On these chilly winter days, guests at Wilderness on the Lake who look outside their windows are likely to catch a glimpse of ice fishermen on Lake Delton. It’s a sight that makes most of the area residents smile because this summer will mark 5 years ago when the lake literally vanished right before our eyes.
The date was June 9, 2008, and it is a day in Wisconsin Dells’ history that will never be forgotten. After torrential rains hit the region, Lake Delton, (a man-made lake created in 1927), broke through its banks. The lake literally drained into the Wisconsin River in three hours, taking with it three homes and damaging two others.
The sight was absolutely amazing…and when it was all said and done, only the sandy lake bed remained with a little stream of water running down the middle of it. Concerned residents worked quickly to save the fish stranded in the wake of the draining lake and to send them down stream to safety in the Wisconsin River. Jim Doyle, Wisconsin’s Governor at the time, immediately called on the Department of Natural Resources to work to fix the breach and refill the lake as quickly as possible.
Herculean efforts were then undertaken to bring back the lake – including repairing the shoreline, reinforcing the dam, rebuilding a section of road, and clearing the lake bed in advance of reestablishing fish habitats. By March 2009, the lake was allowed to slowly refill. On Memorial Day weekend 2009, Lake Delton officially reopened, and Wilderness marked the occasion by proudly sponsoring the release of 9,435 Walleye fingerlings. Later in the year 7,000 Large Mouth Bass fingerlings were also released into Lake Delton courtesy of the Wilderness.
Today, these Walleye fingerlings are approximately 18-22 inches in length and the Large Mouth Bass are between 15 -17 inches. That’s just the right size for ice fishermen to be back on the lake, and enjoying the challenge of bringing in the next big catch. Rumor has it they are also enjoying catching Northern Pike, Crappie and Blue Gill as well!