Cold temperatures this week are helping to preserve snow conditions for ski and snowmobile trails, and are helping to build up ice on lakes, which is good news for the Winnebago System lake sturgeon spearing season that kicks off at 7 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. The system boasts one of the largest, self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations in North America and the largest recreational harvest of this species through spearing. Water clarity, the biggest predictor of success, has been improving over the last few weeks. Ice conditions are extremely variable, but for there is 12 to 17 inches of ice in most areas of the lake. Spearers and spectators should use caution when going out. People interested in seeing sturgeon and learning more about the spear fishery can visit one of the 11 DNR operated registration stations throughout the Winnebago region.
For those people interested in getting younger folks interested in more traditional ice fishing, the 25th annual Kids’ Ice Fishing Clinics will be held Saturday, Feb. 13, at park lagoons in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. Kids 15-years-old and younger are invited to discover the joys of ice fishing at the free clinics held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will receive instruction on the proper use of equipment and techniques, such as knot tying, ice safety and much more.
Ice depths have been holding at 8 to 10 inches on northern lakes, but slush conditions have worsened, with 4 to 6 inches on some waters. For anglers that have been able to get out on the ice, walleye activity did seem to spike up and a few anglers were having some good success on small suckers. Panfish have continued to provide the most consistent success, with some good catches of perch. With the nice weather last weekend fishing pressure was heavy along Green Bay, with some success for whitefish and northern pike, but not much success with legal size perch.
Snowmobile trails remain open through much of the northern half of the state and in good condition. Cross-country ski trails are generally good to excellent in the northern part of the state, and fair to good through central area and poor to fair in the southeast. There are seven candlelight events this weekend, with one cancelled at Lake Kegonsa State Park due to icy conditions. This is the second to last weekend of candlelight events. Some of these events have been attracting a thousand or more visitors and park gates will close if parking reaches capacity so plan on arriving early if attending one.
Deer have been visiting the logging sales, chowing down on the tree limbs from harvested trees. Initial reports indicate deer are doing well so far this winter, with reports of bucks still sporting antlers. Grouse have been seen scooting and flying up out of their snow roost. Chickadees, nuthatches, wood peckers and red poles are busy at area feeders and it will be a great weekend for the Backyard Bird count. For details on participating, search the Internet for Great Backyard Bird Count [http://gbbc.birdcount.org] (exit DNR).