Cold to very cold temperatures have continued across the state in the last week, but those cold temperatures are keeping snow on the ground and ice on the lakes, making for some good to very good winter recreation conditions.
Some areas of central Wisconsin are reporting the best snowmobile conditions in years. Snowmobile conditions are good to excellent across most of the state, though trails in southern Wisconsin have been receiving heavy use and corners are becoming worn and snowmobilers should watch for trail closures if more snow doesn't fall soon.
Almost all state park and forest properties are reporting cross-country ski trails in good to very good condition. That's more good news for the 10 candlelight ski and hike events scheduled for this Saturday.
Lake ice conditions are also very good, with 24- to 30-inches of ice on some lakes and ice anglers reporting that snow shovels and auger extensions are almost mandatory this year.
The cold has continued to limit ice fishing activity and success, but more anglers were reported out on Green Bay, where up to 30 inches of ice has also been reported. Action was fair for whitefish along both the east and west shores, and anglers also reported some success for northern pike, walleye and a few perch. Some brown and rainbow trout continue to be caught at southern Lake Michigan harbors.
Ice conditions and water clarity is very good on Lake Winnebago for the opening of the 2014 sturgeon spearing season this Saturday. Sturgeon spearers have been preparing their shacks and were able to start cutting in their spearing holes as of today. Fisheries biologists say that given the clear water, there could be a relatively short season this year that could be highlighted by the harvest of many trophy sized fish.
White-tailed deer have been hiding out in heavy cover given the deep snow and bitter cold, staying put to save energy. While deep snow is reported across much of the state, the snow is fluffy with no crust and deer are still able to dig down to get acorns in some areas. There have been reports of bucks shedding antlers, but many are still hanging on to last year's growth. As of Feb. 6, 2014 all baiting and feeding of deer must stop in both Waupaca and Shawano counties, due to the discovery of a CWD-positive white-tailed deer in November within a 10-mile radius of those counties.
The long cold winter has also left little open water along the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, which has reduced bald eagle numbers in some areas, but some excellent viewing continues to be reported in at the Prairie du Sac dam area. Great-horned and barred owls continue to hoot it up at night in preparation for breeding season with great horned owls laying eggs soon if they haven't started already.
The ice on Lake Superior is the best it's been in years, and reports of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore sea caves being accessible have gone viral and the National Park Service is reporting their highest visitation rates ever recorded at the lakeshore, with more than 2,000 people trekking out the mile or more on frozen Lake Superior last Saturday to visit the caves.
More news from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.