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My Take on Sturgeon Spearing

February 21, 2010

I’ve had a chance to take a break after 7 straight days of shooting photos of the 2010 season of sturgeon spearing and have been enjoying looking through them. I thought about one of the first posts I made to this blog responding to a question on why people participate in sturgeon spearing. Despite growing up around sturgeon spearing, I learned much more about it over the past few weeks and had a great time observing and talking to people about it.

Here is what sturgeon spearing is about to me, followed by a few articles on the season and info on obtaining a license for the next season (also see: Why Spear Sturgeon?).

First and possibly the most obvious, sturgeon meat is edible, therefore spearers hunt the fish for a source of food. I’ve heard the meat is pretty tasty and resembles swordfish. (Cooking tip: soaking the sturgeon in milk overnight before cooking takes out the sometimes fishy flavor.) Second, sturgeon spearing is a competition like all sports. Spearers have hopes of getting the record-breaking sturgeon and take pride in showing off their catch. There might be a small competition in the creativity of the shack, as well (I’ve seen some very original shacks this year).  Third, sturgeon spearing is a social engagement. It gives spearers a chance to have a fun weekend and/or take the week off of work and enjoy the outdoors and good company. Many spearers share shacks or group shacks together so that they can visit each other throughout the day and share in the excitement of spearing a sturgeon. After spearing, many head to the registration stations and bars to meet up with friends and other spearers to hear stories from the ice and talk ‘sturgeon talk’. Even non-spearers come out to see the sturgeon and hear the stories.

Forth, sturgeon spearing is often a family tradition carried on for generations.  I talked to many people who have been spearing for 50+ years who introduced their children and then grandchildren to sturgeon spearing.  Spears are passed from generation to generation along with knowledge and skills.  Fifth, spearing gives people an excuse to be outdoors in the middle of winter.  Being on the lake is an enjoyable experience, especially when the weather is as nice as it was this season. In the morning the lake was silent as I walked shack to shack taking photos. The sunrises and sunsets were beautiful and the changing weather kept it interesting. On the snowy days I felt like I was in a desert sandstorm whereas the sunny days were bright and warm.

Sixth and possibly the most important, sturgeon spearing is an educational experience. Crowds of all ages gather at the sturgeon registration stations to see the prehistoric fish come in and to learn more about them. The DNR answers questions and provides the crowd with a wealth of information on the sturgeon. Sturgeon are very unique fish and there is a lot to learn about them. With this knowledge grows a greater respect for the sturgeon. Lastly, the DNR is able to conduct research on the sturgeon that they cannot do with live fish. The DNR obtains parts of some of the sturgeon such as the stomachs, pectoral fin rays, and more to learn about sturgeon, their age, and their behaviors. This research allows us to better understand the life of the sturgeon and helps in maintaining the population.

To learn more about the lake sturgeon in Wisconsin, check out “People of the Sturgeon“–a recently published book on the history of the sturgeon, sturgeon spearing, and Wisconsin’s relationship with the fish.

I have also found a few recent articles on sturgeon to share:

Fox 11’s “Deer harvest vs. sturgeon harvest

The Post Crescent’s “Sturgeon spearing season celebrates family bonds“, “Sturgeon is much more than meets the eye“, “Big fish signal that Winnebago sturgeon management has paid off

Looking at purchasing your sturgeon spearing license for the next season of spearing?  Take a look at the DNR’s license page to learn more.  From my understanding, licenses for the 2011 season should be purchased after March 9 and before October 31 of 2010.  A license is $20 for a Wisconsin resident and $65 for a nonresident.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex Primm permalink
    February 21, 2010 4:57 pm

    I enjoyed this report and the photos… hard to believe you still have shacks out on the ice… it’s warming up in the Ozarks with rain instead of snow…


  1. Why spear sturgeon? « Winnebago Lake Sturgeon

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