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February 18, 2024, sturgeon harvest report | By Wisconsin DNR

February 18, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – With the sun shining and wind blowing, quite a few spearers were able to find success today, with 24 lake sturgeon harvested on Lake Winnebago (7 juvenile females, 8 adult females and 9 males). The Southwest registration station continues to have the greatest harvest, with 21 lake sturgeon today and 174 lake sturgeon for the season. The largest lake sturgeon of the day also came from the southwest area of Lake Winnebago. It was a 113.3-pound, 68.8-inch, F2 female speared by Mark Kraus.

The Upriver Lakes harvested 14 lake sturgeon (5 juvenile females, 5 adult females and 4 males).

At the close of this second weekend for the 2024 Winnebago lake sturgeon spearing season, 353 lake sturgeon have been harvested system-wide, with 56 juvenile females, 116 adult females and 181 males.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Many spearers this year are working hard and using any good luck charm they can for a chance to spear a fish, including former NFL tight end Erik Jensen, whose wife brought him and his spearing partner their lucky spearing shirts for this weekend. The shirts must have worked because Erik speared a 64.4-inch, 43.7-pound, F4 female from the Upriver Lakes today. We hope the remainder of the spearers taking to the ice find luck like Erik.

Currently, around 2% of the lake sturgeon being harvested are over 100 pounds. While this is a smaller percentage compared to the last 10 years, it is still well above the percentage of 100-pound fish since the 1970s. This indicates that the system is healthy enough to allow fish to grow old and large enough to reach 100 pounds.

Tomorrow, the Neenah station will close again. The Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will also remain closed. All other stations will be open.

Good luck to all spearers who take to the ice tomorrow. Please remember no ice is 100% safe.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.

a young woman in overalls standing next to a sturgeon that has been speared

After four days, Marissa Fischer finally had success on the Upriver Lakes, registering her first-ever lake sturgeon, an impressive 65-inch, 60.7 -pound, F4 female.


Reintroduction Programs Part 1: Wisconsin’s Role

Wisconsin’s lake sturgeon are incredible and ancient fish. Their prominence in our culture goes back as long as people have lived in the area, and we are lucky enough to have healthy lake sturgeon populations throughout Wisconsin today, especially in the Winnebago system.

Lake sturgeon are not just found in Wisconsin.  Their native range extends from the Great Lakes region south to northern Georgia and Alabama. While the Winnebago lake sturgeon population continues to be healthy and thriving, many other lake sturgeon populations across the United States are still trying to recover from overfishing, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation mostly due to dam systems.

Because of the healthy population within the Winnebago system, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is able to assist other states and organizations with their lake sturgeon reintroduction or rehabilitation programs.

Over the next three days, we are going to highlight other sturgeon populations around the United States and the ways Wisconsin is helping reintroduce lake sturgeon to these areas.

The Wisconsin DNR works with other state and federal organizations to collect gametes (eggs and sperm/milt) from lake sturgeon on the Wolf River to be raised and stocked in areas around the country where lake sturgeon populations have been extirpated. We estimate that well over a thousand female sturgeon spawn each spring on the Wolf River. With one female lake sturgeon capable of releasing 50,000-800,000 eggs, this can total well over 50 million (and possibly up to one billion) eggs deposited in the Wolf River annually. Each year, hatcheries take about 300,000 fertilized eggs for stocking and rehabilitation efforts in Wisconsin and around the country. The Winnebago lake sturgeon gametes will travel far and wide before growing large enough to be stocked. And do they ever have an impressive trip ahead of them!

The Wisconsin DNR has been a proud partner to many southern states’ reintroduction programs, and an immense amount of time and collaboration has gone into these efforts. For those who enjoy watching the lake sturgeon spawn around the Wolf River in the spring, you may be lucky enough to catch some of the collaboration in action, as many of the managers and biologists from these southern states make their own pilgrimage to Wisconsin during the spring to collect the gametes for their states’ reintroduction programs.

Biologists collecting sturgeon gametes at the Shawano Dam

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Georgia, biologists from the Wisconsin DNR and volunteers collect gametes at the Shawano Dam during the spring lake sturgeon spawning run. / Photo Credit: Wisconsin DNR

February 17, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – In a tough year, Kurt Knoll found success spearing a 148-pound, 77.6-inch, F4 female.

