By: Bureau of Law Enforcement
Welcome to another special edition of a popular Warden Wire feature -- the Frequently Asked Questions. You may recall the recent installments of FAQs - the Special Edition during the recent sturgeon spearing and gun-deer seasons. Warden Wire again is publishing this special edition of Frequently Asked Questions -- this time dealing solely with the sturgeon spawning season and how to become a member of the volunteer Sturgeon Guard. These questions were taken by the DNR Call Center. The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The number is 1-888-936-7463.
Question 1: What is the Sturgeon Guard?
Answer: The Sturgeon Guard are citizen volunteers like you – who literally stand guard near spawning sites used by sturgeon along the Wolf River. The volunteers stand guard in shifts covering the 24 hours of the days during this spawning season, which can occur anytime between later March and early May.
Question 2: OK, I get what they do. But why does Wisconsin need the Sturgeon Guard?
Answer: Really, it’s to protect these fish from poachers. When the sturgeon are spawning along the rocky shoreline of the Wolf River, they are fairly oblivious to nearby human activity and are very susceptible to illegal harvest.
Question 3: What does a Sturgeon Guard do at a site?
Answer: The guards are supposed to be as visible as possible. You’ll be asked questions from the public about the sturgeon and a fact sheet will be given to you. You are not to stop anyone from molesting or taking a sturgeon. We need you to be the best information gatherer possible. Contact the warden on duty and give the information to that official. The warden will respond to the site and follow up on the information.
Question 4: How many Sturgeon Guards can there be on one site?
Answer: If you register as part of a group, we do try to have everyone in a registered group at the same site if we have enough guards for all the active sites. There could be times that we do not have enough guards for all the sites so we may have a registered group take several sites in close proximity. If you have registered as a group, we highly recommend one adult for every three youths. The maximum number of guards on one site who are not in a registered group are two adults per rock pile.
Question 5: How long does the spawning run last?
Answer: The run is dependent on the water temperature. During high water years they spawn at a slightly lower temperature then in low water years. Once the spawning at a site starts, it will generally continue 24 hours a day until the spawn is done. There could be a break in the spawning activity if the weather turns colder for several days in a row and the water temperature drops significantly. Generally, the spawning run starts in the New London area. The run will then start shortly after in the mid river area near Shiocton and both areas will have activity. The Little Wolf and the Embarrass River will begin to be active at about this time. The New London area will stop while the mid river area will continue. At approximately the peak of the mid river run, the run will start in the upper river areas including the Shawano Dam. The Shawano Dam area will continue and will generally have the highest number of fish and the largest ones.
Question 6: Can I have my dog with me at a spawning site to guard?
Answer: No. The only dogs allowed at these spawning sites are service dogs.
Question 7: Can we have campfires near the spawning sites?
Answer: Due to the high fire danger during the spring, there are no fires unless specifically authorized by the property owner. Generally, this does not occur.
Question 8: What kinds of clothing should I have with me?
Answer: The weather can change quickly during a shift so bring warm clothing as well as rain gear. Multi-layers are better than one heavy layer. If the weather is inclement, the guards are not required to sit outside at the site and most sites allow sitting in a vehicle. Tents will be available at sites that are not accessible by vehicle. Refrain from bringing your own camping equipment.
Question 9: What else should I bring?
Answer: Here are some ideas: lawn chair, sun screen for day shifts, flashlights for night shifts, water and a cooler, warm clothing including a blanket and a sleeping bag, camera, binoculars, reading material, rubber boots.
Question 10: Should I bring my cell phone?
Answer: Yes, the primary way to communicate with the guards, sturgeon camp and the wardens is by cell phone. If you do not have one there will be one available at camp.
Question 11: What kind of food is provided the Sturgeon Guard volunteers?
Answer: You’ll get two warm meals, breakfast and supper, at camp. There also is food at camp to make sack lunches.
Question 12: Can I split a shift or work a partial shift?
Answer: It is highly recommended that when you sign up for a 12-hour shift, you have the capability to complete the shift as assigned.
Question 13: Is there a minimum age for children to attend?
Answer: There is no minimum age to attend. However, it is highly recommended to take into consideration the time-frame of a 12-hour shift and weather. Children (under age 18) are required to be under the supervision of an adult chaperone.
Question 14: How do I sign up to become a member of the Sturgeon Guard?
Answer: It’s pretty simple. You can call the DNR Call Center – 888-936-7463. That’s a toll free number. Or, go to this website -- http://dnr.wi.gov/SGsignUp/. You’ll find options to sign up online or you’ll see a form to submit. Or, you’ll see an email address for the Sturgeon Guard coordinator, too.
Question 15: When will I find out which shifts I am assigned?
Answer: Approximately two weeks prior to when the run forecasted to start. We encourage volunteers to call the DNR Call Center or Sturgeon Guard Hotline for updates on the sturgeon run status. Depending upon the method used to register for your shift, you will be notified of a confirmation either by auto-confirmation (email), letter and/or phone. This confirmation will be from the sturgeon guard coordinator. Directions and additional guard information will be provided.
Question 16: What lodging is available at fish camp?
Answer: Basic bunk house style lodging is available at no cost to you before or after your sturgeon guard shift. Please bring a sleeping bag and pillow if you plan to stay.
Question 17: Where can the public view sturgeon?
Answer: There are four places: County Trunk X west of New London along the Sturgeon Trail. Bamboo Bend on the west end of Shiocton at the corner of Hwy 54 and Old Hwy 54. Hwy 156 on the west upstream bank. Shawano Dam at the end of W. Richmond St.
Question 18: What can the public do at the spawning sites?
Answer: Most of the sites are on private property so the public will not be there. At the public sites, the public cannot go down the bank on the rocks to the water’s edge. This is dangerous for them since the rocks can shift. It also will push the rocks into the water damaging the site. Also at the public sites, the public cannot touch the fish in any way or cannot throw objects at the sturgeon.
Question 19: Can the public fish near the spawning sites?
Answer: Yes, if they have the proper license. They can’t attempt to catch sturgeon. If they catch a sturgeon by mistake, they can bring the fish to the boat so they can try to remove their lure.
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, please call: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens. Anyone who calls the Violation Hotline or provides information can remain anonymous.