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Update from Ron Bruch on Feb. 17, 2011

February 17, 2011

Here is a great update from Ron Bruch including information on cooking and eating lake sturgeon. I did not head out to the lake today for the first time since I started documenting the season last Thursday. The weather and thick fog aren’t ideal for photographing and the lake is getting a bit harder to travel, but I will be back out there as the season will most likely go through the weekend if not longer. I did talk to my dad who was out spearing and he said that there is a lot of water on the ice and driving on it was more difficult today.  He also said the fog was extremely thick, making it hard to navigate.  I spent some time today catching up on editing a few out of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken so far and will continue to edit and post them throughout the day. Click here to view more photos and stay safe out there on the ice! (This update has been posted with permission from the Wisconsin DNR and Ron Bruch.)

“Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Report – Thursday February 17

See Sturgeon Vignette below: “So what do you do with them once you get them home – do people eat these things??”

An even slower day today due to the fog and deteriorating travel conditions at the landings on the lakes. Upriver Lakes is still open tomorrow (Friday) as no adult females were registered there today. The season would close there tomorrow if the 100% trigger is hit (12 adult females – not likely); if 100% trigger is not hit tomorrow the URL will be open at least through Saturday. Season on Lake Winnebago is still open and the closure is still not in sight – 259 adult females are needed on Lake Winnebago yet to pop the 90% closure trigger there.

The overall harvest total for the day was 46 including 6 fish 100 lbs or larger (7.7% of today’s harvest; 6 from Lake Winnebago and 0 from the Upriver Lakes). The largest – a 168.3 pound, 77.3″ inch F4 female from Lake Winnebago registered at our Jerry’s Bar Station in Oshkosh by Steve Stearns of Oshkosh.

List of totals by station and the largest fish registered at each station today is in the attached daily report.

Totals by lake area and harvest category:

Lake Winnebago: 8 Juvenile Females
19 Adult Females
19 Males
46 Lake Winnebago Total for the Day – 850 total for season

Upriver Lakes: 1 Juvenile Females
0 Adult Females
5 Males
6 Upriver Lakes Total for the Day – 307 total for season

System-Wide: 9 Juvenile Females
19 Adult Females
24 Males
52 System-wide Total for the Day

1157 System-wide Total for the Season

So what do you do with them once you get them home – do people eat these things??

Many of the on-lookers at registration stations during the Winnebago sturgeon spearing season, as well as few newcomers to the sport, ask “So – what do you do with it once you get it home – do people eat these things?” The answer is Yes – people eat these things – and they are delicious. Since sturgeon spearing occurs in the winter, the first potential problem of keeping your sturgeon fresh is usually not a problem. Often the fish is so frozen by the time you get it home that it may take a couple of days to thaw it out before you can butcher it. Before they go home though, many sturgeon spearers will first take their fish to the car wash – yes – the car wash (a self serve car wash) – to use the power washer to cut the slime off the fish before they bring it into their garage or basement to do the actual butchering. Sturgeon are extremely slimy, and the power washer does a nice job of cutting enough slime off to make handling a little less messy.

Once home, after dressing and washing out the fish, many spearers will steak their fish into 1 to 1.5 in thick pieces with the skin on to prepare it for smoking. Most Winnebago sturgeon folks prefer to eat their sturgeon smoked. Unlike other fish, sturgeon has a fat that is marbled through the meat which makes for an excellent smoked product. Another popular sturgeon recipe is Sturgeon Nuggets – bite size pieces of sturgeon meat breaded and deep fried – you can’t get this from the Colonel! Other preparation methods include boiled, pan fried, and broiled. In Italy once at an International Sturgeon Conference, I even ate sturgeon sushi (that’s right – raw sturgeon – wasn’t bad).

Of course the other edible product from a few of the lake sturgeon harvested are the eggs, better known as caviar. Lake sturgeon females in an F4 (fully developed) stage of maturity have large, black eggs (about 0.11 inch in diameter), typically 20 to 40 lbs, that can be cleaned, salted, and processed into caviar that is as good or better than the most expensive caviar from Beluga or Russian sturgeon from the Caspian or Black Seas. Typically this historic and culinary delicacy is only served in first class sections on the best airlines, or at the finest hotels in New York and other large cities with $500 a bottle wines, listening to a Vivaldi concert. During the sturgeon spearing season on Winnebago though, locals here serve up the salted eggs in their garages and kitchens, with a local brew, listening to the Jerry Schneider polka band. Only in Wisconsin – what a great place!

(By the way………….no part of any lake sturgeon harvested in Wisconsin – meat, eggs, or any body parts can be sold, bartered or traded – a law designed to prevent illegal harvest and sales of this valuable resource.)

Till tomorrow,

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

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