The entire state with the exception of the far southeastern corner received snow this week, with the heaviest band of 6 to 8 inches through central Wisconsin.
This allowed a few more counties through central Wisconsin to open snowmobile trails, with fair conditions, and conditions across the north are now good to excellent, on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s Snow Conditions Report (exit DNR). Quite a few parks and forests throughout central and northern Wisconsin and some in the south were able to groom cross-country ski trails and conditions are generally good to very good. However, temperatures rose late in the week and are forecast to be even warmer over the weekend, so snowmobile and ski conditions could change rapidly. A half-dozen candlelight events are scheduled for this weekend, including the Friday night Red Cedar Trail event that showcases a beautiful lit wall of ice on the bluffs along the trail. For a complete list of events search the DNR website for “candlelight.”
Ice fishing pressure varies widely across the state as anglers in different regions experience challenges from seasonally finicky species, to accessible water. The walleye bite has still been inconsistent, while panfish were providing a more consistent catch rate. Moderate success has also been noticed for northern pike. Many of the more shallow and weedy lakes are starting to experience lower oxygen levels at greater depths, so those looking for northerns may want to move their bait closer to the surface. Early trout anglers have still been pretty much out of luck, as many streams are iced over, or remain heavily iced in on the banks.
Anglers at some southeastern Lake Michigan harbors have been catching some brown trout and steelhead on open water. Many anglers took to the ice along Door County with last weekend’s nice weather. Anglers in Little Sturgeon were out in high number this week as the bite for whitefish was good at Lime Kiln Road and Big Rock Place.
Deer are moving in larger and larger numbers across the state and more bucks are dropping their antlers. Remember, these are the last few days of the archery deer season in metro units. Turkey, weasel and rabbit sign is also prevalent and an occasional opossum was seen during the recent warm-up. People in the north and central part of the state are catching an occasional glance of elk. Kentucky and Wisconsin staff and partners are currently in Kentucky trapping elk for the next cohort heading to Jackson County. Kentucky has authorized trapping of up to 50 elk annually as part of a five year effort to bring 150 elk to Wisconsin.
As we move into February, several other mammals, such as fox and coyote, are entering breeding seasons and raptors like eagles, hawks and owls are in the midst of their mating and egg laying seasons.
Common feeder birds now are hairy and downy woodpeckers, redpolls, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, white- breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches and red-breasted nuthatches. Decent numbers of winter finches including siskins and redpolls have shown up at bird feeders. These species are somewhat irruptive across the Upper Midwest. Now is a great time to confirm nesting great-horned owls pairs for the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas project. Winter waterfowl and bald eagle viewing is at peak right now with good ice cover and concentrated patches of open water. Lower Mud Lake in Dane County has more than 100 wintering tundra swans along with good numbers of gadwall, shoveler, mallards, Canada geese, common mergansers and goldeneyes.