DNR Parks And Recreation News



DNR Parks And Recreation News

What’s Happening In Wisconsin’s State Parks,
Trails, Forests And Recreation Areas

Ice fishing can be fun for every generation! Check out lakes and ponds at your favorite park property for ice fishing opportunities. / Photo credit: iStock/emholk

Join Us For Free Ice Fishing Weekend

The DNR reminds everyone to be careful on the ice. Warmer weather has led to thinning ice across much of the state. Please remember that the DNR does not monitor ice conditions. If your plans include access to or use of an ice-covered waterbody, contact your local fishing clubs, bait shops or outfitters for ice conditions.

For areas with safe ice conditions, we invite you to join in the ice fishing fun! Free Fishing Weekend is right around the corner. From Jan. 21-22, you can drill a hole and drop a line without a fishing license, trout stamp or salmon stamp.

Ice fishing has long been a Wisconsin winter standby. Whether you go solo and enjoy the quiet or bring the family for some iced fun, shack up in a fishing shanty or sit directly on the ice, winter fishing is another great activity to enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors.

Beginning and seasoned anglers can watch our events calendar for clinic locations to share their passion or learn new skills. Events are still being added.

In the winter, you might catch bluegill and other panfish, walleye or northern trout. Our DNR biologists have some helpful tips for catching these varieties.

Fishing Regulations
Please be aware that while you can fish without a license, all fishing regulations remain in effect, including seasons, bag limits and length limits.

  • Review the 2022-2023 fishing regulations before you head out.
  • Early season catch and release trout streams are included this weekend, but you do have to release the fish!
    Note: The early season does not apply to some off-limits bodies of water. Please check before you go.

No Tackle? No Problem!
Wisconsin has more than 50 tackle loaner sites, and many of them have ice fishing gear that you can borrow. Office hours vary by site, so contact the loaner site and plan ahead to pick up the gear.

Know Before You Go

  • Locate launches and shore fishing access points near you. The piers at launches may be gone for the winter, but these areas still provide good access to get out on the ice.
  • What you leave on the ice typically ends up in the water come spring, so pack out what you’ve packed in.
  • Minimize the spread of aquatic invasive species by taking your bait home with you or handing it over to another angler; never move live fish away from any waterbody.
  • If you plan to keep your catch, be sure to consult the DNR’s Safe Eating Guidelines to learn about potential consumption advisories.
  • All ice fishers have their preference for creature comforts, so if you’re accompanying someone, find out how they prefer to fish. If you’ll be in a warm shanty, don’t overdress, but if you’ll be in the open air, remember your layers and a hat or sunglasses on a sunny day.
  • In some areas, you may need to hike through snow to get to a good spot. Be prepared! Snowshoeing or skiing on ice are other activities to consider if you have a group with varying interests and attention spans. Check out these tips on ice fishing with kids.

Outdoor News & Announcements

Run For The Trees!
Registration is open for the Happy Little 5k. Walk, run or roll anywhere outdoors anytime between April 22-28.

The Happy Little 5k, inspired by artist Bob Ross, is a virtual race with proceeds going towards tree planting in the Wisconsin State Park System.

For $34 per person, each participant will receive a keepsake Happy Little T-shirt, a commemorative bib number and a finisher’s medal. Ten dollars of every registration supports tree planting and forest protection efforts in state parks.

Participants are encouraged to walk, run or take their wheelchair out for a roll to complete their 5k (3.1 miles). This race is being offered through a partnership with Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources.

Routes in Wisconsin state parks will be available in February. Bulk pricing is available for groups of 10+. Contact us for more information.

Registration closes March 1. When you sign up for the race online, be sure to select Wisconsin!

Sign Up For The Ride Across Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Bike Federation’s Ride Across Wisconsin (RAW) returns on August 19 & 20, 2023 and revisits the route from La Crosse to Milwaukee with a total of 235 miles. Participants will visit quintessentially Wisconsin landmarks like the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, Mirror Lake State ParkMerrimac Ferry and a new finish line at American Family Field’s Tailgate Haus.

With route options ranging from 100-235 miles over the course of two days, there is a RAW option for cyclists of many abilities. RAW riders will be able to choose an all-road route or a road/trail route. As always, RAW promises an expertly marked course, amazing ride support by Wheel & Sprocket, rest stops by local hosts, a finish-line party and an unforgettable experience.

