EAU CLAIRE (AP) - Lingering ice will prevent anglers from fishing on some of their favorite northern Wisconsin lakes when the season starts this weekend, and area resorts and businesses are already feeling the pinch.
Despite a recent warming in the weather, many lakes north of state Highway 64 remain covered in ice, Heath Benike, a state Department of Natural Resources fish manager in Eau Claire, told the Leader-Telegram for a Monday story.
Although some northern lakes have thawed, most will still be covered by ice on Saturday, when the statewide fishing season kicks off, said DNR spokesman Kevin Harter. Many still had snow on them as of late last week, and that would have to melt before the ice underneath it can do so, he said.
"I think it's going to be real hit-and-miss right now," he said.
Some lakes - Altoona, Eau Claire, Menomin and Tainter - were half-covered with ice late last week but should be open for fishing by Saturday, Benike said. Lake Wissota was partly open on the Chippewa River stretch downstream from Anson, but the river levels will likely be high on opening weekend, he said.
"All that snow up north hasn't come down the Chippewa yet. That will probably happen this week if it gets as warm as they're predicting," he said.
Jim Onarheim, who owns a resort on Moose Lake and is president of the Hayward Lakes Visitor and Convention Bureau, said he's had to tell some customers that they won't be able to fish on opening weekend. Some rescheduled for later in the season, but others couldn't do so, he said.
"One or two resort owners said they've got a few people who are going to come up and just play cards," he said.
The lingering ice will cost some resorts, restaurants, other area businesses their first fishing tourism paychecks of the year, Onarheim said.
Officials said the annual Governor's Fishing Opener is still expected to happen, despite some lingering ice on Lake Namekagon north of Cable.
"Obviously there's optimism and hope," Harter said.
There was some good news for anglers, who will likely find spawning walleyes - more male than female ones - in shallow water on gravel shorelines over next week. Benike said once a lake thaws, they might also find bass, panfish and northerns in shallow bays on calm, sunny days.
Anglers could also consider trout fishing if their favorite fishing holes are still frozen by Saturday.
"We have some great trout streams in the Eau Claire area. Fish numbers are at high level ... If you can't get out in your boat you could try Elk Creek or Duncan or McCann or Hay," Benike said.
Anglers should get a $10 trout stamp in addition to a regular fishing license.
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