The 2018 Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season totals are in the books. This season didn't rank very high in the history of the tradition, but it did see some pretty big fish.
Wisconsin DNR Senior Fisheries Biologist and Winnebago System Sturgeon Biologist Ryan Koenigs has compiled the 2018 sturgeon spearing season totals and released them to the public. In a DNR newsletter, Koenigs indicated that the 2018 season officially ended Feb. 25.
The season remained open for its entire pre-scheduled, 16-day duration. The final spearing day ended with the lowest daily harvest of the year, at 14 fish.
A large sturgeon was, however, registered on the last day: a 131-pound, 76.4-incher speared by Kristine Halbach of St. Cloud.
Koenigs reported that 654 sturgeon came out of Lake Winnebago this year. That total put this season just about in the middle of the pack as far as historical season rankings go. The 2018 season ranks 42nd out of 78 seasons, dating back to 1941.
Anglers registered 297 fish from the Upriver Lakes, bringing the Winnebago system-wide total to 951 sturgeon. And, 53 of those fish weighed more than 100 pounds.
After collected information from each speared fish, many spearers also turned in the heads of their sturgeon for the DNR to analyze.
"From our observations, it seemed the fish were a bit leaner this season, which is what we expected based on a relatively low abundance of smaller gizzard shad and redworms," Koenigs reported.
How does this year rank?
While poor water clarity was a big issue for spearers this season, the 2018 total was still better than last year's. This year saw 102 more fish harvested from Winnebago than in 2017. Last year's ranking was 46th out of 78 seasons.
The harvest total from both Upriver Lakes and Lake Winnebago fell well short of the 2,580-sturgeon harvest cap. The 1995 season ranks as the best of all time, as Lake Winnebago registered 3,173 fish. And just three years ago, in 2015, spearers took 1,870 fish during an 8-day season, making it the 6th-highest harvest total in history.
The 2018 season did see the longest harvested sturgeon in recent years: an 84.5-inch female Kyle Jenkins speared. Reportedly, Jenkins' fish just missed beating the state's all-time length record of 85 inches, which Bill Mortimer claimed in 1957.
Referring to Koenigs' comment about leaner fish, Jenkins' sturgeon weighed 143.7 pounds, putting it well below the weight record of a 212.2-pound fish set in 2010. Koenigs estimated Jenkins' fish to be between 80 and 120 years old.
Some people believe there are much larger fish swimming in Wisconsin.
"With the slower season, we already have a good portion of the harvest data entered," Koenigs concluded. "I will be sure to send out a successful spearer list once we have everything entered and proofed."
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