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Winnebago Sturgeon Harvest Report for Tuesday, February 16

February 16, 2010

“The seasons on both the Upriver Lakes and Lake Winnebago are hanging on for at least one more day.  Total of 183 fish registered today including 8 fish larger than 100 pounds.  None of the harvest closure triggers were hit today on Lake Winnebago or the Upriver Lakes, although only 1 more adult female is needed tomorrow (Wednesday) on the Upriver Lakes to pop the 90% trigger or 8 more adult females there to pop the 100% trigger.  On Lake Winnebago, 11 more adult females are needed to pop the 90% trigger, and 78 to pop the 100% trigger.  Given that 77 adult females were registered today from Lake Winnebago, it is pretty much guaranteed that at least the 11 needed to pop the 90% trigger there will come in tomorrow, and it is possible that the 78 needed to pop the 100% trigger to close the season on Lake Winnebago could be registered tomorrow.

Totals for the day Tuesday February 16, 2010:
Lake Winnebago:  15 juvenile females; 77 adult females; 57 males; TOTAL of 149
Upriver Lakes:  4 juvenile females; 6 adult females; 24; TOTAL of 34
SYSTEM-WIDE:  19 juvenile females; 83 adult females; 81 males; TOTAL of 183

Total for the Season to date:
SYSTEM-WIDE:  213 juvenile females; 654 adult females; 611 males; TOTAL of 1478 (including 71 fish 100 pounds or larger)

More on the big fish……….
I had the opportunity to help the taxidermist skin out the record 212.2 pound fish this morning, and then dissect the internal organs and gather other important biological information on this fish.  Eventually, after the taxidermist is done doing his thing, we will get the fin bones and the ear bones (the otoliths) to get a read on the true age of this fish.  At this point we guesstimate, given its size, that it is in the neighborhood of 100 years old.  The real surprise this morning was to find out the fish was not a fully developed black-egg fish.  The gonads were in an “F1 Fat” stage, meaning the fish was in the final stages of storing fat prior to producing eggs (actually producing the yolk for those eggs) for its next spawn which would have likely occurred in 2011 (females only spawn once every four years on the average).  If this fish would have been in a “F4-Black Egg” stage it would have likely weight 240 to 250 pounds.

The large number of big fish over 100 pounds (at this point 71 out of 1478 or 4.8%) is a real trend in the population that we have seen building over the last decade.  This trend is a result of the harvest regulations we have put in place over the last 19 years working with our Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee, the luck of having some strong hatches of fish in the early 1900s, and other important factors like the Sturgeon for Tomorrow sponsored Sturgeon Guard Program that began in 1977 protecting spawning sturgeon from poaching using volunteer guards on the Wolf River in April, 24 hours a day, when the fish are actively spawning and very vulnerable to illegal harvest.
Finally – I have been asked many times over the last few days “How old can lake sturgeon in Winnebago get?”.  At this point we are seeing that they can get quite old – perhaps 120 years or more.  What we are also seeing is that, due to our harvest management system, this is the first opportunity for our fish to express their true longevity potential since pre-settlement times in the mid 1800s.  We’ll know for sure how old they can get in another 50 to 100 years…….something for my successors to study – I don’t think I’ll be around at that time.”

Ron Bruch, Wisconsin DNR

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