Below is the weekly outdoor report summary from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Ice and trail conditions are the big talking points this week.
Snow conditions remain fair to good in north, but minimal snow cover continues in southern part of state
While portions of southern and central Wisconsin did receive some snow in the last week, it was generally under 2 inches and not enough to improve winter outdoor recreation conditions in the state. Snowmobile trails continue to remain open in only about a dozen northern counties with conditions fair to excellent on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Cross-country ski trails remain in fair to good condition in about the northern half of the state. The only skiing in southern Wisconsin is at the one loop of the Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest that is covered with man-made snow.
More seasonal and consistent weather this past weekend made for increased fishing activity. It was good weather for last weekend’s free ice fishing weekend, with excellent turnout at events across the state. In the north, there were a few decent catches of crappie, perch and bluegill, and northern pike fishing has been fair but walleye action remained sporadic. There are some reports of walleyes being taken on the Wolf River system. Ice fishing on the Mississippi River has been sporadic with individuals having limited success for crappies, northern pike and bass. Anglers on the Fox River were catching walleye, whitefish and some perch at Voyageur Park.
Ice depths are now a foot or more on Green Bay, but there were pockets of thinner ice mixed in so caution is warranted. Whitefish were being caught at a variety of locations including Marinette and Oconto on the west shore and Little Sturgeon Bay and off Sugar Creek park on the east shore.
Snowy owls sightings continue to be reported and short-eared owls have also been spotted. Great horned owls are calling vigorously to verbally defend their territories from other owls of their own kind. Great horned owls will continue calling well into February. Egg laying typically takes place from late January through mid-February, and owlets are born about a month later. Ducks and geese are abundant in areas that retain open water. There were 400-plus tundra swans reported at Lower Mud Lake and open water stretches along the Yahara River near McFarland in Dane County. Turnout was fantastic for Bald Eagle Days last weekend in the Sauk Prairie area, where good numbers of eagles continue to be seen despite large expanses of open water on the river now.
Mid-January is generally the onset of coyote and red fox breeding cycles. Cold, crisp winter nights afford opportunities to listen for the raspy barks of red fox or the high pitched yipping of coyotes. Pup litters of both species are born in March or April.
A candlelight hike last weekend at Horicon Marsh was an incredible success. Warmer temperatures encouraged more than 2,000 outdoor enthusiasts to participate. There are four candlelight events scheduled for this weekend, and if there is not enough snow for skiing most will be held as hikes