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Update from Ron Bruch on October 22, 2010

October 22, 2010

“Dear Winnebago Sturgeon Spearers,

Hope your fall season is going well – this is a great time of year with the weather, the fall colors, and all the various hunting seasons engulfing us.  I want to get a reminder and some other sturgeon tidbits out to you before we head into the last week of October………….

Winnebago and Upriver Lakes 2011 Sturgeon Spearing License Sales Deadline – October 31, 2010

Sunday October 31 is the last day you can purchase your Lake Winnebago or Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing license for the 2011 season.  If you haven’t already done so, make sure you get your license before Halloween. If you were authorized to purchase an Upriver Lakes license as part of the special Upriver Lakes lottery, this is the only license you are eligible to purchase.  If you were one of the 4144 people who purchased a chance in the Upriver Lakes lottery, but were not one of the 500 authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes spearing license, you can still purchase a Lake Winnebago spearing license.  There is no limit on the number of Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing licenses sold.

Then only exceptions to the October 31 purchase deadline are youth that turn 14 between November 1, 2010 and the 2011 spearing season and military personnel home on leave during the spearing season.  Both of these groups are eligible to purchase their license from Nov 1, 2010 through the 2011 spearing season.

The overall number of sturgeon spearing license sales has steadily increased since 2007 from 8533 to 10860, although the rate of increase has slowed over the last couple of years.

The number of applicants for the Upriver Lakes lottery appears to have leveled out over the last two years.

2011 Harvest Caps

Due to increases in the adult stock of male and female lake sturgeon in the Winnebago System over the last 10 years, we have been able to slightly increase the harvest caps for the 2011 season.  The new caps will be 395 juvenile females (up from 350 in 2010), 790 adult females (up from 740), and 1200 males (up from 1000).

Other Winnebago Sturgeon News

We are in the process of preparing the letters that will go out to all spearers who harvested a tagged fish and/or had a fish we took a spine from for ageing during the 2010 season.  These spearers should be receiving their letters with all of their fish details within the next few weeks.The gizzard shad hatch this year on the Winnebago lakes is the biggest we’ve seen since the early 1990s – so spearers will undoubtedly see tons of shad in their spear holes throughout the lakes this year.  We also have a good supply of lakefly larvae (red worms) though so it will be interesting to see the sturgeon movement patterns during the spearing season.I will have the 2011 Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Season Regulation Pamphlet complete and out right after January 1.Attached is a copy of the report we put together summarizing the information we collected from spearers during the 2010 season about what fish they saw down their spear holes in 2010.  Some of you may have already seen this, but if you didn’t here it is.  The information is very interesting and gives us some insight into the winter movements of fish in the Winnebago lakes during the spearing season.  2010 was the second year we collected these data and we plan to continue this survey each year as part of our regular spearing season assessment.

Follow-up on the Winnebago Sturgeon News (above)……..

More on 2011 Sturgeon Spearing Season…….The 2011 sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes begins Saturday February 12.  Spearing hours are 6:30 AM to 12:30 PM.  The season will last on Lake Winnebago until one of the three Lake Winnebago harvest caps is reached or 16 days pass, whichever occurs first.  Since 2002 when the 6 hour spearing day went into effect, the spearing season on Lake Winnebago has lasted an average of 10 days.  The season will last on the Upriver Lakes until one of the three Upriver Lakes harvest caps is hit there.  Since the first lottery season on the Upriver Lakes in 2007, the season there has lasted an average of 5 days.  A small portion of the total system-wide harvest caps are allocated to the Upriver Lakes each year (10% of the total harvest cap of adult females, and 20% of the total harvest caps of the juvenile females and males).

Old Sheepshead and Zebra Mussels………..Answer to a subsequent sheepshead question:  Our sheepshead have the potential to live to a very ripe old age.  We have aged sheepshead otoliths found in Native American camp fire and trash sites from around the Lake Winnebago pool that were from fish in excess of 70 years old!  We are seeing more larger and older sheepshead again over the last 10 years, and we are also seeing that sheepshead, primarily the large females, at times gorge themselves on zebra mussels.  We have not found the other invasive mussel species (quagga mussels) to date in the Winnebago System, but if they were here, it is very likely that our sheepshead would readily eat them as well.  At this time, we can not firmly say whether our sheepshead are controlling the zebra mussel numbers in Lake Winnebago, but it certainly does not hurt that they eat as many as they do. Live crayfish can not be used as bait.

In the report attached to my previous e-mail summarizing our winter fish observation study results, there was a line mentioning that live crayfish have been used historically to catch large sheepshead on the Winnebago System.  This comment was referring to a common practice that used to occur.  Currently it is illegal to use live crayfish as fishing bait for anything.  Only dead crayfish can be used – in an effort to help prevent the spread of exotic crayfish species like the rusty crayfish.

Click here to view the Winnebago Winter Fish Movement Study 2010.

That’s all for now………..have a great rest of October and rest of 2010.”


Ronald M. Bruch, PhD
Upper Fox-Wolf Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor, Wisconsin DNR

(This article was republished with permission from the WDNR and Ron Bruch.)


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