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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch

March 22, 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.

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 22, 2012:

“Sturgeon spawning is ramping up as we suspected it would (sometimes we even get it right). The crew tagged like crazy all day today at the Sturgeon Trail spawning site on X west of New London finishing the day with over 200 fish. By the end of the day, sturgeon were also very actively spawning at Bamboo Bend (again like we suspected – have to gloat as hitting it right twice the same day on a spawning prediction with these fish is like winning the lottery). Fish have also moved into a couple of sites on private property in the Shiocton area on the Wolf, on the Little Wolf River below the dam in Manawa, and began spawning heavy on the upper Fox River in Princeton (right behind Main St).

There was little to no fish activity below the Shawano Dam on the Wolf this morning, but we still expect spawning to begin there within the next 2-4 days (I’m heading to Vegas if we get this one right).

“I missed putting an important sturgeon event in my report from yesterday…..Yesterday morning we used our electrofishing boats to capture 32 sturgeon from Wolf River in Shawano and transfer them by truck upstream for release into the Wolf below Keshena Falls. Prior to releasing the fish, we tagged all the fish, and surgically implanted ten year sonic tags into 6 of the fish – 3 males and 3 females This is the last batch of fish for the first fall-spring transfers we are doing for a joint project with the Menominee Tribe to transfer 100 fish per fall-spring time period for the next ten years. The project is designed to provide a stock of adult fish below Keshena Falls that will spawn there as they did up to about 100 years ago. Most of the fish transferred to the river in Keshena will likely move back downstream through the two dams to the river blow Shawano after they spawn. Yesterday’s batch of fish was the third of three with the other two occurring in September and October last fall (all 70 fish transferred last fall had sonic tags surgically implanted in them). The spawning and nursery habitat for lake sturgeon below Keshena Falls is some of the best on the entire Wolf River. The long-term goal is to re-establish a stock of spawning adults below Keshena Falls to help the Menominee Tribe meet their cultural sturgeon needs into the future without negatively impacting the overall Winnebago lake sturgeon stock or winter spear fishery down on the Winnebago pool lakes. This is a very exciting project that appears to already be showing good signs of success – Tribal members have been reporting seeing sturgeon porpoising and gathering below Keshena Falls in the last few days – a sign that they will be spawning at this sacred site once again this year – more than a century since their ancestors spawned here to produce perhaps some of the fish waiting to lay their eggs there this very day.”

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on March 21, 2012:

“The 2012 sturgeon spawning season on the Wolf River has officially begun. Sturgeon are now spawning along the Sturgeon trail west of New London on County Highway X. We captured and tagged 75 fish there this afternoon in about 3 hours. To our knowledge this is the only site with active spawning at this time, but there were fish on shore this evening at Bamboo Bend west of Shiocton and, although they were not actively spawning, will likely be spawning there by tomorrow afternoon if not sooner. There are also fish below the Shawano dam, again they don’t appear to be spawning there yet either, but their numbers are beginning to build in the river below the dam. I expect spawning could commence in Shawano and numerous other sites on the river system sometime in the next 4 to 5 days.

Gary Bunnell and his Wolf River Cam crew have the Sturgeon Cam at Shawano dam up and running – check it out at: http://www.wolfrivercam.com/Shawano%20Dam.html

Many people have asked if we have ever seen the fish spawn this early before. We have only been keeping records since 1950 and since that time we have not seen the sturgeon spawn this early before (the earliest since 1950 would have been the first week in April). But – old weather records indicate that 1938 was also very warm in mid to late March and it is very possible that sturgeon may have spawned in March that year as well. In fact we have some adult sturgeon in our population spawning this year that would have also spawned in the early warm spring of 1938! These would be the 90 to 100 year old and older females or the 180+ pound fish we have in our population. We also actually have one person still on our sturgeon tagging crew who was around in 1938 as well – big Dan Folz, my very good friend and predecessor as the Winnebago Sturgeon Biologist – but he would have been a youngster in 1938 and probably not quite yet tagging sturgeon at that time (although at age 4 he may have been big and strong enough to wrestle a sturgeon).”

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

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