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Sturgeon Spawning Update from Ron Bruch

April 8, 2012

Check out the Wolf River Cam in Shawano to see the sturgeon spawning:  http://www.wolfrivercam.com/Shawano%20Dam.html

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 April 8, 2012:

“We’re up in Shawano, arriving here this evening about 6:30 PM and going right to the river and the spawning site below the dam to find hundreds of lake sturgeon in the early stages of spawning. Not the big numbers of fish yet, but the start of something big that will likely take place over the next three days. We wanted to get a look at some fish to see how far along they were in spawning condition so we could make our plans for tagging and egg taking over the next couple of days. There were only four of us, but we started dip netting fish below the flume of the power house and in an hour had captured 19 fish up to 150 lbs or so, including 10 females, none of which had started to ovulate yet, but that showed all the physical and behavioral signs they would start ovulating within the next few hours. There were sturgeon across the entire river on the spawning site all exhibiting imminent pre-spawn behavior – again the numbers were not at peak (1000’s) but definitely in the 100’s. So tomorrow (Monday) should be a big day – lots of good tagging, and hopefully getting the eggs we need for lake sturgeon restoration programs in Wisconsin (Menominee Indian Reservation, the upper Fox River, and the Milwaukee and Kewaunee Rivers), and the Tennessee River System in Georgia and Tennessee.

Couple photos from this evening attached (DNR Photos taken by Kathy Hansen):

Bob Marin delivers a fish he just dip netted to Ryan Koenigs (left on mat) and Ron Bruch for tagging and release.

Left to Right: Brian Finch (Fisheries Technician), Ryan Koenigs (new Winnebago Sturgeon Biologist hired March 25, 2012), Ron Bruch (Winnebago Fisheries Work Unit Supervisor and former Sturgeon Biologist), and Bob Marin (Fisheries Technician) – with ~150 pound female with eggs.

The next couple of days should be great sturgeon viewing days at Shawano.”

Excerpt on sturgeon spawning from Ron Bruch’s update on April 7, 2012:

“The lake sturgeon have finally started showing up at the spawning site below Shawano Paper Mill Dam. As of 6 PM this evening fish were moving in and staging across the entire river below the dam and exhibiting behavior that would indicate they are very close to commencing spawning at this site. Water temperature was 51.8 F, up a degree since the same time yesterday evening. The slightly warmer weather and sun the past couple days is driving the fish closer to getting things going at Shawano, and the nice day with air temps in the low 60s forecast for tomorrow (Easter Sunday) hopefully will be enough to finally get the show going. People who want to see sturgeon below the dam are now able to do this off the east river bank below the dam from the publicly accessible (and wheelchair accessible) viewing area in “Sturgeon Park”.

The fish were not spawning yet this evening, but could start by tomorrow evening. The best viewing tomorrow in Shawano will be in the mid-to late afternoon after you’ve had your fill of Easter ham and eggs, mashed potatoes, veggies, desserts, and candy. We will be heading to Shawano tomorrow evening with our sturgeon nets and tagging equipment ready to begin our work as soon as the fish begin spawning. With any luck the fish will begin spawning, and by Wednesday or Thursday we’ll have captured and tagged 500 to 700 fish, and collected the eggs we need for the sturgeon restoration programs we are conducting or assisting. Although thousands of sturgeon spawn at this site every year, typically the spawning activity only lasts 3-4 days and then the show is pretty much over.

I’ve attached a couple of photos showing some of the “boats” we saw staging below the dam this evening. The first photo shows a large female probably in the 130 pound class, and the second photo shows several females and a couple males (the males are harder to see as they are the darker fish and are deeper in the water). (DNR photos)

Female 130 lb Lake Sturgeon Wolf River Shawano 7 Apr 12, DNR Bruch Photo

The fish this evening were definitely pre-spawn – lots of porpoising, and not showing any behavior indicating that spawning had started. The females lumbering upriver were often escorted by several males; but the males were just cruising slightly behind, and not aggressively moving around or bumping the females with their noses, indicating the females had not started ovulating yet. Stable water temps tonight and a warm day tomorrow could cause many of these females to begin ovulating, and to kick things into full gear – we’ll see. As I’ve said often before – sturgeon spawning activity is very tough to predict (although you’d think after decades of watching these goofy fish we’d get better at it). Let’s hope for a good week.

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

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