How are southeastern Wisconsin lake ice conditions after all this rain?
The year started out stylin’ if you were selling bait around southeastern Wisconsin or wanting to do some ice fishing.
Several days of single-digit temps for a solid week led to many lakes having over a foot of good, clear ice. People were driving trucks on all the area lakes around these parts, where access was good and ordinances made it legal.
Then, last weekend, the rain came. Temps bested 50 degrees. More rain. Disgruntled ice anglers could only look out the window and watch their stage melt.
But how much damage did that rain actually do? It’s hard to declare that ice is ever 100 percent safe, but do we have enough of it to make an educated guess that fishing this weekend is a good idea?
Yes, we do, if area reports are correct.
Becky Smith, one of the owners of Dick Smith’s Live Bait and Tackle in Delafield, said that she saw cars driving around on Pewaukee Lake as early as Jan. 22, despite water being pushed on top of the ice as they motored along.
“We did get a lot of rain,” she said. “But what we had going for us was that the rain was 30 degrees, not 50 degrees. It was cold enough that we didn’t really lose that much ice. It also helped that it was a cloudy few days without a ton of wind.”
Smith said that people obviously still have to be cautious, but the rain wasn’t enough to keep many of her shoppers from heading out. There are, however, some trouble areas where anglers have to be careful.
“The access points where people drive onto the lake got tore up in some spots,” she said.
The problem arises when boat launches and other access points get heavy truck pressure as vehicles go on and off the lake. Throw in a bunch of rain, and divots form, which then hold standing water, and more stress occurs. People should be cautious of these areas until we get some frigid temps to lock things in again.
There is still more than a month to fish before game fishing closes and “permanent” ice shanties have to be removed from the lakes on March 4. Barring a wicked warm spell, things should be fine to get out there and chase some flags.