Temperatures in the 30s and 40s and some steady drizzle, freezing rain and fog have reduced snow cover to minimal in the southern half of the state, and have left snowmobile trails open in only the northern tier of counties, but those counties continue to report good to excellent snowmobile conditions on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).
Ski trails are also still in good condition in northern parks and forests, though warm conditions have made the trails soft. Most trails in the southern half of the state are now closed, with the exception of the loop with man-made snow at the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine, which as of Thursday was still planning on going ahead with the Lapham Loppet Ski Races this Saturday.
Freezing rain this week closed some park entrance roads earlier in the week but they have now reopened. Many parking areas remain icy, so anyone visiting properties this weekend should use caution. A candlelight event that had been scheduled this weekend at Governor Dodge and a snowshoe hike at the MacKenzie Center have both been cancelled.
However, candlelight hikes will go on this weekend at the Nordic Trail in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine and at the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center. Both properties are reporting trails are icy and urge people to wear appropriate footwear and crampons of some type. Shuttles will be available for the Horicon event and anyone attending is strongly encourage to use the shuttles as parking areas are icy and muddy, and parking is limited.
This weekend is also Free Fishing Weekend, and while a number of events have been cancelled due to deteriorating ice conditions, many others will go on as planned. No license is needed to fish on most waters of Wisconsin including Wisconsin portions of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. All other rules such as bag and size limits still apply.
Anglers out on inland lakes continue to report mixed bag of crappie, walleye and perch. Perch were being caught on Shawano Lake and anglers on Lake Altoona were catching nice sized panfish. Slush and water has formed over about 16 inches of Lake Altoona ice and anglers were removing permanent shelters to ensure they don’t get frozen in the ice with the next cold snap.
Ice conditions on Green Bay can be treacherous due to large cracks that opened up last week, and ice has been broken up and re froze, making entry onto the Bay difficult in places. There have been multiple reports of anglers getting stranded as cracks are opening and there have also been reports of vehicles and ATVs going through the ice.
Anglers at Voyageur Park report catching a mixed bag of walleye, perch, white fish, and white bass. Anglers took to the ice out of Stone Quarry this week with mixed success for whitefish reported. There were an abundance of anglers seen off of Volk’s landing this week, with mixed success for whitefish and perch.
Whitetail buck deer have begun to shed antlers. Good numbers of rough-legged hawks and northern shrikes are present. And mid-January generally announces the onset of coyote and red fox breeding cycles. These two members of the dog family typically breed between January and March. Cold, crisp winter nights afford opportunities to listen for the raspy barks of red fox or the high pitched yipping of coyotes.