While many individuals participate in winter outdoor activities such as sledding, ice skating, skiing and snowshoeing, there are other activities that people can do outdoors. Each one of these winter activities requires the weather closely associated with this time of year to create conditions conducive to the pursuit. Snow, ice and cold may be major inconveniences to some, but to those that participate in these winter activities, the weather conditions make the activities possible.
When lakes, ponds and river coves freeze over in the northern states, ice fishing is an option. An activity that requires a combination of special equipment and common sense to remain safe, ice fishing provides exercise and excitement, especially when the fish are biting. Some sort of ice auger is a necessity with which to drill through the ice. Many ice anglers will use a small fishing pole called a jigging pole to entice fish with lures and live bait. Others will opt for tip-ups, a device that has a reel full of line as well as a flag that deploys when a fish grabs the bait and trips it off. Species such as northern pike, pickerel, bass, trout, kokanee salmon, bluegills, crappies, perch, and even catfish will bite a variety of baits, including shiners, waxworms and artificial lures. Safety is of paramount importance when ice fishing, with the most obvious rule being to have enough ice on a body of water to avoid falling through; 6 inches of ice makes for safe fishing. In the United States there are special regulations regarding ice fishing, limiting the number of devices an angler may use.
In the Northern hemisphere, the best stargazing occurs during the winter for a number of reasons. First, the nighttime is longer due to the shorter days, allowing more time for this winter activity. Secondly, the winter sky with its typical cold air is clearer, allowing the observer to see heavenly objects that might avoid detection on warmer evenings. In addition, the constellations that appear around 9 p.m. in the northern winter skies are a spectacular mix of bright stars and interesting and recognizable patterns. Such groupings as Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins, Canis Major the Big Dog and Auriga the Charioteer are easy to discern and contain stars of the highest magnitudes. Waiting for a moonless light with crisp clear weather guarantees a fine celestial show. Bundling up against the cold and having some type of hot beverage on hand makes this outdoor hobby even more enjoyable.
A light covering of snow may prove a problem for motorists but it is welcome for people who endeavor to identify animal tracks. Across meadows, pastures, woodlands and even in urban settings, mammals of all sizes leave behind evidence of their movements. To identify these tracks, people should purchase a field guide to the tracks of their part of North America. It is important to count the number of toes in a track, as this is the best way to distinguish to what family of animals the track maker belongs. Attempting to deduce what the animal may have been up to makes this activity even more intriguing. Tracking is a potential activity for the entire family that will provide both exercise and a sense of adventure, especially if the added pleasure of sighting one of the animals occurs.