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Oconto County businesses worried about ice hampering start of fishing season


OCONTO COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - Businesses that rely on the opening of the fishing season are concerned about ice sticking around on lakes and ponds.

That means the May 4 fishing opener could be slow for both anglers and business owners.

On Lakewood's Wheeler Lake, Conservation Warden Joe Paul measured about 21 inches. 

"I would say in general, across northern Oconto County, it's probably anywhere from 12 to 22 inches," Paul told FOX 11. 

Paul said on opening weekend, the lakes usually have been open a couple of weeks already. But now he predicts it will be at least another week before people can fish in this area.

"Everyone's talking about the fact they're glad they haven't put their ice fishing gear away yet because they plan on ice fishing for the opener," Paul said. 

People who live on Waubee Lake in Lakewood say there's 17 to 20 inches.

"Normally we're full and we do have, I think, five or six rooms that are still open," Russ Kralovetz, owner of Waubee Lake Lodge, tells FOX 11. 

At the lodge on Waubee Lake, Kralovetz says he's had to call guests and break the news that it isn't fishing time just yet. 

"They're going to wait a week or two, and hopefully I can get them back up here," Kralovetz said. 

"It's going to hurt a little bit," Mike Janesch tells FOX 11. 

Janesch has owned Mike's Supermarket in Townsend for 31 years. 

Right now, the nearby Townsend Flowage is still frozen over, so he's feeling uncertain about the fishing opener. 

"We've gone through it before where it was close, but never really closed off so we don't know," Janesch said. 

Because trout streams are flowing, and anglers can fish them on opening day, Janesch is hopeful he'll still see some traffic, 

"The guys will hit the streams real hard, and they'll come in here and buy their food and stuff," said Janesch. 

Hopes are high people will still come up north on opening weekend at the Townsend Shell. 

"I've been doing a lot of praying to whomever would like to listen to me about some warm weather to get these lakes open!" said owner Rob Seeber.  

However, Seeber said he's guessing business will be a little slower than usual. 

"I would hope to be in that even to maybe ten percent down. Just on a real rough guess looking at kind of how this last week has been," Seeber said. 

Businesses up north say the weather is also impacting visitors who come up to enjoy area ATV trails.

Oconto County trails won't re-open until May 10 because of the late spring and wet conditions.  Meanwhile, Marinette County trails are closed until further notice.