A boater’s drive to create a no-wake zone on the Fox River from Lake Winnebago to the Butte des Morts bridge appears dead in the water with an advisory board and the city manager both against the proposal.

About 119 people signed Oshkosh resident Daniel Henning’s petition that asks Oshkosh Parks Director Ray Maurer to designate the entire length of the Fox River from Lake Winnebago to the Butte des Morts bridge a no-wake zone.

On Monday, the Oshkosh Advisory Parks Board unanimously voted to reject Henning’s request, saying it would hurt boating-related businesses and increase travel times between Winnebago and Butte des Morts. Henning was the only person at the meeting who spoke in favor of the no-wake expansion.

“You’re taking your life into your own hands if you try to go out in the afternoon. We’ve had several close calls,” Henning said. “Something needs to get done, that’s all I know. It would still be ‘Oshkosh on the Water.’ It’s just going to be Oshkosh on the Water, Safely.”

The petition cites “terrible” shoreline erosion and the damage done to little boats as they make their way along the river. At present, there are already no wake areas from the mouth of Winnebago west to the Oregon Street bridge and another no-wake zone from west of the Wisconsin Street bridge almost to the Butte des Morts bridge.

Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff has recommended the city take no action on the petition and leave the existing no-wake zones in place.

“We don’t support it. We’re recommending the Parks Board take no action it,” Rohloff said. “We don’t think it’s necessary.”

Parks Board members agreed with him on Monday, saying it would hurt marinas, restaurants, hotels, bait shops and other businesses that cater to boaters. Board member Terry Wohler also noted it would significantly increase the amount of time it takes boaters to get from Lake Winnebago to Lake Butte des Morts.

“This is going to kill everything in Oshkosh. You can’t have a no-wake zone on the whole thing,” Wohler said. “It would take you all day to get from one way to the other.”

Beyond those who signed the petition, there appears to be little other support for the idea.

Rohloff said he’s gotten about 20 calls from businesses, residents, boaters and fishers from the region and all expressed opposition to the idea. Maurer said he’s received more input on the petition in three days than he did on the entire Menominee Park Master Plan in six months.

“Everything I’ve gotten in the last 24 hours has been unanimously against it,” Rohloff said. “It’s totally impractical. At the speeds they recommend, it would take 55 minutes to go from the Butte des Morts bridge to the Pioneer.”

Mercury Marine tests many of its boats on a stretch of the Fox River near the Wisconsin Street bridge and Director of Product Integration Engineering Daniel Clarkson said a no-wake zone would add about 3,600 hours of test time to each project when driving times to areas of Lake Winnebago are factored in.

“All of those tests we do are able to be done because of our access to the Fox River, the Winnebago System,” Clarkson said. “We know that access to the river and to the Winnebago and Butte des Morts systems are paramount to our ability to complete the work that’s part of the pride we have in the marine industry today.”

Only a portion of the signatures collected come from Oshkosh residents, though. The remainder come from boaters from Racine, Oconomowoc, Edgerton, Fort Atkinson, Elkhorn, Lake Delton and other areas of the state.

Henning said he collected the signatures in a week or two from people he runs into along the river. He said a lot of the close calls he has had in the past could be avoided if boaters used more common sense.

“There’s just an awful lot of stuff we see on the river … a lot of these guys don’t use any common sense when it comes to the river,” Henning said. “There’s a lot of stuff that could be addressed if people slowed down.”

Jeff Bollier: (920) 426-6688 or



There is a petition submitted to the Oshkosh city council to make the Fox River slow-no-wake from the Butte-des-mortes bridge to Lake Winnebago (all of Oshkosh). This would roughly triple the current slow-no-wake distance.

If this concerns you, there is a preliminary meeting Monday at 6:00 to talk about it. The petition is being presented to the City Council at 6:00 Monday Sept 10th.  This is a preliminary meeting held by the parks dept. Oshkosh city hall room 410. With enough opposition, the issue might be killed right there. Please be there!  (Note correction to meeting time and location.)

Please get involved.

For more information and discussion on this please see the following forum post:



Eight Dip into Lakes seminars presented over four nights last spring by UW-Extension are being made available online and on DVD.

During the seminars speakers from the Department of Natural Resources and UW-Extension explained how fish and aquatic plants survive, as well as how both Lake Winnebago and property laws have changed over the years.

Other topics included the economic impact of lakes, the benefits and drawbacks of aquatic plants, and challenges to the health of Lake Winnebago and the fish population.

To purchase the DVD of all eight talks for $5, call UW-Extension of Fond du Lac County at (920) 929-3173 or e-mail

All the videos are posted on YouTube ( on the Environment & Natural Resources playlist (76-83).

In conjunction with the Dip into Lakes seminars, a group of concerned citizens formed the Lake Winnebago Quality Improvement Association of Fond du Lac County. The group’s purpose is to improve the overall quality of Lake Winnebago — for natural habitat and for those using the lake for recreational uses.

More information about the group is available by visiting

via DVD shares talks about lake quality | Fond du Lac Reporter |



PIPE— One person was injured Sunday when a boat caught fire and sank in the Lake Winnebago entrance to the channel leading into Columbia Park.

According to police scanner reports, a caller told the dispatcher around 3:50 p.m. that a boat in the mouth of the channel was on fire and that all people on board had evacuated before it sank.

One person on the 19 1/2-foot boat sustained burns and was advised to seek medical treatment.

The owner of the boat, Steve Schoepke of Fond du Lac, said the engine backfired and burst into flames. Schoepke described the boat as a 1977 Checkmate jet boat.

The Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department towed the damaged boat out of the channel and over to where a large crane from Whealon’s Towing of Fond du Lac could retrieve it from the water.

Columbia Park is located on the east shore of Lake Winnebago at N10340 Calumet Harbor Road west of Pipe. The park contains boat slips and a launching area, as well as a harbor wall used to dock boats.


Oshkosh – The Winnebago County Sheriff Department responds to a boating accident on the Fox River near the Wisconsin Street bridge in Oshkosh on Saturday afternoon. According to scanner reports, one person was injured when the boat struck an object in the water.