March is like a lion, a weak, feeble lion perhaps but nonetheless here to stay. Longer hours of daylight, rising temperatures, snow melt; those all are staples of March and even now we see and feel that.
It has been a strange winter that simply never got going and winter sport enthusiasts were not in their glory days because of it. January thaw, February melt-down and all this over a low snow base. Events were compromised, ski and snowmobile trails were sub-par, the Birkebeiner cancelled, all a result of an uneven winter.
Now, in the waning days of winter we need to take stock of what we have. First off, snowsports. The crippling thaw of 10 days ago simply gutted any real snow base that we had. We head into this week with snow sports basically on life support. Snowmobile trails in the area are open but the base is very thin and conditions are very much mixed with some areas simply poor even as deeper wooded stretches of trail are better. Barrels that mark lake crossings have been removed on some trails and caution is advised. Bottom line; trails are iffy and can go to dirt in a short time.
Ski trails are better only because they require less snow. We expect good conditions this weekend as temperatures are on the chilly side and snow will hold. But all trails are showing thin spots and can degrade overnight if the temperatures hit mid 50s as they are forecast to do Sunday and Monday.
Ice fishing is now all focused on panfish as it always is in March. And that’s the good news a recent catches of crappies and some bluegills have been very good. Ice conditions have never been great this winter and now are variable and can turn risky with warm weather. But crappies are beginning to shift into shallower water and catches have been good of late with some nice sized fish coming on. Jig poles and tip downs are the key now as the fish are more active. Ice season may not last much longer but there is some optimism now that it will finish strong.
In the woods the maple sap is beginning to run and on the rivers in the area open water is starting to show more frequently. The next weeks will be a wild run as winter gives up the ghost and early spring moves in.
The Outdoor Report is prepared by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander, where a variety of outdoor products is available.