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February 14, 2012

"There's still lots of time and opportunity"

OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Improving ice conditions and a break in snowy weather should make for plenty of spearing opportunities for lake sturgeon this week on Lake Winnebago after a slow opening weekend.


A 79.6- inch, 179.9-pound female sturgeon taken by Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. The fish is the 5th largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932.

"There's still lots of time and lots of opportunity on Lake Winnebago," says Ron Bruch, Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh. "There were 400 more shacks out on Sunday than Saturday, so people are taking advantage of the improved ice conditions. If you're not out here now, hopefully you will be able to make it out before the end of the season."

The Upriver Lakes season closed Sunday after reaching the harvest cap for those waters. The spearing season on Lake Winnebago runs through Feb. 26 or until the number of sturgeon speared triggers the shutdown of the season. DNR sets harvest caps to limit to 5 percent of the adult spawning stock the number of fish harvested. A running harvest total and detailed information about registration from each station is found on DNR's Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Season 2012 web page.

"If it doesn't get too warm where we lose ice or get too much snow that creates difficult travel conditions, I think we'll see the number of spearers on Lake Winnebago building over the week. It could be like a second opening day."

Poor ice conditions and fair water clarity on Lake Winnebago resulted in a modern record low harvest of 39 for an opening day on the big lake, while close to normal spearing effort and clear water on the Upriver lakes resulted in a higher than average opening day harvest from those lakes.

That pace continued on Sunday, and the Upriver Lakes season closed after spearing hours.

It was the shortest season on the lakes -- Poygan, Butte des Morte and Winneconne -- since a lottery fishery began in 2007.

Upriver Lakes produces trophy fish, faster action

Again this year, a high proportion of the registered fish exceeded 100 pounds, regarded as "trophy" fish. Of the 210 fish registered system-wide on opening day, 12, or 5.7 percent, were trophy fish; closer to 1 percent has been typical.

Ten of those trophy fish were from the Upriver Lakes including the 79.6 inch, 179.9 pound female taken by Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. Her fish is the fifth largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932.

On Monday, Feb. 13, Mikey Galligan of Oshkosh registered a 175.3 pound, 78.5 inch female sturgeon from Lake Winnebago, the sixth largest fish by weight on record.

Bruch says the faster action and bigger fish on the Upriver Lakes could be due to a number of factors: the water was very clear, which makes it easier to see the fish and spear them, and there were more adult females staging in the small lakes than normal.

"Normally, these pre-spawn fish are spread all over the river system," Bruch says. "We're not sure why a higher percentage were in the Upriver Lakes this year. It may have been the warm weather, or some other weather phenomenon that may have caused fish to change their migration patterns.

"Or maybe it was a food thing. There's a gizzard shad hatch up there that we don't have on Lake Winnebago. They may have just stayed up there at the buffet table a little longer."

Videos, photo slide shows and other information about sturgeon and the sturgeon spearing season can be found on DNR's 2012 Sturgeon Spearing Season feature page (click on the numbered squares in the top right hand corner to see different features for every day).

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch (920) 427-9831; Trish Ossmann (920) 662-5122

Last Revised: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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