Danger Thin Ice! – A mild start to Winter 2012-13 has kept Lake Geneva Ice Free but many area lakes are skimmed over and offer early season ice fishing and ice boating for Risk Takers.
With Winter 2012-13 off to a mild start and a looming warmup forecast for the weekend, Lake Geneva Ice Thickness and Conditions reports are a mixed bag depending on which lake you are on. Many of the Geneva Lakes Area’s smaller lakes and bays have skimmed over, with ice thickness’s of 3-7″ being reported, even though Lake Geneva is largely ice free.
Unless you relish taking a polar plunge, it is best to stay off the ice until we get a prolonged cold wave. This past weekend, Jan 5-6, 2013, saw ice fishing on Delavan Lake, Lauderdale Lakes, Lake Beulah, Whitewater Lake, Rice Lake, Powers Lake and Twin Lakes, while Lake Como enjoyed a variety of sports including ice boating, ice fishing, and even a few daring soles on all terrain vehicles, while dodging areas of open water.
The Geneva Lakes Area transforms into a winter playland when our local lakes freeze solid, commonly reaching thicknesses of over 18″, and strong enough to support automobiles. If it slides, skates, hovers, rolls’s, treks, or fly’s you will see it on the ice. Lake Geneva’s precarious lattitude puts it in the heart of the Midwest Ice Belt, with Williams Bay declaring itself the ”Ice Boating Capital Of The World“. We are far enough north that our winters deep freeze our lakes into massive blocks of “hard water” and coat them with a blanket of snow - ideal for snowmobilers, skiers, hiker’s, and ice fisherman, yet we are south enough to fall victim to freeze-thaw cycles that melt all the snow away, creating ideal ice boating conditions.
Years with low snow fall and consistent cold temperatures can be a boon to ice boaters, ice fisherman, and a host of recreational vehicles including hovercraft, atv’s and motorcycles, when outfitted with studded tires and creepers. Add a little snow to the mix, and snowmobilers, cross country skiers, children toting sleds, dogs, and even airplanes (outfitted with ski’s) hit the ice.
Literally overnight, our lakes become shanty towns dotted with ice shacks, Weber grills, and makeshift skating rinks.
As a rule, if you plan on venturing out onto the ice, caution is highly advised, it is essential you consult with local authorities, fisherman, and ice boaters to determine ice thickness and areas of open water. It is also important to get familiarized with local ordinances for motor vehicles and cold water survival techniques Cold Water Safety Facts. Many local municipalities, such as Delavan Lake, have restricted motor vehicles weighing more than 1000 lbs from driving on the ice. Lake Geneva typically see’s heavy automobile traffic on Geneva Bay, especially during the annual Winterfest and US National Snow Sculpting Competition (to be held Jan 30 to Feb 03, 2013), when numerous auto’s and trucks venture out on to the ice at the city boat launch. As the weekend progresses, and ruts begin to form, the ice begins to fracture and melt at the near shore, leaving many stranded or axle deep in water, or worse…
Below I have listed Lake Geneva Ice Thickness and Conditions observed this past weekend on several of our Geneva Lakes Area Lakes. Ice thickness and conditions are ever changing and unpredictable, consult local authorities prior to venturing onto the ice, remember, no ice is truly ever safe..
As of January 6, 2013 the only significant ice formation on Geneva Lake is the Abbey Harbor and Trinke Estates Lagoon where ice thicknesses of up to 3″ have been reported. Geneva Bay has seen only slight ice formation adjacent to the Beach at Library Park and the Riviera Docks.
Delavan Lake is largely skimmed over with spotty open water, especially in front of the Delavan Lake Yacht Club. The bay adjacent to Lake Lawn Lodge Golf Course (east of Borg Rd), and the Boat Launch Lagoon (Hwy50 and S. Shore Dr.), have seen scores of ice fisherman but no ice boats as of yet. Ice thickness ranges from open water to 3″. Extreme caution is recommended.
Lake Como is perhaps the best opportunity for early season ice enthusiasts in the entire Geneva Lakes Area, with its shallow waters and favorable wind orientation, ice thickness of 3-7″ have been observed. Numerous Ice Boaters, Ice Fisherman and ATV’s were observed on the ice Sunday Jan 6th on the north shore adjacent to Geneva National Golf Course and precariously close to a stream of open water (photo far above).
Don Jean Bay, Mill Lake and the perimiters of Middle Lake and Green Lake are largely skimmed over, where thicknesses up to 4″ have been observed in the bays. The middle sections of Middle Lake & Green Lake are wide open including the entire circumference of Flag Island adjacent to Jansky Island. Numerous springs and under ice currents make Lauderdale’s early ice treacherous, especially in Bubbling Springs and Green Lake’s deep waters, where ice is rarely to be trusted. The Lauderdale Landing’s restaurant on Middle Lake is a good place to check in to get the latest ice fishing and ice thickness reports.
Lake Beulah is largely skimmed over with the usual pockets of weakness and open water where sun hits southern facing shorelines, and under water currents and springs keep ice from forming. Like Lauderdale, Beulah is a three lake chain of varying depths with numerous embayments. Beulah’s high hillsides have sheltered winds and aided ice formation but extreme caution is urged until we get a solid freeze up. Dropping in for a quick warm up at either the Dockside or Lindey’s on Beulah’s east side, or Double D’s on Mill Lake off Hwy J will give you an opportunity to check in with the locals and find the safest ice.
Whitewater & Rice Lakes
Rice Lake (Lower Whitewater), being the smaller of the two, freezes up quicker and was the more active with numerous fisherman and atv action. Whitewater Lake fisherman were reporting ice thicknesses of up to 4″ around the State Park Rd Boat Launch on the northwest side, but the ice was dark and largely void of snow, perhaps indicating a later freeze up and more solar warming than Rice Lake, activity on Whitewater Lake was sparse.