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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch on May 3, 2011

May 4, 2011

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

“Despite water temperatures about 10 degrees F below optimum, lake sturgeon were spawning in earnest below Shawano Dam on Tuesday May 3. Normally we are done with our sturgeon spawning assessment by now on the Wolf River, and if anything, we are looking for the “2nd Run” at this time in early May. This year because of the cold April things are very late and we are now just getting into the “1st Run” at Shawano. Spawning activity was good yesterday, but not as intense as we normally see on the 1st big day at Shawano – probably due to the cold water and drawn out spawning season. Overall we tagged about 120 fish at Shawano yesterday including about 30 females. Since we started our sturgeon spawning assessment on April 16, and after yesterday’s work, we have dip netted and tagged about 980 males and 100 females. Our minimum goal is to capture and tag 100 females (and as many males as it takes to get 100 females). Our target is 150 females. Hitting 150 females allows us to accurately estimate the size of the adult stock (using tag returns in the spear harvest) which we in turn use to set harvest caps for the upcoming spearing season, and estimate sex specific exploitation rates. While we attempt to tag sturgeon at as many sites as possible each spring, tagging sturgeon below Shawano dam is critical to our management program. Spawning activity is rapidly dropping off at sites other than Shawano. Shawano is about the only public access site that people can still come out to get a look at fish yet this spring. I expect today (Wed 4 May) will be a huge tagging day for us at Shawano. We could tag as many as 400-500 fish there today. We will also be taking eggs today for lake sturgeon restoration programs for the Menominee Tribe (Legend Lake), and the Milwaukee, Kewaunee, and upper Fox River restoration programs. People from 77 countries around the world watched us work and the sturgeon spawn at the Shawano spawning site on the Wolf River Cam through yesterday. There are fantastic images of lake sturgeon on the underwater cam at Shawano http://wolfrivercam.com/Shawano%20Dam.html, and people can watch us capture, tag, and release sturgeon (and today collecting eggs) on the Shawano Above camera http://wolfrivercam.com/Shawano%20Above.html. If you log on the Shawano Above camera and do not see us working, this means we are off camera either taking a break to let the fish work back in, gone to lunch, mending our dip nets, or done for the day. We tag fish at other spots below the dam at Shawano that are not on camera as well. We will be tagging fish at this site today and possibly tomorrow. Spawning activity may be pretty well wrapped up by tomorrow – although the goofy spring weather may drag things on a little longer this year. We’ll have to see how things unfold. So – I hope you try to catch us tagging fish and collecting eggs by viewing the Wolf River Cam web site today. We should be starting things there in a few hours (about 9:00 AM Central Time US). (Looking forward to the forecasted sunshine and warm weather today (finally!!), although we are supposed to go back to cool and rainy weather for three days starting tomorrow.)

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

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