Outdoor Report: Early winter leads to outdoor activities heating up
Forget the calendar, which notes that winter arrives Dec. 21. Don’t kid yourself; winter came in late November this year and for the first time in a long while, winter looks like it’s for real.
There was no easing into it; subzero temperatures during deer season; subzero temps in early December; snow on the ground. Winter. No two ways about it.
All of which is good news, naturally, for those who love a long, cold Wisconsin winter. That crowd would include skiers, ice fishermen and snowmobilers. None of them are particularly upset with snow and cold come early. And yes, it is beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas as we turn toward that day that now looms ever so near.
Skiers got out a few weeks ago as groomers on many trails packed down the early snow. The base that resulted is firm and it’s not going anywhere soon. A few snowfalls, an inch or two at a time, topped off the base and skiers started using trails in the area in earnest. Trail conditions are good in most areas as we head into the holiday week and we see now reason to expect that to change (unless we get more snow in which case they’ll be improved).
Oneida County snowmobile trails opened this past Wednesday and the same dynamic of cold and snow that set up ski trails did the same for snowmo trails. Snowmobilers need more snow than skiers so we expect fair to good conditions this week. As with ski trails a few inches of snow can really make a difference so if we get snow (and the forecast hints that we will) trails will improve in the upcoming week.
Early ice, and we saw that by late November, kicked off the ice fishing season several weeks ago. Cold weather (and we’ve had some) continues to improve ice conditions. In the past week, we started hearing reports of 10 inches, even a foot, of ice on some lakes. But note: not all lakes are consistent in ice thickness. Ice forms better on shallow lakes and sheltered bays on larger lakes. Those small lakes and back bays on larger water will be much better for ice than some deep lakes or areas over springs or moving water. Those places always will have less ice so don’t assume it’s all good.
Walleyes have been steady this past week and with slightly warmer temperatures we expect good angling conditions. We have had reports of walleyes in shallow water, typical of December, but also on some lakes in the 8 to 10 foot range, along the drop-off. Crappies are deeper but on some days have been very active.
All in all we are going into the Christmas week with good to very good conditions for all winter sports.
The Outdoor Report is provided by the staff of Mel’s Trading Post in downtown Rhinelander.