Sturgeon spearing traditions were renewed over the last few days, as the 2013 Sturgeon Spear Fishery on the Winnebago System got underway. Opening day was one of mixed results, and for the most part went as predicted. Due to less than ideal ice conditions on Lake Winnebago and poor water clarity, the total harvest from Lake Winnebago was low with a total of 39 sturgeon being harvested. Spearers on the Upriver Lakes were much more successful, harvesting a total of 140 fish.
The big fish trend continues to show up in the harvest, with 9 of the 179 fish harvested on the system today being 100 pounds or larger! The harvest of these large fish has almost completely re-written our record books over the last 8 years. In fact, 9 of the top ten fish in the record books were taken between 2004 and 2012. This year has started as no exception, and the 80.0 inch, 179.0 pound fish harvested by Peter Vander Weilen and registered at Quinney today is currently the 6th largest fish reported as harvested on the Lake Winnebago System.
Similar to last year, spearers were very successful on opening day of the Upriver Lakes fishery. The season there will still go on tomorrow, but has the chance to close tomorrow or the days to follow. A total of 46 adult females were harvested today, meaning that we are 29 adult females short of the 90% trigger and 37 adult females away from the 100% trigger. Therefore Sunday February 10 would be the last day of the Upriver Lakes fishery if 37 or more adult females are harvested, while spearers will still be able to fish Monday if 29-36 adult females are harvested.
Registration stations on the Northern end of Lake Winnebago were pretty quiet today. In fact, no fish were registered at any of the stations Payne?s Point, Waverly Beach, and Harrison Town Hall. Spearers cited poor water clarity in these areas as the primary reason for the poor harvest. Success was better along the East and West shores of Lake Winnebago, but overall harvest numbers were still low due to poor water clarity. Given the current conditions on Lake Winnebago and the low harvest rates, it looks like we may have another full 16-day day season. Hopefully water clarity will improve and spearers will have more success during the remainder of the season.
Our aerial shanty counts for today indicated that 2,724 shanties were present on Lake Winnebago and that 397 shanties were in place on the Upriver Lakes. These numbers are up slightly from last year (2,197), but down from 2011 (4,321).
I hope that everyone has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, the traditions that come with another opening day of sturgeon spearing! I look forward to tomorrow and hopefully seeing you at one of our sturgeon registration stations. Just remember to enjoy and cherish these days, because an event like this does not take place anywhere else in the world!
Ryan P. Koenigs
For a comprehensive overview on the sturgeon biologists who were involved in the past 60years of management, please see the attached file.
Sturgeon Vignette - Winnebago Sturgeon Biologists through the years