|Panorama view of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Pike Lake Unit near Hartford Wisconsin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Warm-up in forecast has some counties closing snowmobile trails; Up River sturgeon season to close on Friday
While many regions of the state were just finishing shoveling after this past week's snowfall, this weekend promises significantly warmer temperatures across the state with a high chance of snowmelt especially in the south. That being said, some area lakes in the Northwoods are holding on 10 to 12 inches of ice, with a thin and more brittle layer on top that is still making vehicle travel inconvenient.
After another recent dusting, numerous cross-country trails, particularly in the northern and some central counties, where almost a foot or more of snow remains, have been groomed in the past week and are as prepared for warmer temperatures as possible.
This weekend is the 43rd annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race from Cable to Hayward, the largest Nordic ski race in North America. The race reached its 10,000 skier limit and race officials closed the course this week until race day to try and preserve as much of the base as possible and have the trail in the best shape it can be with the projected warm-up. Skiers who compete in the Birkebeiner have been visiting the Flambeau River, Northern Highland-American Legion and other park and forest properties to prepare for the competition.
Snowmobile trails were in good condition across the northern tier of counties and some northeaster counties on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR), but the warm weather coming will take a toll on trails. Some central and northeastern counties have announced they will be closing trails before the warm-up.
Those skiing, snowshoeing and hiking may well be treated to a variety of tracks, from small rabbit imprints to larger deer and mid-sized weasels. If you're watching the skies or the treetops, keep your eyes open for raptors, as hawks and owls are tending their nests and eagles are circling for food. If you're simply out for a short walk around the house, or pondering the bird feeder, you may see goldfinches, red breasted and white breasted nuthatches, woodpeckers of several varieties and more.
The walleye bite has still been fickle for many Northwoods anglers, with primarily small sizes being reported. However, action for panfish has remained more consistent, with anglers reporting catches of perch, crappie and bluegill, particularly in deep water areas. Anglers fishing Green Bay off Door County did well with the whitefish but perch were hard to come by. Anglers reported lots of cracks in the ice covered with snow and hard to see. One UTV got stuck when one of its tires went through a crack earlier in the week.
At the end of the sixth day of the Lake Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season on Feb. 18, the Upriver Lakes harvest included four adult females, which was enough to trip the 90 percent trigger, so the Upriver Lakes season will come to a closeThe harvest of 15 fish from the Up River lakes brought the season total to 290 fish. The harvest on Lake Winnebago picked up again for the second day in a row with a total harvest of 36 fish, bring the season total to 245.
Another sign of spring has arrived, as skunk cabbage has started to emerge on the boardwalk loop north of the beach at the Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.