Heavy rains resulting from strong storms, including several confirmed tornadoes in southern Wisconsin, put a damper on outdoor recreation in the last week and once again have waters on the rise. Areas of south central Wisconsin received significant storm damage, with many trees down. Tornadoes and strong winds damaged or destroyed homes in the greater Madison area.
Water levels had been receding prior to these storms, with the first large expanses of sandbars appearing on the lower Wisconsin River this season, but that is expected to change as water levels are on the rise from the recent rains, which totaled up to five inches in some areas after several days of rain. Mississippi River water levels are expected to rise one foot in the next four to five days.
The heavy rain also closed the all-terrain vehicle trails in the Black River State Forest and Jackson County, with some trails under several inches of water. Mountain bike and horse trails are also closed on some state park properties so call ahead to destinations to confirm trail status.
Prior to the storms, some very good fishing continued to be reported in the Northwoods, with northern pike activity at an all-time high on some Bayfield County waters and walleye and panfish activity continuing strong at many locations. Bass are now finishing up spawning on northern waters, though some largemouth were still seen on their nests guarding schools of young, but they should be dispersing soon. Smallmouth bass and musky activity was increasing on river systems, but due to the higher water, fish are scattered and not just in the deeper holes where they are typically found.The mayfly hatches have just begun on many waters and walleye anglers are changing bait tactics from minnows to leeches and crawlers.
Smallmouth bass fishing was still fantastic around Door County with anglers fishing from boats and shore finding success all up and down the peninsula. Chinook salmon anglers launching from Algoma, Kewaunee, Manitowoc and Two Rivers reported good catches with some limits reported. Trollers out of southeastern Lake Michigan harbors reported action slowed some this week with fish more scattered and the best success coming from deeper water.
Even though things have greened up and more natural food is available, wildlife managers continue to receive reports of nuisance bear activity from around the state. If bears continue to visit your area, they urge you to take down bird feeders and remove any other sources that could attract bears such as garbage, pet food or grills.
Many more does are on the move with fawns now, and twins and triplets are being seen across southern Wisconsin. White-tailed bucks are beginning to develop antlers in velvet. Turkey poults are also becoming more numerous as are sandhill crane colts.
There continue to be many reports of snapping and painted turtles laying eggs so please watch for turtles nesting along roads and if you see a turtle crossing a road, and can do so safely, move the turtle to the side of the road in the direction it is heading.
The blue flag iris was blooming this week at Pattison State Park in the northwest while yellow lady slipper orchids are blooming at Potawatomie State Park on the Door peninsula.
More news from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.