A major warm-up in the last week has caused snow conditions to deteriorate rapidly across the state, but especially in the south. Some areas of the state saw a change in temperatures of more than 40 degrees in one day. Temperatures have been in the 40s to low 50s this week, and snow cover has dropped from 18 to 24 inches last week across the state, to a foot to 18 inches in the north, down to 3 inches in some areas of the south.
Snowmobile trails are now closed in roughly the southern two-thirds of the state and in just fair condition in the northern counties that remain open. Some counties closed trails in hopes of retaining snow on trails so they could be re-opened if temperatures drop as forecast for this weekend. Snowmobilers should check the Department of Tourism snow conditions report for updates or call ahead to their destinations for the latest conditions. Cross-country ski trail conditions have also deteriorated, and some parks and forests are asking skiers to voluntarily refrain from using the trails, again with hopes of retaining what grooming and snow remains.
Big fish and challenging travel conditions were the story during the first five days of the Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing seasons. Through the end of spearing hours Wednesday, 1,105 fish had been harvested, with 67 of them weighing more than 100 pounds, including a 185-pound, 80.2- inch female sturgeon was taken Feb. 14,
The Upriver Lakes were still open on Thursday, but could close if the harvest trigger is hit, otherwise the upriver season will be open at least through Friday. The Lake Winnebago closure is not in sight. There were reports of lots of water and very rough going on the roads off Oshkosh. Nine more fish over a hundred pounds were registered Wednesday, largest percentage of trophy fish on any single day in the history of the fishery. One spearer registered one of the infamous "white" sturgeon come on Wednesday. Not a true albino as the eyes were not pink.
Ice fishing on inland lakes remained slow, and travel became very difficult because of the melting snow and build up of slush. Ice conditions can change very rapidly in these warm temperatures, especially near inlets, outlets or natural springs, so people should be using extreme caution venturing out on ice.
Anglers with ice shacks still on the ice should consider removing them now or risk a big hassle getting them off if they sink into the slush and then cold temperatures re-freeze the ice later. The first ice fishing shanty removal deadline is next Sunday, Feb. 20 for Iowa-Wisconsin boundary waters.
Along Green Bay, the Peshtigo Harbor area saw an influx of northern pike anglers pre fishing for
a tournament next weekend. The Oconto breakwater saw a lot of activity this weekend, with some whitefish and a few perch caught along with some good numbers of smelt. Along Door County, Sturgeon Bay anglers had some success fishing perch but most have been small. Little Sturgeon Bay anglers were having success on whitefish.
After the warm weekend the ice conditions below the dams on the Mississippi River are becoming extremely dangerous. Run-off water is also entering many other rivers and the flowing water under the ice can rapidly deteriorate ice. Ice is also breaking up below dams on the Rock River and some decent walleye action was being reported.
Birds heard singing recently include tufted titmouse, house finch, cardinal, and white- breasted nuthatch. Waterfowl are getting more active with longer days triggering increased hormones, and bald eagles have been seen in the north carrying materials back to repair nests.