It’s taken a long time but as January gives way to February it looks as if winter is finally here. Several snowfalls in the past week have combined with cold temperatures to leave us in, for once, good shape for a winter weekend. Area trails, ski and snowmobile, look good; areas lakes now sport good ice in most areas. And with the cold temperatures nothing is going to change for the worst anytime soon.
This is the first time for the entire season that we can go into a weekend with an expectation of good cross country skiing. Several snowfalls in the last seven days have accumulated and mixed with the hard base that remained after an early-week thaw. Ski trail groomers have been out and the fruit of their labors should be apparent. We expect good to very good conditions on all area ski trails.
And, finally, we can expect the same on snowmobile trails. Trail groomers were working after the mid-week snowfall and by the weekend all area trails should sport good conditions. That’s a first for this season as meager snowfalls have left threadbare trails. This weekend we expect good cover and nicely groomed snowmobile trails throughout this area. Finally!
The snowfall has not helped lake ice but the subzero cold has. We take the position that ice can always be thin in areas (and reminded of that this past week with several news stories of machines going through) and that is still the case. But overall we’re getting reports of good ice, not as thick as in a normal winter but still good.
The surge of walleye and northern action has subsided this week. Both fish were very active up until a week or so ago but both have faded this week. That is not unusual; February often sees a slow down for walleyes and northerns are usually an early season fish. We still expect some walleye action in the next weeks but expect it to be slower than a few weeks ago and continue to taper.
Panfish on the other hand are coming on. Crappies are usually in deeper water on any given lake but usually suspended off the bottom. We did get reports of crappies in 25 feet of water suspended about 6 feet off the bottom and hitting pretty well. Bluegills also are coming on but less consistently. The best news for anglers is that panfish action will pick up this month and run steady until ice out.
So all in all this is the first time this winter that we expect all winter sport enthusiasts to be able to have conditions more typical of a good winter. Skiing and snowmobiling should be good, ice fishing should be steady, and as long as the weather holds things are looking good for the next weeks.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel's Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.