Outdoor conditions can be confusing. Be careful when choosing.
The good ice turned into punk ice with snow and then accepted a slushy cover. An inch of ice building per night inverted and prompted cries of caution, be very careful and ultimately stay out.
There will be more trout on Saturday and as long as there is no wind. There will definitely be more on the banks and using subsurface baits, said Bret Schultz, of the Black Earth in Dane County, where the creek of the same name runs.
Wally Banfi, at Wilderness Fish and Game in Sauk City, saw 11 bald eagles while on a lunch hike along the Wisconsin River. Sauk City Bald Eagle Viewing Days are January 14-16.
“Before the thaw, it was on the Mississippi River, with six inches of ice, but we started losing it quickly,” Banfi said. “So now many places are not good; be very, very careful. Some places are no longer safe.”
With multiple layers of snow, slush and water on top of the ice, it will be difficult to recover the ice for a while.
“Don’t leave the long poles just yet,” advises Doug Williams, at DW Sports Center in Portage. “But check the rulebook for the water you’re in first.”
Kate Mosley, at Kate’s Bait & Sporting Goods on Highway 23 north of Dodgeville by Governor Dodge State Park, talked about 5 to 7 inches of ice and a good bite to the point of wondering if anglers might get tired- know how to fish and catch Cox. Hollow and Twin Valley lakes in the park. Good ice first, he adds.
“If we can hold on to what we’ve got,” he said, “we’ll be fine.”
Waxworms, red spikes, medium shiners and gold and purple rigs are working for panfish and walleye.
There have been a number of glowing dot machines that “charge” when struck by sunlight or a flashlight.
“Ice fishing doesn’t have to be an expensive activity,” said Mosley, who is preparing for his ninth ice fishing tournament. “Buy and then go fishing in any lake in the area and bring back the fish; or I have a system to receive a text image, with a number and a rule if the angler wants to release the fish in remote locations.”
Banfi recommends extreme caution, a float on 50 feet of rope, joining and having a fully charged phone.
Or stay on the ground with binoculars and watch for geese, ducks, eagles and other wildlife, Williams says.
Saturday should be a day to remember as the early catch-and-release trout season opens. Conditions were comfortable for fly fishing with subsurface lures, they could read the anglers’ logs.
“Most of them have a certain temperature when they’re not coming out for the opener and beyond, but it looks like the temperature will be above this season,” Schultz said. “They’re itching to get out.”
Depending on the area, water added to trout streams by precipitation and runoff should not be a problem.
“If there is water coming in from the (melt) steam, the fishing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. should be fine,” Schultz said. “Bottom lures are a safe bet. Most of the time early trout fishing is relatively simple; a simple game with a couple of patterns.”
Any cold weather can be a problem for fish caught and then released. Schultz likes to keep everything in a 10-second time slot regardless of the day.
“If you’re using a net, reach down with a clamp and remove the hook and release the trout,” he said. “If it’s a really big fish and you want a photo, hold the fish in the net bag, prepare the camera, raise the net for two seconds, take the picture and put the fish back in the water.”
Photos of snowfish are not recommended and any handling of the fish should be without gloves, which will almost always remove some of the fish’s valuable protective coating.
Keep an eye on water levels, Schultz recommended, and note that beavers can be the biggest problem in some streams in the area. Get a hunter, during the season, to come in and take a few, they are often willing, regardless of skin prices.
Bird feeders may be less active because birds in a natural environment are feeding. This will change and become active during the winter.
Bald eagles are repairing perennial nests. Working birds will be those over 5 years of age, completely white head and tail, yellow beaks and generally nervous birds. Know and keep your distance.
The deer have put on the brakes and found plenty of food without entering gardens normally. The last gun season, Holiday Hunt, closed on January 1st. It’s still okay to wear bright orange while hunting rabbits, grouse, and squirrels.
Archers have a little more time to hunt, but check the regulations.
Enrollments continue to grow. The all-season totals now exceed 321,950.
The grass is green where the snow melts. Watercress and water lentils are bright lime green in spring waters.