong winds expected in the coming days combined with ice-breaking activities for shipping on Green Bay could cause large floes to move, potentially stranding anglers. Check locally for areas to avoid.

In addition to Green Bay’s west shore rivers, open-water opportunities include downtown Sturgeon Bay for pike and walleyes, the Kewaunee and Manitowoc county piers and shorelines for brown trout and lakeshore tributaries for spawn-minded steelhead and suckers.

■ Serenity, Second Wind and Island Girl top the 24th annual list of the most popular boat names compiled by the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS). Freedom and Pura-Vida, the latter Spanish for “pure life,” round out the top five. See more at BoatUS.com.

Ice, open water seasons mixing

There’s still far more ice fishing going on than open-water action up north, though many anglers are transitioning to year-round river fisheries.

Walleye are running on the Wolf, Fox and Wisconsin rivers, with jig and minnow or plastic tail combos being tossed below dams and in downstream holes.

Farther north, there’s been some very good panfish catches. Ice was still 20 to 30 inches thick, but softening, with some shorelines opening. As always, check locally before heading out.

Most of the crappies, bluegills and perch were found in less than 10 feet of water and were hitting tiny ice jigs tipped with larvae baits, or plastics.

■ The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership Conference is set for April 24-26 in Stevens Point. The DNR, UW-Extension and Wisconsin Lakes are sponsors. There’s a late fee for registrations after April 18. For more, see wisconsinlakes.org.

Learn To Hunt, youth seasons on

Hundreds of first-time wild turkey hunters took part in Learn To Hunt programs sponsored by the DNR and local conservation groups in Northeastern Wisconsin last weekend.

Those who haven’t scored yet might be back at it this weekend, along with kids age 10 to 15 who are participating in the annual youth turkey hunt held statewide.

The first of six regular spring turkey hunt periods starts Wednesday. Each is seven days long, and hunters must have a permit specific to that time period and zone.

■ You can comment on the Deer Trustee Review, new deer hunting rules and local deer population estimates and harvests through Wednesday at dnr.wi.gov/topic/hunt/forum.html.

Deer mortality reports coming in

The DNR received reports of dead deer and wild turkeys across the state in recent weeks, with more expected as shed-antler and spring turkey hunters get active.

DNR research ecologist Daniel Storm said crews captured and collared 99 bucks (38 adults) and 33 does less than 1 year old in the northern study area and 90 bucks (38 adults) and 29 juvenile does in the eastern farmland.

Storm said 30 percent of the collared juvenile deer up north have died since January, most from predation by coyotes and wolves but some from starvation. About 13 percent of the juvenile collared deer have died so far in the eastern study area, most to starvation but some to roadkill. Through last week, less than 7 percent of the adult deer had died.

■ Half of a $1 million grant to The Nature Conservancy from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act will allow the group to buy and enhance wetland and coastal habitat in Door County and other parts of the Green Bay watershed. The other half will go toward TNC’s purchase of St. Martin Island, which provides critical stopover habitat for migrating birds in spring and fall.

Spring hearings Monday night

The DNR Spring Fish and Wildlife Rules Hearings and County Conservation Congress county meetings will be Monday night at 7 p.m. See the list of hearing sites and questions at dnr.wi.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.html.

■ Now is the time to give your backyard bird feeders a thorough spring cleaning and rake and dispose of old, wet seed on the ground. With bluebirds sighted around the area, be sure to clean out bluebird houses, too. Track the latest bird sightings or report your own at ebird.org/wi.

■ “Breath of Wilderness: The Life of Sigurd Olson” has been released by Fulcrum Publishing. Olson, the conservationist, teacher and leader in the wilderness preservation movement nearly a century ago, lived in Door County as a youth. The nature book is geared for ages 9-12. Ordering info: (800) 992-2908.

■ A free workshop on the importance of early detection of invasive plant species will be held 3-4:30 p.m. May 2 at the Baileys Harbor Town Hall. Staff from the Ridges Sanctuary, Door County Invasive Species Team and and scientist from UW-Extension will be on hand. Call The Ridges at (920) 839-2802 or DCIST at (920) 746-5955.

— Kevin Naze, wildtimes@ wizunwired.net

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