The forecast calls for a mild weekend, at least in the realm of this winter; temperatures in the 20s feel balmy compared to what we’ve had. Add some snow, and we seem to have plenty of that, and the weekend and week to come look pretty good.
Skiers will find very good conditions on pretty much every trail they use. We’ve gotten plenty of snow, there has been time to groom the trails, and with more moderate temperatures this weekend should be a winner. We’re nearing the date (Feb. 22) of the American Birkebeiner and any aspiring Birkie skier will find plenty of opportunity to log extra miles in preparation. Recreational skiers, too, will find good snow and decent temperatures.
The same snowpack that has set up ski trails is there for snowmobile users as well. That vast network of trails should be pretty near perfect this week. Riders will see mile after mile of very good track in the upcoming days. Groomers have been doing their usual stellar job and the results are there for all to enjoy. The only possible caution is that some lake crossings may have some bumpy areas where slush has frozen and broken up the normally smooth trails.
The slush on lakes is widespread. While it seems impossible to think that there would be any slush given the bitter cold we’ve had, that is not the case. Many lakes have significant slush on top of good ice and the result is, simply, a mess. Unplowed areas are the worst and travel is difficult on the good days, impossible on the bad.
All of which is to say that ice fishing is really not taking off. The ice fishing season started with optimism with early ice, but the hard cold of December and January cut participation significantly and now the slush on lakes is slowing things a lot. We’re near the end of game fish season and now the focus is all on panfish. Normally, that brings a lot of anglers out. This year, not as many.
Those anglers who are getting out are finding some fish. Crappies and bluegills are in deeper water, often suspended off the bottom. Small jigs with waxies and a small minnow will often bring success. That will be the case going forward as panfish action improves. Walleyes are deep as well, with some being taken with medium size minnows. Northerns have shown some signs of life, usually in shallower water (12 feet and less) where they take larger minnows or flashy jigs.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.