Milder Winter Puts Anglers On Thin Ice

DNR Suggests Checking With Locals About Conditions Before Heading Out On Lakes

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Ice fishing on Wisconsin’s inland lakes may be a dicey proposition during this year’s relatively mild winter. The Department of Natural Resources is cautioning winter anglers that ice conditions can vary widely depending on a lake’s size and no ice is 100 percent safe.

Jeremy Cords, the agency’s safety warden for northeast Wisconsin, said it’s a good idea to ask locals about might be happening underwater.

“Is there a river that’s coming in, going underneath the ice that’s undercutting the ice? Is there snowmelt that’s coming down off the sides of the hills?” Cords said.

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It’s advice echoed by Don Herman, who volunteers with Oshkosh’s Otter Street Fishing Club and runs the Sunk and Dive Ice Service.

“I pull all the cars that fall through the lake around here,” he explained.

That’s mostly lakes Winnebago, Poygan and Buttes Des Morts.

It’s a costly proposition as Herman charges $700 dollars an hour to pull snowmobiles, fourwheelers, cars and trucks out of the lakes. He said the job can take three hours or more.

The DNR requires vehicle owners to get their equipment out of lakes quickly because gasoline and battery acid can become environmental hazards.

According to Herman, northeastern Wisconsin hasn’t had enough cold days yet for lakes to fully freeze. He’s pulled three fourwheelers out this season.

Herman urges fishermen to contact local fishing clubs or bait shops to get current information on local conditions.

Wisconsin has no official ice fishing season. The DNR’s Cords said most ice fishers are looking to catch panfish like northern pikes, perch, or walleye.