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Weekly News Published January 28, 2020

 

Excitement Builds Ahead Of Sturgeon Spearing Opener

Lake Winnebago System Sturgeon Season Starts Feb. 8

A full moon over spearing shanties on Lake Winnebago off Neenah. - Photo credit: DNR
A full moon over spearing shanties on Lake Winnebago off Neenah.Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, Winnebago System Sturgeon Biologist, 920-303-5450, ryan.koenigs@wisconsin.gov

OSHKOSH, Wis. - Anticipation is building for another season of lake sturgeon fishing on the Winnebago System. The 2020 spearing season opens on Feb. 8 and will last for a maximum of 16 days or until pre-set harvest caps are reached.

The Winnebago System is home to one of the world's largest self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon, with an estimated 18,500 adult females, 24,000 adult males and a unique spearing season dating back more than 85 years.

Interest in sturgeon spearing continues to be strong. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sold 12,721 licenses (12,248 for Lake Winnebago and 473 for the Upriver Lakes) for the 2020 season. Licenses were purchased by residents from all 72 Wisconsin counties as well as 34 states. The deadline to apply for sturgeon spearing permits was Aug. 1.

As always, water clarity and ice conditions are the most influential factors contributing to harvest success during the sturgeon spearing season. The 2020 season will likely open with less than ideal conditions as a mild winter has created variable ice conditions throughout Lake Winnebago. Preliminary water clarity checks indicate relatively poor water clarity throughout Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes.

Despite unfavorable conditions, spearers are still excited to take to the ice for the upcoming spearing season, said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Winnebago system sturgeon biologist.

"Sturgeon spearers are well versed in reading ice conditions and have shown the capability to pursue their passion despite variable ice conditions," Koenigs said. "We routinely hear from spearers that it's the chance to get together with family and friends, to relive old memories and create new ones that keep them coming back year after year. The 2020 spearing season offers another opportunity to renew those traditions."

Jonathan Eiden with his 85.5-inch, 171 pound sturgeon speared in 2019. - Photo credit: DNR
Jonathan Eiden with his 85.5-inch, 171 pound sturgeon speared in 2019.Photo credit: DNR

The success of the fishery and the fish population is a testament to the strong co-management of the sturgeon resource between DNR staff, stakeholder groups and passionate members of the public, Koenigs said.

"These are the good old days within the Winnebago System sturgeon population," he said. "There are more fish in the system now than there have been for decades and more big fish than we have had since the early 1900s. More than 10 percent of the female sturgeon harvested during the 2019 spear fishery were larger than 70 inches."

Season and License Details

Spearing hours run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and all sturgeon must be presented at a DNR operated registration station by 2 p.m. of the same day the fish is harvested.

The system-wide harvest caps for the 2020 season are set at 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females and 1,200 males.

To spear sturgeon, people must have a paper copy of their sturgeon spearing license and tag on their person. A Go Wild card, driver's license, purchase receipt or a PDF copy of the tag are not valid proof of a spearing license or tag.

Successful spearers must immediately validate their carcass tag by removing the validation stub. Spearers do not need to attach validated carcass tags to harvested fish before registration as long as the spearer stays with the fish until registration. However, the harvest tag must be attached to the sturgeon if the spearer leaves the fish prior to registration. DNR recommends that spearers bring a clear plastic zip-top bag and tie to protect and secure the paper tag to the fish.

More details about sturgeon spearing throughout the Lake Winnebago system, including the complete 2020 rules, regulations and list of registration station locations [PDF], can be found on the DNR website.

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Remember Endangered Wildlife at Tax Time and Your Donation is Doubled

 - Photo credit: DNR
Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Drew Feldkirchner, DNR Natural Heritage Conservation director, 608-235-3905, Drew.Feldkirchner@wisconsin.gov

MADISON, Wis. - Tax filing season opened Jan. 27, and Wisconsin residents can again help the state's rare wildlife and plants by taking a few seconds to donate to the Endangered Resources Fund on their Wisconsin income tax form.

Donors' gifts are doubled by the state and go directly to conserve rare species and State Natural Areas. Look for the "donations" section on your tax form (line 35a on Form 1) or your tax preparation software. You can also let your tax preparer know you want to make a donation to the Endangered Resources Fund.

