Fluctuating temperatures this winter to blame for late ice fishing season in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58)-- Experts say fluctuating temperatures this winter is giving the ice fishing season in the Milwaukee area a late start. Experts say good conditions for ice formation on lakes are below freezing temperatures during the day and night for a couple of days. It’s something Milwaukee area weather hasn’t experienced.

Milwaukee is known for Brown Trout fishing and some anglers stopped at Milwaukee’s McKinley Marina eager to get out on the ice on Monday.

“I went to try to go out there a couple feet and I got out about five feet it was only about an inch of ice and I poked through right away with my spud bar and I was like nope, ‘I’m going to turn right around,’” said angler, Matthew Rupprecht.

Experts say ice cover across the Great Lakes started to form before Christmas but then plummeted after temperatures rose.

”We warmed up in December, we were seven or so degrees above normal in December and almost eight degrees above normal in January so far,” said Denny VanCleve with the National Weather Service. “So it’s been a really slow start since that first cold punch.”

“I mean we’re probably going to need another three to five days of really cold weather to really just get it all solid so we can walk on it,” said Rupprecht.

Fishing charter services say the lack of ice cover has affected business, and area anglers are disappointed. With fluctuating temperatures, it’s hard to pinpoint when the Milwaukee area will be ready for ice fishing.  

“It’s probably about around a month late than last year so pretty disappointed about it, but what are you going to do?” adds Rupprecht.

“The next few days is cold but get out beyond mid-week into the end of the week and to the weekend we’re kind of back around highs around mid to even upper 30’s,” adds VanCleve.

VanCleve says when going out on the ice, thick blue see-through ice is typically stronger than milky white ice. He says people should be cognizant of ice thickness.

“Maybe in that 4-inch range of the safe blue ice for walking out, then you get higher amounts like 5 to 7 inches you can maybe consider a snowmobile, and then 10 to 12 inches a car,” says VanCleve.

VanCleve says there is going to be above average temperatures toward the end of the month, and while that’s not great for ice formation, it shouldn’t cause a big melt.  

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