While conditions led to an average opening weekend harvest, high sturgeon numbers offer good opportunity to spear a fish during the rest of the season.
The first weekend of Wisconsin’s 2016 sturgeon spearing season is in the books. The numbers and conditions of the opening weekend harvest suggest a full-length and successful season.
Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes (Butte des Morts, Poygan and Winneconne) have two sets of quota/cap numbers. Here are the totals from Saturday and Sunday.
Sturgeon registered Lake Winnebago
- Juvenile females: 16 fish registered of 344 cap
- Adult females: 57 fish registered of 855 cap
- Males: 74 fish registered of 976 cap
Sturgeon registered from Upriver Lakes
- Juvenile females: 24 fish registered of 86 cap
- Adult females: 65 fish registered of 95 cap
- Males: 113 fish registered of 244 cap
Those numbers are considered to be around average for opening weekend harvest totals. However, many spearers and the DNR were expecting or hoping for a bigger start to this season. Sturgeon population numbers are very healthy with an estimated 25,000 adult males, 19,000 adult females and an even greater number of adolescent sturgeon. As a result, quotas have been set at their highest numbers since 1999.
Also, last year’s (2015) sturgeon season recorded the sixth highest harvest total on record since 1940, and more licences were sold this year than ever before at 13,674 (a 4% increase over the 2015 total).
The factor that most affects harvest totals in sturgeon spearing success is water clarity, and so far this year visibility has been judged to be fair to poor. Water clarity has been reported to be between seven to nine feet in many areas, which is not clear enough to see to the bottom of Lake Winnebago’s 16-20 foot depth.
However, DNR sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs indicated that, “Some have been saying they’ve seen as far down as 13 feet. Clarity has been improving over the last two to three weeks and if we do have a full 16 day season we’d expect that those conditions would improve.”
My sources echo Koenigs’ hopeful prediction that water clarity is expected to improve over the coming days, but DNR officials and experienced sturgeon spearers are expecting the season to run its entire 16-day allotment before harvest caps are reached.
As of now the largest sturgeon registered is a 131.6-pound, 78.3-inch female speared by Jeremy Witzel. Also, a 128.3-pound, 75.1-inch fish was taken by Justin Enders, along with a 116-pound, 76-inch fish speared by Duwayne Prellwitz.
I personally am hoping water clarity and conditions improve significantly over the next several days, as I will be staring into a large rectangular hole on the Lake Winnebago ice later this week, spear at the ready and with plenty of anticipation to spare. Wish me luck!