Lake Winnebago and Blue-Green Algae

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Lake Winnebago is a 131,939 acre lake located in Calumet County. With a maximum depth of 21 feet, this is a popular lake and home to many boaters, swimmers, and fisherman. Many fish are located in this lake, some of which include Musky, Pan fish, Small-mouth Bass, Walleye, Sturgeon and Catfish. [1]In the summer months when the weather gets hot, especially July and August, blue-green algae forms at the top of the lake. It is important to know why this algae is appearing on the lake as there are health risks involved. It is necessary to determine if it is possible to stop this algae from appearing.

What is Blue-Green Algae?

Blue-green algae is also known as Cyanobacteria, many people refer to this algae as pond scum. This algae generally grows in Wisconsin between the moths of July and August. The algae often forms in areas of water with high phosphorus content. Most algae is eaten by zooplankton which is then eaten by fish, and the food chain goes up from there. However, blue-green algae is not a part of this food chain. The algae commonly has a very unpleasant smell, and often discolors water.[2] Blue-green algae can also grow very quickly if the conditions are right. The algae is very buoyant which means they will float on the top of the water, and often look unpleasing to spectators. This algae is especially common in slow moving water which makes Lake Winnebago in the summer time a perfect spot for this algae to grow. The algae blooms often times are blue, bright green, brown, or red and often can look like paint floating on top of the water.

Health Impacts of Blue-Green Algae

There are multiple types of blue-green algae. Some of which produce toxins which can be harmful to humans.There are also types of algae that do not contain toxins. However, it is impossible to tell the difference. Most problems occur due to exposure to the blue-green algae that produces toxins. When this toxin is ingested is when most of the issues happen. Some symptoms of this include cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.[3] When this algae is present in Lake Winnebago many experts suggest not swimming or fishing in these areas. Direct contact with the algae bloom can also cause skin irritation. Officials also suggest that if you have any direct contact to wash off, and wash off any clothes you were wearing immediately. It has also been reported that dogs can be poisoned and killed by too much exposure to the blue-green algae. [4] Over a long period of time too much exposure to blue-green algae has also been connected to liver disease, nervous system and digestive system complications. During the summer months many people could be affected by this blue-green algae.

Cleaning up Lake Winnebago

There are a few ways to prevent the rise of blue-green algae.

1. Only use lawn fertilizers is absolutely needed.

2. Prevent yard debris from washing into storm drains.

3. Support local ordinances that help keep construction sites clean.

4. Plant vegetation along the shoreline. This will help prevent run off which will lower phosphorus in the lake. [5]

By doing these things people can limit the amount of blue-green algae seen over the summer. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be imposing new limits for water quality in Lake Winnebago. The phosphorus levels are too high, and many people are looking to find solutions. Cities and towns in the nearby area are looking for ways to stop run of, in order to improve the water quality. [6] There is a non-profit organization called the Lake Winnebago Quality Improvement Association that works with the community in an attempt to clean Lake Winnebago. They inform the public about how to keep Lake Winnebago and not polluted. Their slogan “A Cleaner Winnebago” helps motivate people to show them how they can clean the lake. This group hosts a couple talks around the Lake Winnebago area in order to better inform people the issues of pollution. This group also hosts clean-up efforts in order to clean the area right around Lake Winnebago. This group also teams up with the Clean Waters Project to educate people on the effects of pollution on their lake. It is very important that this problem is solved. By helping clean up Lake Winnebago, the public will see a decrease in blue-green algae. This is important so that the public can enjoy the lake. With blue-green algae gone fisherman, boaters, and swimmers will not have to worry about the health impacts of this algae.


  1. DNR Wisconsin, "Lake Winnebago", 2006,
  2. DNR Wisconsin, "Blue-green algae", 2013,
  3. Frontiers in Microbiology, Cyanobacteria: A Precious Bio-resource in Agriculture, Ecosystem, and Environmental Sustainability, 2016, "
  4. HeAlth VIC, " Blue-green Algae and Health", 2016,
  5. DNR of Wisconsin, "Frequently asked questions about Wisconsin Waters", 2012,
  6. Fond du lac Reporter, "Officials Discuss Lake Winnebago water quality", 2017,

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