Experts: Know your ice before heading out

Posted at 9:49 PM, Feb 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 09:11:38-05

MENASHA, WI -- Whether it's the Fox River, in Green Bay, or Lake Winnebago further south, there are plenty of patches of thin ice, and open water.

But there are also places experts say you should never go--good ice or otherwise--and they're stressing that tonight.
For first responders, the weekend's late night ice rescue on Lake Winnebago proves every second counts.
"His friend was on stable ice with a snowmobile, and he had the headlight on him," says  Capt. Steve Schultz, of Neenah Menasha Fire Rescue, who was on the call last night. "At that time you could see he was extremely cold, didn't have really any strength left."
Schultz says it's also a reminder to use common sense before heading out on the ice. He says last night's rescue may never have been needed had the snowmobilers stayed off the ice at night.
"At night your visibility is just so limited," adds Schultz.
The snowmobilers were also in an area notorious for bad ice because of flowing water.

"I would strongly suggest you stay out of the area from Kimberly Point, in Neenah, to north of the buoy 100," says Schultz, "because [those] ice conditions are never safe enough for travel."

And other ice experts second that.

"You should never go by buoy 100," says Don Herman, who has been monitoring ice conditions on Lake Winnebago for decades. "That's always unsafe, no matter the coldest years, it's still unsafe."

Herman says, overall, current ice conditions are solid enough to make this ice road a daily commute for many.

"This road goes all the way to Quinney," says Herman, pointing across the lake from the Oshkosh side. "So people use this road to go back and forth to work. They save themselves 45 minutes."

Herman keeps an ice report updated every 2-3 days on social media. But he adds ice conditions can change daily, and no ice is safe ice.

"There's 144,000 acres," says Herman, "we can't check every spot."

You can find latest ice conditions, and reports, in a number of places, including the DNR's website, and many bait and tackle shops.