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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The Run is On

The spring steelhead run is on in Lake Michigan tributaries. Here’s a link to a steelhead angler’s best fish yet, caught this morning, I’m guessing on the Root River.

BIG STEELHEAD

This #bigboy #steelhead made this chrome-addict happy. And the fish, well – notice the down-turned eye? Well, he’s still very much alive. Likely released. A good practice by most steelheaders. Let other have the fun, too!

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Close-up of down-turned eye. Alive!

NOTE that you can tell from the down-turned eye that the fish is still alive in this photo. Big Boy doesn’t say so, but I’m betting he released the fish, as most steelhead anglers do. If you want one to eat, choose a three-pound male chromer. Otherwise, let them go. Sure, they do not spawn successfully here in Wisconsin waters, but someone else can have a thrill catching a fish you release. If you want a mount, go for a replica. All you need is a good photo, along with length and girth measurements. Oh, and a few bucks to pay the taxidermist.

Big Boy catches the fish of a lifetime, and here I sit on a beaver tree last Friday, waiting for the ice to go out on the Milwaukee River. Time to shake the dust off the waders, string up a rod and hit the streams. Don’t forget your polarized glasses.

DAN_BEAVER_TREE

Dan enjoying the sun, but wearing his teeth down a bit chewing over the lack of time using that fly rod for steelhead fishing.

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No Foul Play in Death of Michigan Wolverine

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Michigan Wolverine, first in 200 years. photo by Jeff Ford ©2015

I recently shared a post about the first verified wolverine sighting in Michigan in some 200 years. Thanks to Scott Ford and Arthur O’Fieldstream, I learned a few more facts about that wolverine. That original sighting was back in 2004. Folks in Michigan were keeping an eye on that wolverine until early in 2010, when it was found dead in Sanilac County.

The most interesting statement in this article (The animal has been sent to a lab for examination to see if a cause of death can be determined.) led us to yet another story on the necropsy.

And then to a story on the results of the necropsy.

It turned out the animal, a female estimated to be about seven years old, died of apparent congestive heart failure. Two hikers found her body partially submerged in water near a beaver dam. Jeff Ford, a teacher at Deckerville High School, had been tracking the animal since 2005. Ford took many photos and videos of the animal and shared them with his students.

A chance sighting of this rare beast by some coyote hunters in 2004 led to Jeff Ford’s odyssey chronicling the animal’s travels, and eventually to the discovery of its body after it died of natural causes.

What lessons can we take from this story? I can think of a few. First, pay attention when you are outdoors! If those coyote hunters had not known what they were looking at, the wolverine might never have been identified and its discovery verified. And if those two hikers had not noticed the half-submerged body of what they thought was a beaver, the next snowfall might have covered the evidence of its demise. Because of all the publicity about the animal, they knew right away what it was. (If you found a dead wolverine today, would you know what it was?)

Second, follow your curiosity. If Jeff Ford had not cared enough to learn more about that wolverine, the story might have ended with that first sighting. Because he DID care, for a decade his students were able to follow the whereabouts of arguably the most interesting mammalian discovery in Michigan in the past century. Who knows (I’ll bet Ford does!) how many of those students were inspired to go into a career in natural resources? Perhaps one of them will answer the mystery of Michigan wolverines – where did they go? Why haven’t they come back?

Third, just when you think you understand nature, it throws you a curve. No wolverines in Michigan? Well, there was one at least. Are there any more, perhaps in the vast national forests of the U.P? Remember that cougar that traveled from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Connecticut, where it was hit by a car and killed?

Again, thanks to the scientific curiosity of a few key people, we learned that animal passed through Wisconsin in 2009-2010 on its way east. Now – was that the only cougar to travel 2,000 miles out of its range in search of a mate? As secretive as these big cats are, I’d be willing to bet there are others out there, perhaps in New York’s Adirondacks, or the White Mountains of New Hampshire, or for that matter, just about anywhere in Maine!

Bottom line: Get outdoors, keep your eyes open and pay attention to the clues nature provides. What’s the next rare critter to turn up, and who will be the first to document it?

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