Last week’s heavy thaw is history, but the damage done remains. We had enough warm days and mild nights to cut into our snow cover to some extent, and while cover is still adequate, we could use more snow. The trails, specifically cross-country ski trails, are now icy in spots, even as snowmobile trails showed thin spots. And significantly, many lakes now sport areas of slush, making travel problematic. Bottom line is that we need more snow.
Having noted all that, it is notable that we have as much snow as most anywhere else in the state, and far more than a significant portion of the Badger State. Snowmobile trails south of here are mostly in poor shape, so this area is looking good by comparison. However the reality is that area trails here, victims of heavy use and lack of new snow, are probably fair at best, with some thin, dirty areas. There will be sections of good riding, make no mistake about that. But without more snow, we’re a ways off from where we’d like to be.
Cross-country ski trails have the snow cover, but in many areas the wet snow of last week is now frozen hard. Skate lanes are usually better in these conditions than the stride tracks, as good grooming will break up the ice in the skate area. Stride tracks, cut into the snow, require more work to rejuvenate and as of mid-week they were hard and icy. Those icy tracks can be very, very fast and quite unforgiving. Skiers should be extra careful on downhills now, unless afternoon temperatures warm up enough to soften the snow, which isn’t likely in the foreseeable future. Overall ski trails remain fair to good.
If your winter sport involves snow, the best we can say is that a little snow will help a lot. The worst we can offer up is that the forecast does not promise anything as of midweek, which may make this weekend less than perfect.
For ice anglers, the same warm weather a week ago has caused some significant slush to develop on many lakes. The cold weather of late week will help things out, but we still expect some areas of slush, so check things out as you go. And we continue to hear of ice that is thinner than the norm. Just because it’s moving to late winter, and we’ve had some cold weather this week, does not mean ice is where it usually is. Be careful!
Walleyes usually taper off by mid February, and that seems the case this year. They are still somewhat active, but the major feed is over. Fish them where you can with minnows suspended above weed beds. Walleyes are still hitting, but not like they were a few weeks ago.
Northern pike continue to be strong, highlighting a strong ice season in which we saw more pike, and larger ones, being caught. But this time of the year is mostly about panfish, and they will come on stronger with each week. Longer days drive crappies, bluegills and perch to feed more, and we’re on the leading edge of that bite. Crappies have been the most active of all panfish, still lurking in deep water, generally suspended several feet above the bottom. Bluegills are shallower. Both crappies and ‘gills have been biting well on small jigs and minnows; perch have been absent, and will come on in the next 30 days.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.