This time, it’s all about snow! The snowfall of Thursday dropped much needed white stuff over the Northwoods, and left snowsport enthusiasts with smiles as wide as the horizon! It has been a long time coming. We can finally expect trails, both XC and snowmobile, to be approaching what we’d normally expect for mid January. Or, perhaps, mid December; it has been a thin snow year to date.
The new snow fell over some hard, crusty base; base that has been here for over a month. It may seem strange, but some area cross-country skiers have been on snow, marginal at times for sure, since the first week of December. The thaw conditions of the past two weeks hurt things; the New Year’s Day snowfall helped. But trails were getting threadbare early this week before the snow came, and the snow this week will help a lot.
Snowmobilers were putting on a brave face through it all. But trail conditions were fair at best, with heavy use putting heavily trafficked areas at risk. If there is any good news, it may be that the low spots, the marshy areas that are so critical to many trails, have frozen up firm with the lack of snow. New snow, and the typical superb grooming this area is known for, will help immensely. We expect the trails to be in good shape this weekend.
Cross-country skiing in this area has been, overall, very good. In fact, one can argue in this season of thin snow cover or, in many parts of the state, no snow at all, that the Rhinelander area has had some of the best skiing in the state (and we can back that with reports from out-of-the-area skiers who have told us that). Skating trails have been very good; classic track good to very good overall. The new snow should top off a hard used base, and with good grooming bring this weekend’s conditions up to very good to excellent.
We are hearing consistent reports of above average skiing at the Northwood Golf Course trails, Washburn Lake and Cassian Lake and McNaughton. The new snow should have all of these in very good shape as we head into the last two weeks of January.
Ice on area lakes has built, slowly, over the past weeks. Most lakes are pretty consistent in ice thickness now, but you will still find a few thin spots on some lakes. Once again, we advise caution on all lakes; thin ice looks the same as sound ice from above. If in doubt, test the ice as you go.
The ice fishing success rate has been good lately. Part of this is due to the simple fact that mild temperatures, plus no Packer game last weekend, has made it more likely for fishermen to get out. More fishermen; more fish caught. Simple. But walleyes, northern pike and some panfish have made the effort worthwhile for many.
Medium shiners under tip-ups has proved the ticket for walleye and northern fishermen. Most of those fish have been taken in fairly shallow water over weedy areas. Many a walleye angler has spent an afternoon chasing flags, as northern pike move into an area. While pike are not prime table fare, they do liven up time on the ice. Walleye action has been steady but not spectacular.
Panfish, predominantly bluegills and crappies continue to bite well. Small jigs tipped with either real or artificial grubs continue to work well.
All in all, the weekend, at last, looks to be a nice balance of good snow, decent ice and tolerable temperatures. It should be a good one.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.