Daylight extends into early evening now; temperatures will continue to rise. The month ahead, February, is the last one that we can truly expect winter to hold on. After the next 30 days all bets are off regardless of what the groundhog may have noted. For snow enthusiasts the upcoming span should be the best of the entire season what with good snow cover and mild temperatures on the way.
None of this is to suggest that winter is over; that is nowhere near the truth. We will have snow and we will have cold but the lengthening days guarantee the tide has turned.
For now we have snow cover and it’s been holding well. Good news in that for skiers and snowmobilers. The latter group, snowmobilers, will find good conditions locally but a step off the “very good” we’d hope for. January had average temperatures, which were nice, but we really did not get much snow. Snowmo trails could use more and even though they are mostly in good shape there are sections that are thin.
Skiers find good to very good conditions on all area trails. They can get by with less snow than the machine riders and for that reason are having a very good season overall. We simply can find no fault on any of the ski trails in the area and with the trend to warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours things are good and getting better.
Ice fishing continues to be a mixed bag as we draw down into the last weeks of game fish season. Walleyes have been showing some signs of life though we typically expect them to be in a slower phase by February. Minnows, 3” to 5” long, under tip-ups have taken fish and some jig fishermen are doing well. Panfish remain very much mixed but on good days we’ve heard reports of good to very good success on both bluegills and crappies. And northern pike have been taking some larger minnows with some gusto.
The one limiting factor for ice anglers remains spots of slush and crust on many lakes. Bottom line is that travel conditions remain variable on area lakes and that has slowed access for many anglers. Best we can hope for is a gradual compaction of snow under the warming sun that will set things up for a good late season.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.