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DNR 2010 Sturgeon Spearing Season Recap

March 12, 2010

This article was posted on the DNR site and has been reproduced with permission from the Department of Natural Resources.  The article can be found here:  http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/news/weekly.asp

“DNR and spearers happy with 2010 sturgeon spearing season

OSHKOSH – Spearers took 1,820 fish during the 2010 sturgeon spearing season on the combined lakes of the Winnebago pool which includes Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes — Poygan, Winneconne, and Butte des Morts – before the season closed on Thursday after six days.

“We’re pleased with this record-breaking season,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank. “When I talked with spearers on opening day I heard about their excitement at the start of the season, and their strong support for our sturgeon program on the Winnebago System. This is the finest sturgeon fishery in the world and is a resource for all Wisconsin to be proud of and to protect. Our professional sturgeon team and the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee are an excellent example of how stakeholders and the department can work together to the benefit of our priceless natural resources.”

Sturgeon history was made on the first day of this season when the all-time record sturgeon, a 212.2-pound, 84.2-inch female, was speared on Saturday by Ron Grishaber of Appleton. It was a record weight not only for Lake Winnebago, but also set new sturgeon spearing record for Wisconsin.

On the same day a second record was broken when the largest male sturgeon ever registered in the spearing season, 116.8 pounds, 71 inches, was brought into the Calumet Harbor station on the east shore of Lake Winnebago by spearer Matt Judkins of Mt. Calvary.

The record still stands for the longest fish harvested in 1951; a 90-incher that weighed only 118 pounds. A sturgeon spearing season has been held annually on Lake Winnebago since 1932.

“The number of these trophy-size fish has been increasing significantly over the last decade,” said Ron Bruch, DNR senior sturgeon biologist. “This increase is due to the impact of harvest regulations implemented over the last 18 years which were designed to increase survival of these large fish.”

The 2010 harvest consisted of 270 juvenile females, 801 adult females and 749 males. Eighty-two fish were taken that were 100 pounds or more. A 100 pound sturgeon can be anywhere from 65 to 80 years old. Larger sturgeon are proportionally older.

This was the 78th consecutive sturgeon season on the big lake. On the Upriver lakes there have been sturgeon spearing seasons held intermittently since 1952, and annually since 2007 with the new lottery system.

There were 10,366 spearing licenses purchased for Lake Winnebago and 494 out of 500 authorized for the Upriver Lakes 2010 sturgeon fishery, up 6.1 percent from the 2009 season when 9,750 licenses were sold for Lake Winnebago and 490 for the Upriver Lakes. Spearers included 179 non-residents (170 for Lake Winnebago and nine for the Upriver Lakes).

Upriver Lakes participation in this season was determined by a lottery for the required sturgeon tag with 500 people selected from 4,228 who submitted an application by August 1, 2009.

Sturgeon spearing licenses for the Lake Winnebago season were not limited and were available to those spearers who purchased them by October 31, 2009. The department reported there were 4,527 shacks on the ice on opening day.

The average success rate on the Upriver Lakes is 61.4%. The success rate on Lake Winnebago averages 13.4 percent. On average a spearer on Lake Winnebago harvests a fish every 7 to 8 years, although some have gone 20-30 before taking their first fish. A person applying for the Upriver lakes lottery fishery, will get a tag about every 8 years.

“The average season length on Lake Winnebago since we’ve gone to the 6-hour fishing days in 2002 is 10 days,” said Bruch. “This year’s six-day season was shorter than average, but spearers were happy to have great weather and ice conditions while they were on the ice. And they’ll remember this as a record-breaking season in terms of the historic 212.2 pound female and the 116.8 pound male, so they should be reassured that there are big ones out there waiting for them next season.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Ron Bruch, DNR Senior Sturgeon Biologist, (920) 424-3059 or Tom Turner, DNR Public Affairs Manager, (920) 662-5122″

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