Cold, snowy winter makes ice fishing shanty removal difficult

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by Lane Kimble

WAUKESHA COUNTY -- The long, cold, snowy winter made thick ice on most area lakes.  But it also meant a challenge for ice fishermen to get their equipment off the water.

"It's a deadline every year, it hasn't been changed," DNR Conservation Warden Mitch Groenier said.

One week past that deadline, the DNR knows some ice fishermen are still struggling to get permanent shanties off  the lakes.

"They're getting buried, it's deep snow," Groenier said.

Groenier patrolled lakes around southeastern Wisconsin for two decades.  He says this winter's  snow pack led to problems.

"They're trying to pull them off, they get them 20 to 30 feet and the snow builds up in front of them," Groenier said.

But the DNR sets its March 2 deadline to remove permanent shanties south of Highway 64 to keep people safe  -- no excuses or risk paying a fine up to $200.

"[Wardens have asked], 'Why are you having problems?'  and [fishermen] said 'Well, I have to work,'" Groenier explained.  "Working is not an excuse.  You have time  to get them off.  You put them out there, you have to retrieve them."

Ice fisherman Gene Guenther doesn't need to worry about that.

"They're nice, you just flip the things over, you're out of the weather," Guenther said.

Guenther and his son use portable shanties on Ashippun Lake.  But some of his friends needed help with their permanent ones.

"You get a full regular one, they're hard to put up and get help to put them out," Guenther said.  "Then to take them off, they freeze in.   It's just a hassle."

There's no deadline for portable shanties as long as there's good ice on the lakes.  Guenther thinks that could be a while still.

"There's still 30 inches of ice, so we could probably get another week or two yet," Guenther said.  "I've never been wet yet, I don't plan on getting wet either."

"When [the ice] starts to turn black, it gets real dangerous," Warden Groenier said.  "You don't know when it's going to break.  You could be walking along and the next step you take, you go through."

The DNR says most people have now finally gotten their permanent shanties off, but if you're still struggling with yours, you can call 1-800-TIP-WDNR to speak with a warden.

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