Recent snowfalls improve conditions for winter recreation; ice good for second annual free winter fishing weekend
The entire state has received some new snow in the last week and more was falling Thursday. Snowmobile trails were open and in good to very good condition across about the northern two-thirds of the state, but were still closed in many southern counties according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-country ski trails were open and in good to excellent condition across the north and in fair to good condition in many places in the south.
The recent snowfall was heaviest in a band through central Wisconsin, giving the area from Eau Claire to Door County some of the best winter conditions of the season so far. State parks in Door County were reporting 9 to 18 inches of snow on the ground and all ski trails groomed and tracked. Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area in Dunn County and the Red Cedar State Trail were also groomed and tracked and in very good condition. Ski trails in the northern and Pike Lake units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest were in good condition while the southern and Lapham Peak units were fair.
Milder temperatures in the last week made it much more pleasant for ice anglers, but fishing action seemed to enter the mid-winter winter doldrums in the Northwoods with action slowing for most species. Ice depths have been holding in the 14 to 16 inch range on northern lakes, and some lakes now have an inch or two of slush under the deep snow.
Panfish action remained fair to good on southern Wisconsin lakes and on lower Wisconsin River sloughs. The below zero temperatures of a week ago froze over the main channel of the Mississippi River near lock and dam 11 ice and allowed ice anglers to access the main channel to fish sauger, with reports of limit catches of sauger 14-17 inches in length.
The cold also allowed ice on southern Green Bay to firm up in most areas. Shanties have begun to dot the shores like small villages with 16-20 inches of ice being found in most places. Anglers have had more success with whitefish and some perch, and an occasional walleye being caught. Along southern Lake Michigan, anglers at McKinley Marina in Milwaukee reported ice depths up to 12 inches, with brown trout being taken through the ice. A few steelhead and brown trout have also reported in the Sheboygan, Port Washington and Racine harbors.
This coming weekend, Jan. 18-19, Wisconsin residents and visitors alike can fish anywhere in the state without a fishing license on during the state’s second annual winter Free Fishing Weekend. Free fishing clinics offered at several state parks and ice fishing equipment available for loan from many state parks and offices statewide make it even easier for people to try Wisconsin’s hard water fishing. For more information search the DNR website for “Free Fishing Weekend.”
Also this weekend the Horicon Marsh Education and Visitor Center will be holding a candlelight ski and hike and the fresh snow was very timely for the annual family ski and snowshoe hike Peninsula State Park in Door County. For information about these and other events at parks, forest, trails and recreation areas search the DNR website for “get outdoors.”