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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch on April 30, 2011

April 30, 2011

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

DNR Photo: (L to R) Bob Marin - DNR Fisheries continues to watch for a sturgeon to net, while Tracey Galicia - Fisheries Volunteer, Jack O'Brien - DNR Fisheries, and Carlos Echevaria - US Fish & Wildlife Service pull a netted sturgeon up the bank at Riverside Park on the Wolf River in New London.

“Friday was the best day weather-wise and fish-wise we have had in our entire 2011 sturgeon spawning campaign the last 14 days. Sunshine, and lots of it, and rapidly warming water temperatures brought fish in to spawn at many sites yesterday up and down the entire Wolf River (except Shawano). Our crews captured and tagged 250 fish yesterday at 3 sites in the New London area, and one site in the Leeman area. Despite the warm weather and rising water temps, fish did not start spawning at Shawano yet, but I expect they should start spawning there later today or by tomorrow morning. Water temps at Shawano are always the last to increase and we are still slightly below the temp there where the fish are starting things up this year (about 50 degrees F).

Great weather brought out great crowds yesterday and 1000s of people got to see our tagging operations and get up close and personal with a lake sturgeon or two. I expect people can still see fish today at the Sturgeon Trail on County Highway X west of New London, at Riverside Park next to the City Garage in New London, at Pfeifer Park on the Embarrass River in New London, and Bamboo Bend in Shiocton (although we are still waiting for fish to begin spawning here again, possibly today). There are many fish in Shawano at the dam, and they do show themselves occasionally to give people a look. As I mentioned, I expect fish may begin spawning there by later today or tomorrow morning.

I’ve attached a couple of photos from yesterday’s tagging operation in New London on the Wolf at Riverside Park. This is one of the sites that the fish use only when the water is very high as it is this spring. A great site to net and tag fish when they are there. We have about 60 different spawning sites on the Wolf-Embarrass-Little Wolf-upper Fox System. Most of them are riprapped shorelines along current swept river banks – manmade sites that have sturgeon spawning in places they never spawned at before the rocks were placed. We have only a handful of natural spawning sites on the river, the most important of these being the area below the Shawano dam. Each spring sturgeon will spawn at about 20-40 sites, depending upon the water flows and levels of that spring. The creation and expansion of sturgeon spawning habitat on the system along with our Sturgeon Guard program and tight control on exploitation in our winter spear harvest (keeping our annual harvest rate at or below 5%) are key actions that have contributed to the recovery and success of our lake sturgeon population. The Sturgeon Guard Program was put in place in 1977 and with the help of funding each year since that time from Sturgeon for Tomorrow we have been able to engage hundreds of citizen volunteers each spring to guard each spawning site 24 hours a day to protect the fish from poaching and harassment while they are vulnerable during spawning. We greatly appreciate the time the volunteers put into the program each spring – this not only gets people out to help with our program and to protect the fish, it also has made a significant contribution to the building the great lake sturgeon population and fishery we have today.

Till tomorrow – hopefully we will be in full battle mode at Shawano by then.

DNR Photo: (L to R) Dave (Red) Paynter - DNR Fisheries Retired, and Paul (Hainy) Cain - DNR Fisheries, wrestle with a male lake sturgeon while attempting to get a length measurement.

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

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