Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wisconsin Outdoor Report as of December 17, 2009

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

Snow depths across Wisconsin range from about half a foot to a little more than a foot, with the exception of the far southeastern portion of the state that has less snow. New snow in the last week ranged from about 1 to 4 inches, with more of the newer snow in the north.

Snowmobile trails are now open in about 30 counties across the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Conditions range from fair to good.

Cross-country ski trails are open and have been groomed at most parks and forests across the state, with conditions ranging from good to excellent. Cold temperatures late this week turned the snow that had softened and saturated by warm temperatures earlier in the week into an icy trail surface in some locations.

Despite the cold weather of the past week, ice cover remains real variable ranging from 1 to 7 inches on waters across the north. This is due to the 5 to 10 inches of snow that has insulated the lake surface and kept us from gaining a more significant amount of ice. Lakes are starting to freeze over in the south, but many of the larger lakes remain open. Any early season anglers are urged to exercise extreme caution when venturing out -- as lakes with undisturbed snow cover may only have 1 to 2 inches of thin ice covered by snow. Early season anglers have been using tip-ups and targeting walleye in the north, and they have reported fair success. Anglers fishing frozen bays and river backwaters in the south have been having some success with panfish.

Along Lake Michigan, shore anglers at Port Washington and Milwaukee have been catching a few brown and rainbow trout. On the Root River in Racine, water clarity and stream flows are good, and the river remains open upstream of Island Park. Anglers have been catching some brown trout and steelhead in smaller pools.

The Mississippi River stage was at 7.39 feet at Prairie du Chien. Ice has formed on most back water areas, but conditions vary greatly and are generally unsafe. Some of the back water areas along the Wisconsin River are seeing some bluegill action.

Small game hunters are finding favorable hunting conditions with the snow. Squirrel, rabbit, and coyote hunters are finding ample hunting opportunities. Turkey are out searching for food under the snow in small groups.

The last major crane, goose and tundra swan migration took place Dec. 15 on the back side of a cold front. The snow and cold weather have brought lots of birds to backyard feeders including: cardinals, blue jays, juncos, gold finches, purple finches, woodpeckers, nuthatches and song sparrows. Northern hawk owls have been reported in Oneida and Burnett counties; it is shaping up to be a good year for them. Barrow's goldeneyes, a rare bird in Wisconsin, have been seen in Madison and along Lake Michigan.

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