Feb. 17, 2024 Harvest Update
Today marks the halfway point of the 2024 Winnebago lake sturgeon spearing season. Harvest was up again today compared to the rest of the season, with 34 lake sturgeon harvested on Lake Winnebago (4 juvenile females, 9 adult females and 21 males). The Lake Winnebago totals are currently 30 juvenile females, 80 adult females and 115 males.

The Upriver Lakes harvested 5 juvenile females, 4 adult females and 8 males. This brings the Upriver Lake totals to 14 juvenile females, 23 adult females and 53 males.

There were even a few spearers including Lea Sevald and Eliana Hardy that speared their first ever lake sturgeon today. With most spearers walking all the gear out onto the ice, sturgeon harvested this year are well earned with stories that will be remembered for decades – particularly for those like Lea and Eliana, who have speared their first ever lake sturgeon this year.

Congrats on pushing through all the hard work and finding success ladies!

View the full Day 8 Harvest Report.

There were two fish over 100 pounds today. The one on Lake Winnebago was a 108.2-pound, 76.4-inch, F2 female speared by John Schuh. Today’s biggest fish came from Lake Poygan. Kurt Knoll speared a 77.6-inch, 148-poound, F4 female. This is currently the biggest fish for the season.

The difference between the F2 and F4 is where they are in their reproductive cycle.  F2 females are still developing eggs. They are likely about a year or two out from spawning. And F4 females has black eggs which means she was ready to spawn in a few months in the spring.

Tomorrow, the Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will be the only stations to remain closed. All other stations will be open.

Good luck to all spearers who take to the ice tomorrow. Please remember no ice is 100% safe.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.

John Schuh and his friend celebrate his 108.2-pound, 76.4-inch, F2 female at the North Winnebago registration station.

No Ice Is 100% Safe
Here are a few basic ice safety tips to remember:

Carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or a float coat, to help you stay afloat and to help maintain body heat.
Wear ice creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
Carry a few spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
If you fall in, remain as calm as possible. While attempting to get out of the water, call for help. Anyone who attempts to rescue you should use a rope or something similar to avoid falling through themselves.

Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.

 

Have a plan in place noting where you will be and when you plan to return. Along with leaving a written note of your plans, keeping a charged cell phone is also recommended.

Check out the DNR’s Ice Safety webpage for more information on staying safe on the ice, including tips for creating ice claws and what to do if you fall through ice.

Additional information on the Winnebago system sturgeon spearing season can be found on the DNR website.

February 16, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., Wi – After many years, there is success for Scott Bruner on the Upriver Lakes.

 

We have finally had a cold day with a cold evening. Due to that, we saw more spearers out on the ice today. If you plan to return to the ice this weekend, please remember that no ice is 100% safe.

Friday’s harvest on Lake Winnebago increased from the last few days, with 3 juvenile females, 16 adult females and 17 males harvested. The southwest area of Lake Winnebago continues to have the highest harvest, with 22 fish registered at the Southwest station today.

Harvest on the Upriver Lakes also saw an increase. Friday, 12 lake sturgeon were speared upriver (2 juvenile females, 3 adult females and 7 males). This brings the season total for the Upriver Lakes to 9 juvenile females, 19 adult females and 45 males.

At the end of the first week of the 2024 spearing season, spearers have harvested 35 juvenile females, 90 adult females and 139 males from the Winnebago system. Hopefully, this colder weather will persist for the weekend and into next week.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Scott Bruner has made the best of this year’s spearing. After many years of spearing, in this remarkably warm winter season, he has finally found success and speared his first-ever lake sturgeon from Lake Butte des Morts, a 67.1-inch, 66.2-pound, F6 female. Congratulations, Scott!

It’s still good to see groups getting together and making the best of what will be a very memorable season. Today, a group of spearers found incredible success, with six of their members harvesting a fish from Lake Winnebago.

Today’s biggest fish came from Lake Winnebago. It was a 75.7-pound, 66.0-inch male speared by Shanda Hubertus. This male sturgeon is likely 65 years old. Male lake sturgeon usually do not start to reproduce until they are about 15 years of age. That means this lake sturgeon could have potentially made almost 25 spawning runs up the Fox or Wolf rivers. That’s a lot of river miles to travel!

Tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 17, the Neenah registration will reopen. The Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will be the only stations to remain closed.

All Upriver registration stations are open.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.

Five people standing next to each other, each holding up a large lake sturgeon that they speared. There is light snow on the ground.d them.

Friends Sam Southard, Eric Herzfeldt, Klayton Koll, Tim Walters and Marc Hietpas all celebrating their successful day on Lake Winnebago at the North Winnebago registration station.

Day 6 was another slow day for the 2024 Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season. The wet, heavy snow that fell Tuesday night combined with the cloudless day today likely played a role in the low number of fish harvested.
A man poses with a large, recently speared sturgeon hanging from a hook.
The biggest fish for day 6 of the season was a 109.8-pound, 70.8-inch, F4 female lake sturgeon speared by Devin Bovee.

Thursday, February 15, 2024, on Lake Winnebago, 0 juvenile females, 7 adult females and 5 males were harvested. The Southwest registration continues to have the highest fish count with 9 fish for today and total of 107 fish registered there for the season. Altogether, 155 fish have been speared on Lake Winnebago thus far this season.

It was just as slow on the Upriver Lakes with 0 juvenile females, 2 adult females and 1 male harvested today, bringing the Upriver total to 61 lake sturgeon for the season.

Today’s biggest fish was a 109.8-pound, 70.8-inch, F4 female speared on Lake Winnebago by Devin Bovee.

View the full details in today’s Harvest Report.

On Tuesday, we highlighted Josh Roloff, who speared a nice fish on Lake Winnebago. Not to be outdone, his father, Kory Roloff, speared a 68-inch, 97.5-pound, F1 female on Lake Winnebago today. Although Josh’s fish was only 0.4 inches longer than his father’s, Kory’s fish was an impressive 12.4 pounds heavier than his son’s fish.

It isn’t uncommon to see lake sturgeon of similar lengths have drastically different weights. There are many different factors that go into a sturgeon’s weight, including what they typically eat. For example, some sturgeon will only eat chironomids, which are plentiful and can easily sustain a lake sturgeon, but they will not add extra fatty weight the way other forage fish like gizzard shad will.

The actual food source isn’t the only factor in how much a lake sturgeon weighs. Other factors, like when in its life a sturgeon starts allocating energy and resources to gonad production (eggs or sperm) as opposed to growth, will be a factor in the weight of a fish.

For those heading to Lake Winnebago tomorrow, the Stockbridge, Quinney and Neenah registration stations will continue to be closed. All other registration stations will remain open.

On the Upriver Lakes, the Poygan registration station will re-open tomorrow, and all three Upriver registration stations (Winneconne, Poygan and Indian Point) will be open the remainder of the weekend.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.

A man in a camo-patterned sweatshirt poses with a recently speared sturgeon hanging from a hook.

Kory Roloff showing off the 68-inch, 97.5-pound, F1 female lake sturgeon he speared from Lake Winnebago today. This fish is about the same length but 12 pounds heavier than the fish his son speared on Tuesday.


No Ice Is 100% Safe

Here are a few basic ice safety tips to remember:

  • Carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or a float coat, to help you stay afloat and to help maintain body heat.
  • Wear ice creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
  • Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
  • Carry a few spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
  • If you fall in, remain as calm as possible. While attempting to get out of the water, call for help. Anyone who attempts to rescue you should use a rope or something similar to avoid falling through themselves.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.

Have a plan in place noting where you will be and when you plan to return. Along with leaving a written note of your plans, keeping a charged cell phone is also recommended.

Check out the DNR’s Ice Safety webpage for more information on staying safe on the ice, including tips for creating ice claws and what to do if you fall through ice.


Additional information on the Winnebago system sturgeon spearing season can be found on the DNR website.

February 14, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Ice conditions on the Upriver Lakes and Lake Winnebago continue to change. Please reach out to your local spearing groups and bait and tackle shops for the most up-to-date ice conditions.

The amount of open water in the north end of Lake Winnebago increased overnight.

For the first time this season, the daily harvest from Upriver Lakes was greater than the daily harvest on Lake Winnebago.

