Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods


Friday Night in Fond du Lac

lake winnebago harbor

Heidi and I arrived at Fond du Lac in the early afternoon and were able to get an early check-in to our hotel. We had ample time prior to our Friday night dinner, so we headed east about 15 miles or so to Mt. Calvary and a unique place called Villa Loretto and Cristo Rey Ranch. A nursing home originally opened in 1965 and operated by Catholic nuns, it is also offers residence for independent and assisted living, as well as care for the aged, physically challenged and chronically ill.

villa loretto

Villa Loretto

Perhaps the most unique feature of Villa Loretto is the rest of the “family” there… Llamas, miniature donkeys, horses, goats, pot-bellied pigs, sheep, emus, cats, dogs and birds – there are several aviaries inside the buildings as well as peacocks, chickens, etc on the grounds. Whew! Sister Stephen (with the handshake of a lumberjack and the patience of Job) gave us a tour of the buildings and grounds. With the animals outside and the care of the residents inside, she has her hands full… all the time.

Her obviously boundless energy is evidenced by the numerous projects she has going, including a living presentation of the Nativity during the Christmas season and “Fun Day at the Farm” event in August, not to mention nun-driven hayrides, weaving demonstrations, tour busses and constant guests and visitors during all months of the year. It’s a very interesting destination once in Fond du Lac – for children of all ages – so make certain to place it on your list of stops to make!

wendt's on the lake sign

Wendt’s On the Lake

When we inquired about venues for dinner and specified a Friday night fish fry, we were directed to Wendt’s on the Lake, just a few miles north of town on the west side of the lake. We also got a heads up that the place is tremendously popular and were urged to arrive early.

Having skipped lunch, we were pretty hungry. So, we didn’t have a problem with an “early bird” dinner and headed to Wendt’s at about 5:00pm. Popular was an incredible understatement: the place was wall-to-wall already! We lucked out with a window/lake-view table becoming available after only a short wait.

Wendt’s specialty is perch – which was perfect – and Heidi and I both ordered the “small” portion (“3 butterflys” or 6 fillets) Served with fries, slaw and bread, the portion size was perfect, the breading crisp and light, and the fish tender and tasty. There were plenty of other menu choices that also sounded mouth-watering and I’m sure were just as good (try the deep-fried lobster!). It was easy to see why Wendt’s is so popular – the picnic tables outside for overflow and outdoor dining during the warmer months were also testament to that.

Relaxing, friendly, and casual with well-dressed and courteous servers, this is a place I would go back to any time. Owned and operated by the Wendt family for over four decades, the food and service have earned Wendt’s a well-deserved reputation for great-tasting fish – especially the perch – and seafood.

carry nation historic sign

JD Finnegan’s & Carry Nation

It was still early after dinner and the sun was shining brightly on a warm spring evening when we headed over to check out the 400-acre Lakeside Park. Numerous picnic areas, ball diamonds, a train ride, canoes, a marina, and more are available for residents and guests.

There is also a 40-foot lighthouse and observation deck that was built in 1933, providing an excellent view of the lake and city. We climbed the 70-plus stairs to the top for the view and were not disappointed! Although it was early in the season, we witnessed hundreds of people picnicking, walking among the beautifully landscaped areas and fishing along the canals that run through the park.

After the climb to the top of the lighthouse, our thirst got the better of us and we decided to stop at the Historic Schmidt Sample Room – aka JD Finnegan’s – for a libation. OK… it wasn’t all thirst. We wanted to see the place where Carry Nation came to swing her ax and cause a disturbance in 1902. Neat little bar and great place to stop. Note: The bar is still there, although it is now called Third and One Sports Bar.

Hotel Retlaw exterior

We crossed the street and returned to our hotel – the Ramada Plaza Hotel (now known as the Hotel Retlaw, Trademark Collection by Wyndham) – for a nightcap and some live music at the Tru Blu Lounge in the lobby area. The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; it has great style, is extremely clean and is a great place for a restful night’s sleep.

For business guests, there is high-speed Wi-Fi and a business center available in this 132-room hotel. There are also meeting and banquet rooms and a 7000 sq. ft. fitness center with a pool and plenty of workout equipment. It was only 9:30pm, but Heidi and I were both exhausted from a long day, so we headed up to our room for some well-deserved rest in preparation for another busy day tomorrow.

schreiners restaurant sign

Schreiner’s Restaurant

Bright and early we headed over to Schreiner’s Restaurant for breakfast. Much larger on the inside than it appeared on the outside, Schreiner’s has been a Fond du Lac tradition since 1938 with its fresh bakery products, homemade soups and entrees and excellent service. The restaurant is the proud recipient of numerous awards on an annual basis.

schreiners bakery case

After some dynamite Roast Beef Hash and eggs for me and an eye-appealing and tasty Asparagus Quiche for Heidi, owner and president Paul Cunningham gave us a tour of the impressive kitchen.  (It says the kitchen is open for tours… right on the menu!). It was huge, extremely clean and ran like a well-oiled machine, which it would have to. Ours were only two of about 1,500 meals served that day… and every day – about a half million per year!

Thanking Paul and his fine staff for a super breakfast, we headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral.


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R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl