Lake Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Report

Lake WInnebago and the upriver lakes of Poygan, WInneconne and Butte des Morts are home to thousands of lake sturgeon.

David Zeitler, donning his snappy SK lid shows off a nice sturgeon he speared.

These prehistoric fish grow big, and the only way to catch one legally is to spear it through the ice during the brief spearing season held in February. This year’s season began on Feb. 13. It will run through Feb. 28, unless certain quotas are met before then. Dedicated spearers spend days, weeks, even years watching through a refrigerator-size hole in the ice for the shadowy form of a sturgeon to glide into view.

Here’s today’s harvest report, compiled by DNR sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs. Note that successful spearer David Zietler’s 50-incher is the 7th sturgeon he has speared in 14 years. That’s an enviable record. I wonder if that classy Stormy-Kromer cap he is wearing had anything to do with his success!

Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Enthusiasts:

We are now ¾ of the way through the 2016 sturgeon spearing season, meaning that spearers only have 4 more days to try and harvest a fish this season. Today’s harvest of 10 fish marks a slight increase over yesterday, with Stockbridge Harbor continuing to lead the pack for registration numbers. Today’s largest fish (65.2″; 62.1 pounds) was registered by Travis Trepanier at Wendt’s. Attached is a more detailed breakdown of today’s harvest and season totals by station.

This week’s harvest numbers have been pretty low, mostly as a result of a significant reduction in effort. There just aren’t that many people still spearing and that’s evident by the low number of shanties on the lake. However, there are still some “die-hards” out there and they are having some success. I wanted to recognize some of these dedicated spearers in today’s report. To accomplish this, I asked that stations take a photo of every spearer with their fish, while also asking three general questions:

  • how many days have you speared this season
  • how many seasons have you been spearing
  • how many fish have you speared in your career

I was pretty confident that most of these folks had invested a great deal of time in this season already, and that their perseverance finally paid off today. I also figured that most of these folks had defied the odds of sturgeon spearing and had more luck than the average license holder, if for no other reason than the duration of time they spend on the ice. For the most part my assumptions were right.

Gloria Groeschel waited the fewest days for her fish (7), but she had been sitting with family members on the Upriver Lakes prior to starting on Lake Winnebago last week. Further, both Kevin Rach and Gary Dollevoet had been spearing every day this season. Also, the majority of these spearers were having better luck than the 1 in 8 years (12% annual success rate) that the “average” spearer should harvest fish. I have included the story of 8 of the 10 successful spearers from today in the attached Power Point. Congratulations to these die-hard sturgeon spearers, your perseverance paid off and I would like to recognize you in today’s edition of the “Perseverance Awards!”

Ryan Koenigs
Senior Fisheries Biologist / Winnebago System Sturgeon Biologist
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
625 E County Rd. Y, Suite 700
Oshkosh, WI 54901
Phone: (920)303-5450
Fax: (920)424-4404
Ryan.koenigs@wisconsin.gov

Good luck during the remaining 4 days of the sturgeon spearing season!

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