Registration opened on January 8th with an early bird discount for the first 100 riders.

Reminder For Snowmobilers: Sled Safe And Practice Ice Safety
Snowmobile Safety Week is Jan. 14-22, and snowmobilers are reminded to be aware of ice conditions near trails.

Ice Safety Reminders

  • Contact local sport shops to ask about ice conditions locally on the lake or river you want to cross.
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or float coat should you fall through the ice and to help retain body heat.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas.
  • Slow down when traveling at night.
  • Know if the lake has inlets, outlets or narrows that have currents that can thin the ice.
  • Watch for pressure ridges or ice buckling. These can be dangerous due to thin ice and open water.

Visit the DNR’s snowmobiling webpage for additional information on snowmobile safety classesregulationssafety tips and how to register your snowmobile.

Photo credit: Michigan DNR

Big Bay State Park

On the eastern side of Madeline Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands archipelago, Big Bay State Park features picturesque sandstone bluffs along 4 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.

To reach the park, a short ferry ride from Bayfield to Madeline Island is needed. Park Manager Dave Lindsley’s field report this week is that the ferry is breaking ice but still running. The ice is all jumbled pack ice and decidedly not safe to walk on. The forecast is for warmer weather, so conditions are not likely to change much. The ferry schedule is available online and updates based on weather conditions are available.

When ferry service is no longer available, an ice road or wind-sleds and passenger vans may be available to Madeline Island.

Conditions are great for sightseeing right now—not too cold, very quiet and very pretty. Visitors might have the entire park to themselves, especially mid-week. The park has a one-mile boardwalk with views of Lake Superior plus seven miles of hiking, ski and nature trails.

The parking lots at the office and shop are plowed regularly, but visitors should be prepared to hike in snow from those locations. The hiking trails are not groomed, but many can be walked without snowshoes.

The 1.3-mile Bay View Trail follows the shoreline on the north side of Big Bay Point. Late in the day, it’s a great place to see deer and other wildlife and spectacular sunsets.

For a special time in Wisconsin this winter, head north to visit Bayfield County and Big Bay State Park. Bayfield and Madeline Island also offer bus tours, art galleries and more. At the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, you may even see some ice caves.

Learn more about Big Bay State Park here.

Photo above: The view of Lake Superior Jan. 6, 2023 from Park Manager Dave Lindsley.

Big Bay State Park offers a spectacular winter experience. / Photo credit: Spencer Robnik

Upcoming Events

Ice Age Legacy
Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit
Saturday, Jan. 14
10 – 11:30 a.m.

With leafless trees and snow-covered hills, the glacial landforms pop on the landscape. We will start at the Ice Age Visitor Center for an overview of our Ice Age legacy and then carpool to the Long Lake Recreation Area to climb the one-mile Summit Nature Trail to check out kames, drumlins, eskers, kettles and other landforms created by the glaciers. This program is best for people over 10 years old and involves a steep climb up and down Dundee Mountain.

This event will be held at the Ice Age Visitor Center (N2875 Hwy 67, Campbellsport – a half mile west of Dundee) and Summit Nature Trail.

Trailtessa 2023: Be Blissful Snowshoe Hike and/or Intro To Winter Camping
Hartman Creek State Park
Saturday, Feb. 18
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Embrace all that winter has to offer! Join the Ice Age Trail Alliance at Hartman Creek State Park for a morning 2-mile group snowshoe hike and/or an afternoon “Intro to Winter Camping” workshop. Make new friends, warm your hands at a post-hike bonfire and enjoy homemade, locally-sourced treats from female-owned GypsyMoon Bakehaus. Register for either the hike, workshop or both! For more information and to register, visit: https://bit.ly/3GJaEXE. Registration fee required. Snowshoes can be provided.

“Trailtessa” is defined as a woman or girl who gets out on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to experience adventure, freedom and a new way to be.

Find more nature programs and DNR events.

Photo: Warm up around a campfire post-candlelit hike, like the one at Wildcat Mountain. / Photo credit: J. Ringdahl, Wisconsin DNR

How do you enjoy a Wisconsin fish fry?

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