Outdoor Report: Looking for better conditions in the new year
We take sight on the new year this weekend; dead ahead, no avoiding it, no putting it off. December is over, or darn near, when you read this. The new year awaits, awaits with a mix of promise and hope for better times to come. January is the open door that leads to true winter; short days, long nights, bone-chilling cold. That is what January has to offer. December was for practice; January is for real.
The last week of December gave us a taste of the cold for the first time this season. That is not a bad thing, for we needed some good, hard cold to set the ice up on area lakes. Ice has formed slowly over the past 30 days and the cold of this week helped a lot to accelerate things. We are now hearing reports that some lakes sport up to seven inches of good ice. But a caution: Not all ice is that thick; some, on deeper lakes or over springs or currents, is far thinner. Do not assume that all ice is safe for travel, no matter how cold it’s been or how thick the ice may be in some areas on some lakes.
We are finally seeing some ice fishing activity over many lakes. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that the increased fishing has not produced a lot of success. The short of it is that for the most part, the past week has been very slow and we continue to hear anglers puzzle over the lack of fish. We offer no answers to this slow start, only hope that things will pick up.
The cold that has started to build good ice is also welcome news for snowmobilers. They need good cold to freeze up the swamp crossings as well as make lake travel safe. This past week will help in both counts. But then we need snow for as of this week, there is just not much to go on. Trail cover is thin and conditions fair at best. If you do get out, take it easy and by all means do not venture on lakes unless trails are clearly marked. Many lakes have areas of thin ice and are not safe for travel.
Skiers don’t need quite as much snow and area trails are coming along, although slowly. Local trails at Washburn Lake, McNaughton and Northwood Golf course are all packed and skiable to some degree, but we really do need more snow. For now, skating is generally better than striding but on all trails there is only a thin cover and older skis, ones that skiers don’t mind nicking up a bit, are a safer bet. A little more snow will help a lot.
All in all, December has been a slow month for winter sports enthusiasts and we can only hope that January and the new year will bring better conditions.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.