Mother Nature is not being kind to winter sports enthusiasts with roughly the southern two-thirds of the state snow-free and only the far north having snow depths of 6-12 inches. A snowstorm Sunday into Monday dropped from 4 to 6 inches of snow in the north and northeast, but that was followed by rain across most of the state, with temperatures in the upper 30s in the north an approaching 50 in the south. A day later it was frigid single digit temperatures across the state.
The best snow conditions are found in far northern Wisconsin, such as at the Brule River State Forest.
There continues to be only a half-dozen far northern counties where snowmobile trails are open on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report. Cross-country ski trails conditions are good to fair in about a dozen northern counties. The weather is hindering Wisconsin’s popular winter candlelight events. While more than 1,700 people turned out for the first candlelight event at Mirror Lake last weekend, the two events scheduled for this Saturday have been cancelled due to lack of snow or icy trails. Learn to snowshoe and ski events and a special event Fat Tire Bike Race at the New Fane Trail at Kettle Moraine North have also been cancelled.
Icy trails such as these at the New Fane trail in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest are leading to the cancellation of some events.
The warm temperatures early this week continued to deteriorate ice conditions. Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Buttes des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan now have many large areas of open water. Only the smaller bays along Door County such as Little Sturgeon Bay had enough ice for anglers to get out. With the return of cold weather, lakes have begun to freeze again, including Lake Mendota in Madison, but many waters have areas that are dangerously thin. An ATV went through on the ice on Lake Noquebay this week but the angler got out with help of local rescue.
Ice depths in the north continue to range from 6 to 12 inches. Anglers have been fishing for crappie, walleye and perch but northern pike have been the most consistent gamefish bite. In the south, water remains open along the Milwaukee Harbor and along Lake Michigan and at the Lakeshore State Park lagoon, and anglers continue to catch brown and rainbow trout.
Deer and turkey were observed feeding in corn fields after the rain. The deer season has now come to an end with archery season finishing on Jan 6. Small game season remains open for squirrels and rabbits but an emergency rule closed grouse season on Dec. 31. In the north, bobcat tracks are being commonly observed, otter slides appear to be everywhere, and snowshoe hare populations seem to be peaking.
The mild winter is also reduced the number of birds being seen both in the field and at feeders than in most years. The reduced snow cover is likely playing a big role in reducing energy demands, increasing access to natural foods, and spreading birds more widely across the landscape. On the up side, the mild conditions have allowed some species to linger longer than usual. Water-loving species spotted this week included belted kingfishers, Wilson’s snipes, great blue herons, large numbers of Canada geese, tundra and trumpeter swans. Sandhill cranes continue in some southern counties. All the open water means bald eagles are also more spread across the landscape instead of concentrating near open water on rivers, but the good news is that there are more of them as they had another record-high nesting year.
On the web: www.dnr.state.wi.us/
The Solunar Tables list top fishing and hunting times in the lunar month. The feeding time listed for each period is the middle of the period. Major periods are two hours long, minor periods are one hour.
Sunday, Jan. 13: Major — 4:15 a.m., 4:37 p.m. Minor — 10:26 a.m., 10:48 p.m.
Monday: Major — 4:59 a.m., 5:21. Minor — 11:10, 11:33 p.m.
Tuesday: Major — 5:43 a.m., 6:06 p.m. Minor — 11:55 a.m., no minor
Wednesday: Major — 6:28 a.m., 6:53 p.m. Minor — 12:15 a.m., 12:40 p.m.
Thursday: Major — 7:15 a.m., 7:42 p.m. Minor — 1:01 a.m., 1:28 p.m.
Friday: Major — 8:05 a.m., 8:35 p.m. Minor — 1:50 a.m., 2:20 p.m.
Saturday: Major — 9:00 a.m., 9:31 p.m. Minor — 2:44 a.m., 3:15 p.m.