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Sturgeon Spearing Update for February 18, 2012

February 18, 2012

Lake Winnebago on February 18, 2012As expected, today was yet another slow day with a total harvest of only 35 sturgeon.  I spent a little bit of time out on the lake before heading to Waverly at 12:30pm.  It was another gorgeous and quiet day on the lake with light breeze, plenty of warm sunshine, and temps around 35 degrees. It was so clear that we could see the windmills on the south end of the lake from the north end.  Although the days will be warm throughout the next week, it looks like temps should stay under 30 at night allowing the ice to heal.  Despite conditions, everyone has been cautious and thankfully I haven’t heard of any big accidents on the lake!

Sturgeon at Waverly Beach on February 18, 2012

Waverly Beach was fairly busy and I saw one smaller sturgeon at the registration station.  The ice off the boat landing is really broken up, but there were still a lot of people going on and off the ice, along with tons of ATVs.  If you’re interested, stop by Waverly Beach to take a look at my print of 143 sturgeon spearing shanties photographed during the 2010 season.  Doug the owner was kind enough to let me display the print for the spearing season and I hung it up last weekend.  It has been collecting dust in my room lately, so I am glad to get it out again to share with the community!  (Click here to view the print online)

Last weekend I spent a few hours in Dan Remmel’s shack just off of Firelane 8 with Dan and my dad, Joe Wisnet.  Believe it or not, it was the most time I have spent watching sturgeon spearers in action in the last 3 years that I have been photographing sturgeon spearing.  I am usually busy traveling around and across Lake Winnebago, but this year just isn’t the best year for that.  I am starting to focus on creating specific images I have in mind for the sturgeon spearing book I’d like to publish in the next year or two.  I have collected hundreds of photos of shanties already and am focusing on different spears, decoys, and portraits this year.  If you have any interesting leads for me, please drop me an email at winnebagosturgeon@gmail.com!

Interior of a Sturgeon Spearing Shanty on Lake Winnebago

Interior of Dan Remmel's sturgeon spearing shanty on Lake Winnebago

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 – Saturday February 18, 2012

As expected effort increased today as spearers came out to give it one more good shot on their weekend off to try to get their sturgeon, especially while the ice conditions appear to be hanging in there for the time being. Aerial shanty counts this morning found 2253 sturgeon shacks on Lake Winnebago; fairly well spread around the lake – slightly less than the lake-wide total counted last Sunday (2544).

Sturgeon Shanty Count on Sat., Feb. 18, 2012 on Lake WinnebagoToday’s totals: The harvest of 35 fish today is just short of the 39 fish harvested last Saturday on opening day of the 2012 season – a rare event when the second Saturday of the spearing season comes close to reaching or exceeding the opening day harvest. Marginal water clarity and the majority of fish likely feeding in the deeper lakefly larvae beds in the lake (mostly over 13 feet in depth) due to very poor 2012 shad hatch continues keep harvest rates down – same old story throughout 2012 season.

Sturgeon Harvest Totals for February 18, 2012

Largest fish today: 129.3 pound, 73.4 inch F1 female speared by Terry Brath of Oshkosh.

Sturgeon Vignette – “Sturgeon harvest rates over the years – or How many sturgeon can we safely harvest each year?”

Sturgeon are not like other fish we manage such as walleye, bass, or panfish that can tolerate annual harvest rates of 25% or more and still sustain a good fishable population. Sturgeon are very much a different beast. They have developed a life history strategy of long life, late maturation, and large size that has been successful for 150 million years (they survived whatever killed off the dinosaurs) but this strategy did not include a mechanism to withstand high or even moderate exploitation or harvest. Click here to read today’s vignette to learn about our Winnebago sturgeon harvest rates over the years and the key to our successful fishery today and well into the future.

Till Tomorrow,

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

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