Lake Decorah Lake Restoration Ice Fishing Tournament

The first annual Lake Decorah Lake Restoration Ice Fishing Tournament was held Saturday at Riverside Park in Mauston.

ZACH RASTALL/Star-Times

The first annual Lake Decorah Lake Restoration Ice Fishing Tournament may mark the beginning of a new winter tradition in Mauston.

The event was held Saturday, Jan. 6 at Riverside Park, where anglers had the opportunity to win cash prizes in five different categories of fish. For each of the five kind of fish — bluegill, bass, perch, northern pike and crappie — $75 was awarded to first place, $50 for second and $20 for third.

There were 104 registered participants in the tournament and roughly $6,500 was raised to go toward a lake restoration fund.

In the perch category, Eli Feller took first at 11 1/4 inches, Montana Youngthunder finished second at 10 inches and Scott Rosnos placed third at 9 7/8 inches. In the bluegill category, Mike Luntz finished first at 8 3/4 inches, while Chuck Bongard and Ed Czerkas Jr. tied for second at 8 3/8 inches. In the crappie category, Reese Collins placed first at 11 inches, while also tying with Noah Stuchlak for second at 10 1/2 inches.

In the northern pike category, Trever Richoff took first at 32 3/4 inches, Travis Erler was second at 31 inches and Shawn Laursen came in third at 28 1/4 inches. In the bass category, Brian Scharnow finished in first at 16 11/16 inches, Ray Pekala placed second at 16 5/8 inches and Zach Spink took third at 16 inches.

In addition to placing second in the perch category, Youngthunder won $250 in the 50/50 raffle.

Aside from the fishing aspect of the event, a gun/bow sports raffle was held and 30 bucket raffle prizes were given away.

Seth Westberg, the City of Mauston’s Superintendent of Parks, Forestry and Cemetery and the tournament’s organizer, was pleased with how high the turnout was for the first edition of the event.

“I’m super happy for (it being) the first time,” Westberg said. “We raised money to help the lake, everyone had a good time — weather was a little cold, but we made the best of it.”

“It was a really good crowd. (Being) the first time, we didn’t really know what to expect.”

As to whether or not the tournament will become an annual event, Westberg believes this won’t end up being a one-time affair.

“It sounds like people want to see it again,” he said. “I didn’t hear any negative comments. People are excited about what the lake can be at some point.”

The preliminary date for next year’s tournament is Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. The money raised at this year’s event will go into a fund for lake restoration purposes, though there are no specific plans yet as to what the money will be used for. However, Westberg noted city officials are scheduled to meet with the DNR later this month to “discuss lake improvement ideas and expectations for funds needed to be raised.”

According to Scott Provost, a water resources management specialist with the Wisconsin DNR, Lake Decorah faces issues related to sedimentation, resulting in eutrophication due to the increased amount of nutrients in the water and excessive aquatic plant growth.

“When you dam up a stream or river, especially with a lot of suspended sediments, they’re going to settle in there,” Provost said. “So there is a lot of sediment in (Lake Decorah) and a lot of aquatic plant growth. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, it just means it’s going to be fairly eutrophic or what they call ‘fertile’, which can be good for fish. Northern pike, bass and some of your panfish will respond very well to that. Other species like walleyes, not so much.”

While dredging is one potential way to improve the quality of Lake Decorah, Provost thinks there are better options for the health of the lake. Namely, he believes stopping the source of the sedimentation through land use management is the best long-term fix.

“One of the things they would want to do is figure out where that sediment is coming from and try to stop it before it gets there,” Provost said. “Your cheapest way is land use management. The biggest bang for your buck is stopping the sediments from getting there.”

“A lot of folks, the first thing they want to do is go dredge. Well you can go dredge, but you’re going to be right back to dredging again in years after it fills back in, so why not go to the source?”