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Sturgeon Spawning May 1-2, 2011

May 2, 2011

Yesterday I had the chance to make it to Bamboo Bend in Shiocton to see the lake sturgeon spawning in the Wolf River for the first time this year.  Despite the sunny skies, it was quite chilly out and I regretted not having a pair of gloves on while shooting photos.  The thought crossed my mind on my way out the door earlier that day, but I just felt like I shouldn’t need gloves on May 1st.  Bamboo Bend had a good crowd of spectators in the afternoon and it was fun to hear the excitement as I walked the river banks.  Spectator Mel Green and I chatted for awhile about the event.  I learned that he makes the drive from Hartford with his wife Jeannie to see the sturgeon spawn each year.  I am always impressed by the crowd coming from all parts of the state to see the sturgeon.  It’s great to see so many people of all ages interested in these fish.  People were taking cell phone pictures to send off to friends and family, reminiscing about the spearing season, and chatting about everything sturgeon.  I love hearing someone say that they have never witnessed anything like it [spawning] before.  It is most definitely a unique event as few areas have a sturgeon spawning season like we do in Wisconsin thanks to our healthy population of lake sturgeon.

The sturgeon put on a pretty good show.  In some areas they could be seen underwater a few feet off the river bank and in other spots groups of 10 or more were splashing around in the rocks occasionally getting stuck here and there.  The wind was relentless though, and actually made it a little hard to see the sturgeon in the water because of the ripples it created.  Out of the 210 photos I shot, I think I have about 5 that are worth keeping so it’s a good thing I always take way too many.  I was also thankful that I had a polarizing filter on my lens because it made all the difference in the world.  If you’re still planning on making a trip to the river, I suggest bringing a pair of polarized sunglasses and/or a filter if you have one available to cut the glare on the water’s surface.

I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary aside from this sturgeon below that is missing a good piece of its back:

And to wrap it up for the day, here is the update from Ron Bruch!  The following update for May 2, 2011  has been posted with permission from Ron Bruch and the Wisconsin DNR:

“FINALLY – lake sturgeon began spawning at the site below the Shawano dam today. Although the water temperature was only 47 degrees F (8.3 C) at 2:00 PM this afternoon (well below the optimum of 52-56 degrees F), spawning commenced and we were able to capture and tag a few fish at the very early stage of spawning activity there including one ripe female. Normally the run lasts at this site for three to four days. The first day of light spawning activity, then two days of heavy activity followed by a final day of very light activity. This year all bets are off on how long spawning activity will last below the dam. The cold weather and low water temperatures persist which could make the activity last longer – we will just have to wait to see what happens.

We plan to tag fish at the spawning site below Shawano dam for the next two to three days. You can watch our tagging operations live on the Wolf River Cam website, “Shawano Above” camera at the following link:

We plan to begin our netting and tagging operations there tomorrow (Tuesday) 3 May at about 9:30 AM Central Time (US), and work until we either run out of fish or run out of daylight. If spawning does not ramp up to the full Monty tomorrow we will be done sooner than later with our tagging tomorrow, and then back again the next day to try again. We will be running two crews at this site and hope to capture and tag 500-700 fish over the next two to four days.

There are still fish spawning at a number of other sites in the Shiocton and Leeman areas on the Wolf and Embarrass Rivers. People should still be able to see some fish at Bamboo Bend near Shiocton for another day or so. Most of the sites in the New London area are quiet now.

Keep hoping for warm weather.

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

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