Winter conditions vary widely but have favored deer survival

Ice and snow conditions continue to vary widely across the state. Some smaller northern lakes have been frozen over longer than some of the larger lakes. Trout Lake in Vilas County finally froze over this week, but some of the other larger lakes still had small areas of open water or ice thickness in the 1- to 2-inch range. Many lakes in the south remain open or have just minimal ice cover.

The entire state is snow covered, but snow depths range from just 2 to 3 inches in the south, to 8 to 10 inches in areas of the far north. Snowmobile trails are open or partially open in the northern tier of counties and in some central counties, but conditions are generally poor to fair, with a couple counties reporting fair to good conditions on the Department of Tourism Snow Conditions Report.

Cross-country ski trails are open across much of the state, including most state parks and forests. However, conditions vary, with many properties in the south not being able to set track. Snow in the north, rain in the south and the much colder temperatures lead to changing conditions.

A candlelight ski scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 9 at Lake Kegonsa State Park has been cancelled and rescheduled for Feb. 13. Check the “candlelight” event listing on DNR website or call the park for updates.

On lakes with ice in the north, walleye action has been sporadic. Northern pike have provided some action for the walleye anglers during slow periods. Panfish anglers haven’t really been out in any numbers yet.

In the south, anglers have been fishing on Lake Wisconsin but action has been slower with some panfish, northern pike and bass caught. Colder temperatures are finally creating a layer of ice along the east shore of Lake Winnebago and ice is starting to form on southeastern Lake Michigan harbors and tributaries. Brown trout and occasional steelhead are being caught at the Port Washington harbor and an occasional brown trout was caught at the Milwaukee River and harbor.

This week wildlife biologists around the state are counting waterfowl and eagles as part of the mid-winter waterfowl survey and eagle survey. Biologists counted high numbers of Canada geese, large rafts of dabbling ducks, mostly mallards, and diving duck species including goldeneyes, buffleheads, mergansers and scaup, on larger open waters and on Lake Michigan.

Even though many winter enthusiasts would like to see more snow, wildlife biologists have noted that the mild winter has helped the deer population. Deer were still eating greens into December. Some large bucks with antlers still attached are still being seen. The weasel and snowshoe hare heaved a sigh of relief this past week as they no longer stick out like a sore thumb in the snowy landscape.

Winter birds including snow buntings, lapland longspurs, roughlegged hawks, common redpoll, pine siskin and snowy owls have been seen in the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area.


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