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Timeline of the Largest Sturgeon on Lake Winnebago | By Wisconsin DNR

Fond du Lac Co., WI – Because of intensive management efforts and countless habitat improvement projects, many of the lake sturgeon in the Winnebago system have the potential to live long lives.


In 2022, the longest fish speared was an 83.6-inch female weighing 157.5 pounds. This lake sturgeon was approximately 83 years old and had lived through a lot.

During her first few years, she grew and thrived while World War II was waging in Europe. By the end of World War II in 1945, she grew to be an estimated 31 inches.

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As she continued to grow, she swam through the Winnebago System for about 13 years, dodging the set lines on the Upper River lakes until 1952, when set lining was eliminated.

At 30 years old, she was most likely enjoying the warmth and searching for some tasty chironomids below the water’s surface in 1969, the same time Neil Armstrong was looking down on earth, becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

DNR staff have conducted an annual spring spawn survey since 1975. Although this female sturgeon was about 36, well within spawning age and spawning every four to five years, she was never handled or pit tagged by the DNR during the annual spawn surveys.

While she stayed off the DNR’s radar during this time, in 1977, Sturgeon for Tomorrow’s founders were creating an organization to protect her and other Winnebago sturgeon.

In 1979, the same year ESPN launched its cable network, the first successful efforts to propagate lake sturgeon artificially occurred. These efforts have helped strengthen and grow sturgeon populations nationwide, including in Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.

In her 40s, she started to see the technological advancements ice fishing anglers were using in the lake. In 1980, she saw the introduction of the first flip-top portable canvas ice shanty. Then in her 50s, the lake began rumbling as the first fuel-injected snowmobile took to the ice in 1991.

She showed how she could persevere through challenges as a ‘dinosaur fish’ when she endured a deadly heat wave in 1995. The heat index ranged from 120-128°F during the summer, some of Wisconsin’s highest temperatures recorded.

At the start of the new millennium, at about 60 years old and roughly 74 inches long, she started to feel vibrations from the music playing around the lake after the convenience of the iPod was invented by Apple in 2001.

She even lived long enough to see the first commercial space flight in 2004. In 2008, cities surrounding Lake Winnebago were hit with a large storm, causing major flooding and extensive damage to many homes around Lake Winnebago. At almost 70 years old, she knew how to weather that storm.

She lived in the Winnebago System from roughly 1939 to 2022, thriving for about 83 years. She lived through many changes in governments, environmental impacts, technological advances and regulation changes.

Only through the meticulous management of the lake sturgeon population in the Winnebago System can sturgeon such as this one thrive.

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