Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wisconsin Outdoor Report as of February 5, 2009

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

Portions of northern and eastern Wisconsin have received minimal snowfalls in the last week, ranging from 1 to 3 inches, but most of southern and central Wisconsin has now gone several weeks without any substantial new snow. Warm weather last weekend melted some snow, and caused snowmobile trails to deteriorate in the southern half of the state. According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), snowmobile trails are now closed in a handful of southern counties and in poor to marginally fair condition in the southern counties that remain open. Trails through central and northern Wisconsin remain in good to very good condtion. With warm weather in the forecast again for this upcoming weekend, more counties are considering closing trails to try and preserve what base remains. Snowmobilers need to remember that using trails when they are closed is trespass, and could damage trails making them more difficult to re-open should conditions improve.

Despite last weekend’s warm-up, cold temperatures again this week have continued to preserve much of the snow on park and forest cross-country ski trails. A small amount of fresh snow over the both the southern and northern Kettle Moraine has continued to keep trails there in good condition. Many other parks in southern Wisconsin including Blue Mound, Mirror Lake and Lake Kegonsa all report current conditions continue to be fair to good. Ski trails in most northern locations continue to be reported as good to very good. Nearly a dozen candlelight ski or snowshoe hikes are schedule for this weekend to coincide with a nearly full moon. Another nine are scheduled next weekend to coincide with Valentines Day.

Ice depths are in the 18 to 22 inch range on most lakes. The erratic and constantly changing weather of the past week has made for some tough fishing action. Walleye anglers reported inconsistent success, panfish action has continued its mid-winter slow period, with most anglers moving around quite a bit searching for the active fish. Success has been low but a few fair catches of crappie and perch have been reported. The best action in the past week has been for northern pike, with some decent action seen during the mid-day hours.

There has been some action for perch and northern pike at the Oconto Harbor area. Along Door County many anglers were targeting whitefish, with the best catches have been in 10 to 15 feet of water. Perch fishing also improved somewhat this week with most angles caching perch in 20 to 30 feet of water.

All last week the Mississippi River dropped slowly, but it stabilized over the weekend and was a 7.4 feet at Prairie du Chien this week. The majority of the main channel is frozen over and all back waters of both the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers remain frozen. In general ice fishing was poor this week, though some sauger were been biting in open water below the Lynxville dam.

Conditions should be excellent this weekend for a series of free ice fishing clinics for kids 15-years-old and younger that are being held at five park ponds and lagoons in Milwaukee County this Saturday, Feb. 7. Participants receive instruction on the proper use of equipment and techniques, knot tying, safety and much more. The clinics last 45 minutes and begin every hour on the hour starting at 9 a.m., with the last one starting at 2 p.m.

With the snowy landscape, rabbit hunting conditions have been ideal. Watch for a network of rabbit trails in sparse wooded areas with numerous brush thickets, grassy wetland edges, hayfields, weedy corn fields, and shrubby fencerows. Cottontails often rest in what is known as a "form," or a shallow depression in the ground hidden beneath a pile of brush or grassy clump. Due to their locations, forms offer protection from predators and weather extremes.
Great horned owls have been calling vigorously in many areas now. Ruffed grouse have been seen feeding on buds in the treetops of aspen and gathering warmth from the sun. And with the warm-up last weekend, northern cardinals were heard singing in many locations.

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