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February 24, 2024, sturgeon harvest report | By Wisconsin DNR

February 24, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Sunday, February 25, 2024, is the last day of sturgeon spearing season, and harvest continues to be slow on this final weekend.

Spearers on the Upriver Lakes found success for the first time in 3 days, registering 10 fish. This included 3 juvenile females, 2 adult females and 5 males.

A total of 15 fish were harvested on Lake Winnebago today, with 3 juvenile females, 2 adult females and 10 males registered. Southwest Winnebago continues to be the busiest registration station – registering 13 of the 15 harvested fish.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Today’s largest fish was a 62.5-pound, 62.5-inch, M2 lake sturgeon speared by Jamie Morgan, who brought their catch to the Southwest Winnebago registration station. Congratulations, Jamie.

The Poygan, Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed. All other stations will be open for the final day of the season.

February 24, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Darren Pautsch is one of the lucky few to harvest a fish on Lake Winnebago today, spearing his first lake sturgeon, a 53.8-inch, 33.3-pound, F1 female. Congrats Darren.

To the delight of spearers, Friday was another that felt more like winter than spring. Alas, even with the cooler temperatures, there were very few fish registered today.

On Lake Winnebago, only 6 fish were harvested (2 juvenile females, 2 adult females and 2 males). All of the harvest and spearer effort continued to be concentrated around the southern portion of the lake with 2 fish registered at the Pipe registration stations and 4 registered at the Southwest Winnebago station.

Once again, very few spearers ventured out onto the the Upriver Lakes today, and no fish were harvested.

As we head into the final weekend in the 2024 Winnebago Sturgeon spearing season, the current harvest total stands at 394 fish for the entire system, including 65 juvenile females, 127 adult females and 202 males.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Due to the uncertainty created by unseasonably warm weather we experienced this year, many of the spearing shanties were left at home. Not to be deterred, spearers got creative in their efforts to safely get onto the ice, often doing so with less weight that usual. Many spearers resorted to using lighter pop-up shelters and workout mats to keep things dark within their shelters. Some spearers even purchased hand saws for cutting into the ice, forgoing the heavy chainsaws they’d typically use.

This “new” approach reminded many of the more seasoned spearers of the days when hand saws were the only saws around.

As always, we want to remind all spearers to be safe when venturing out onto the ice for these last two days of the 2024 season.

For those heading out this weekend, the Poygan, Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed tomorrow. All other stations will remain 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.


A Note From The DNR On The USFWS Species Status Assessment And Potential Listing For Lake Sturgeon

In 2018, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to assess the status of lake sturgeon populations across their native range within the United States.

Since then, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been actively involved with the federal process of the Species Status Assessment for lake sturgeon. A Species Status Assessment is an analysis of the best available scientific and commercial data on the historic, current and likely future status of a species currently under consideration for possible addition to the U.S. list of threatened and endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The DNR is taking every opportunity to provide information to the USFWS through the Species Status Assessment process and other processes to inform them of our unique sturgeon populations across Wisconsin. For example, the DNR submitted extensive information and data regarding the status of lake sturgeon populations across Wisconsin to be used by the USFWS in drafting the Species Status Assessment.

An initial draft of the Species Status Assessment was provided to states and other entities in July 2023 for “technical review.” DNR Fisheries staff reviewed the draft over the summer and provided the USWFS with over 150 comments, the most submitted by any state agency.

 

As part of this feedback, the DNR requested that the USFWS indicate how the DNR’s comments would be addressed in future drafts of the Species Status Assessment. The USFWS has committed to providing this accounting and agreed to a meeting with the DNR once the comments are addressed. Although this meeting has not occurred to date, the USFWS has reaffirmed its commitment to doing so.

The USFWS has a court-ordered deadline by which they must publish the Species Status Assessment and issue a proposed decision on any changes to the lake sturgeon’s Endangered Species Act listing status by June 30, 2024.

Following the initial decision, there will be a 60-day public comment period wherein anyone may offer their input to the USFWS on their proposed decision.

For more information, check out the USFWS’s Lake Sturgeon species webpage. Additionally, you can read the initial petition and provide public comment once the public comment period opens on Regulations.gov.


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 23, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – The warm weather today may have left some sturgeon spearers in their T-shirts. Though some colder weather is expected over the weekend, the season is drawing to a close.
sturgeon
Oscar Reitz with three speared lake sturgeon in 1955. / Photo Credit: Josh Reitz

There were just 5 lake sturgeon harvested system-wide. Today’s harvest included 1 juvenile female, 2 adult females and 2 males. Pipe took the lead, registering 2 lake sturgeon, while Southwest and Waverly each registered 1. No fish were harvested upriver.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

The biggest fish of the day was an 80.4-pound, 70.0-inch, F1 lake sturgeon speared by Rick Mattes. Well done, Rick!

The Poygan, Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed tomorrow. All other stations will remain 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.

______________________________________________________________

February 21, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – Spearers continue to find ways to head out onto the ice for these last few days of the spearing season. At this point, all of the harvesting action is happening on the southwest portion of Lake Winnebago.

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Today all the harvested sturgeon on Lake Winnebago were registered at the Southwest Winnebago registration station with 0 juvenile females, 2 adult females and 3 males speared. Throughout this season, 50% of the harvest for the entire system has been registered at the Southwest registration station (193 of 383 lake sturgeon).

