January rode into the New Year the cold air so typical of the month. January is when the cold can be at its deepest: long nights, low sun that brings light but not heat, masses of arctic air come from the north; that’s January, that’s what we expect.
The cold is good news for ice anglers, bringing as it does deep enough chill to firm up lake ice. Ice cover on area lakes is better today than it was a week ago, but still of varying depths. Ice over current or springs remains thinner than ice over shallow, still water and many lakes still have weak ice in certain areas. We remain cautious even while seeing an improvement in general ice quality in the past 10 days.
The better ice and holiday vacation time put more anglers on the ice but results remain mixed and inconsistent. Which is a nice way of saying that some anglers are taking fish, but a lot of them are not. It is a puzzle so far, this new ice season. The normal surge of early walleye success simply has not happened for most. Even northern pike have proved difficult to catch on many lakes. No reason has been offered up for the lack of good fishing, but the fact remains that many ice anglers simply are not doing as well as they usually do.
We’re hoping that the better ice conditions will stabilize things and that fishing will improve. We have had some bright spots-bluegills on Thunder Lake were hot last weekend, northern action seems better and some walleyes are coming on. But we are not finding any real consistent patterns in tactics or lakes yet.
Ice on the lakes is all well and good for anglers but does not do much for skiers or snowmobilers. They need snow and snow has been thin. Most area trails for skiers and snowmobiles both have been packed to some degree, but all remain thin and all need snow. There is not much trail groomers can do without good snow and they’ve not had much to work with.
Cross country ski trails are mostly packed, but very few are tracked. Skate skiing is good; stride skiing, the traditional kick-and-glide technique, is fair at best. It’s a simple matter of not enough snow and until we get more, snow conditions will remain as they are.
Snowmobilers are also wishing for snow. Machines need more snow than skiers and until we get it, we can’t expect much better than fair trail conditions in the area.
January is known more for its cold than snow, but the past couple winters have seen decent snowfall during this month. We need that to happen one more time, for until or unless we get a good snowfall, all snow-related activities will remain fair at best.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.