Brittany Clark with her first sturgeon, which was 40.3 pounds and 58.5 inches. The F2 sturgeon was speared on Lake Poygan. Photo courtesy: Wiaconsin DNR

Lake Winnebago harvest included 0 juvenile females, 4 adult females and 5 males. Twelve lake sturgeon were harvested from Upriver Lakes (1 juvenile female, 3 adult females and 8 males).

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Few lake sturgeon came through the Southwest registration station, with 6 lake sturgeon today compared to 12 yesterday. Still, Southwest registration station continues to register the most lake sturgeon from Lake Winnebago. Indian Point registration station also registered 6 lake sturgeon.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Today’s largest fish came from the Winneconne registration station. Jay Stelmach speared a large male today. It was a 78.8-pound, 70.4-inch, M2 male from Lake Poygan.

Today’s largest sturgeon, speared by Jay Stelmach, was a 78.8-pound, 70.4-inch, M2 male.

Brittany Clark speared her first sturgeon today after 10 years of trying. Her 40.3-pound, 58.5-inch, F2 sturgeon was speared on Lake Poygan.

The Stockbridge, Quinney, Neenah and Poygan registration stations will continue to be closed tomorrow.


February 13, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – With stronger winds, ice on both the Upriver Lakes and Lake Winnebago continues to change. Please do not forget to reach out to your local spearing groups and bait & tackle shops for the most up-to-date ice conditions.

Josh Roloff celebrating his successful day with his dad, Kory Roloff, registering his 68.4-inch, 85.1-pound, F1 female at the Southwest registration station.

Two juvenile females, 7 adult females and 9 males were harvested today on Lake Winnebago.

Twelve of the 18 lake sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago came from the Southwest registration station. Today’s biggest fish came from the Southwest registration station. It was a 85.1-pound, 68.4-inch, F1 female speared by Josh Roloff.

Harvest continues to be slow on the Upriver Lakes with 1 juvenile female, 1 adult female, and 4 males harvested today.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

We continue to learn new information about lake sturgeon, their biology and their behavior even during the spearing season. Every lake sturgeon has an interesting story to tell; some stories the DNR have tracked, while other fish keep their lives a secret.

Today, one of the harvested fish is one we’ve been tracking since it hatched in 2002. This lake sturgeon was raised in a hatchery and stocked in 2003. In 2009, this fish was captured in the commercial seine in Lake Butte des Morts.

Over 10 years later, while spearing on Lake Butte des Morts, Shane Braun was lucky enough to spear this fish (a 21.1-pound, 52.1-inch, FV female).

When it comes to younger lake sturgeon such as this, we are still learning about their behaviors and needs. Knowing that this particular individual was consistently found in Lake Butte des Morts gives us more insight into their life history. This gives us just one more piece to the puzzle in lake sturgeon life history. This was a very cool fish – congrats Shane.

The Stockbridge, Quinney, Neenah and Poygan registration stations will continue to be closed tomorrow.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.


Lake Sturgeon Life CyclePart 2

In this second part of our sturgeon life cycle story, we return to the Wolf River and to our central character, the sturgeon larva. It is now August, and the larval lake sturgeon that drifted from Bamboo Bend has settled onto a sandflat further downstream.

Only the sturgeon is no longer a larva; it has left its burrow in the sand and has grown an impressive 8 inches in five months. It is now a young-of-year (YOY) sturgeon. Its nose is pointed, and its body is heavily armored with sharp, bony plates called scutes, which help deter predators.

It is the same color as the surrounding sand except for two black patches across its back. Most of its time is spent swimming into the current and feeding on nymphs and other drifting insect larvae.

As darkness settles, DNR biologists shine spotlights into the water. They are searching for YOY sturgeon to evaluate the success of this year’s sturgeon spawn.

The spotlight lands on our sturgeon protagonist, who is netted and brought into the boat soon after. The sturgeon is measured and given a PIT tag, a microchip like the ones put into cats and dogs. The tag serves as a form of identification when scanned, letting biologists know which individual they have captured should they come into contact again.

The biologists have finished, and the sturgeon is released back to its original location to continue its search for insects.

