Friday, February 16, 2018

Across the ice on foot


For the past several years, my former colleagues, Maureen Muldoon and Peter Westort have walked across Lake Winnebago on the first weekend of sturgeon spearing. I've never been on Lake Winnebago even in a boat and I've wanted to go along ever since I heard about them doing it, and this year I thought I was ready. I wasn't really able to do this before this year, but I was pretty sure my new steel knees could handle it. 

This year Peter had a visiting professorship in Peru so he couldn't make it, but another colleague, Bill Wachholz, and his wife Margaret, volunteered to join the adventure.

Lake Winnebago is 10 miles wide directly across at Oshkosh.

We started at Maureen's house several blocks from the lake.


We left the shore at the end of Merritt Avenue at the south end of Menomonie Park, about where we saw the ice shoves when the ice broke up last year.


Merritt Avenue doesn't so much end as just continues out onto the lake. It was snowing just a bit and you could barely see the other shore.


Much of the traffic on the lake is ATVs and snowmobiles, so just off shore is a pretty sizable parking lot full of trucks and trailers.  Seems a little weird to concentrate that much weight in one spot, but the ice is suppose to be 20 inches thick and seems to be handling it.  Here Maureen takes advantage of one to put on her ice cleats.


Bill checks his cleats on the ice.


The roads are maintained by various fishing clubs around the lake.  There are several giant cracks crossing the lake that push up shoves. The clubs place temporary bridges across them. One of the gaps going north and south is just a few hundred yards off shore.


Trucks and ice shanties are clustered around the lake and get thinner the farther you get out on the lake.  This is about the last bunch about three miles out. (I have no idea what the streak in the upper right is.)


Occasionally the sun would pop out and highlight the relief of the snowdrifts and tracks.  The road parallels one of the large cracks that goes all the way across the lake, silhouetted at the top of the frame.


There are less severe cracks of various widths every several yards along the way.


The major cracks, and the road, are marked by discarded Christmas trees placed on the ice every tenth of a mile. Major waypoints are marked by multiple trees.  Here, five miles out, we're right in the middle.


Despite the emptiness of the middle four miles, occasionally a set of tracks would head off the road.


Approaching the shore at Quinney.


We rewarded ourselves with beer, burgers and fries at a basic Wisconsin bar a few yards past the shore, and got a look at at least one sturgeon being registered, although at just over three feet long, a rather small one.


All with the PrePopulist. .15mm pinhole 24mm from 24x50mm frame on Kodak Gold 200.

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