Outdoor Report is your weekly snapshot for all things outdoors from across the state. Here is a brief look at what Wisconsin has in store for you this week.
In the north, snowmobile trails are in good condition on the travelwisconsin.com Snow Conditions Report. Keep an eye out for some slush spots due to the recent warmer weather. Cross-country ski conditions and snowshoeing are at a premium.
Fluctuating water levels have produced adverse ice conditions on backwaters of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. Southern Inland lakes have a variety of ice conditions, from open water to up to 5 inches. Northern ice conditions are highly variable from 3 to 12 inches, but slush is an issue.
Anglers should use extreme caution. Ice fishing has been good in some areas, with anglers reporting panfish and an occasion bass, walleye and northern pike. Early trout anglers had a good opening weekend with favorable weather and stream conditions. With the close of deer season, predator hunters are out in force having success with bobcat, fisher and otter catches all well represented.
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By Ashland and Bayfield, only Chequamegon Bay has ice on it, and most of the fishermen have been walking due to lower ice thickness. Fishing has been so-so for any amount of fish, but brown trout have been the main staple so far.
As of Jan. 7, there is still some unfrozen open water in the middle of Devil's Lake. Some people have been ice fishing around the edges of the lake.
January brings anglers a choice of early trout season and ice fishing in southwest Wisconsin's streams and lakes. Trout anglers had a good opening weekend with favorable weather and stream conditions. Many streams produced early catches of brook trout and brown trout. While the temperatures look to cool down, the fishing should still be good with stable water levels for Driftless Area streams.
Ice fishing has been good as well, with many anglers reporting good creels of panfish with an occasion bass, walleye and northern pike. Fluctuating water levels have produced bad ice conditions on the Mississippi and Wisconsin River backwaters. Inland lakes have a variety of ice conditions from one inch up to five inches. Anglers should use extreme caution and check local waterbody conditions before heading out.
Ice conditions are variable depending on the lake/flowage near Peshtigo.
The lagoon at Lakeshore State Park continues to be ice-free due to recent warm temperatures. Shoreline and boat fishing continues, primarily for rainbow and brown trout. Note that the fishing pier and boat docks are closed for the season due to the installation of circulators that protect the infrastructure when the ice does form.
In the Rhinelander and Minocqua area, we've had fishable ice on many lakes since the first week of November. Right now, ice conditions are highly variable - most lakes have about 10-12 inches of ice, but there are two layers of slush sandwiched in the middle. Large, deep lakes have 3-9 inches of ice, but slush is less of an issue. The surface slush has started to freeze in, but there are still wet patches and areas of thinner ice. Fish are entering mid-winter patterns. Bluegill and perch are being found in moderate depths near weeds; crappies have started to move to deeper water.
Ice on Shawano Lake is highly variable over very short distances. Most anglers are walking on and sticking to areas where other people are assembled.
While southern Wisconsin patiently waits for snow and colder temperatures, don't forget about the opportunity this warmer winter weather brings. Squirrel season runs until the end of January, and with easily accessible and plentiful food sources, now would be a great time to get out.
With the close of deer season, predator hunters are out in force having success. Tagged a lot of furs last night and Bobcat, fisher, and otter catches all well represented. With the lack of thick ice and deep snow, trappers can get to most areas they want to with ease.
Goldeneye, lesser scaup and greater scaup have made their way to the Lakeshore State Park lagoon for winter. American kestrels and red-breasted mergansers continue to be seen, with occasional viewings of a snowy owl and common merganser.
A female snowy owl has been spotted in the cornfields near the Madison Audubon Society's Goose Pond Sanctuary State Natural Area in Arlington.
Snowmobile trails in northern Bayfield County are in good condition. Keep an eye out for some slush/overflow spots on trails in the lower terrain areas due to the recent warmer weather.
Snow depths are at least knee-deep on the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Winter enthusiasts will find many opportunities to do all their favorite winter activities. Cross country skiing, snowshoeing and sledding are at a premium. Ice conditions are variable with the heavy snow cover insulating area water resources. Birding activity is scarce.
Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures and lack of snowpack on the ground at the MacKenzie Center, a walk in the conifer stand is no less enjoyable. However, with snow in the forecast, these woods promise to be a winter wonderland.
There is still snow at Newport State Park, but warmer weather has settled in, leaving ski conditions questionable. With the inch of snow that fell recently, Monarch Trail is still decent for skate skiing. There are areas of standing water on Fern and Newport, and sections of Europe Bay Trails.
The Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie to Downsville is groomed for classical cross-country skiing and skate skiing. The conditions are good.
The ski trail at Council Grounds State Park is groomed but in poor condition due to melting and refreezing. Snowshoeing is fair, but on well-traveled trails, snowshoes may not be necessary. While you are out on the trails, you'll find chickadees coming to see what you're up to and signs of turkey activity.
The Hank Aaron State Trail remains clear of snow due to recent warmer weather. Be cautious of ice while riding, particularly at access points that experience runoff as the temperatures cool. The trail is not plowed in the winter except for street adjoined portions on the east end. Common mergansers have been seen in the Menomonee River along the trail, along with beavers and muskrats. Many brightly colored cardinals have been observed along portions west of Hawley Road.
There is still hardly any snow on the ground at Devil's Lake State Park, though hiking trails have lingering spots of ice and snow in the shady areas.
The fluctuating weather has been making conditions difficult to report in Flambeau River State Forest. Snowmobile trails are in good condition for the most part, but low and swampy areas are soft and not froze down. Ski trails are open, but only the southern half of the trail system is groomed and tracked while the northern portion is very wet and needs to freeze down before continuing grooming operations. Area lakes are very inconsistent with ice conditions, with some lakes having good ice while others are very thin. Be cautious when getting out on the lakes and trails.
Snowmobile trails are open in the northwest part of the county and closed in the southeast part of the county due to bare ground.
A lack of snow has been disappointing for skiers at the Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit but has been bringing out high numbers of hikers. As long as the temps are low, the mountain bike trails will stay open. Annual stickers and trail passes are available by self-registering or stopping by the forest headquarters.