OSHKOSH - With weather warming up, ice conditions on area waterways are deteriorating day by day, hour by hour. Eight people were rescued yesterday from the ice of Green Bay in Door County. And this last week may have been ice fishermen's last hurrah.
"Normally, the ice is gone now," said Don Herman, owner of Sunk? Dive & Ice Service.
Herman, who puts out his metal vehicle and ATV ice bridges on Lake Winnebago each winter says though some lakes up north may still have solid ice, the same can't be said for the Lake Winnebago system.
"It is good fishing," said Herman of ice fishing on the system. "There's diehards out there [now], they'll wader out through this water and jump on the ice."
While Herman estimates there's about 20 inches of ice on Lake Winnebago – in some parts – he says it's not worth the gamble to venture out.
On Saturday, Herman pulled in his ATV ice bridges used to bridge large cracks in the ice; his vehicle bridges were removed in late March.
"This is the longest that we've had the bridges out in about 15 years," said Herman.
First responders say the winter has been a quiet one; and that's good. But are worried about what the days and weeks may hold in store.
"At the very end of the season, that's one of the times probably we're the most concerned because that's when things can deteriorate pretty rapidly out there," said Oshkosh Fire Chief Tim Franz.
Franz says the department has, luckily, only had five ice rescue incidents since the New Year; and no fatalities this winter.
But the same can't be said for the state.
According to FOX 11 story archives, since December, at least five people have died after going through the ice in Wisconsin; and at least 25 people needed rescue from the ice or water.
Franz says unfortunately it's common to have at least one ice-related fatality each year. But he believes people have heeded the warnings.
And if you can't resist the temptation to fish, Herman says to just get a boat and wait for the next winter.
Herman says he has already doubled the amount of items he's had to retrieve from the water this year, compared to last. He actually attributes the higher number to the better ice conditions later in the season that gave some a false sense of security on the ice.
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