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Ice Fishing News

Outdoor Report for December 20, 2019

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Ice jam on the Flambeau River.Photo credit: DNR

This weekend’s Winter Solstice officially marks the beginning of winter, but areas of the north have already endured plenty of winter-like weather. There have been over 45 inches of snow recorded at the Brule River State Forest ranger station since the first snowfall.

Some additional snow late last week improved cross-country ski conditions and allowed a few more counties to open snowmobile trails on the travelwisconsin.com Snow Conditions Report. Several northern parks and forests are reporting cross-country ski trail conditions ranging from good to excellent. Northern ice anglers are finding deep snow and mud to be an issue.

Gun hunters will have one more opportunity, the holiday hunt, to harvest an antlerless deer in the farmland zone.

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Early results from Christmas Bird Counts are reflecting the slow pattern prevalent much of this fall and winter. Exceptions include some resident species like cardinals, blue jays and woodpeckers.


FISHING

Buffalo County

Ice has started to form on Fountain City Bay, although there are still some slushy sections on the ice. There have been a few early ice fishermen.

Iron County

Ice fishers are finding deep snow and mud to be an issue.

Polk County

Ice thickness is between 3.5 and 7 inches with snow and slush on top near Amery. Ice fishing has been slow.


HUNTING & TRAPPING

Iron County

Although deer hunters may be struggling to get into their bow stands, hound hunters will find favorable conditions with no crust on top of the snow.

Marinette County

The December statewide antlerless rifle season has ended. Gun hunters will have one more opportunity, the holiday hunt, to harvest an antlerless deer in the farmland zone of Marinette County.


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WILDLIFE

Vilas County

Travel is difficult for wildlife, but the birds seem to go about their business of foraging up and down the trees, picking salt and dirt off the roadways and visiting area bird and suet feeders.


SEASONAL CONDITIONS

Ashland County

Early results from Christmas Bird Counts are reflecting the slow pattern prevalent much of this fall and winter. Exceptions include some resident species like cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers. Downy, hairy, red-bellied, and pileated woodpeckers continue to show increasing populations, while red-headed woodpeckers remain as far north as Florence and Sawyer counties this year thanks to good acorn crops. This season’s third and fourth varied thrushes photographed in Ashland and Outagamie counties.

Door County

We received 5 inches of fresh snow on Dec. 12, adding to the 8-inch base. Trail work is continuing on trails that suffered tree damage from the Dec. 1 snowstorm. Most trails are accessible now for skiing, hiking or snowshoeing. Temps are seasonal and mild, ranging from the low 20s into the 30s.

Douglas County

There has been no shortage of snow in Douglas County. The Brule River State Forest grooming crew, which mainly consists of two staff members, has been working on the after-hours ski trail system every day since Dec. 2. There have been over 45 inches of snow recorded at the state forest ranger station since the first snowfall of the season! The snow depth at the monitoring site measures at 23 inches as of Dec. 17. Skiing and snowshoeing conditions are excellent in the state forest now. Please take the opportunity over the holidays to get outdoors and enjoy it.

Iron County

There are two feet of snow and counting throughout the county. Snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and downhill enthusiasts are reaping the benefits of the abundance of snow; conditions are perfect!

Marinette County

Deep fluffy snow (12+ inches) covers much of the county, making getting around the woods taxing. Snowmobile trails are reported to be open in some areas, but the heavy snow we received earlier this month really pulled down a lot of trees, and many trails are still being worked on. Deer are now keying in heavily on food sources, primarily acorns or corn.

Milwaukee County

Lack of snow cover and slightly milder temperatures in the south are also allowing several migrant species to linger longer than usual, albeit in very small numbers, including gray catbird, Baltimore oriole, Eastern phoebe, Nashville and orange-crowned warblers, chipping sparrow, and Virginia rail. Rarities found this week were Townsend’s solitaire in Milwaukee, the easternmost found in the country this month save for one in Massachusetts.

