Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wisconsin Outdoor Report as of January 29, 2009

GENERAL Northern Region Northeast Region Southeast Region South Central Region West Central Region

Although a few isolated areas of the north received 2 to 3 inches of new snow in the last week, it has been more than a week since most of the state received any more than a dusting of snow. A few scattered snow flurries were falling in southern Wisconsin Thursday, but there was an inch of accumulation expected at most. Despite the lack of snowfall, cold temperatures have allowed most of the snow that is on the ground to remain, with snow depths continuing to range from about a foot, or slightly less in some areas of the south, to about 20 inches in the north.

In general, snowmobile trails across the state are open and holding up quite well, though they are getting compacted and icy in some areas. Snowmobilers should slow down going into corners, where conditions are generally the worst. Cross-country ski trails have also held up very well, with most state parks and forests continuing to report trails in good to excellent condition. The biggest problem has been debris such as oak leaves and pine and fir cones on trails. A brief warm-up with the first temperatures above freezing in more than three weeks is forecast for this weekend, which should provide a good opportunity for a respite from cabin fever.

With the cold weather, ice thickness continues to increase and most lakes have 18 to 20 inches of ice. The sub-zero temperatures and windy conditions have kept ice fishing pressure down and reduced fish activity, with panfish success hasvingdropped off the most. Crappie Northern pike activity has also slowed as the increased ice thickness and snow cover seems to have lessened their feeding activity. The best success has come from walleye and action could be considered fair to good for this mid-winter time. The most productive bait continues to be sucker minnows, and the best success has come from the weed edges and mud flats in 6 to 10 feet of water.

Along Lake Michigan and Green Bay, some northern pike were being caught north of Oconto to the mouth of the Peshtigo River. Perch anglers were having some success at the mouth of the Oconto River. Along Door County, some limited success for perch was reported at Sturgeon Bay off Potawatomi State Park. Some walleye were biting at the Sturgeon Bay ship canal and off Larson’s reef. Whitefish were also being caught at various locations along the peninsula. On the Lake Winnebago system, anglers have had a lot of success jigging for white bass but action for walleye and perch has been slow. At this point, water clarity on the Lake Winnebago System is looking very good for the sturgeon spearing season that opens Feb. 14.

Ice fishing along southern Lake Michigan harbors has been relatively slow, but a few brown trout and northern pike have been caught. There is open water near the power plant in Port Washington, and aerators running in the north slip at the marina are keeping water open, with some open water anglers catching brown and a few rainbow trout.

The Mississippi River stage was 7.8 feet at Prairie du Chien this week, with almost the entire main channel frozen over after the last cold snap. Fishing pressure and success also dropped off with the cold snap, but there was some spotty bluegill and crappie action reported.

A few northern shrikes have been showing up at bird feeders in the La Crosse area. Because they lack talons, shrikes use their powerful bills to stun or kill small birds while in flight. They also have the unique habit of impaling their prey on sharp objects such as thorns or barbed wire fences. Their predatory habits have earned this winter visitor the nickname "butcher bird."

Great horned owls are beginning courtship activities. Great horned owls begin nesting by taking over old hawk, crow or squirrel nests. Listen for the characteristic “whoo who who who whoooo” calls after dusk.

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