|Evergreen trees marking thin ice on an ice road on Lake Poygan at the west side of Winnebago County, Wisconsin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Only northern most counties still have snowmobile, ski trails open; inland gamefish season comes to a close Sunday, March 6
While the relative "cold" spell over the past couple days may have given us a pause, spring is still right around the corner in Wisconsin. With temperatures well into the 50s last weekend, some of the more than 100 cross-country skiers in attendance at the Riverview Loppet at the Brule River State Forest were out in shorts and t-shirts. Snowmobile trails now remain open in just a few Northwoods counties, and those have seen heavy use, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR).
Ice conditions have improved on most waters across the Northwoods and ice depths have been ranging from 12 to 16 inches. Strong winds have blown a lot of the snow from the surface, and cold nighttime temperatures have frozen many slush areas, greatly improving travel conditions. Fishing pressure spiked with the nicer weather and rapidly approaching closure of the general inland gamefish season this Sunday, March 6.. Walleye provided some fair action at times but with the changing weather, fishing for northern pike was real variable. Panfish action has been a hit or miss.
More than 50 boats were out open water fishing on the Fox River in Green Bay with some walleye being caught. Along Door County, areas to the north of Sturgeon Bay are seeing open water and ice shifting and cracking. Anglers fishing south of Murphy Park reported 12 inches of ice at the most remaining with pockets of open water and less ice. The shipping channel from Bay Ship to the lake is open and continues to loose ice at a steady pace with the warm weather. Anglers in the southern Lake Michigan counties are casting off the harbors. Variable catches of brown and steelhead are being reported.
Warmer weather brought an abrupt end to ice fishing activity along the east shore of Lake Winnebago. As a reminder all fishing shelters must be removed from inland waters south of Highway 64 by the end of the day Sunday. Many of the area fishing clubs removed their tree lines and pulled their bridges following the closure of the recently completed sturgeon spearing season, which came to a close on Sunday Feb. 28 after a maximum 16-day season. The season on the Upriver Lakes closed after just seven days. This year's harvest included 703 fish including 19 fish that were 100 pounds or larger. The largest fish of this season was a 147.9-pound, 77-inch fish speared from Lake Poygan on Monday Feb. 15.
March typically marks the beginning of northward bird migration. Over the next couple months, numerous bird species will migrate into and through Wisconsin as they travel to their breeding areas. This migration will slowly gain momentum and builds toward a climax that usually occurs in late April or early May. Luckily, the Mississippi River has quite a bit of open water for this time of year, providing excellent viewing opportunities for diving ducks including ringnecks, bluebills, buffleheads, and goldeneyes.
Elsewhere, on the ground, more and more mammals are emerging from the cold and beginning to forage, communicate and explore. Likewise, individuals trekking across our state's trails and natural areas are finding tracks and shed antlers.
Skunk cabbage is emerging and pussy willows have started to show some furry catkins in Dane County. In Columbia County the maple sap is running at the Mackenzie Center, where staff tapped trees for the first time last week and are expecting an excellent season.