Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 Sturgeon Spearing Season Begins

168 lb sturgeon caught in 2005 on Lake Poygan 
It is hard to mention Lake Winnebago without talking about sturgeon spearing.  The Winnebago System has the largest population of Lake Sturgeon anywhere and the spearing season has become a tradition.  The system's fish weren’t always in the clear.  Unregulated fishing, loss of spawning habitat and rampant poaching forced the species into decline.  Now after decades of improved regulation, creation of spawning habitat, and greatly reduced poaching, the sturgeon population is not only secure, but it is thriving.  With regularity the size of record fish increases.  While helping tag sturgeon on the Wolf River fisheries, biologists who have been at this for decades were routinely baffled by how large the male fish, usually the smaller of the sexes, were getting.  My only complaint (and I couldn’t be a fisherman without complaining about at least one regulation) with sturgeon spearing is that it excludes a hook and line season.  There is no other place for hundreds of miles to catch a fish over two hundred pounds, and it seems like a thriving guide businesses could develop around these monsters. 
The program that has probably been most successful to curb poaching, is Sturgeon Guard run by Sturgeon for Tomorrow and the DNR.  Anyone can volunteer to be a sturgeon guard.  All you need to do is sit by one of the spawning rivers and report suspicious activities, all while watching the giant fish spawn.  Depending on where you get stationed, you may also see many other fish and wildlife.  You get a free hat, you will be fed at sturgeon camp before and after your shift, and you get to meet some great people!

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