Sawyer County

Near Flambeau River State Forest, snowmobile trails are opening up, but use caution, as many of the swamps and low areas are wet and hazardous. Lake ice conditions are poor to fair at best. Ice depth is inconsistent with large amounts of snow, slush, and water on top, with some areas having open water still. Ski trails still have not been groomed due to mechanical issues but should be back on track soon.

Washburn County

We have fantastic snow conditions for skiing and snowmobiling near Spooner. About 14 inches or so in southern Washburn County, more as you go north. Rough-legged hawks are abundant.

Vilas County

A heavy blanket of snow covers the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, giving one the impression that it is mid-February and not mid-December. Snowshoes are a must if one wants to “take a hike.”


PARKS & TRAILS

Ashland County

The groomer is back up and running at Copper Falls State Park and the cross-country ski trails are in good shape. There are some ruts in the meadow from hauling damaged equipment out earlier this week. The trail is groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and was tracked on Friday, Dec. 13.

Burnett County

The Brandt Pines Ski Trail System at Governor Knowles State Forest is groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and were tracked on Dec. 16. Trails are in excellent condition.

Chippewa County

Lake Wissota State Park cross-country ski trails were groomed for skate and tracked for classic cross-country skiing on Dec. 14 and are in excellent condition.

The Nordic cross-country ski trails at Brunet Island State Park were groomed and tracked for classic cross-country skiing on Dec. 19 and are in good conditions.

Columbia County

With even a light dusting of snow, the MacKenzie Center’s woodland trails spring to life with the tracks of many species. On the Hardwood and Wildlife Trails, the leaf-off allows excellent views through the trees. Possible wildlife sightings include white-tailed deer, raccoon, coyote, fox and many species of songbirds and raptors.

Douglas County

Winter has arrived at Pattison State Park in a short time. We received 30 inches of snow over Thanksgiving, and then a few days later, another winter storm left us with over 10 inches of snow. Both Big and Little Manitou Falls are open for viewing. Winter trails are not maintained, but parking is available. With so much snow in a short time, it has been very challenging working on the cross-country ski trails. Currently, all ski trails have been rolled only, and with so much snow, this will take time as we are trying to compact all the snow to a ski base that can be groomed and tracked.

Although it seems like we have already endured plenty of the northland’s weather, this weekend’s Winter Solstice officially marks the beginning of winter. Currently, the snow depth at the Brule River State Forest measured 22 inches, and the total recorded accumulation since early November adds up to more than 46 inches. The weekend forecast calls for a bit of a warm-up. With highs in the mid 30s, it should be a great time to get outdoors and enjoy all the snow! On Monday and Tuesday staff groomed and tracked the entire After Hours Ski Trail system. The classic only trail is rolled but not tracked at this time due to equipment maintenance. The skate lanes are in good shape and with the recent cold weather should be firming up nicely. The trails are in excellent shape. There is at least 8-10 inches of base.

Dunn County

The Red Cedar State Trail from Menomonie to Downsville is groomed, and an excellent classic track is set as well as a groomed skate lane. There are two classic set tracks with a middle skate lane from Menomonie to Irvington (3 miles), and a single classic track with a wide skate lane from Irvington to Downsville (4.5 miles). Plenty of snow with a good base. The ice wall and Red Cedar River are in fine winter form. There are excellent skate ski conditions at the Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area, with 90 percent groomed. Classical cross-country tracks will be set soon.

Fond du Lac County

The Norther Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest has received no significant snow since Dec. 1. Very little snow base is left on cross-country ski trails. Leaf and twig debris throughout. Hikers and pets are prohibited form ski trails when snow is present, or when warm weather hiking creates ruts on the ski trail base. All other hiking trails are open, as are the horse and mountain bike trails.

