Battle on Bago ice fishing tournament and fundraiser underway in Oshkosh

    Battle on Bago ice fishermen head onto Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, February 22, 2019 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

    LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- It will be a busy weekend on Lake Winnebago.

    Thousands of fishermen and sturgeon spearers are sharing the ice.

    They're testing their luck both on, and below, the frozen surface.

    The ice fishing tournament Battle on Bago doubles as a fundraiser for conservation efforts in the Fox Valley.

    At the Merritt Avenue Boat Landing in Oshkosh, pickup trucks, and all-terrain vehicles head out onto the ice in search of a fishing spot that could pay-off.

    "It's a chance of winning a nice prize. Been out here years ago, Haven't been out here for a few years," said George Stollfuss, Ripon.

    The Battle on Bago features a two-day ice fishing tournament held throughout the Lake Winnebago System, with $275,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs.

    "It's challenging. But when you do find a fish, it is rewarding. And it's tough. You got to move around a lot, fish with different colors, baits, where they are," said Alex Ciesielski, Oak Lawn, Illinois.

    Inside a big top tent at Menominee Park in Oshkosh, Jared Zarcone was one of the first anglers to register. He caught a 17-inch walleye on Lake Winnebago Friday morning.

    "It went pretty well. I lost the fish at the hole, so it broke my line. I reached my hand in the hole, scooped it back out. My arm is all wet now too. But yeah, it's a pretty good fish," said Jared Zarcone, Mukwonago.

    The event is more than just an ice fishing tournament, It is also a major fundraiser for the Oshkosh Southwest Rotarians. Over the past 12 years, Battle on Bago has generated net proceeds of more than $1.2 million.

    "Kids and conservation. That's kind of our mission statement. We like to support anything with youth, youth fishing, youth outdoors, anything to get a kid off a computer, off the Nintendo, or the Switch, or whatever they're on, and get them outside, get them enjoying the outdoors," said Todd Reuss, Battle on Bago.

    Back on the ice, traffic is steady. Tournament officials expect a busy weekend.

    "We really recommend you use a four-wheeler, or snowmobile out there. Truck travel is going on out there with the snow. Just got to be careful. Stay on the roads, or stay in a two-laner, so you don't get stuck," said Reuss.

    About 15,000 people are expected to attend the three-day event.

    Battle on Bago leaders say planning is already underway for next year's tournament.

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