Wake and Speed Limits on a Crowded Lake

Adapting may be the best policy for all concerned.

Safe wake speeds on a lake
A rising water table changes our perspective.Tim Bower

I think you know how this goes. If you bring an umbrella, it will never rain. If you bet on the Packers, then Aaron Rogers will break his collarbone. And if you purchase a new wakesurfing boat? Maybe our lake neighbor Bill Stolfus could not have anticipated that all the rain that fell last summer and all the snow we were blessed with last winter would cause the water level to rise significantly—to its historically high level, in fact, due to a water table already saturated by consecutive seasons of generous precipitation, and the poor judgment made generations ago to block the natural outlet to neighboring Silver Lake with a Wisconsin state highway. Now our little bathtub of a lake is full to the brim, and to prevent erosion and property damage, the township has imposed a no-wake rule on the entire body. Until further notice.

Bill succumbed to the nagging of his teenage progeny and traded in a perfectly good deck boat for the Wake Monster, complete with awesome audio, bodacious ballast and terrifying torque. And a new boat lift to hold it. I won’t mention what it cost him because I’m sure you have a good idea.

The Wake Monster did come with a trailer, and the Stolfus kids spent the summer launching the boat over on Big Green Lake, which is big, and thus a better venue for wake sports anyway. The rest of us experienced a no-wake summer. At first, this was a major annoyance, especially for the owners of rental cottages who had to explain the situation to now-disappointed guests used to zooming about the lake. The rest of us adjusted. When I was a kid, my grandfather used oars to lap the lake every evening, tempting the bass with a pair of Rapala lures trailing a 10-foot Sears rowboat. That’s how small the lake is. Which makes it a great venue for a stand-up paddleboard, and that’s the purchase many of us made. I fished from a paddleboard. I watched giant turtles swim in the shallow bay, and big snapper we’d never noticed before because we were too fast and too noisy. My good friend Chuck Larson even managed to navigate the lake on my paddleboard with a medium-size dog and a cooler of beer. The entire lake seemed to throttle back, literally and figuratively. Instead of the constant background noise of kids squealing in a tube or the wha-wha-wha of Dick Johnson’s old two-stroke Jet Ski, we could hear the birds chirp and the breeze sighing in the white pines. Old-timers with a 20 hp pontoon once again led the sunset cruise parade.

Nobody actually blamed Bill Stolfus for the high water. Well, one guy did, but that’s sort of like blaming the car wash for a rainy day, right? I do miss motorboating, so I’m going to try lowering the lake level by purchasing a new ice-fishing auger. This will ensure a warm winter with no ice and increased evaporation. It might just work.

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