The groundhog had it right: Six more weeks of winter. Or, more accurately, six weeks and counting. That was reinforced this past week when 6 inches of snow fell and temperatures dropped enough to ensure that it was going to stay for a while. Going into this weekend it looks like winter, feels like winter, and that’s enough to call it what it is: Winter!
A year ago we were in the midst of an unprecedented heat wave that sent temperatures into the 70s and laid waste to what snow we had. It was a once-in-a-lifetime heat wave for March. This year we’re back to the norm and that means winter is lingering and with it a chance to enjoy some late season snow sports.
Snowmobile trails are very good and riders are finally able to find consistent snow on well packed trails in mid March. That’s good news for riders who were very frustrated most of the winter when thin trails simply did not deliver up much for the machines. This weekend looks very good.
Skiers also are into the late season with very good tracks on most local trails. By now, trails are often icy and showing signs of dirt coming up. Not this time. All trails are well-covered with a good base that has been groomed well. Those trails will hold snow for a while even if we get some warm weather this week. For now we are assured of one more very good weekend for skiing. If the weather continues, we’ll be skiing for another week or two.
The same snowfall that so delighted skiers and snowmobilers (not to mention snowshoers) did not do as much to brighten the outlook for ice fishermen. Late snow does little to improve lake cover and more often brings slush that really hampers access. During last week, slush was showing up on a lot of lakes and the heavy snow after a thaw weekend will only make the situation worse. We expect to hear more and more reports of slush this week and that will slow fishing.
What fishing there is now is all about panfish. We are seeing some perch come on and expect that to improve into the next weeks. Perch always come on strong late in the ice season and this should follow the same pattern. Crappies are another staple of late ice fishing. For now they are suspended in deeper water and the bite is a hit or miss on most lakes. We’ve had some good reports but it’s been inconsistent. Bluegills also have been slow for the most part.
We may be into the final week or two of good snow; all bets are off in this season but averages suggest that late March will see snow fade. Ice should be good for another month and as the snow settles the slush should firm up and fishing conditions will improve. But this weekend with a forecast for temperatures in the 20s should be perfect for snow sport enthusiasts.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander; call (715) 362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNOW.com.