NEWS ARCHIVE:     Age: 3,125 days

See This Full Issue

All Previous Archived Issues


January 22, 2014

EDITOR'S ADVISORY: DNR experts will be on hand to answer all your questions about sturgeon next Tuesday, January 28, 2014. The chat begins at 12 noon. You can join the conversation by going to the DNR website and clicking on the chat graphic, or by visiting the DNR Facebook page (\WIDNR) and clicking the "Cover it Live Chat" graphic on the top.

FOX VALLEY, Wis. - Some very big fish - with the heft of heavy weight boxers - are cruising below the thick ice of Lake Winnebago as the 2014 sturgeon spearing season approaches.

And this frigid winter, while it's been wreaking havoc on motorists and pedestrians, is setting the stage for what could be a record-busting year for spear fishermen. The season opens at 7 a.m. Feb. 8.

Ryan Koenigs, Winnebago sturgeon biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said water clarity is the most important factor in predicting spearing success, and when it was checked recently, visibility extended 12 to 14 feet below the surface throughout much of the lake.

"Fisheries staff is forecasting an above average harvest if these conditions hold," Koenigs said.

Spearing hours this year will shift a half hour forward on the clock, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., with fishermen having until 2 p.m. to register any sturgeon harvested that day.

Arctic weather has capped Lake Winnebago with ice more than a foot thick, making travel conditions safer for fishermen who use vehicles to transport fishing shacks and gear. Ice conditions can change rapidly, however, and veteran sturgeon hunters know to check them daily.

Still, DNR fisheries staff believes the 2014 season has the potential to enter the history book with large fish.

"A record 9.5 percent of the sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago during the 2013 season weighed in excess of 100 pounds," Koenigs said, "and we have routinely observed fish larger than 200 pounds in recent spring surveys."

Moreover, eight of the 11 largest fish ever harvested from the system have been registered during the past four years, including the state-record, 212.2-pound lake sturgeon harvested in 2010. And that's not the biggest bruiser around. A DNR fisheries crew captured and tagged a 87.5-inch, 240-pound sturgeon in April 2012, and that fish was not harvested in 2013.

A total of 11,823 licenses have been sold for this spearing season, 11,355 for Lake Winnebago and 468 for the upriver lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan. This is down 6.1 percent from sales in 2013 but still ranks as the fourth largest number of licenses ever sold.

In the meantime, the popularity of the upriver lakes fishery continues to grow as a record 5,863 people applied for an upriver lakes license (of which 500 licenses were authorized for purchase through a lottery system). Interest in this fishery has more than doubled since the current lottery system was implemented 2007.

The harvest caps are the same as they have been the last two years - 400 juvenile females, 828 adult females and 1,200 males.

Spearers - now able to transfer upriver lakes spear licenses to youngsters aged 12 to17 - can do so by filing a transfer-of-license form at least 15 days before the 2014 sturgeon spear fishery, which means by the end of business this week.

The deadline for purchasing a spearing license was Oct. 31 with two exceptions: Wisconsin residents who turn 12 (the minimum age) between Nov. 1, 2013, and the final day of the 2014 spearing season and Wisconsin residents serving in the Armed Forces who are home on leave during the 2014 spearing season.

For more information and updates on the season progress, search the DNR website for keywords "sturgeon spearing."

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ryan Koenigs, DNR senior fisheries biologist, 920-303-5450 or Ed Culhane, DNR public affairs manager, 715-781-1683

Last Revised: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Need an expert?

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