Iron County

The MECCA cross-country ski trails at the Turtle-Flambeau Scenic Waters Area were groomed for skate and classic cross-country skiing and were tracked on Dec. 13 and all 21K are in excellent condition. Snowshoe trails also excellent! Trails are on rolling glacial terrain through pine, spruce and tamarack forests. A heated chalet with a vault toilet, wax bench, and changing room is located at the Cabin trailhead. There is a second trailhead at the Little Turtle Flowage parking lot.

Lincoln County

There’s plenty of snow for skiing and snowshoeing at Council Grounds State Park. Turkeys, deer and other wildlife make use of park trails to get around more easily in the deep snow. Keep that in mind if you’d like to see wildlife during your visit.

Marinette County

Cross-country ski trails at Governor Thompson State Park and Peshtigo River State Forest were groomed and tracked on Dec. 13. Trails are in excellent condition at Gov. Thompson and good condition at Peshtigo River. Due to limited staffing over the Holidays, grooming will not occur again until after Jan. 1.

Polk County

Cross-country ski trails at Interstate Park and were groomed and tracked for classic on Thursday, Dec. 12. Trails are in good condition. Due to limited staffing over the Holidays, grooming will not occur again until after Jan. 1.

Vilas County

Cross-country ski trails in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest are in good condition. Trails were tracked Dec. 17 at Escanaba and Raven with good to very good conditions. There is 16-18 inches of snow in the undisturbed woods. McNaughton and Madeline trails were groomed Dec. 15 after the forest received about 2 inches of fluffy snow over the weekend.

Waukesha County

The lower manmade snow cross-country ski loop at Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest was groomed Dec. 19 along with tail end hill and the lower section of magic carpet hill. Some extra snow was made on Magic carpet overnight to help solidify the hill. The new snow was not able to be groomed yet due to it being soft. Please use caution on magic carpet and at the bottom of magic carpet. Skiers should stay to the right while coming down the hill to avoid the fresh snow. Reminder the ski loop is counter clockwise direction of travel to prevent accidents and injuries.

Last Revised: Friday, December 20, 2019

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Ice Fishing for Crappie: 5 Best Ice Fishing Tips

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Ice Fishing for Crappie - Ice Fishing Digest Magazine

When we start talking about ice fishing for crappie, hard water fishermen get excited.

For ice fishermen across the ice belt, crappie is one of the most sought-after species. It is rewarding for an ice fisherman to master crappie fishing on the ice. If you want to find crappie, jig for crappie, and catch crappie at night, you have to follow our best 5 ice fishing crappie tips.

1. How to Find Crappie Ice Fishing

It can be difficult to keep up with the movements of crappie during the winter season. Staying mobile and using a flasher are the best ways to find crappie in the winter. In 5-15 feet of water, early ice crappie will hold the cover of weed lines and thick weed beds.

The healthiest weeds hold the most fish because of their ability to produce oxygen and attract bait. During the winter crappie will move to the basin of the lake and suspend off the bottom.

In the top half of the water column, the crappie suspends where the highest oxygen levels and most bait will be located. The crappie will move back to the shallows after a while. You can use your flasher to mark crappie in the water column before you start fishing.

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2. Jigging for Crappie Ice Fishing

During the cold winter months when the fishing waters are frozen over, crappie will hold together in small groups called, pods or schools, they will feed on plankton that frequent heavy vegetation and structure such as underwater brush. and ice fishing lure for crappie that mimics plankton such as a tungsten ice fishing jig is the best ice fishing lure for crappie.

Jigging for crappie is the most popular way to catch crappie during the winter ice fishing season.

Our favorite crappie jigging method works like this:

  1. Drop your ice fishing lure to the bottom and then with your fishing reel – bring your ice fishing lure up a few feet and work a 1–2 foot section of the water column, and if you do not notice any fish action.
  2. Then, move your lure up a few more feet within that water column and perform that same jigging method, keep repeating until you notice some fishing success. The majority of bites occur when your bait is moving upward. You should move from hole to hole until you find active crappies.
  3. If you do not catch any crappie or the fish are just not biting you can opt for a fishing location change or you can try this ice fishing method at another point in the day – such as ice fishing for crappie at night.

