Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sturgeon Spearing Under Way

Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Report – Opening Day Saturday February 11, 2012
by Ron Bruch WDNR
Opening day of the 2012 sturgeon spearing system on the Winnebago Lakes lived-up very close to pre-season expectations: Significantly reduced numbers of spearers on Lake Winnebago and fair water quality resulted in a modern record low harvest for an opening day on the big lake, while close to normal effort and clear water resulted in a higher than average opening day harvest from the Upriver Lakes lottery fishery which began in 2007.
Today’s totals:
                                    Juvenile Females – Adult Females – Males
Lake Winnebago   5                                    18                            16
Upriver Lakes        17                                 66                            88
System Total          22                                  84                           104
Grand Total for System for the day and season thus far: 210
Nine more adult females need to be registered on the Upriver Lakes to trip the 90% closure trigger on those waters. If 17 adult females are registered on the Upriver Lakes tomorrow (Sunday), the 100% trigger will have been tripped and the 2012 Upriver Lakes season will close tomorrow at 12:30 PM, and spearers will have till 1:30 PM to get to an URL registration station to register their fish. Given 66 adult females were registered today on the URLs, it is very likely 17 or more adult females will be registered there tomorrow hitting the 100% closure trigger to close the Upriver Lakes season at the end of fishing tomorrow.
On Lake Winnebago we are a very long way off from tripping any harvest closure trigger and likely may not trip any trigger before the season maximum of 16 days is reached.
Opening Day Totals since 2007 (first year of the Upriver Lakes lottery fishery)
Despite purchasing a record 12680 licenses for the 2012 season, many spearers elected to stay off Lake Winnebago this opening day due to variable ice conditions and less than optimal water clarity. Spearers that did go out primarily used four wheelers and snowmobiles to get to the 2197 shanties on Lake Winnebago, while a mix of 4 wheelers and vehicles were used by spearers to get to the 418 shanties on the Upriver Lakes. Normally spearers set over 4,500 shanties on Lake Winnebago, and about 500 on the Upriver Lakes. Water clarity was good on the Upriver Lakes. A record 4597 spearers applied for a 2012 Upriver Lakes license. The Department authorizes the purchase of 500 licenses for the Upriver Lakes each year through a lottery drawing. Spearers who applied but not drawn receive a preference point that increases the odds they will drawn for a future season.
The registered harvest today of 39 fish on Lake Winnebago was the lowest since 2007 when 183 were registered opening day that year. The registered harvest of 171 on the Upriver Lakes ties the most fish recorded opening day on those waters since the lottery began in 2007 when 171 were also registered opening day that year.
Out of the 210 fish registered system-wide today 12 fish were 100 pounds or larger in weight (5.7%), 2 from Lake Winnebago and 10 from the URLs, with the largest a 79.6 inch, 179.9 pound female taken by a lady spearer Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. Chris’s fish is the 5th largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932, now number 5 on the all-time list right behind a 180 pound fish taken by Elroy Schroeder of Appleton in 1953 that stood as the Winnebago record until 2004. The current record is a 212.2 pound fish speared in 2010 by Ron Grishaber of Appleton. We have consistently seen fish in excess of 200 pounds in our spring spawning assessments over the last 10 years so we know they are out there and it is merely a matter of time before another 200 pounder shows up in the harvest. We estimate our Winnebago sturgeon stock is probably in as good of shape it has been since the 1800s.


  1. I was unaware that people actually ate the fish until I read your previous story. Very cool! Do you just wait over the hole and put your trust in the right place at the right time or lure them in?
    Good luck John.

  2. John,
    Its total luck. You cut a hole and wait . You can take bottom samples to find worm beds and then set up over that. Lots of guys look in under water cameras weeks before to see if they get a glimpse. They still have to swim underneath a 3 x 5 foot hole cut in the ice. Odd are similar to getting hit by lightning. I have speared 5 in 22 or so years. The Lake is Dangerous this year so I did not go yet. I'm ready for trout fishing...
    Good Fishin