Fishing clubs pulling bridges as Lake Winnebago ice deteriorates

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OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- Sturgeon spearing just came to an end a few days ago.

And now, another sign that winter's grip may be loosening ever so slightly-- many ice bridges on Lake Winnebago are coming out.

It should have been a pretty straightforward day for members of the Otter Street Fishing Club and Sunk! Dive and Ice Service.

But early Tuesday afternoon, an extraction job off Oshkosh had them scrambling to save their own equipment.

The ice was deteriorating so quickly it caught even seasoned veterans off guard.

"The lake really is turning bad with the sun... it's just going bad. We pulled a truck out of the river today. We just got it out, we're coming in, and we dropped our truck in, just the back tires," said Don Herman, who runs Sunk! Ice and Diving and is a member of the Otter Street Fishing Club in Oshkosh.

He and other volunteers with the Otter Street Fishing Club were planning on removing the ice bridges Wednesday morning.

As it became clear how fast the ice was changing on Tuesday, their plans had to change as well.

"We're probably going to do an emergency deal and probably pull the bridges here shortly... I drove out to just about everybody an told them, I said get your vehicles off. It's fine for four-wheelers yet, but I think most fishing clubs are pulling their bridges today," according to Herman.

Over the southern half of the lake, the bridges were already off by Tuesday.

Steve Klein with the West Shore Fishing Club in Van Dyne says the ice there is even worse.

"When we were coming in, we could actually feel the ice moving up and down, almost like a wave action. You could see in front of you where the vehicles in front of you were actually going down. Not a good feeling," said Klein.

He says he pulls six to ten trucks out of the lake per winter-- but he's had seven go through in the last week alone.

That included a truck in shallow waters, but surrounded by ice too thin for the fishing club to extract.

Back at the Merritt Street launch in Oshkosh, fishing guides had also pulled the plug on their trucks and shanties on the lake.

"I'm done. Snowmobile from here on out.. Safety first, that's what we go by. We feel it's unsafe now, and we'll go out and pleasure fish on snowmobile all by ourselves," said Lance Sweeting, a professional fishing guide.

And with milder than normal weather forecast to stick around, the ice likely won't be getting any better.

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