New Year’s Day brought a long-awaited snowfall to the area, the perfect way to start the New Year for skiers, snowshoers and snowmobile enthusiasts. We could use more, no doubt about that, but those few inches had a positive impact regardless. Going into the weekend, we’re looking for mild temperatures and the best snow conditions of the season. And that’s a good way to begin the New Year!
Snowmobile trails opened a week ago on a wing and a prayer; it was pretty slim pickin’s. Things are better this weekend. Now, let’s face it, we’re still a ways from prime time trail conditions. That will take more snow, nothing more, nothing less. But the few inches on Sunday helped a lot. Reports that we have gotten indicate fair conditions, still too thin, but rideable, with some caution and discretion advised. We advise caution, and remind riders that certain areas of any trail may be very rough due to hard use. And never, ever, stray from marked trails when on lakes. There remain some areas of thin ice on some of the larger, deeper lakes.
Cross-country ski trails are in good to very good shape now. We’ve been skiing for a full month now, but up until the last week or so, it’s been pretty much marginal. The snowfalls of a week ago have helped immensely. Trail groomers have been able to get out and work on all XC trails in the area, and as a result we have some very good skiing, both classic and skate, this weekend. You will probably find some thin areas on parts of a few trails where the wind has scoured the snow, but overall we’re finding good snow cover and very good grooming. Given that much of the state still does not have snow, this area is a prime destination for skiers.
We are showing the benefits of lack of snow combined with some colder nights in the lake ice. The snow insulates very well and prevents ice formation, so the relative thin cover has helped. And a few overnights near zero have done their work. We’d never tell anyone that all lake ice is safe; that’s just not the case, as some spots are still thin. However, each passing week is better than the week prior. We always caution about assuming ice is safe, and urge testing of ice you are not familiar with. But in many areas ice is fine and getting better.
Ice fishing success has been pretty good all in all. Panfish, mostly crappies but some bluegills, have provided some lively action and with the warm, steady weather this weekend that should continue. Walleyes are steady, but perhaps a shade off what we’d hope for. Weedy areas still hold fish, and a tip-up holding a minnow just above the weeds is a good bet, not just for walleyes, but other fish as well. We continue to hear of hot northern pike action, and the past two weeks have brought reports of very good bass fishing, something we don’t often hear in winter. All those fish are hitting minnows under tip-ups, often in shallow water. The best rig seems to be a medium size minnow and tip-up rigged over weeds; that seems to be the ticket for taking walleyes, northern and bass.
This weekend should be a very good one for all outdoor enthusiasts as warmer weather combines with improved snow cover to deliver some very good conditions. Add to that the lack of a Packer game, and we expect good numbers of people to be outside and enjoying things.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.