Warm-up ruins snow sports throughout state

The unseasonable warm-up greatly diminished snow levels across the state and brought winter recreational activities to a halt in all except far northern Wisconsin, and even there conditions were poor to marginal.

Snow depths now range from just a trace in Marathon County to up to a foot at most in areas of Vilas County. The warm weather and rain also greatly reduced ice depths and even reopened some lakes, including Lake Monona in Madison. Ice depths in the north now range from 6 to 8 inches. Colder temperatures that arrived midweek should begin to improve conditions again, and snow is in the forecast for next week.

Only a few snowmobile trails are open and they are in poor condition, according to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's Snow Conditions Report. Just the Brule River State Forest and Copper Falls State Park were reporting fair to good crosscountry ski conditions, with the Northern Highland-American Legion forest suspending trail grooming until more snow arrives. The warm weekend and rain opened the Black River at Pattison State Park and the Amnicon River at Amnicon Falls State Park from their ice covering, which were providing spectacular winter scenes.

The last firearm deer season of the year will be a Holiday Hunt in the southern farmland zone runs from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1 and is only for antlerless deer. This is a change from previous years when bucks could be harvested with bonus buck opportunities.

The mild weather did bring out quite a few anglers on Northwoods lakes and success for walleye, northern pike and panfish was generally good. There was some ice fishing activity occurring on Little Lake Butte des Morts with anglers catching both northern pike and crappie. But the ice thickness varies there was a report of an ice angler going through the ice who was able to get back out.

On the bay of Green Bay and parts of Lake Michigan the little ice there was is almost gone. Along Lake Michigan anglers fishing the harbors have been catching a few browns and rainbows at Port Washington, Milwaukee and Racine. Slow moving stretches of the Root River are iced over; but there is open water below the Horlick dam.

The low snow has pheasant and grouse hunters out and they've reported good success lately. The warm weather gave weasels and rabbits new vigor, and they were out and about. There have been reports of bears denned in standing corn fields while farmers have been getting their last corn off the field. So farmers are urged to drive harvest equipment slow around these areas to let bears vacate the area and relocate to avoid a collision.

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