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So far, 2019 has been a good season for ATVs and UTVs.

Jon Schweitzer, Jackson County Forestry and Parks assistant administrator and snowmobile and ATV trail coordinator, said the season so far is going well. All but one section of trail is open and a new section just opened up, Schweitzer said.

“We have almost all of our trails open,” Schweitzer said.

The exception is a section on state land where there was an issue with a bridge that’s being repaired. It’s an 18-mile stretch from Black River to Millston, but Schweitzer said there’s an alternative route to Millston on the other side of the interstate. He said a section that joins the Ho-Chunk casino to the rest of the trail was opened recently.

He said the repair work should be done “within the next week or two.”

So far the trails have held up to rider usage, and there have been few problems, Schweitzer said.

“It’s been a real safe season so far with very few incidents, and I think people are enjoying riding,” he said. “It’s getting a little dusty with the lack of rain, but it’s been a great thing ... a really positive impact on the local economy.”

The trails sustained little damage from the storms that pounded the region last August and September, not enough to claim storm damage funds, Schweitzer said.

“It’s helped us to keep the trails open,” he said. “There have been closures, but we’re not seeing them as frequently.”

A new project is on the horizon, Schweitzer said. The committee has tentatively approved the creation of wet trail areas, sections that would stay wet to accommodate different user preferences.

“We’re running this through our legal channels, but we’re looking to ... try these on an experimental basis,” he said. “We’re going to try a couple areas and monitor them and make sure they’re user safe and not degrading anything biologically.”

In fishing news, the fish are biting with a vengeance now that temperatures have risen.

Don Roscovius, owner of Rosco’s Live Bait, said this past week and weekend were productive for fishermen and that all species were biting.

“Bluegills, crappies, bass and northern were biting pretty good,” he said.

Crappies were active on spinner baits such as beetle spins and rooster tails. Live bait is also working, Roscovius said.

“If you want to relax, put a crappie minnow on, and if you want to be busy, anything with a little spinner would be a good choice,” he said. “Bluegills are kind of 50/50. Guys are catching quite a few on artificial plastics with jig head, some are putting a little worm or wax worm on it to entice them a little bit or red worms are still working. But guys are having 50/50 success with both.”

Chris Abbott, owner of Hatfield Sports Shop, said the crappies and bluegills are biting at Lake Arbutus, but fishermen are not catching bunches of them.

“A lot of guys are getting them on crappie minnows and a slip bobber and twister tails but are also getting them on other stuff like plastics,” he said.

Walleyes are also biting in the Hatield area − few keepers but mostly fish between 13 and 14 inches, Abbott said. He has heard about a 19-inch or 20-inch fish, but they’re on the slow end of the scale. Below the dam seems to be where the walleyes are biting best.

The bass bite is picking up in the Tomah area, Roscovius reports. They seem to be either in the middle of spawning or at the end. Fishermen are catching them on artificial worms, crank baits and spinners.

Abbott also reports good bass fishing in the Hatfield area.

“Guys are getting quite a few of those right now, a few largemouth on the lake and then on the cranberry marshes, too,” he said. “Guys out this weekend did pretty good ... they’re starting to come out now that we have some warm weather.”

Northern pike are active in the Tomah area, Roscovius said. They’re taking mostly live baits, especially suckers.

“Most guys are throwing a sucker under a bobber and having success that way,” he said.

In other outdoor news the bears are active, Abbott reports. They’ve been ransacking bird feeders and everything else they can get their paws on.

“It’s getting to the point where you either have to pull everything in for the night, stop feeding altogether or be prepared to face the consequences,” he said. “They’re coming into breeding season, so that’s probably part of it, but people will start to see more bears cross the road a bit more.”

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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