The severity of this winter could have a major impact on the upcoming open water season start date.

As I make my way through the north country, I can’t help but see the effect of our very cold temperatures and unusual heavy snowfalls on our wildlife. This very difficult winter has been a strain on fish as well as game.

Here are some thoughts as we head into the month of March.

Angling

There is no doubt the heavy ice and enormous amounts of snow on top of the ice has created unusual circumstances for fish. I have found that crappies have abandoned their usual March basins because the lack of sun penetration has deterred insects and larvae from  hatching in deep, muddy basins.

Weed growth and insect hatching can be retarded with no sun penetration. Chances are because of the severity of this winter, we could have some fish kill issues on many lakes.

Pheasants

These amazing creatures always seem to find a way to survive. I have noticed, however, that the numbers of birds in the fields is half what they were in January.

After a banner year we just had, I believe we have had significant pheasant mortality. Significant snow has filled in their roosting spots and without cover they will not make it.

There seems to be just enough high ground in the fields where they can eke out a meal as needed. It’s the cover and roosting areas that are the issue for them.  

Whitetail deer

This is the most adaptive creature in the wild. The problem for them this month is the snow depth is increasing to record levels and their ability to escape predators is getting much more difficult.

These heavy snow and cold winters can be very tough on the young-of-the-year deer. We need some warmer temperatures to melt the snow that will assist them in finding food and escaping when needed.

As a footnote, expect to brace yourself for a very late ice out. At this point we could have ice still statewide when the walleye opener hits in May. Stay tuned!

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