We’ve had a taste of January cold; last weekend delivered that. Snow? Less so in that arena as snow depths remain below what we’d expect. It has not been, nor is it now, a stellar winter for outdoor enthusiasts. With February coming on soon the best we can hope for is a strong finish to what has been a historically bad winter to date.
If there is good news to the hard cold it is that ice formation on area lakes continues to improve. It is rare, if not unprecedented, to have concerns on ice thickness this late in the season but that remains the case. Anglers are now venturing out on most lakes with more confidence but we continue to get reports of thin ice on certain lakes. Caution remains the key to ice travel.
Ice fishing has been decent overall even if the entire ice fishing season has been disjointed by late ice up. As a rule we’re seeing walleyes biting best in the late afternoon into evening, most often along the drop-offs as fish move in to feed.
Northerns will be more of a daytime bite. Panfish have been somewhat inconsistent with crappies in deeper water with bluegills shifting shallower. But the biggest news is that better ice and a warm weekend ahead will set up for the best fishing conditions of the season.
Snowmobile trails are a mixed bag. Close to Rhinelander they are in fair condition but we’re seeing improved conditions to the northwest. There has simply been a few more inches of snowfall in those areas. Lake travel is improving but varies with the individual trails. Do not take a machine on ice except on clearly marked trials! As we continue to note we simply need more snow.
Same for cross country skiing. Local trails area fair to good with better track for skate skiers than striders. A year ago we had some of the best skiing in the midwest; today, not nearly so. Trail groomers are doing what they can but without a shot of new snow they are limited. Still, skiing is doable and we’ve seen a lot of skiers come back looking pretty enthused, all things considered.
We are halfway through a normal winter and while this winter has hardly been normal we can take some comfort in both longer hours of daylight and take some hope in the simple fact that February can bring some good snowfalls.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.