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Update from Ron Bruch on Feb. 14, 2011

February 14, 2011

It was an exciting day for sturgeon spearing–here is Ron Bruch’s update for February 14th, day 3 of the 2011 season of sturgeon spearing.  (This update has been posted with permission from the Wisconsin DNR and Ron Bruch.)

“The overall harvest total for the day was 174 including 9 fish 100 lbs or larger (5.1% of today’s harvest; 8 from Lake Winnebago and 1 from the Upriver Lakes). The largest fish today was a 185.0 pound, 80.2 inch female registered at our Calumet Harbor Station by Josh Genske of Sheboygan – this is the 3rd largest fish we have ever registered in the fishery since 1941. We have had a sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago since 1932, with the first season implemented as part of an economic stimulus bill passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature during the Great Depression. We only have harvest records though that go back to 1941.

Lake sturgeon at 185 lbs and 80 inches speared by Josh Genske of Sheboygan (Photo courtesy of Bob Hoodie, Oshkosh DNR)

Lake sturgeon at 185 lbs and 80 inches speared by Josh Genske of Sheboygan (Photo courtesy of Bob Hoodie, Oshkosh DNR)

List of the largest fish registered at each station today is part of the attached daily report. I’ve also attached photos of the 172.7 pound, 76.9 inch female registered by Jeffery Nozar of Oshkosh on opening day (Photo taken by Michelle Maron, DNR – Alma, of Art Techlow, DNR – Oshkosh, registering the large fish on 2-12-2011 at Jerry’s Bar, Oshkosh).

173 lb. Sturgeon speared by Jeffery Nozar on 2-12-2011 (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

173 lb. Sturgeon speared by Jeffery Nozar on 2-12-2011 (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

Totals by lake area and harvest category:

Lake Winnebago: 18 Juvenile Females
55 Adult Females
66 Males
139 Lake Winnebago Total for the Day – 630 total for season

Upriver Lakes: 4 Juvenile Females
4 Adult Females
27 Males
35 Upriver Lakes Total for the Day – 251 total for season

System-Wide: 22 Juvenile Females
59 Adult Females
93 Males
174 System-wide Total for the Day

881 System-wide Total for the Season

For totals by station, click here:  Sturgeon Spearing Report 14 Feb 2011. On Lake Winnebago we are at 36.7% of the harvest cap for adult females (we need 365 adult females to hit the 90% closure trigger on Lake Winnebago), and on the Upriver Lakes we are at 69.6% of the harvest cap for adult females (we need 16 adult females to hit the 90% closure trigger on the Upriver Lakes).

Large Fish – The recent large fish phenomena is told most graphically by looking at the top ten list of sturgeon from all time in the Winnebago spear fishery.

Top 10 Lake Sturgeon Winnebago System Spear Fishery as of 2-14-2011

Seven of the top ten largest sturgeon seen in the fishery since 1941 have been registered in the last three years since the 2008 season. Given the changing travel conditions on Lake Winnebago at this point of the 2011 season due to the warm weather, and the forecast for colder weather early next week, it appears spearers will have many more days, possibly a full 16 days this year, to add to the top ten list. The big fish we are now seeing are due to a couple of reasons: 1) the harvest management program we (DNR and the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee) developed and put in place between 1993 and 2004 was designed to increase the number of large fish (which are primarily large adult females), and 2) we have seen a gradual influx of more and more fish older than 70 – 80 years in age into the population over the last 15 years. High illegal and legal harvests during the 1930s through 1950s literally created a “hole” in the Winnebago System sturgeon population. So many fish (both juveniles and young adults) were removed from the population back then that the impact was felt for decades. We are finally on the back side of that “hole”; and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The big fish we see now began growing into the “big fish” category (100 lbs or more) just at the time when our new regulations were put in place to provide greater protection to them – resulting in the impressive numbers of big fish in an expanded population overall of lake sturgeon we currently have in the Winnebago System. The final good news is: the harvest cap system we have in place as part of our current regulation system protects these fish and the entire population from being overharsted. So what we see in the harvest for lake sturgeon size structure, including the big fish, is a reflection of what is in the overall population. These are the good old days.

Till tomorrow…..”

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


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