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Update from Ron Bruch on Feb. 23, 2011

February 24, 2011

This update was posted with permission from Ron Bruch and the Wisconsin DNR:

“Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Report – Wednesday February 23

See Sturgeon Vignette below: “People of the Sturgeon”

Sorry I’m so late today – was at a meeting all day and just got home to get the report out.

Similar harvest today in numbers and percentage of trophy fish – not a large harvest by any means, but certainly quality. Nine fish were registered today including 3 fish (33% of today’s harvest) 100 pounds or larger.

Largest fish of the day was 163.5 lb, 73.6” F4 registered at Payne’s Point Station (Neenah) by Dick Singler of Shiocton.

Totals by harvest category:

Lake Winnebago: 2 Juvenile Females
5 Adult Females
2 Male
9 Lake Winnebago Total for the Day – 989 total for season

1341 System-wide Total for the Season

Upriver Lakes season is closed for 2011.

“People of the Sturgeon”

‘It’s 9:30 a.m. on Saturday—a chilly, dull, February day in Wisconsin. It’s the kind of day when you could pop your head out of an ice shack and not be sure if it’s morning or late afternoon. Ron Bruch is circling around Lake Winnebago in his pickup truck, making the rounds to all of the registration stations dotted around the lake, many of them in the parking lots of local bars and restaurants. He pulls into Wendt’s on the Lake, where he raps on the door of a tiny, heated trailer, and heads inside to chat with the state department of natural resources workers. The small space is teeming with jokes, fish stories, and five-alarm chili. Ron helps himself to all of it. It’s the second weekend of spearing season, and everyone seems to be in high spirits, especially Ron.
Back in the truck, he tunes the radio to 1530 AM, where Jerry Schneider is rolling out polka music all morning long and broadcasting news of successful spearings in between tunes. “When I was a boy, we’d spend our summers up north in Butternut, where my family is from,” Ron says as he turns down the joyful cries of a concertina. “My Dad and I would go fishing for walleye on the Flambeau River, and every now and then we’d see a sturgeon jump out of the water. It really made an impression on me. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be working with them like this.”
In fact, Ron’s position is only one of a handful of such jobs in the entire world—managing a self-sustaining population of sturgeon, healthy enough for an annual season of recreational fishing—or, in Wisconsin’s case—spearing. Across the globe, in Russia and Iran, sturgeon are pursued for their eggs, the source of an exotic delicacy to be enjoyed by the wealthy. But here in Wisconsin, lake sturgeon belong to everyone, and they’re revered for what they are and have been for millions of years: a tough, old fish.
“A few years ago I was at one of the registration stations, and one of the guys who came in told us about how his great uncle used to spear with the Stockbridge Indians on Lake Winnebago in the early 1900s,” Ron continues. “I went home that night thinking about what a great story that was, and how there are probably a lot more memories and stories out there that might be lost if we don’t collect them.”’……………..

These are the opening paragraphs of People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish – a book published in 2009 by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press and authored by Kathy Schmitt-Klein of the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, myself (Ron Bruch), and Fred Binkowski of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Great Lakes WATER Institute. The book is 292 pages of the essence and history of sturgeon in Wisconsin, especially the essence of the Winnebago lake sturgeon traditions. The fellow that I was referring to in the text above who was the inspiration for this book is Donny Burg of Stockbridge. Thanks Donny. Your inspiration was the nugget that launched the project that culminated 4 years later in the publishing of the book. Since it was released, the book has won 7 national awards for nonfiction. Thanks also to all of the sturgeon families, professionals, and other enthusiasts who contributed stories and photos that went into the book. And finally – thanks to Sturgeon for Tomorrow who underwrote a substantial portion of the book’s publication cost. This book was truly a community effort – much like the entire Winnebago Sturgeon Management Program.

“People of the Sturgeon” is available on-line at, WI Historical Society, and in major book stores. Proceeds beyond publishing costs go the Sturgeon Management Fund in WI DNR.

Till tomorrow,

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

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