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Sturgeon Spearing Update from Ron Bruch on February 15th, 2012

February 15, 2012

The following update has been posted with permission from Ron Bruch and the Wisconsin DNR. This website is not affiliated with the DNR, Sturgeon for Tomorrow, or any other organization.

“Winnebago Sturgeon Spearing Report – Wednesday February 15, 2012

Ditto from yesterday: Another slow day with very low effort resulting in the same daily harvest – 17 fish. A fair amount of shack movement as spearers search for happier hunting grounds on better ice. The warm weather and vehicle traffic is beating up some of the landings spearers are using going on to the ice. Most spearers say if the ice holds they expect to see effort (and harvest) ramping up towards the weekend.

Today’s totals:

Sturgeon Harvest on February 15, 2012

Sturgeon Vignette – Big Fish

Winnebago sturgeon spearers most certainly hold various life goals and desires in the depths of their hearts, but few of these are likely held as earnestly as the desire to spear a 100 pound fish. Since the earliest days of the Winnebago sturgeon spear fishery in the 1930s getting that 100 pound or larger fish and joining the ranks of those skilled and lucky spearers in the ” hundred pounder club” has been the fodder of many spearers’ dreams.

While the first modern sturgeon spearing season occurred in 1932, the old Wisconsin Conservation Department did not begin keeping any records about the number or size of sturgeon harvested from Lake Winnebago until 1941. The early records also were somewhat incomplete and it wasn’t until mandatory registration of all speared fish began in 1955 that complete records of the harvest were kept.

One of the most famous fish for decades was the 180 pound record breaker speared by Elroy Schroeder in 1953. This Winnebago record stood firm until Dave Piechowski of Redgranite, WI broke it with his 188 pound, 79.5” F1 female sturgeon in 2004. Of the top ten fish by weight on record since 1932, nine of these fish have been harvested since 2004.

(Photo by Schroeder family photo)

 

(Photo provided by Dave Piechowski)

(Photo provided by Dave Piechowski)

Although it took 50 years to break the Schroeder record fish, it took only 6 years to break the Piechowski record. In 2010 Ron Grishaber saw and speared the fish of every spearer’s dream, a 212.2 pound, 84.2” F1 female with a 42.8” girth. This fish was the first on record in the history of the Winnebago fishery to top 200 pounds and is also the Wisconsin state record sturgeon. Ron had the fish mounted and it is on display at the Lake Park Tavern, N8904 County Road LP, Menasha, WI. We regularly see fish larger than 200 pounds in our spring spawning assessments, and believe it is only a matter of time before this record is broken again in the spear fishery.

Ron Grishaber and record 212 lb fish (DNR Photo)

Ron Grishaber and record 212 lb fish (Photo by Ross Bielema)

Currently fish over 100 pounds make up about 7% of the harvest, a tremendous increase from almost no fish in the spear harvest in this trophy category 20 years ago. Timely regulations, elimination of excessive harvest from illegal fisheries in the 1930s-1960s, and the recruitment into the fishery of a series of strong year classes from the 1940s-1950s all contribute to the current increase in numbers of large fish.

We don’t really know for sure how large our lake sturgeon can get. The current regulations and management program are providing these fish the first opportunity since the late 1800s to show us their stuff – or how large and old they can really get. In another 40 to 50 years we may have an answer to the questions on longevity and ultimate size, but for now I would say in time spearers can expect to see more fish over 200 pounds, and eventually I would not be surprised to see s fish approaching 300 pounds in weight and over 150 years in age.

I and a lot of us probably won’t be around then, but for those spearers and biologists that are here in the year 2050, they will be able to look back to see that what we all accomplished together in the last 60 years, 1950-2012, was where it all began.

Till Tomorrow,

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

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