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Update from Ron Bruch

February 5, 2010
“In 6 days spearers will begin cutting in, and in 8 days 10,000+ people will be peering down their spear holes hoping the big one swims by–here’s a few pre-season information tidbits that you may find interesting and useful.

Water Clarity and Ice Conditions

Recent reports indicate ice is generally 16-19 inches over most of the lakes, although there are still areas with thin ice or even open water near areas with current.  Anyone traveling on the ice is advised to make sure they know how much ice is under them where-ever they may be on the lakes.  The clubs around the lakes have marked roads with upright Christmas trees spaced every 1/4 mile and are maintaining bridges over expansion cracks – please support these organizations for all their hard work in making travel on the ice easier and safer.  Remember – Christmas trees laying down on the ice mark bad ice, cracks or other dangerous conditions.  Once spearing season starts, spearers are required to mark abandoned spearing holes with wood lath (usually painted black) drilled into the ice on two sides of the hole.
Water clarity as of Feb 4 is excellent over most of the lakes, although cloudy water from the Wolf and Fox Rivers is causing diminished clarity in some areas of Lake Winnebago and Lake Poygan.

Most Often Asked Sturgeon Spearing Law Enforcement Questions
We often get asked the same law enforcement questions about the do’s and don’ts of sturgeon spearing every year.  Our Warden Supervisor for the area, George Protogere, put together the following to help get ahead of the question curve this year:

  1. Can I hook/line fish in the shanty if I close the lid on the spearing hole? No it is illegal to possess hook/line equipment in a shanty with an ice hole larger than 12” across.  Fishing gear must be outside the shanty.  If the spearing hole has frozen over a hole 12” or less can be made and a person could fish with hook/line through it

  1. Can I use an underwater camera? Yes, however if the camera is equipped with lights they would need to be disabled in some manner. Putting electrical tape or duct tape over the lights works the best.

  1. What can I put on the bottom or use for a decoy? Whatever is placed in the water must be removed or retrieved when asked.  In most cases items are attached to a string or can be “hooked” for removal.  Decoy types are unlimited as long as they don’t involve any lights (glow sticks are illegal) or hooks.  Minnows can be used provided they are in a sealed container and regulations related to minnow use and transportation would apply.  Decoys with fluorescent paint can be used.

  1. Can I sit and watch for sturgeon after the 12:30 pm closure? Yes, if there is no spear inside the shanty being occupied.

  1. Can I be in a shanty after hours with a dismantled spear (head removed)? Once spearing hours close a person cannot be in a shanty with a spear.  If the spear head is removed it must be placed outside the shanty when occupied.

  1. Can my friend sit with me in the shanty and not have a license? Yes, the person with the valid license is the only person who can spear a fish.  An unlicensed person cannot be inside a shanty alone with a spear.

  1. Can I have 2 or more spears in the shanty and only 1 valid tag? Yes, see #6

  1. Can I drive past a registration station with an unregistered fish en route to another registration station? Yes, provided the fish is openly exposed to view while in or on the vehicle, the tag can’t be handled or manipulated, and the sturgeon is accompanied by the person who speared and tagged it, and you don’t go outside the listed highway boundaries.

  1. Can I use a fish locator, flasher, or vexlar? Yes, as long as it doesn’t involve the use of lights in the water.

  1. Can I put tip-ups outside the shanty and how close can they be to the shanty? Yes, they must be attended and immediately responded to if a bite is indicated.  There is no minimum or maximum distance from the shanty as long as they aren’t unattended.
More on “People of the Sturgeon” and “Mysteries of the Great Lakes”

The IMAX film Mysteries of the Great Lakes that features our Winnebago sturgeon population is now available for purchase on  Our book People of the Sturgeon, Wisconsin’s Love Affair with and Ancient Fish is also available at numerous outlets including the Wisconsin Historical Society website,, and local bookstores.  Royalties from People of the Sturgeon go to the Wisconsin DNR for the Winnebago sturgeon management program, as well as to the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin SeaGrant Institute for production costs.  Don’t forget our book signing event on opening day February 13 at Wendt’s on the Lake on the west shore of Lake Winnebago.  All three authors of the book will be there from 11 AM to noon.  Books can be purchased from the WHS at the event.”

Ronald M. Bruch, PhD
Upper Fox-Wolf Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
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