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Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, DNR Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist,, 920-303-5450; Jennifer Sereno, DNR communications,, 608-770-8084
October 20, 2015

MADISON - The deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses for the 2016 Lake Winnebago System and Upriver Lakes seasons is Oct. 31, with the upcoming seasons promising new opportunities to land 100-plus pound fish and celebrate a tradition with family and friends that dates to the 1930s.

Big fish to date

Chad Cherney's  81.3-inch female topped the scales at 137.5 pounds, making his fish the largest fish harvested during the 2015 season..

The 2015 seasons marked the sixth highest harvest total on record with 2,158 fish taken including 1,870 from Lake Winnebago and 288 from the Upriver Lakes. Chad Cherney harvested the largest sturgeon, an 81.3 inch female weighing 137.5 pounds, said Ryan Koenigs, Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

There are separate seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes that occur simultaneously, with participation in the Upriver Lakes season determined by lottery. The 2016 season opens on Saturday, Feb. 13.

Again this year, 12-year-olds can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season if they buy a license. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their tags to youngsters, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

Koenig said that thanks to careful management, the fishery continues to produce many fish in excess of 100 pounds, although the 2015 season saw a slight reduction in weights among the largest fish due to reduced abundance of gizzard shad and lake fly larvae. Still, the potential for trophy sized fish remains high in 2016 due to the distribution of age classes currently in the population as fish reach their growth potential.

Successful management of the fishery is among the topics being discussed at the annual meeting of the North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society being held this week in Oshkosh, Koenigs said. For 2016, the harvest caps have been raised to 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females and 1,220 males.

How and where to get spearing licenses

Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased at any license sales location; over the Internet by going to the DNR Online Licensing Center; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).

The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2015, and the last day of the 2016 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31.

There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.

Spearers are now able to transfer Upriver Lakes spear licenses to youth spearers (age 12-17), and can do so by filling a transfer of license form at least 15 days before the 2016 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31.

For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, visit and search "Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing."

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 20, 2015

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