Just like us fishermen, the crappie do not always feed on a dedicated schedule, so ice fishing at variable times of the day can oftentimes improve your ice fishing results and help you place more slab crappie on the ice.

3. Crappie Ice Fishing at Night

The peak bite times for crappie are dawn and dusk, with crappie feeding most active during the night hours. It’s important for you as an ice fisherman to take advantage of these crappie fishing times to catch the most active crappie in your ice fishing location.

Crappie jigging is most effective when done at night when fish are active and feeding. You should use crappie ice fishing jigs that are bright and colorful. Ice fishing lures such as soft plastic ice fishing baits can be added to a tungsten ice jig. This ice fishing lure setup will definitely attract the attention of hungry, (nighttime) feeding crappie.

If the night fishing is tough, we then recommend sticking with a simple ice fishing setup consisting of an ice fishing pole with a live crappie minnow or even a fathead minnow to convince picky fish into biting your bait.

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Where fishing regulations allow, a glow stick or underwater light can be used to help illuminate your bait and underwater fishing area when ice fishing crappie at night. Using the glow stick or underwater light fishing trick for ice fishing crappie will help you to attract small baitfish and plankton all of which crappie are attracted to feeding on.

Ice Fishing Gear Talked About in This Story

learn more about each item by clicking on the item

4. Where to Ice Fishing Crappie

Heavy Vegetation

You can find out where the crappie is holding by looking at the seasonal patterns that affect oxygen and light levels. Remember that when ice fishing crappie you’ll find them in and around shallow vegetation during early and late ice, and in the basins or deeper water areas during the mid-winter and late winter ice.

Underwater Ledges

The crappie prefer ledges because they give them quick access to deep water during the winter. The best crapping fishing ledges can be found close to where creek and river channels intersect with each other, along the outer sides of a river bend, and along the edges of the bluffs. There are sunken brush piles on the ledges that are home to the largest concentrations of crappie.

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Concrete Pillars or Concrete Pillions

There are many attractive features for wintertime crappie near concrete pillars or concrete pillions, whichever the case maybe. The sun warms the concrete of the pillars and/or pillions and the water surrounding those bridge supports, which attracts the fish. Crappie in and around concrete cover can be found at a number of depths across the span of the bridge, thanks to the fact that the bridge will have a supporting row of pilings running from shallow to deep water all of which locations would be suitable to fish for crappie in the winter. These winter sanctuaries are enriched by savvy anglers who like to try to stack the odds in their favor in the coming winter months by tying brush piles together and then dropping them next to the concrete pillars and pillions thus creating amazing winter crappie habitat.

5. Using Ice Fishing Sonar for Ice Fishing Crappie

There are a lot of benefits to having an ice fishing sonar unit on the ice.

You can easily find the drop-offs, holes, and hidden structures under the water that can concentrate fish in the winter. The important transition zones between the hard and soft bottom areas can be found with the help of a sonar display.

By making use of an ice fishing sonar you can literally watch the crappies’ reaction to your ice fishing lure, you can then adjust your ice fishing jigging strategy to help entice the crappie to strike. Which makes the use of an ice fishing sonar system very favorable among many a fisherman.

At a range of price points, there are many options for ice fishing sonar units. Basic units start at around $300, while feature-loaded ice fishing sonar combo units that include underwater video can cost up to $1,000.

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It is difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison of all ice fishing sonars because they have so many different features.

Instead, ice fishermen should choose between the flashers and the liquid crystal display units, which are the main categories of portable sonar.

With the same starter costs, it’s difficult to decide whether to buy a flasher or an LCD unit. There are pros and cons to both styles and they will help you catch fish.

It is up to the individual to decide which basic and advanced features are worth having, and whether or not to pick an ice fishing sonar or underwater camera package for ice fishing.

