The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

On Thin Ice: Lake Data Shows Changing Winter Climate

Maybe you have or haven’t noticed, but the ice fishing season in Wisconsin is shorter than it used to be – about 24 days shorter than it was in the 1970s.

While the DNR does not monitor ice conditions or ice thickness, numerous other groups around the state do and have been for more than a century. Records for ice cover on Lake Mendota and Lake Monona in Madison, for example, are some of the oldest in the country, dating back to the 1850s. The data shows how ice coverage continues to decrease.

No lake is immune. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory has documented a significant decrease in ice cover on the Great Lakes – almost 22% less than a half-century ago.

This may sound like an issue solely for the frozen months. However, those icy conditions are essential to a healthy summer season.

“In many lakes in Wisconsin, the winter and corresponding frozen period can act as a bit of a reset in the lake,” said Madelin Magee, the DNR’s Great Lakes and Mississippi River monitoring coordinator. “This means that loss of ice cover will affect lake ecosystems in both winter and during the traditionally ice-free period.”

Read the full story in the winter issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

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