This has been anything but a typical winter. Low snow, iffy ice conditions, warm temperatures have all been in play this season leaving us, near February 1, with conditions more similar to December. For winter sport enthusiasts it has been a season of uncertainty and some frustration. Are better days ahead? Will February deliver up some good snow? Those are some of the questions we’ll see answered in the next weeks.
For now, the outdoor report sounds remarkably similar to what we’ve had. The snow sport fans have been sounding like the old broken record: Need more snow, need more snow, need more snow. January may well pass with about half of the normal snowfall and this after a December that had only a trace by New Years. Bottom line is that at no time in this season have snow conditions approached decent levels.
It is such that even an inch of new snow is notable and that inch or so is what we had this past week. Ski trails have been groomed as best they can and are in fair to good conditions overall in the immediate Rhinelander area. Classic tracks are still thin at best; skiing lanes are better. There is skiing to be had and people are enjoying the time outside but we are a long way from what we’d expect as we near February.
Same thing with the snowmobile trails. Conditions have improved but only slightly and reports are of fair to good trail conditions. Some sections of trails (and this is true for ski and snowmobile) simply need more snow. Low areas, areas under heavy pine and so forth are always thinner. That is the case this year. But we did see more machines out last weekend and expect that to be the case this week.
All eyes are on next Tuesday when the forecast holds for a good snowfall. If we get that, things will be very good.
Ice conditions are usually rock solid by the end of January. So it’s a bit of a shock to report that some lakes still have areas that are pretty thin and best avoided. The late ice up stalled ice fishing and the iffy ice conditions that followed did nothing to spur ice angling. As it is we are seeing more people on the ice and fishing reports are more common than even two weeks ago.
But it’s been a strange ice fishing season and even now has not kicked in gear. We are hearing reports of some good walleyes in deep water and mixed action in the transition zone between shallows and drop-offs to deeper areas. Northern pike have been active and panfish mixed. We’re into the last month or so of walleye fishing and walleyes typically slow down. But panfish action should improve as we go later into February and that seems the best bet for good fishing in the next weeks.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander.