SHAWANO - Anglers are eager to hit Shawano Lake, but the sheriff's department says the weather could spell danger.
"Particularly with Shawano Lake being a spring fed lake, we're hearing reports and growing increasingly concerned about inconsistent ice conditions," said Captain Tom Tuma, Shawano County Sheriff's Department.
That's why officials are taking to the skies with a pilot from the Shawano Municipal Airport. FOX 11 joined in on the flight.
The goal is to capture images of area lakes to show people how the bodies of water are faring with the forecast.
"It's pretty hard to tell but it look like there's a lot of slush spots out there, so all I can say is be very alert and punch a lot of holes as you're walking out so you know what you're walking on," said pilot Clarence Schampers with Shawano Flying Service.
Sheriff's officials say this all began about 10 years ago, during a season when people routinely fell through the ice. The photographs are intended to create awareness.
From 2,000 feet we saw several dozen anglers, mostly on Shawano Lake. Many had shanties and stayed closer to shore. Most lakes had snow and ice cover, which officials say can be deceiving.
"You can go anywhere from 10 or 11 inches to 2 inches within a matter of steps," said Tuma.
Open channels of water were also visible throughout the landscape.
Anglers we spoke with say they take plenty of precautions when heading out on the ice. One fisherman says he's especially careful because he's found himself in trouble before.
"Actually an ice chunk broke loose and we floated away and had to get rescued by the De Pere Fire Department," said Trevor Grunwald of Shawano.
According to Grunwald it was a harrowing experience that taught him a lesson. Other anglers say the key to being safe is asking plenty of questions.
"Talk to other fishermen, the bait shops, the local bait shops and check, actually see where other people are going and never go anywhere they haven't been," said Gary Schuh of Kimberly.
It's advice sheriff's officials echo, especially as the ice continues to deteriorate.
The sheriff's department says the photos taken Thursday will be posted to its website soon.
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