The effects of last week’s snowstorm still dominate the recreational scene this weekend, now 10 days past the big snowfall. We got a lot of heavy, wet snow, and most of it remains in spite of thaw temperatures this past week. Snow depths in the woods this week exceeded 30 inches in many places, and even the warm weather and rain will not take that down very fast. As a result, we head into this weekend with essentially mid-winter snow conditions, even as we move headlong into spring.
Now, one must keep in mind that all this can change and change quickly! If temperatures drop below freezing, the snow will last; if not, it will degrade. If overnight temperatures remain above freezing, or if we get that combined with some hard rain or fog, we’ll lose snow, and conditions will deteriorate.
Skiers and snowmobilers alike had to enjoy conditions over the past week. It’s been a mostly-thin snow season this year, and the late snow brought a “better late than never” expression from both camps. Groomers for both ski and snowmobile trails worked long hours over the past days, and as a result we should see very good conditions.
Snowmobile trails are in very good shape, although heavy use does tend to beat them up some. With no snow south of us, snowmobile enthusiasts headed this way in good numbers last weekend, and trail use was heavy. It remains to be seen if that happens this weekend. If it does, expect a lot of machines on the trails and, as a result, some wear and tear. But the weather looks favorable for at least some good riding this weekend.
Cross-country skiers are hoping to find very good conditions this week as well. The heavy snow took a lot of work to pack and groom, but this weekend may well deliver up some very good skiing. Any time we get this late in the season, timing becomes important in terms of when in the day to ski. Warm temperatures will load the snow with moisture, and late afternoon tracks can be too soft. Those trails can freeze up hard overnight if temps drop below 32, and the next morning tracks can be icy and too fast. Best to wait for some warm-up so that the snow softens enough to give good conditions. Too early can be too icy; too late can be too wet. Late morning is often the best time.
We expect all trails in the area to be in mid-winter form going into the weekend. How they fare is totally dependent on weather.
Ice fishing is one activity that did not fare well with the snow. Or rather, travel on lakes has not fared well. That heavy snow has really hampered vehicle traffic, and the warm weather this week has added a layer of slush or standing water to ice on many lakes. As a result, reports are sparse of late, with many willing anglers left on shore due to difficult or impossible travel conditions.
The reality is we are probably in the last month of ice fishing, a time when panfish rule and some of the best fishing of the entire year is possible. We’re hoping that improved travel conditions on lakes will make it possible to get out this weekend and into the next weeks. The longer days and higher sun all combine to bring some good to great panfishing.
Late season ice fishing is a simple matter of rigging a jig pole and tip-downs and finding the fish. Crappies are still holding deep on most lakes but will move toward the shallows soon. Bluegills and perch have been spotty of late, but both should come on, bluegills sooner, perch later, right up to ice out. Once travel is easier, we think panfish action will turn on hot and heavy.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.