Bait shop initiative battles aquatic invasive species on Lake Winnebago

Ice fishermen on Asylum Bay on Lake Winnebago, December 20, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WLUK) -- As ice fishermen start to venture out onto parts of Lake Winnebago, a plan is in place to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

The Bait Shop Initiative is using the expertise of scientists and business owners.

At Fish Tales in Oshkosh, live minnows and custom lures are in good supply.

"Anything a fisherman is going to need, we have it," said Cory Van Vonderen, owner of Fish Tales.

Van Vonderen also gives advice.

"I keep a daily update on ice conditions. I stay on top of that. I make sure people know where the ice is safe, where it's not safe, and also where the fish are biting," he said.

Fish Tales is also part of a new bait shop network spreading the word about aquatic invasive species on Lake Winnebago.

"It's winter time, and yes it's really cold. But invasive species can still spread, if we're not following these steps," said Chris Acy, Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance aquatic invasive species coordinator.

Those steps include inspecting equipment, removing any attached plants, and never moving weeds or live fish away from the lake.

"In the wintertime, that's more of what we're looking at. People who are going from one maybe ice fishing spot to another on the same lake," said Acy.

From the bait shops to the boat landings, project officials hope area fishermen will take that information and put it into practice.

"Make sure I clean all my stuff before we come off the lake. Make sure the drill is clean, all the cables coming up are clean," said Ryan Pinkall of Oshkosh.

Dozens of anglers were catching perch on Lake Winnebago's Asylum Bay Wednesday morning.

Back at Fish Tales, Van Vonderen says the initiative will help keep Lake Winnebago healthy.

"It's all about preserving the great fishery that we've got. And that's really at the heart of it all," he said.

Plans are in the works to expand the bait shop network.

The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance is sponsoring the initiative with support from UW-Madison, UW-Extension and the Department of Natural Resources.

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