Lake Winnebago is an unusually large inland fresh water lake! Some of the facts about it are it is a relatively shallow lake, 21 ft. at its deepest point. It is Wisconsin’s largest inland lake, 30 mi. long and 10 miles wide. The geological history reveals it is an ice age lake, that formed when ice blocked the drainage into what is now Green Bay. It has two major river systems connected with it. The Wolf River flows into it and the Fox River flows out of it to the north to Green Bay. All in all, there is 85 miles of shoreline with lots of state, city, and county parks to enjoy the beauty of the lake.
I remember when I first began to investigate where Jon lived I was amazed to find out he lived on the North side of this huge lake that I have casually noticed over the years when looking at maps. People have been drawn to it over the centuries. The Native Americans and French Fur Traders traveled upon it. It has been a bountiful fishing source. The State of Wisconsin have protected many areas surrounding it, including a high area on the NE side of the lake called High Cliffs Park, which is located on the Niagara Escarpment that runs throughout WI and up through Door County. (it is the same escarpment found in Michigan, Lake Huron’s Bruce Peninsula/Manitoulin Islands as well as Niagara Falls)
This lake freezes early and it is not uncommon to have thousands of vehicles out on the ice during ice fishing season. Likely not as many now with the advent of the snowmobile. Occasionally light weight planes land on the lake before it is covered with snow and ice boats too can be seen racing across the ice. The large frozen lake also presents dangers. So far this winter there have been 3 deaths involving vehicles breaking through thin spots and getting to close to open water near Neenah and Menasha on the NE corner of the lake. There are actual plowed roads on the lake so travelers drive in safe areas. When cracks appear they are bridged with steel structures to prevent break throughs. The local law enforcement groups advise fishermen to leave their vehicle windows open, doors unlocked, and wear a life jacket that inflates upon sensing water. The rescue vehicles are the kind of boat you see in the Everglades, a large fan powered boat that can travel quickly over open water or on the ice.
You can find a variety of fishing stations. People fish out in the open, in simple portable shanties, and more permanent complete shanties with everything but the kitchen sink (probably that is in there too). At the RV and Camper show we saw what I would call Nirvana to the ice fisherman who has everything: the Salem Ice Cabin. It was a state of the art ice trailer on wheels to get out on the ice and then the body lowered over the wheels once the location has been determined. I think I could get into fishing in such deluxe comfort!
This weekend marks one of the major events of the season, Sturgeon spearing. It begins Saturday Feb 13th at 6:30 a.m. and ends at 12:30 pm the same day. There is a limit to the number of fish speared. If the limit is not met on the first day, then spearing continues the following day and so on. Fishermen prepare for the event by cutting 3′ by 5′ holes in the ice two days before open season. Besides the obvious spear, fishermen also use wood decoys to drawn the sturgeon in(use of lights is illegal). My research says the record sturgeon take in Lake Winnebago was 188 pounds in 2004. Lake Winnebago and its connected flowage have the largest population of sturgeon in the United States. Can you imagine the thrill of catching this prehistoric monster fish?
As you can see this lake provides fun throughout the year, as for me, I look forward to further exploration of this fascinating lake and its shoreline in the future warmer months.
(As a postscript to this blog, the record fish for 2010 weighed in at 212 pounds and 84 inches in length!)