Had a groundhog emerged on Thursday, an unlikely event considering near zero temperatures, it would have seen its shadow, dark and stark on the new snow. That would portend an extended winter; six weeks or more. Which may not be the worst thing; the past six weeks of winter have been a bust of sorts with too little snow, poor lake ice and a 10-day thaw. Winter enthusiasts, of which there are plenty, have had little to cheer about.
Six weeks is a long time to consider; better to focus on the next six days, an easier task. And the forecast for those days indicates winter weather. For now, that’s enough.
We stand now, in the first week of February, with enough snow to make things happen on ground but with very much mixed conditions of lake ice which makes lake activities, fishing primarily, more difficult. Such is what we have this winter, a strange winter in many aspects.
Given that snow sports are more upbeat we’ll start there. The thaw of January has passed thankfully but its impact remains. The base for all trails was reduced some and the cold that came in froze it hard as it did with the crust on unpacked snow. As we go into the weekend snowmobile trails are in good condition after some light snow earlier this week and some skilled grooming. It should be a good weekend to ride.
Ski trails also are coming back after the hard thaw. Skating remains very good while classic tracks have lagged some due to the difficulty in setting new track in hard crust. But the snow earlier in the week has helped a lot and by week’s end trails were skiing very well. With temperatures in the 20s and some new snow we expect a very good weekend for skiing.
Which brings us to ice fishing. Last weekend’s reports dealt more with a few trucks breaking through the ice than they did with catches of fish. It has been a strange year for lake ice and we’ve had a lot of reports of marginal ice quality. But we are also hearing that the slush that dominated conditions a week ago has now frozen down making access easier. All lakes are different and caution is still advised in his odd winter.
Northern pike seem the most active; lots of fish along weedy areas and they’re taking minnows pretty aggressively. Walleye action is mixed with some good catches in the evening; minnows under tip-ups still the best bet. Panfish are also mixed with crappies in deeper water. Action on them has been slow but steady.
Hours are daylight are noticeably longer now than a month ago and while cold temperatures dominate the nighttime lows, February is here and with it a swing toward winter’s end. The weekend looks like a good one as winter activities return to normal after the thaw of January.
The Outdoor Report is prepared by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander, where a variety of outdoor products is available.