There is no perfect ice fishing sonar unit for every ice fisherman, and there is no shortage of options. When shopping for an ice fishing sonar unit, remember to consider your budget, target species, style of fishing, and comfort zone for learning new technology. Regardless of the ice fishing sonar unit you choose, it will no doubt help you put more fish on the ice this winter.

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In Conclusion

Remember to stay mobile and make use of your ice fishing electronics until you catch some fish. Don’t forget when ice fishing for crappie it’s a good idea to mix in live bait like fathead and crappie minnows for when the crappie are just not biting on your ice fishing lures of choice.

You can also try ice fishing for crappie with ice fishing lures that mimic minnows for those larger, more aggressive feeding crappie, because these ice fishing lures usually represent baits that mimic the typical food source, plankton, which crappie actively feed on.

We hope that these ice fishing tips for crappie this ice fishing season and ice fishing seasons to come.

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Wisconsin

Wardens Save Souped-up Skunk on Oconto County lake

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This skunk enjoyed the soup too much.

Soup often is considered one of those cozy, comfort foods that are akin to wearing an electric blanket in your gut.

And then there is the skunk’s version. Let’s call it concussion comfort, shall we?

Jam that heads into the soup can as far as possible — and get every single last hint of taste until the cylinder is licked clean.

This skunk enjoyed the soup too much.

This skunk enjoyed the soup too much.

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Then what?

Wait for someone to come with the dessert tray – complete with pliers. Or, tap dance in a circle until someone notices that something is not quite right with one of our wildlife friends. In this case, it was a person ice fishing as the skunk waddled about.

So, the angler called 911 to report a skunk wearing a soup can on White Potato Lake in Oconto County.

OK, we give. Let’s go! Wardens Jamin Leuzzo and Tim Werner responded to the scene on Monday, March 9, not sure what they would find. Sure enough, the report was spot on – or make that, soup’s on!

There was the skunk neck-deep in a soup can. It truly was not funny so they quickly hatched a plan. One would approach the skunk with a box and trap it before wearing its cologne. Warden Jamin Leuzzo did OK. The box? Not so lucky.

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Warden Jamin Leuzzo approaches to help free the skunk.

Warden Jamin Leuzzo approaches to help free the skunk.

Once the skunk was inside the box, Warden Tim Werner approached the perturbed skunk from the safer end, put his hand under the lifted box end and freed the skunk’s head from the can. The wardens quickly backed off as the box was tossed. The skunk skedaddled off the ice pretty quickly – no doubt in search of a slice of pie and a cup of coffee.

As Warden Tim concludes: “Just another day in the life of a warden!” Time to add skunk-saver to the skill set list. Stay safe out there!

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens.

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Minnesota

DNR Fish and Wildlife Almanac : Jan 11, 2021 | News Release

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Ice Fishing on Lake In Winter Ice Fishing Digest Magazine

Learn how to ice fish with angler Mandy Uhrich

The Becoming an Outdoors Woman program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is presenting an ice fishing webinar from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14. During the webinar, pro angler Mandy Uhrich will teach the basics of ice fishing and demonstrate the equipment and techniques used for this winter tradition. The webinar is free, open to the public and registration is required.

Provide input on 2020 deer populations and observations

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking public input on 2020 deer populations and observations using an online survey. The survey includes questions about experiences hunters had during the deer hunting season, issues related to damage deer might do to crops, landscaping or gardens and other deer-related issues. This year the DNR will also ask for input on several proposed deer permit area boundary changes and will use the feedback to shape regulations for the 2021 hunting season. The survey is open through Friday, Jan. 29, and further details are on the DNR website.

Reminder: Deer feeding ban in effect

Deer feeding and attractant restrictions remain in place in Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Rice, Scott and Washington counties. These counties were added on July 1, 2020, to the bans already were in place in the following counties affected by chronic wasting disease: Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Hubbard, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Mower, Olmsted, Steele, Todd, Wabasha, Wadena and Winona. Keeping food and attractants away from deer helps limit interaction and close contact among deer that can spread chronic wasting disease, especially this time of year when artificial sources of food may draw deer.

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