A young-of-year lake sturgeon swimming under water

A young-of-year lake sturgeon. They are paler in color than adult lake sturgeon and have two dark patches on their back. They are covered in sharp plates called scutes, which act as a defense against predators. / Photo Credit: Emily McParlane, Wisconsin DNR

February 12, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Things have slowed down on both Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes for the third day of the spearing season. Only 34 fish were harvested between both areas (22 on Lake Winnebago and 12 on the Upriver Lakes). The Southwest Winnebago registration station continues to receive the highest traffic, with 17 sturgeon registered there today.

Spearers on the northern part of Lake Winnebago reported poor water clarity.

David Friess stands with his 10th lake sturgeon. This is his first Upriver Lakes sturgeon, which was a 55.2-inch, 36.1-pound, F1 female.

Some spearers are continuing to find access and success on the Upriver Lakes.

12 lake sturgeon were harvested Upriver today (1 juvenile female, 4 adult females, and 7 males), bringing the Upriver Lakes season total to 5 juvenile females, 10 adult females and 25 males.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

One of today’s lucky Upriver spearers was Joshua Wittman, who speared the largest sturgeon of the day with a 58.3-pound, 62.2-inch, F4 female. David Friess also found success Upriver with a 36.1-pound, 55.2-inch, F1 female. Friess is no stranger to spearing, successfully harvesting 10 lake sturgeon over the years, but this is his first ever from the Upriver Lakes.

In addition to the already closed Stockbridge, Quinney and Neenah registration stations, we will be closing the Poygan registration station. Both the Winneconne and Indian Point registration stations will remain open Upriver. The DNR will continue to monitor spearing efforts to decide when to reopen registration stations later in the week.

We will also continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.


Lake Sturgeon Life Cycle – Part 1

The lake sturgeon life cycle is an odyssey that can take up to 25 years to complete. From birth to adolescence to maturity, each new life stage is sustained by new habitats, new feeding strategies and many miles of river. This is the first of a three-part story that follows a sturgeon through these life stages.

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It is the end of April. The lake sturgeon spawn has ended in the Wolf River, and water temperatures are around 60⁰F. Only a week ago, schools of sturgeon blanketed the banks of Bamboo Bend to release their gametes (eggs and milt) above the artificial spawning habitat placed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

What remains are their fertilized eggs, developing safely in the deep crevices of the rocky habitat where other hungry fish mouths cannot reach them. One of these eggs is hatching. A sturgeon is born. The quarter-inch-long creature, about the size of a tic-tac, is a free embryo born with the egg yolk still attached to its body.

In the safety of the rocks, this embryo will absorb this yolk sac and continue developing outside the egg for another 5-7 days. During that time, it will grow fins necessary for swimming and become a larva.

Finally, under cover of darkness, the half-inch larva will swim out of the spawning rocks and drift down the river in search of a new home. While drifting, it may encounter a net that has been lowered into the water by a DNR biologist trying to catch larval sturgeon to evaluate the success of the spawn.

This larval sturgeon misses the net. Eventually, it finds a shallow habitat made of fine sand and gravel in which to burrow. There, it will hide and feed on whatever insects can fit in its mouth and will remain there until it grows large enough to not be considered drifting food itself.

Five lake sturgeon larval are shown.

Three-day-old lake sturgeon free embryos. At this stage they have a rudimentary mouth and their pectoral fins are only beginning to develop. They rely on a large yolk sac for food. / Photo credit: Kimberly Chojnacki, USGS


No Ice Is 100% Safe

Here are a few basic ice safety tips to remember:

  • Carry a cell phone, and let people know where you are going and when you’ll return home.
  • Wear proper clothing and equipment, including a life jacket or a float coat, to help you stay afloat and to help maintain body heat.
  • Wear ice creepers attached to boots to prevent slipping on clear ice.
  • Carry a spud bar to check the ice while walking to new areas.
  • Carry a few spikes and a length of light rope in an easily accessible pocket to help pull yourself – or others – out of the ice.
  • If you fall in, remain as calm as possible. While attempting to get out of the water, call for help. Anyone who attempts to rescue you should use a rope or something similar to avoid falling through themselves.
  • Do not travel in unfamiliar areas or at night.

Have a plan in place noting where you will be and when you plan to return. Along with leaving a written note of your plans, keeping a charged cell phone is also recommended.

Check out the DNR’s Ice Safety webpage for more information on staying safe on the ice, including tips for creating ice claws and what to do if you fall through ice.


