GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN (WBAY) – When Aaron Stephens stepped onto Lake Winnebago this morning, the ice was solid. By afternoon, the temperature was near 50 degrees and the ice turned to slush.
“Luckily we have our cleats on our boots to keep us upright,” Stephens said.
He and his two friends are visiting Oshkosh from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They’re taking part in Battle on Bago – an annual ice-fishing tournament that has drawn thousands from all over the country this year.
“We’ve marked a few fish, but nothing’s biting,” says Stephens.
A slow day fishing turned into a much slower return to shore thanks to ice conditions worsening throughout the day due to unusually warm weather.
“It’s been quite mild out there but actually it’s been pretty good,” says Brian Gliszinski with Battle on Bago. “People are being smart – they’re taking four-wheelers or walking. We’ve had a really successful year and really safe so far.”
By noon, roughly 25-hundred fish had been registered in the tournament, which ended Saturday.
Also by noon, the lake ice was melting fast enough to create giant cracks with more than 15 feet of open water stretching far out into the lake.
It was a hazard that caught some ice-fishers off guard. Fishing clubs had advised against anglers taking their pickups and cars onto the ice going into the weekend. Some people did not take that advice and brought their vehicles far out into the lake with them. The ice was mostly solid in the morning, but when it was time for those vehicles to get back to shore, the large crack had some drivers puzzled – forcing them to find a completely different route back to land.
Don Cron caught a few fish during the tournament on the Upriver Lakes. He says the ice didn’t bother him, but he hopes people don’t take their safety for granted.
“Nobody going through the ice would be nice,” he said.