It's an oddly warm stretch going into the new year, but that will change after this Wild Weekend Wandering around Chicago outdoors.
How odd? I was looking back at last year's New Year's WWW Chicago outdoors and I was talking about busting ice to fish perch at Navy Pier.
What a difference this year. Ice on the lakefront is a long way away. We might be lucky to have much safe ice inland by next week.
But some things remain the same for New Year's weekend.
PADDLING IN NEW YEAR'S DAY: The traditional paddle on the North Branch of the Chicago River will draw hundreds again on Sunday. As much as I like the idea, I just can't imagine doing it on New Year's Day. There's too many other things going on. Click here for info.
PERCH FISHING: This continues to be the saving grace of Chicago fishing in this odd winter. Navy Pier remains the hotspot. The other hotspot for those with access is the Hole-in-the-Wall in East Chicago, Ind. Weather closed it Wednesday, but it is open again. I suspect Sunday may be the last day there, then winter arrives.
DEER SEASON: The first part of the late-winter and CWD deer seasons runs through Sunday. This is the season when guys are packing in their freezer does.
OPEN WATER FISHING: Powerton Lake outside of Pekin is open to shore fishermen, for those looking for a holiday week excursion. . . . The rivers are open, safe and at good levels. Not sure how many will actually try that, though Norm Minas said he bumped into another fisherman on the Kankakee the other day.
ICE FISHING: Safe ice is an hour or two to the north. But it is coming. There will be ice fishing across our northern areas by Tuesday, maybe even Monday and across other parts in spots by mid-week. if the forecast holds. My kids have been begging to go ice fishing. That may be in our plans next week. We will see how things go.
WATERFOWL HUNTING: In the north zone, goose season runs through Jan. 7. Not sure if the weather change next week will help or not. But I suspect some will be out this weekend any way.
SNOWY OWLS: The remarkable fall and winter for snowy owls just keeps going. The reports are almost becoming routine from Waukegan to Michigan, Ind.
SANDHILL CRANES: The numbers are dropping at Jasper-Pulaski FWA near Medaryville, Ind. But plenty of sandhills remain for those, like myself, who have the kids to watch during the holiday week break. I was hoping to get over there this weekend, but don't think it is going to happen.
The sight and sounds of the cranes at the site southeast of Valparaiso, Ind. is something to behold. Best viewing is sunrise or sunset at Goose Pasture Viewing Area. But I find it worth touring the area to watch the sandhills in the surrounding fields, too. Click here to see, listen and learn details of the site.
INDIANA STREAMS FOR STEELHEAD: Streams still have steelhead in them. Weekend should be fine for them, but next week the weather will make it tougher. For those without experience on the Indiana streams, click here for access points on Salt, Trail and the Little Cal.
UPLAND HUNTING: In the north, season is nearing the end. Still no snow cover and I don't see any forthcoming.
ILLINOIS HUNTING PERMITS: Permits for the late-winter and CWD deer seasons are available over-the-counter.
ARCHERY: Archery Bow Range Chicago offers instruction.
SALMON SNAGGING: Snagging for chinook and coho on the Illinois lakefront ends Saturday. It is open only at four locations only: Lincoln Park Lagoon south of Fullerton Avenue, Waukegan Harbor (North Harbor Basin only); Winnetka Power Plant discharge area and Jackson Park Harbor (inner and outer harbors). No snagging is allowed at any time within 200 feet of a moored watercraft or as posted.
PERSONAL PICKS: I expect we will do a hike at North Park Village Nature Center on Saturday. Otherwise, this is a family weekend of birthday celebrations. . . . Beyond that, I am covering basketball at the Kankakee Holiday Tournament today. In any spare moments, work continues on an ongoing writing project.. . . And I am getting back into the swing of my Outside radio show on WKCC-FM (91.1), for which I am soloing beginning in 2012. And I am enjoying pulling shows together.