February 11, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Even with a slower weekend, there are always some big fish registered. Today’s biggest fish, speared by Jacob Disterhaft, was a 71.2-inch, 110.7 pound, F4 female.

After an opening day notable for its warmth, it seemed that the cooler temperatures overnight brought a few more spearers out to the ice for day 2 of the 2024 season. A total of 49 lake sturgeon were speared on Lake Winnebago (11 juvenile females, 15 adult females and 23 males).

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Once again, most of the harvest came from the western areas of Lake Winnebago, with 5 lake sturgeon registered at both the Downtown Oshkosh and Neenah stations, respectively and 31 registered at the Southwest Winnebago station.

Additionally, more spearers were seen taking to the Upriver Lakes to try their luck. There were 15 lake sturgeon registered Upriver today (1 juvenile female, 3 adult females and 11 males).

After this opening weekend, 122 lake sturgeon have been speared throughout the Winnebago system (19 juvenile females, 33 adult females and 70 males).

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Even with a slower weekend, there are always some big fish registered. Today’s biggest fish, speared by Jacob Disterhaft, was a 71.2-inch, 110.7 pound, F4 female.

Although there were fewer people out on the ice this weekend compared to normal openers, the warmer weather hasn’t stopped spearers from passing on this tradition. Robert Tenorio was successful today in spearing a 53.3-inch, 22.4-pound male with the next generation of spearers helping him make sure he appropriately registers his fish at a DNR registration station.

Until ice conditions improve around Lake Winnebago, we are closing the Stockbridge, Quinney and Neenah registration stations. The North Winnebago, Downtown Oshkosh, Southwest Winnebago and Pipe registration stations will remain open for those heading out on Monday, as will all Upriver registration stations.

We will continue to include registration station updates in our daily emails, or you can check the DNR Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing webpage for updates.

For spearers who plan to take to the ice Monday, please remember no ice is safe ice.

A man and three children walk through a parking lot. Two of the children hold a recently speared sturgeon.

Robert Tenorio was successful today in spearing a 53.3-inch, 22.4-pound male with the next generation of spearers helping him make sure he appropriately registers his fish at a DNR registration station.

Additional information on the Winnebago system sturgeon spearing season can be found on the DNR website.

February 11, 2024 – Lake Winnebago, WI – February 10 marked what will likely be a very memorable opening day for many spearers around the Winnebago system.

Devin Halbach (left) and James Huebschman (right) were two of the few who were successful on Lake Winnebago

Warm weather, rain and wind in the days leading up to the season kept many spearers off the ice for opening day.

During Saturday’s aerial counts, just over 450 shacks and pop-ups were counted on Lake Winnebago. In 2023, there were 3,000 shanties on opening and 6,000 in 2022. The majority of shacks were observed in the southwest portion of the lake.

For those who did go out, many found themselves in pop-ups instead of their regular shacks, walking all their gear about 300 yards from shore to their spearing spots.

Where people could get out, good water clarity was reported around the system.

Opening day on Lake Winnebago saw the harvest of 45 lake sturgeon (29 males, 12 adult females, and 4 males). The Southwest Winnebago registration station was the busiest, likely due to the ice conditions, and had 32 lake sturgeon come through with 22 males, 7 adult females, and 3 males.

The Upriver Lakes also had less effort than standard opening days, with only 170 shacks and pop-ups observed on Lake Poygan and 42 on Lake Butte des Morts. Although the Upriver season started slowly, 13 lake sturgeon were harvested (7 males, 3 adult females, and 3 juvenile females).

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Despite the weather, the DNR teams heard exciting success stories at the registration stations.

The first fish for the season came into Downtown Oshkosh around 9:30 a.m., weighing 24.8 pounds and measuring in at 49.6 inches, and speared by Ben Berger.


Karlee Sue Lamb was also successful with her first-ever lake sturgeon, a 52.4-inch, 24.3-pound female.

There were also two fish over 100 pounds registered today – a 113.6-pound, 77-inch F1 female harvested on Lake Winnebago by Jon Sauer and a 104.3-pound, 68.9-inch F4 female harvested on Lake Butte de Morts by Jason Reinke.

For those planning on heading out Sunday, please remember no ice is safe ice. For everyone else, we encourage all interested to visit the DNR’s registration stations to celebrate this unique opening weekend.

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