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October 19, 2010

OSHKOSH -- A higher harvest cap for lake sturgeon and the prospect of landing some really nice, large fish are two more reasons for sturgeon spearers to make sure they've bought their sturgeon spearing license by midnight Oct. 31, 2010.

The licenses are required for spearers to participate in either the Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season or the Upriver Lakes season. Both start, Feb. 12, 2011. Licenses are $20 for residents and $65 for non-residents and can be purchased: over the Internet through the Online Licensing Center; by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236); at license sales locations; or DNR service centers during their regular business hours . The 2011 sturgeon spearing seasons open on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes on Saturday, Feb. 12.

Harvest caps increase as fish population increases

Harvest caps for the 2011 spearing seasons have been increased because the sturgeon population in the Winnebago System has grown larger, says Ron Bruch, fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh.

Harvest caps for 2011 will be 395 for juvenile females, 790 for adult females, and 1,200 for males, compared to 350, 740, and 1,000 respectively, for 2010. Based on annual spawning assessment surveys and tag returns in the spear harvest, the adult stock of lake sturgeon in the Winnebago System was estimated to be at 15,847 adult females and 31,748 adult males in 2010; these estimates are used to set harvest caps. Harvest caps for juvenile females are set at 50 percent of the adult female cap.

DNR caps the harvest at no more than 5 percent of the adult population to sustainably manage the fishery. Sturgeon are slow-growing and late maturing, with females spawning for the first time at 20 to 25 years of age and then only once every three to five years.

"We track the population very closely, and in the early 1990s and 2000s, it appeared the population had reached some kind of plateau," Bruch says. "In the last 10 years, however, we've seen this uptick again. The adult population has definitely increased, which allows us to increase the harvest caps. "

DNR spring surveys showed that lake sturgeon in the system are also getting larger and older. "We still have lots of big fish out there," Bruch says. "We handled fish again this spring during the spawning assessment that were pushing 200 pounds."

Sturgeon history was made on the first day of the 2010 season when the all-time record sturgeon, a 212.2-pound, 84.2-inch female, was speared by Ron Grishaber of Appleton. It was a record weight not only for Lake Winnebago, but also set new sturgeon spearing record for Wisconsin.

The number of these trophy-size fish has been increasing significantly over the last decade due to harvest regulations implemented over the last generation to better protect vulnerable female fish.

More details about license requirements

The minimum age for spearing is 14. Youth who turn 14 between Nov. 1, 2010, and the last day of the 2011 spearing season can still buy a spearing license after Oct. 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after Oct. 31, according to David Argall, with DNR's customer service and licensing bureau.

The number of licenses sold is not limited on Lake Winnebago, but is limited to 500 for the Upriver Lakes fishery. The Upriver Lakes fishery is managed through a drawing and 500 individuals who submitted an application before Aug. 1, 2010, were authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing license for the 2011 season. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, he or she is not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago. Those who applied for an Upriver Lakes license in the drawing but were not authorized received a preference point and can still buy a Lake Winnebago license before Oct. 31, Argall says.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David Argall (608) 267-7699; Ron Bruch (920) 424-3059

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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