It looks like a White Christmas, but just barely. The snowfall of a few weeks ago has just survived the thaw of a week ago. And of this writing, mid-week, the forecast holds little hope for additional snow. None of which is particularly cheery news for any of the legions of winter sport enthusiasts who depend on snow for their recreation.
As it stands now we expect marginal, at best, cross-country skiing on a thin base that probably will be packed flat but lack set tracks for diagonal stride skiing. That has been the situation up until now, and with no new snow, it is unlikely to change. Some trails, including the Northwood Nordic Trails at the golf course, have been packed and rolled. Snow cover on those trails is surprisingly good, with a few bare spots. It is still best for skating versus stride skiing, but is doable for all. But unless we get an unexpected snowfall, area ski trails will sport meager cover, and skiing will be fair at best.
That’s likely more that can be said of the snowmobile trails. As of this report, we are still waiting the official opening of Oneida County trails. There is simply insufficient snow at this date, and until we see more, we’re not expecting any change. Add to that the concern that still remains about ice cover on lakes. In short, many of the trails that cross lakes will not open until there is good, solid ice, and on many lakes that is not the case. We’d never recommend driving off marked trails, so until they are officially open, it’s best to stay off lakes with machines.
The ice on most lakes has shown steady improvement in the past week, and many, but not all, areas are now good enough to support ice fishermen. Needless to say, not all areas on all lakes are sufficiently thick, so again do not assume ice is safe until you test it. Ice over deep water or currents is too thin even now, and will remain that way for a while.
On those areas with good ice, we have been hearing of some decent action. Walleyes are steady, nothing red-hot on most lakes, but busy enough to be interesting. On a few lakes walleye action has been very strong, but that is not universally the case. Tip-ups with minnows rigged up will be the best bet.
We did get a surge of good reports for panfish this week, with crappies and bluegills both coming on. Northern pike have been decent in the early season, so ice fishing in general is the one bright spot in the outdoor scene.
Late season archers and grouse hunters pretty much have the woods to themselves, as is often the case in December. We are not hearing a lot about either activity.
As it stands, the holiday week is starting off too thin on snow cover to provide a “winter wonderland” experience, and the best we can hope for is some holiday week snowfalls that will salvage the early snow season.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.