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Sturgeon Spearing Day 5, 2011

February 16, 2011

Day 5 of the 2011 sturgeon spearing season has come and gone and spearing will continue on the Winnebago lake system.  Today was a warm one with temperatures in the 40’s.  I had my car windows rolled down for most of the day and enjoyed the fresh air.  When it gets like this I get far too excited for warmer weather–I even got my moped going when I got home after photographing today.  I think we have a bit of winter ahead of us, though.  Today was another fun day for me and I got to meet a lot of great people out on the ice!  I didn’t get a chance to see any sturgeon, but will probably hit up one of the registration stations tomorrow.

I met up with Kelly Schaefer and her family on the ice and got some great photos.  Kelly has been spearing for about 23 years now and makes the trip from Madison every year where she now lives.  Her father, Harvey Schaefer, has been spearing for 49 years.  Sturgeon spearing has been a tradition in their family for quite awhile and they’re surrounded by relatives shanties, making it an annual family event.  Kelly remembers being out on the ice with her brother Kyle when she was younger ice skating and playing outside while her father was in the shanty.  She even made it out for spearing when she was just a few months old in a car seat.  Harvey makes his own spears, harpoons, gaff hooks, and sled saws and has built many shanties.  He grew up in the sturgeon spearing culture and used to help rent out shanties and cut spearing holes during the season in high school.  He remembers the days when only a few sturgeon were harvested each year.  Harvey said he speared a 50 lb. sturgeon 3 years ago, but hasn’t gotten one yet this year and isn’t sure what his grand total is, but I’m guessing he’s speared quite a few.  Now that he saw a carp in the hole today he’s getting excited and taking it as a good sign.  I had a great time listening to their stories and learned a few more things about sturgeon spearing.  Thank you to the Schaefer family and good luck!

Spearing runs in the family--sturgeon Spearers Kelly, Harvey, and Kyle Schaefer

Spearing runs in the family--sturgeon Spearers Kelly, Harvey, and Kyle Schaefer

A harpoon-style spear made by Harvey Schaefer

A harpoon-style spear made by Harvey Schaefer

A 5-tine spear made by Harvey Schaefer

A 5-tine spear made by Harvey Schaefer

I ran into another great group as I drove around and stopped to see how their season was going.  They had just finished moving a shanty to a new spot in hopes of better luck.  There were quite a few shanties moving around today–a few were coming off the ice, but many were going out and I heard chainsaws roaring.  Below is a photo of (left to right) spearers Don Brantmeier, Dave Allen, Tony Allen, Jim Brandenburg, Tim Allen, and Joe Wagner.  They were enjoying a beer and each others company after getting the shanty in place and were kind enough to let me grab photos of their shanty, decoys, etc.  Jim showed me his pumpkin Trick-or-Treat bucket  decoy along with other more “realistic” fish style decoys.  That’s one I haven’t seen yet!

(Left to right) Sturgeon spearers Don Brantmeier, Dave Allen, Tony Allen, Jim Brandenburg, Tim Allen, and Joe Wagner

(Left to right) Sturgeon spearers Don Brantmeier, Dave Allen, Tony Allen, Jim Brandenburg, Tim Allen, and Joe Wagner

One of the many things I love about documenting sturgeon spearing is the kind people that I run into on the lake.  I’ve been welcomed by every person that I stop to talk to and everyone is so happy and wiling to share stories and let me take plenty of photographs.  This project wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of so many, so I thank everyone again for their kindness!  I know it must be a bit out of the ordinary to be approached by a random girl in the middle of Lake Winnebago armed with a camera and notepad.  Sturgeon spearers are one of the friendliest groups out there.

That sums up the majority of my day and now it’s onto day 6 of the season with no end in sight yet.  Check back for more photos from today and the rest of the season.  Good luck to everyone and as always, be safe out there!

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