Green Lake’s secrets surface during dives

Future Green Lake diver Tyler Jennings practices his diving techniques. Jennings is taking classes at Mountain Bay Scuba to obtain his Scuba Diving certification. Reagan Zimmerman photo

by Reagan Zimmerman

The murky — or maybe not so murky — waters of Green Lake hold many secrets.

Some of those secrets have been released to the world, but others remain as rumors.

Locals say that Al Capone used Green Lake as a dumping ground for his crimes, but nothing has been found to prove that point.

Instead of finding crime related artifacts, local scuba divers have uncovered ancient natural and geographical discoveries.

One of the divers, James Hamman of Oshkosh, dove in Green Lake once about eight years ago.

Hamman and his friend, Jim Knepple, dove in hopes of discovering what was at the deepest part of Green Lake.

Through both their explorations, they have seen many creatures and features.

“What we encountered was fascinating. About 3 feet off the bottom, I saw what looked like a shimmering school of minnows but minnows at that depth didn’t make any sense,” Hamman said. “As we approached the bottom with our bright lights, we saw that they were actually shrimp.”

Green Lake is home to ancient opossum shrimp left over from the Ice Age.

Hamman believes eggs were frozen during that period and thawed when it was over, leaving entire schools of shrimp.

“On that same dive, in about 15 feet of water, I saw a crayfish that was a foot long,” Hamman said.

“The wonderful thing about diving is it has different meanings for different people,” Green Lake native Rob Fischer said. “For me, it is relaxing and I get to see what others can’t see from the surface.”

Fischer is less familiar with the creatures and more familiar with the geography of the shore and town. In 1982, he decided to explore the unknown. He learned how to dive along with his friends and siblings.

As a sport diver, Fischer has not been to the bottom like Hamman, but he has reached a depth of 120 feet.

At the bottom of a shallower depth, Fischer discovered geological features.

“[There are] the sandy bottoms of the lake and there are areas with a lot of rocks that are lined up in bands parallel to the lakeshore,” he said. “There are also certain areas of the lake with walls. Basically, there are rock outcrops that form a long wall.”

Fischer describes diving along the walls are akin to diving in a quarry.

When diving to glimpse the geological features, Fischer says the water is remarkably clear.

“Every lake has its myths of how murky it is, and Green Lake is really quite clear; you just have to pick the times of when to go diving,” he said. “The best times to go diving is when the water is colder so there [are] no algae blooms.”

The early parts of spring and fall are ideal for diving.

Through the clear water, Fischer also has found items ranging from antique bottles to whole boat motors. “The coolest thing I have seen down there are the cars I am diving to retrieve,” he said.

Fischer has done recovery dives for cars and snowmobiles that fell through the ice.

Scuba instructor and owner of Appleton-based Mountain Bay Scuba, Anthony Haas, accompanied Fischer on some recovery dives.

He has trained some of the divers in the local area.

One of Haas’ current students, Tyler Jennings, plans to dive Green Lake after he receives his certification.

Maybe he will be the lucky one to uncover a new secret from the gangster-era artifacts reputedly hidden at the bottom of Green Lake.