Contact(s): Ryan Koenigs, , 920-303-5450, or Ryan.Koenigs@wisconsin.gov
MADISON - The deadline to purchase licenses for the 2019 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season is Oct. 31, with state biologists forecasting great opportunities to land the fish of a lifetime.
"The fish population is strong - we've got more fish than we've had in decades and plenty of big fish," says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist. "As always, the biggest driver of spearing success will be water clarity, and we won't have an idea what clarity will look like until the weeks leading up to the season."
The 2019 spearing season opens Feb. 9, 2019, with separate but simultaneous seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes. Participation in the Upriver Lakes season is determined by lottery.
The seasons run for 16 days or until harvest caps are reached; system-wide harvest caps for 2019 are 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females, and 1,200 males.
A mid-winter warmup before the 2018 spearing season resulted in reduced water clarity and contributed to a lower harvest: a combined total of 951 sturgeon. That total is down from averages over the last decade, but still the largest recreational spear harvest for sturgeon in the world and an increase over the 2016 season total of 703 fish, and 2017 total of 847 fish, Koenigs says.
Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased by visiting GoWild.Wi.gov or any license sales location. To find a license agent near you, go to dnr.wi.gov and search with key words "license agent."
The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2018, and the last day of the 2019 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 2018 sturgeon spear fishery. Spearers who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the lottery but were not drawn for a license receive a preference point and can still purchase a Lake Winnebago license before the Oct. 31 deadline.