Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing | By Ryan Koenigs

Feb. 9, 2019 – Fond du Lac, WI – Day 1 of the 2019 sturgeon spearing season is in the books and what started as a cold morning turned into a pretty nice afternoon. Coming into the season, we were anticipating a full 16-day season on Lake Winnebago and a shortened season, likely 4-7 days, on the Upriver Lakes.
Sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac
After seeing today’s harvest, I think those forecasts were spot on.
There were 97 fish registered from Lake Winnebago today, Saturday, Feb. 9, with the northern registration stations of Stockbridge Harbor and Payne’s Point leading the way with 30 and 18 fish respectively. Our registration stations on the Upriver Lakes were a bit busier as 130 fish were registered. Indian Point and Critter’s were the two busiest stations registering 58 and 54 fish respectively.
This season’s opening-day harvest is strikingly similar to last season, where 83 fish were registered from Lake Winnebago on opening day and 130 fish were registered on the Upriver Lakes. Today’s harvest puts us at 4-5% of the harvest cap for each of the three categories of juvenile females, adult females and males, so it looks like spearers will have 15 more days to fish on Lake Winnebago.
big Cedar Lake
Today’s Upriver Lakes harvest reached 40% of the adult female cap and 30.4% of the male cap. More than 25% of the spearers have now tagged out so effort will decrease moving forward. At this point, I would guess that the Upriver Lakes season will last 5-7 days. See the attached Day 1 summary sheet for a breakdown of how many fish were registered at each station today.

2019 Daily Harvest.pdf

For the past 5-10 years we have been talking about the increasing number of big fish within the sturgeon population on the Winnebago System. During that time there have been two fish that have been discussed the most, the current state record (212.2 pound, 84.2”) fish that was harvested in 2010 and an 87.5” female lake sturgeon that was captured below the Shawano Paper Mill Dam in April 2012.

Today there were rumors circling of a very large fish on the ice on Lake Winnebago. The fish was brought into Wendt’s to be registered and measured 85.5” and weighed 171.0 pounds. Further, the fish had a PIT tag and when referenced against our database I learned that this fish was the large fish that was handled in 2012 below the Shawano Dam.

The 2-inch difference in measurements is likely attributable to a combination of measurement error (spring time with fish thrashing and harvest with the fish being partially frozen) and approximating the last few inches of length as our measuring boards only go to 84”. Congratulations to Jonathan Eiden of Appleton for harvesting the largest fish of the 2019 sturgeon spearing season to this point!

We have already been asked numerous times how old this fish may be. This is really a tough question to answer as age on these larger fish can be extremely variable. One thing is for certain, this was a very old fish. The fish was first handled in 2004 on the Wolf River and at that time it was measured at 84”. If we look at growth based on the recapture measurement from today, that fish grew 1.5” in 15 years. If we go from the measurement in 2012, the fish grew 3.5” in 15 years. Either way the fish had to be very old. I would estimate that this fish was between 100-130 years old, possibly even older.

Good luck to all of the spearers tomorrow and during the remainder of the season!

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