A January deep-freeze dominated the outdoor scene this week, as did the ongoing and now way-too-long snow drought. Outside activity was cut to the bone by the chill temperatures and the lack of snow provided no relief for snow enthusiasts. But all is not lost. Weekend forecasts call for more moderate temperatures and a chance of snow late week (this is written on Thursday and if the forecast is true we may have a few inches of snow).
Where does all this leave us? For one, ice conditions continue to improve. We never believe that all ice is safe but this week’s cold did a lot of good for area ice. That is good news for ice anglers, who have continued to deal with inconsistent ice all season. With warmer temps ahead, more people should be out on the ice.
Those few who did venture out this week did find fish. Northerns and walleyes continue to be steady if not exceptional and pan fish hold their own. While two weeks ago we were seeing fish in shallower water, this week saw a return to deeper water fishing. All lakes are different, but this week found successful anglers working water 15 feet deep and deeper, and finding walleyes there. Nothing special in terms of rigging is happening; tip-ups with shiners always work in winter.
Pan fish anglers are finding crappies on a more regular basis, mostly in deeper water, 12 to 15 to 20 feet, depending on the lake. But overall crappies have been coming on over the last 10 days or so. Bluegills are spottier, as are perch.
Ice conditions have improved; snow conditions have not (as of this writing). Ski trails are mostly packed but not tracked, and so skate skiers will find tolerable conditions even as stride skiers do not. There is nothing new to say about ski trails; they simply need more snow.
Snowmobile trails are in the same low-snow boat as ski tracks. For now, most trails are marginal at best and many sections simply are not rideable.
It seems impossible to think that we have gone this late into January without having good snow. In years past, we may have gotten good snow and lost it to a January thaw. But in those years, we did have enough for some snow sports. This year has simply been as poor as we have seen in ages and without a few good snowfalls in the upcoming weeks, we cannot expect things to get any better.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.