WILD THINGS: Long Wait for ‘Safe’ Ice

Our first below-zero low temperatures of the season are expected Sunday through Tuesday, but ice anglers shouldn’t celebrate just yet.

That’s because the brutal cold snap is expected to be accompanied by very strong west winds that’ll prevent good ice formation in the deep water, instead creating large waves and strong currents that will bust up a lot of the nearshore ice that’s already forming.

This year’s Green Bay ice is likely to be weak and unstable for some time, at least away from the semi-protected bays, harbors and marinas.

The good news is there’s nothing even close to a thaw in the 15-day forecast; once the winds settle, ice should build fairly quickly. 

Of course, thickness will vary widely. Early on, foot traffic – using an ice “spud” or chisel to make sure it’s thick enough as you slowly work your way off the shoreline – is the only way to go. 

Keep in mind that snow can insulate and slow ice formation, and as always, steer clear of areas near creek mouths, reefs, aerators or anywhere there’s a strong current. 

Next weekend, Jan. 20-21, is Wisconsin’s annual winter Free Fishing Weekend. You won’t need a license or stamp, but all other regulations apply. 

No ice is considered 100 percent safe. If you’re new to the sport, be sure to seek the advice of experienced anglers before heading out.

State Parks Hikes

Candlelight ski and hike events are set for Jan. 20 at Point Beach State Forest, Jan. 27 at Whitefish Dunes State Park, and Feb. 3 at Peninsula State Park.

Potawatomi State Park isn’t doing one, but does have two hiking events planned: a one-hour nature walk Monday sponsored by the YMCA, and a public hike sponsored by the Friends of Potawatomi State Park Feb. 17 during Fire and Ice weekend. 

More details on the February hike will be posted on the group’s Facebook page as it gets closer. For Monday’s noon hike or snowshoe event – free to Y members, $5 for members of the public – meet at the Duluth Ave. entrance. Questions? Email [email protected].

Don’t forget to pick up your 2024 Wisconsin State Park and Forest annual vehicle admission sticker. You can buy in person at the parks, or visit Online orders are usually shipped within a week. If you visit a park before your sticker arrives, print the receipt or write “Your Pass Now” along with the pass details on paper, and place it on the driver’s side dash while at the property.

Admission stickers are required on all motor vehicles stopping in state parks and forests. You don’t need one if you’re just driving through.

Deer and Wild Turkeys

Through Jan. 8, hunters had registered 292,365 whitetails in all seasons, 146,849 antlered bucks and 145,506 antlerless deer.

The Central Farmland Zone – the largest zone with all or parts of 35 counties represented – led the way with 166,934 deer registered. The Southern Farmland had 70,957 (all or parts of 20 counties), the Northern Zone 43,952 (all or parts of 20 counties), and the Central Forest 10,532 (all or parts of seven counties). 

More than 6,400 whitetails have been trimmed from the Door and Kewaunee County herds so far: 3,627 in Door (1,708 bucks) and 2,827 in Kewaunee (1,305 bucks).

Meanwhile, the preliminary fall wild turkey harvest stood at 4,325, including 1,422 in Zone 2, 895 in Zone 3, 677 in Zone 4, 649 in Zone 1, 278 in Zone 6, 260 in Zone 5, and 144 in Zone 7. 

New Land Atlas is Out

The DNR’s 2024 Public Access Lands Atlas is now available. The last update was two years ago. 

It’s not cheap at $104.95, but contains 441 maps covering the state’s public lands, roads and waterways. Some people instead purchase the individual county books for $29.95, or more commonly, the statewide DVDs for just $5.95. See all those options at\

You can also download county PDF maps for free, or use the DNR’s Public Access Land online mapping application, also free. Learn more at

DNR Career Fair

Ever consider exploring a potential career with the Department of Natural Resources? If so, a career fair in Appleton next weekend might be worth a visit.

The DNR will have representatives from parks, forestry, wildlife, law enforcement and environmental management present from 9 am – 1 pm, Jan. 20 at Fox Valley Technical College’s Room A170, located at 1825 N. Bluemound Dr.

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn more about the natural resource field and explore full-time and part-time job opportunities with the DNR.

Weekly Water Levels

Green Bay and Lake Michigan water levels are 2 inches lower than at this time last year but are still about 3 inches above the 100-year average. Water levels are 34 inches lower than the record January high set in 2020, and 33 inches above the record monthly low set in 2013.