DNR Outdoor Report: Snow Sticks Around | Environment
Colder temperatures in the last week have allowed the snow that fell Dec. 19-20 to remain on the ground in most areas and are making ice on lakes across the state. Snow depths range from just an inch or two in far southeastern Wisconsin, to a foot or more in some south central areas of the state. The north generally received less snow, and has snow depths ranging from 4 to 10 inches.
Snowmobile trails are open in some central and southern Wisconsin counties, and across the northern tier of counties, with conditions fair to good in some locations and poor in others, on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report. Trails remain closed in many counties, because the wet heavy snow fell in many areas on unfrozen ground, which caused it to compact and not build up sufficient base for groomers. Conservation wardens are again reminding people to please stay off closed trails, as using these trails only makes it more difficult for the volunteer snowmobile clubs to maintain them when adequate snow does arrive.
Many state parks and forests were able to groom cross-country ski trails, but in some cases there has not been enough snow to set track. The heavy snow brought down a lot of tree branches and other litter that has made it difficult to groom some trails. However, some trails in the north, such as Copper Falls State Park and the Brule River State Forest are being reported in very good condition, as are some of the southern trails, including Lake Kegonsa, Governor Nelson and Mirror Lake state parks.
Lakes in the Northwoods generally have upwards of 6 to 7 inches of ice, though some still have just 4 to 5 inches. Lakes in the south are beginning to freeze, with Devil’s Lake freezing over this week. Beaver Dam and Fox lakes have 3-5 inches of ice. Lake Monona has started to freeze over but Lake Mendota remains open.
Reports from early season anglers indicate some very erratic walleye fishing in the north. Angling pressure for northern pike is beginning to pick up and success for that species has been fair. There has been some good early success for panfish, as a few anglers have found some decent bluegill after moving around a bit to find the active fish. Panfish are biting on the Mississippi River in the La Crosse area, but the ice is still thin in areas so anglers are encouraged to be extra careful when venturing out.
Late season archery hunters are taking advantage of their last chances to harvest a deer. Oak ridges look like they have been tilled up in many locations due to the deer and turkey pawing and scratching around for the acorns. Most hunters are reporting earlier movement of the deer as well, during daylight hours. Some locations have bucks dropping their antlers already and getting shed hunters out in the woods.
With the open water still along the shore of Green Bay, waterfowl viewing has been good with some swans still around along with mergansers and goldeneyes. Rough-legged hawks are being observed throughout the Coulee Region. These large soaring hawks breed in the Arctic tundra and migrate to and winter primarily in the lower 48 states. They get their name from their furry-looking legs, which are feathered to their toes with soft feathers.
Brule River State Forest – Cross-country skiing on the Afterhours Trail in Brule is rated as very good to excellent for skate skiing and fair to good for classic skiing with a few thin spots and some icy stretches in the track.
- Kevin Feind, ranger
Copper Falls State Park - Winter is in full swing at Copper Falls. The park has received over 20 inches of snow so far this year. Although the first part of December was warm, recent cold weather and snowfall has made for good to excellent winter trail conditions. Cross-country ski trails, both classic and skate, are in good to excellent condition and were last groomed on Dec. 27. The Multi-use Waterfall and Red granite Falls trails were also rolled on Dec. 27. The park currently has about a 8-inch base! Please call the park at 715-274-5123 for up to the minute grooming report as trails are continually groomed as new snow falls. Light Lake Effect Snow is expected over the next several days. Over the past few years we have increased the winter trail system and now offer 21.9 km of classic trail, 10.5 km of skate trail, and 5.5 km of multi-use trail.
- Ben Bergey, park manager
Sawyer County - Ice on area lakes seems pretty consistent in the 3-5 inch depths and making it every day/night now. Anglers still need to check as they go as ice will very in spots the entire season depending on currents, bars, bogs etc. Individuals on the Chippewa flowage are getting mixed bags of panfish. Most are getting them off the cribs or deeper stumps and weeds. Plastics will get the active fish and minnows or wax worms will get the more finicky fish. Some individuals will move a lot to get the active (and most time larger) fish. Others prefer to sit it out and wait for the fish mood to shift into biting. Anglers are reminded that the walleye season is not open on the Chippewa Flowage at this time. It will not open until the opening of fishing season in May 2013. All walleye must be immediately released. Late season archery hunters are moving to logging operations and oak ridges for some of their last chances to harvest a deer. Both locations are pulling in deer now with colder weather. The oak ridges look like they have been tilled up in many locations due to the deer and turkey pawing and scratching around for the acorns. Most hunters are reporting earlier movement of the deer as well, during daylight hours. Some locations have bucks dropping their antlers getting shed hunters out in the woods if the already harvested a deer or are hanging it up for the year due to antlers dropping. Some report seeing bucks w/out antlers as earlier as December 16 this year.
- Thomas Heisler Jr., conservation warden, Winter
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With the cold weather of the past week, ice cover on lakes across the Northwoods has thickened and more ice anglers have been venturing out. However, ice thickness is still quite variable as the insulating snow cover has made for some irregular freezing conditions. Some areas of the lakes have upwards of 6 to 7 inches of ice while other areas may only have 4 to 5 inches where the snow cover was undisturbed. As such, caution is still urged when venturing out on any lakes in the north - especially with ATVs or snowmobiles. Reports from early season anglers indicate some very erratic fishing. Walleye are usually the target for many of the early ice anglers and for most so far, catches have been hard to come by. Many anglers have reported only two or three flags per trip, with the lucky ones able to ice one or two walleye in the 12- to 17-inch size. The most productive areas have been the mud/muck flats, with medium suckers or extra-large fatheads fished just off the bottom at the 6 to 12 foot depth. Some action is also being seen on the gravel drop-offs and near the hard-bottom break lines, especially if they are near any weed beds. Angling pressure for northern pike is beginning to pick up and success for that species has been fair, as the cloudy and colder weather seems to have kept their activity down. Large golden shiners fished near and over any green weeds have provided the best success. There has been some good early success for panfish, as a few anglers have found some decent bluegill after moving around a bit to find the active fish. A small tear-drop jig tipped with a wax worm has worked the best, and the nice fish have been suspended just off the bottom near deeper-water areas.
- Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls