So far it’s been a very brown winter across much of Northeast Wisconsin, and for some winter sports enthusiasts — and businesses that rely on them — it’s beginning to cause some concern.

Among those affected are upcoming fish derbies. Some starting as early as this weekend are having to relocate to the shoreline.

“There’s a few fisherees the first week of January that they’re probably going to have to change their plans,” Don Herman, an ice expert with Sunk? Dive and Ice Rescue, said.

Along the shore of Lake Winnebago, there’s only about four inches of ice. Out farther, where it’s clear, it’s less than an inch thick.

As a result, some fishing clubs are having to make changes as tournament time approaches.

“We’re all worried right now,” Herman said. “I mean, even Otter Street is worried. Our fisheree is the first week of February, and unless we get some cold weather I’m sure we are going to be having it on land or do some alternate plans of having it somewhere instead of on the bay.”

Some fisherees start as early as this weekend, including one held by the Bonduel Lions on Shawano Lake. Organizers say it won’t be canceled.

In Neenah, sturgeon spearing is a huge draw.

Jamie Prey is a member of the Paynes Point Hook and Spear Club.

“A lot of people are concerned if we’re going to have sturgeon spearing,” Prey said, “but it’s only getting into January right now. We have New Year’s, you have some time for the weather to give us good ice to still be safe for sturgeon spearing.”

Right now the thickness of the ice is about two weeks behind schedule from where it should be for late December. It’s a situation many of these fishing clubs haven’t dealt with since 2004.

To avoid moving on shore, fisheree organizers say at least ten days of consistent temperatures between five below and ten above are necessary.

“People like to come out on the ice and have a good time on the ice for the fisheree, and when you have it on land it takes kind of the fun away,” Herman said.

Lake News: Warm Winter Forces Ice Fishing Derbies to Move.



Another boy escaped after falling through ice

OSHKOSH – A 15-year-old boy died when he and another teen fell through the ice on a quarry pond, police say.

Rescue crews were called to the quarry of Zillges Materials, 1990 W. Snell Road, just after 6 p.m. Monday.

Police say two teens were walking on the ice when they fell in. One of the teens got out and ran to a nearby home to get a parent. Dive team members pulled the other boy, identified as Austin Werbelow, from the water and tried to resuscitate him, but could not. Werbelow was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police and the coroner’s office have ruled the death an accidental drowning.

Police say Werbelow was from Oshkosh and a student at Oshkosh North High School.

Police have not released the name or age of the other teen, except to say that he is from Oshkosh

via Teen drowns in Oshkosh pond.





LITTLE CHUTE — The Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce has invited Harlan Kiesow, CEO of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, to the monthly “Coffee and Conversation” meeting.

The free event will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Jan. 6 in the community room of the Little Chute Village Hall, 108 W. Main St.

The Fox River Navigational System Authority was created to oversee the management of the Fox Locks following the transfer of the system from the Corps of Engineers to the state in 2004. The Authority’s primary mission is to repair, rehabilitate, operate and maintain the locks.

The locks system of the Lower Fox River stretches from Lake Winnebago to De Pere and when restored, boaters will again be able to travel from Lake Winnebago to the bay of Green Bay. Harlan will provide an update on the restoration’s progress.

Audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions. For more information, call the chamber office at 920-766-1616 or visit

Lake News: Update planned on Fox River locks restoration.



The city of Oshkosh has received close to $750,000 in state grants to help fund river walk urban trail projects scheduled to begin in 2012.

Oshkosh Community Development Department Grants Manager Darlene Brandt said the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee recently approved a $644,952 grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to help offset projected costs of $1.5 million for transient docks along the river walk segment to be built between Jackson Street and North Main Street.

Brandt also said the city has received a $45,000 recreational trails grant for construction of the river walk between North Main and Jackson and another $45,000 recreational trails grant for river walk work between Ohio Street and Michigan Avenue on the south shore of the Fox River.

“We’d love more assistance, of course, but we’re happy with what we’ve got this far,” Brandt said. “It will definitely help us move closer to completing the entire river walk project.”

Brandt said the city plans to award a bid for the docks and river walk along City Center and the City Center Hotel this winter, pending an agreement for an easement with the hotel’s owners, so that work can begin as soon as weather permits in March. In addition to the $1.5 million dock project, construction of a new sea wall and a cantilevered boardwalk in that area is expected to cost an additional $1.5 million, according to the city’s 2012 Capital Improvement Program budget.

“Sea wall reconstruction is costly and we’re not sure about all the conditions in the area,” Brandt said. “The boardwalk will be a little more expensive, too, but there are areas where there’s no land for a paved section which made the boardwalk our best option.”

Work between Ohio Street and Michigan Street is expected to begin after the city secures permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, completes design work and secures project bids.

via Grants keep coming for river walk | The Oshkosh Northwestern |



Outdoor enthusiasts may be yearning to drop a line through the ice to catch some fish, but authorities warn that conditions aren’t safe.

Although Fond du Lac has felt some below-freezing temperatures in recent weeks, only thin layers of ice have formed on some parts of Lake Winnebago, the Fond du Lac River and other area lakes and streams.

With Wednesday’s rain and temperatures in the 40s, those thin layers of ice are now treacherous.

“Common sense says stay off it,” said Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Rick Olig.

Although ice has formed in some areas of the Lakeside Park harbor, open water is visible a short distance off shore.

While the ice near shore may support a human’s weight, strong wind could carry someone who falls into the lake to a deadly depth, said Sheriff Mick Fink.

“If you flirt with that right now, you might be flirting with disaster,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Office has not received any reports or requests for water rescues related to people going through ice so far this season, Olig said.

Lt. William Tadych and Sgt. Jeff Bonack used the department’s new amphibious watercraft to assist the Fond du Lac Waste Water Treatment Plant late Tuesday morning when workers discovered two to three inches of ice on the Fond du Lac River prohibited them from completing necessary testing, Olig said.


Lake News: Officials: Stay off the ice! Thin ice isn’t safe.



A handmade, fully clothed mannequin floating in Lake Winnebago sparked a full response from emergency personnel Wednesday.

Four fire engines, two ambulances, detectives, Fond du Lac police and the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team sped through streets to an area near the Fond du Lac Wastewater Treatment plant at Lakeside Park after there was a report of a body floating about 100 yards offshore.
The new Sheriff’s Amphibious Rescue Craft (SARC) did not take to the water before the “body” was confirmed as fake.

At about 12:45 p.m., firefighters put on rescue equipment and retrieved the object.

“Firefighters went out and discovered it was not a human body. It is something like a handmade mannequin,” said Lt. Dave LeCaptain of the Fond du Lac Police Department.

The mannequin did not have a head or arms. It was built of paper wrapped in duct tape and had on a jacket, pants, socks and one shoe.

“I have no idea how this got here. Somebody made it and somehow it ended up in the water,” LeCaptain said.

Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Strand said the mannequin is nothing like the Dive Team would use for training.

“Somebody put clothes on it to make it look real,” Strand said. “I think it is reasonable to make the assumption that it was put there intentionally. I don’t know what purpose it would ever serve.”


Lake News: Firefighters retrieve mannequin from Lake Winnebago.