Winter continued to hang on this week, with a mid-week storm dropping from 2 to six to 8 inches across a swath from northwestern to south eastern Wisconsin. Snow depths range from a low of 6 to 8 inches in the south to nearly 2 feet in some areas the north. That could change rapidly, though with warmer temperatures and rain in the forecast for this weekend across southern and central Wisconsin.

Snowmobile trails reopened in many counties in southern and central Wisconsin with conditions generally fair to good, while many trails in the north range from good to excellent. State recreational safety wardens are cautioning snowmobilers that while many trails have reopened, rain and warm temperatures this weekend could cause conditions to deteriorate rapidly, especially on waterways. Wisconsin has already recorded 18 snowmobile deaths this winter, and wardens are reminding sledders to slow down and avoid travelling on rivers and lakes.

Some very good cross-country skiing is being reported statewide, from trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine all the way to the Northern Highland-American Legion state forests in good to excellent condition. Again, that could change this weekend, so call ahead to check on current conditions.

Participation was quite heavy in some locations for the opening of the early catch-and-release trout season that enjoyed clear water and sunny warmer weather. Trout anglers reported success ranging from moderate to excellent. Lake Superior’s Chequamegon Bay is still locked in ice, though there is a lot of snow on top and the sunny days have been creating slush, and ice fishing has generally been slow. Along Lake Michigan, anglers were now open water fishing on the Fox River at Voyageur Park with some walleye and perch being reported. Northern pike action has been good through the ice on the bay in several locations. Some perch and whitefish were being caught along Door County. Trout and steelhead action has been spotty at Lake Michigan harbors.

Ice depths on inland Northwoods lakes continue to hold in the 18-20 inch range and travel remains tough with the deep snow and slushy conditions on many waters. Ice fishing pressure has been rather light in the past week with these difficult travel conditions and the closure of the game fish season March 3. In the south, northern pike are starting to stage for spawning at Theresa Marsh and other spawning sites.

Wisconsin fishing and hunting licenses for the 2013-14 seasons went on sale Wednesday. Licenses are available through the Online Licensing Center, from authorized license agents and DNR Service Centers or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). Licenses for the 2012-13 seasons expire March 31.

Snow has temporarily grounded the early March bird migration. Warmer temperatures predicted for this weekend should bring significant thaw to open fields and will likely bring another large push of migrants. Expect to see eagles, red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, song sparrows and sandhill cranes. Trumpeter swans are beginning to claim their territory on iced over flowages and goldeneye drakes are starting to display some of their mating rituals and calls.

Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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