"Donors' contributions to the Endangered Resources Fund have helped bring back bald eagles, trumpeter swans and many other species while keeping hundreds of native wildlife and plant species from disappearing from Wisconsin forever," said Drew Feldkirchner, the DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program Director. "We are grateful to everyone who donated in past years and ask you to donate again. We also invite first-time donors to make a gift. You'll find that donating through your tax form is quick, easy, and all donations are matched, doubling your impact."

Bald eagle nests in 1974 - Photo credit: DNR
Bald eagle nests in 1974Photo credit: DNR
Bald eagle nests in 2019 - Photo credit: DNR
Bald eagle nests in 2019. Bald eagles have made a spectacular comeback thanks in part to Wisconsinites' donations on their state income tax forms to help fund nest monitoring and protection efforts.Photo credit: DNR

In Wisconsin, more than 400 wildlife species and 300 plant species are endangered, threatened or declining. Donations to the Endangered Resources Fund pay for work by DNR Natural Heritage Conservation staff to locate, identify and monitor these rare populations, to coordinate, train and fund volunteer surveyors, and to protect and restore habitat for endangered, threatened and declining species.

Threats to native species continue to mount in Wisconsin and worldwide. Plant and animal species are vanishing at tens to hundreds of times faster than average over the last 10 million years, according to a widely publicized United Nations biodiversity report last year.

One million species could go extinct in coming decades, the report concludes, if action is not taken to reduce factors leading to their decline: habitat loss or degradation, the direct killing of species, climate change, pollution, and invasion by nonnative plants, animals and pathogens.

To learn about gains for rare species and State Natural Areas made possible by the conservation work of the DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation staff, partners and volunteers, please read NHC's 2019 Field Notes.

Donations also help DNR control invasive species and conduct other activities to maintain hundreds of State Natural Areas, which protect unique landscapes and natural features like the canyons of Parfrey's Glen and old forests. These unique places also provide refuge to 75% of endangered and threatened wildlife species, and 90% of endangered and threatened plant species.

Visit the DNR website for more about donating to the Endangered Resources Fund through Wisconsin income tax forms and how that donation will benefit rare wildlife, plants and State Natural Areas.

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OutWiGo Snow! At Willow River State Park Feb. 1

Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing, Sledding, Naturalist Activities and More

 - Photo credit: DNR
Photo credit: DNR

Contact(s): Jane Simkins, Marketing Specialist, 608-206-5945, jane.simkins@wisconsin.gov

HUDSON, Wis. - Why stay in when you can OutWiGo? Join park staff and partners for OutWiGo Snow!, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' winter recreation celebration at Willow River State Park on Saturday, Feb. 1 from noon to 4 p.m. Bundle up with family and friends for an afternoon of cross-country skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, sledding, s'mores and more!

OutWiGo is a statewide initiative encouraging everyone to improve their overall health and wellness by getting out and active in the outdoors. From waterfall hikes to trails for bikes, you can recharge or go far at one of Wisconsin's state park properties.

OutWiGo Snow will offer activities including snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, naturalist activities and more. Snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals will be provided free of cost.

Outdoor demos of a variety of winter recreation skills and tips are scheduled for throughout the day. Although some complimentary sleds will be provided, participants are encouraged to bring their own sleds as well.

Complimentary s'mores supplies will be provided for those looking to refuel and warm up. Restrooms will be available throughout the property.

A $5 event admission fee (cash only) applies to participants ages 18 years and older. Participants of all ages are welcome. A 2020 Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker is also required for entry. Although admission stickers are available at the property entrance, advanced purchase is encouraged for you to get to the fun faster.

Attendees are invited to attend the event anytime between noon to 4 p.m., as activities and trails will be open all day. The full schedule of OutWiGo Snow activities is available on the OutWiGo webpage.

Willow River State Park is located at 1034 Co Hwy A, Hudson, WI 54016.

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Read more: Previous Weekly News

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Contact information

Need an expert? Contact the Office of Communications.

The Office of Communications connects journalists with DNR experts on a wide range of topics. For the fastest response, please email DNRPress@Wisconsin.gov and the first available Communications Specialist will respond to you.