Currently, 114 lake sturgeon have been harvested Upriver. Today 3 were harvested (1 juvenile female, 0 adult females and 2 males). All were registered at the Winneconne station.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

This warm weather reminds us that spring is just around the corner. The lake sturgeon will soon start their migration up the Wolf River to their spawning sites.

During the spawn, hundreds of lake sturgeon will take to the shores of the Wolf River to spawn on the rocky substrate near the surface. Because of this spawning behavior, the Sturgeon Guard ensures that the lake sturgeon can spawn without interference and disturbance.

For those who enjoy watching the lake sturgeon spawn or might want to help this species, do not forget that you can sign up to be part of the Sturgeon Guard. If you’re interested in learning more about the Sturgeon Guard or want to help guard at a spawning site, please use this form to sign up.

The Poygan, Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed tomorrow. All other stations will remain 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.


February 20, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – While the wind did finally calm down, today had the lowest harvest of the season, with 5 speared from Lake Winnebago (0 juvenile females, 0 adult females and 5 males). The biggest fish harvested was a 63.8-inch, 66.5-pound, M2 male speared by Bruce Rogers.

sturgeon
Lake sturgeon caught during the annual assessment by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency on Old Hickory Reservoir in 2023. The reservoir is north of Nashville along the Cumberland River stretch. This year, they caught a record 17 fish during their survey. / Photo Credit: Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency

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Fish are still being harvested Upriver with 2 juvenile females, 1 adult female and 0 males for today.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

The last time there was an extremely warm winter with frustrating ice conditions was in 2017. Similar to this year, most of the harvest came during the first half of the season. That year, both Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes season lasted the full 16 days.

The Poygan, Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed tomorrow. All other stations will remain 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.

_____________________________________________________________________

February 19, 2024 – Fond du Lac Co., WI – After a relatively cold weekend, we had our slowest day of the season. Only 10 lake sturgeon were harvested from Lake Winnebago (2 juvenile females, 3 adult females and 5 males), bringing the Lake Winnebago season total to 39 juvenile females, 91 adult females and 129 males. The biggest fish of the day again came from the Southwest registration station – a 69.3-pound, 79.6-inch, M1 male speared by Steven Hungerford on Lake Winnebago.
sturgeon
Gage Schrader was successful today, spearing a 19.7-pound, 47.1-inch, FV female from Lake Poygan.

While the upriver harvest continues to be slow, we still see fish coming in. Today, 4 lake sturgeon were harvested on the Upriver Lakes (1 juvenile female, 1 adult female and 2 males).

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Despite uncooperative weather conditions this season, an impressive 367 lake sturgeon have been harvested throughout the system.

View the full details in today’s harvest report.

Even on this slow day, Gage Schrader and Ayden Nummerdor both found success. Gage speared a 19.7-pound, 47.1-inch, FV female from Lake Poygan. Ayden speared a 15.3-pound, 44.9-inch, MV male from Lake Winnebago. These fish were likely not much older than Gage and Ayden, with DNR biologists estimating the fish at approximately 16 years old. The “V” in the FV and MV classifications refers to the male and female fish not yet reaching maturity. Congrats, Gage and Ayden!

Tuesday, Feb. 20, the Poygan registration station on the Upriver Lakes will be closed, but the Indian Point and Winneconne registrations will remain open. The Neenah, Stockbridge and Quinney registration stations will remain closed on Lake Winnebago.

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.

Ayden Nummerdor registering his 15.3-pound, 44.9-inch, MV male at the Southwest Winnebago registration station.

Reintroduction Programs Part 2: Georgia

Over 800 miles from Oshkosh, the sun rises over the Ridge and Valley Appalachian Mountain range and hits the Coosa River on another warm, sunny day in Georgia. With an average temperature of 56⁰F in February, northwest Georgia can seem a world away from a cold spearing day on Lake Winnebago. Yet, this is the new home for over 330,000 Winnebago lake sturgeon since 2002.

The Coosa River extends from Georgia into northeastern Alabama with a confluence of three different rivers in Georgia (Coosawattee, Etowah and Oostanaula rivers). Lake sturgeon have been extirpated in this region since the 1970s due to a series of major dams and reservoirs erected in the 1900s, as well as deteriorating water quality from excessive nutrient loading from local agriculture.

In 2002, efforts began to bring lake sturgeon back to the Coosa River basin. Now, 20 years later, the Georgia DNR is starting to observe large individual sturgeon within the river system. In 2022, a 52-inch, 24-pound lake sturgeon was captured during sampling. This is the largest lake sturgeon seen in the Coosa River since the species’ extirpation. While it is no Lake Winnebago giant, it is still a promising sign for things to come for this new population. Because the reintroduction program is only 20 years old, those in Georgia are only starting to see individuals come into maturity and begin to spawn. Between 2022 and 2023, the Georgia DNR captured 97 individuals measuring between 11 and 52 inches.

The DNR, along with our partners in Georgia, are excited to start seeing lake sturgeon come back to the area, and we look forward to seeing this population continue to expand.

sturgeon
Lake Sturgeon caught during annual sampling on the Etowah River, a tributary of the Coosa River in Georgia, in 2023. / Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Lake Sturgeon caught during annual sampling on the Etowah River, a tributary of the Coosa River in Georgia, in 2023. / Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources


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.

CLICK HERE to read earlier reports.

Maus

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