January weather, or at least what we expect for January weather, showed up this week with sub-zero temperatures, some biting winds and a trace of snow. That’s a far cry from the thaw conditions that dominated the first two weeks of the new year. This weekend looks to moderate a shade, just in time to provide some pretty good conditions for outside activities. Just like Goldilock’s porridge: “Not too hot; not too cold”, this weekend should hit the happy middle ground of “just right”.
Cross-county ski trails, like Goldi’s porridge, should be just right this weekend. We have not had tons of snow, but the reality is that local skiers have been on snow for well over a month now, from the first significant snowfall back in early December. Word is getting out and the past two weekends saw skiers from all over the state on area trails. This weekend we expect good to very good conditions on all trails in this area. Washburn has been skiing very well as have McNaughton, the Northwood Golf Course and Cassian Lake trails. Once again Nose Lake trails have gotten heavy traffic with dog fanciers, as that is the one trail that allows dogs. Bottom line is if you like to ski, this weekend will be worth the time to get out.
Snowmobile trails have been slowly coming around, and reports are generally good at this time. The cold weather this week will hold the snow, but there may be some heavier traffic, as the big derby in Eagle River will bring people north and, painful as it may be to mention it, the fact that there is no Packer game will free up time for a lot of us. We can always use some more snow, but for what we have, we are looking at good trails this week.
The snow has not been deep enough to hamper travel on most lakes, and ice fishermen have enjoyed that. Lake ice is in generally good condition, but there are always a few thin spots on some lakes, so never assume otherwise. There have been several deaths reported in the past week across the Midwest, as people have gone through ice, and those alone should serve as a reminder.
On those lakes of sound ice, we’ve seen good fishing. We are probably less than halfway through ice season, and things are steady now. Walleyes continue a consistent bite, nothing spectacular but good fishing nonetheless. We’re not seeing big lunkers, but are hearing of good numbers of fish being caught. There is no magic answer to walleye fishing; tip-ups and minnows, usually medium sized, fished over weedy areas will take fish. Walleye action often plateaus in late January, so things may begin to taper off soon, but for now fishing is OK.
Panfish, primarily crappies and bluegills, are coming on. As with walleyes, it’s not hot and heavy action (the best panfish action is still a month away) but consistent. Crappies usually shift to the deepest parts of any given lake, and suspend off the bottom. Find the deep areas, and fish them methodically until you find the depth that they are comfortable with on that day. Bluegills are generally shallower. Jigs of varying colors tipped with either natural or artificial grubs (we’ve not seen major differences in the effectiveness of one over the other) will take fish.
And while northern pike and bass do not rival walleyes or panfish for dinner, they have both been very active of late. As with walleyes, weedy areas hold fish, and a minnow suspended just over the tops of the weeds can be productive.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.