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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch

March 21, 2012

Even after a week of warm weather, it’s hard to get used to the fact that it’s 80 degrees in March!  Looks like the sturgeon are enjoying it and are starting to spawn early this year.  Read below for updates on sturgeon spawning by Ron Bruch.  (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).

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 20, 2012:

“The 2012 sturgeon spawning season appears to have begun – the earliest by far on record. At 6:30 PM this evening we saw two groups of sturgeon along the Sturgeon Trail on County Highway X spawning site west of New London that looked like they would begin spawning sometime tonight. I expect to see spawning fish on this site Wednesday. We also saw some sturgeon along the shore at Bamboo Bend spawning site along Hwy 54 west of Shiocton. These fish though were not exhibiting behavior that indicated they would begin spawning tonight, but it is possible spawning could begin at this site within the next day or two. I’ll send more information tomorrow once we see what overall fish activity is like from Shawano to New London. We are hoping to get Sturgeon Guards scheduled for day and night shift beginning on Friday. Please contact our Sturgeon Guard coordinator Rebecca Pawlak at rebecca.pawlak@wisconsin.gov or by calling 920-303-5444 to get signed up for an early guard shift or to switch your already scheduled shift to an earlier date.”

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 19, 2012:

“Water temperatures in the river in the New London and Shiocton areas are actually at or above optimal for sturgeon spawning, but because of the rapid rise in water temperature this spring, the fish are not ready yet to spawn despite swimming around in optimal temperatures. We are seeing porpoising fish at Bamboo Bend by Shiocton, and along the Wolf River Sturgeon Trail west of New London, but have not yet seen any fish move into shore to indicate spawning is imminent. The pre-spawn onshore movement of males (cruisers) may not be far off though as warmer and warmer water is definitely pushing these fish hard to get ready to spawn. We could see some spawning activity begin by this coming weekend (if not sooner). We’ll keep an eye on things and let you know as soon as we see any sturgeon spawning activity beginning. To get a little taste of what to expect to see, take a look at the video saved from the underwater sturgeon cam set up by the Wolf River Cam folks below Shawano dam last spring http://www.wolfrivercam.com/Shawano%20Dam.html. Once the fish start showing there, these folks intend to start that camera live so people can literally watch real time lake sturgeon spawning on their computer.”

“Reports of Dead Fish on the Winnebago Lakes and Little Lake Butte des Morts” from Ron Bruch’s update on March 19, 2012:

“I have received numerous calls about the “fish kill” on the Winnebago lakes and Little Lake Butte des Morts. These are not white bass as some have reported – these fish are dead adult gizzard shad (similar to the situation we experienced in the winter 2007-08. Gizzard shad are occasionally abundant in the Winnebago lakes typically as yearlings.

DNR photo

DNR photo

The species has a natural winter die-off every year. The main differences from year to year are the amount of shad in the system and the size. We had a large natural hatch of shad in 2010, which are now adult size, and they died this past winter as they always do every year under the ice. The ice went out early and the fact that these were adult shad (vs what we normally see – yearlings or much smaller shad) prevented them from mostly decaying under the ice or drying up on shore before they made a stinky mess on the shorelines. We get calls every spring from people about dead shad after ice out, more in some years and less in others, again depending on the abundance of shad in the system. We are going to attempt to collect some fresh dead or dying shad (although we are not likely to be able to do this as they die under the ice each winter). If we do find any we will have them tested for fish diseases including VHS virus. Hopes this helps if you were wondering about the dead fish.”

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

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