A Lake Winnebago spearer set the record for the longest sturgeon ever taken in Wisconsin. Plus, we know quite a bit more about this particular fish.
It didn't take long for Jon Eiden to make history in the 2019 "Lake Winnebago System" sturgeon spearing season. Eiden speared a whopper of a fish less than two hours after the start time of the opening day.
In fact, he landed the longest sturgeon ever speared in Wisconsin.
Eiden's fish went an astonishing 85.5 inches from snout to tail. It also weighed an impressive 171 pounds, making it the state's 12th largest sturgeon by weight.
Eiden and his father, John Eiden, were sitting in an ice shanty off the city of Oshkosh when the big bruiser swam past their hole. It appeared at a little more than 10 feet deep, cruising along the bottom. They knew they had a big fish, but they didn't realize just how big until they got it up near the surface.
"Disbelief and awe," the 34-year-old Appleton resident said in describing his emotions. "Seeing it in person right when it came out of the water was unbelievable."
Things really started to get chaotic when the Eiden's took the fish to the registration station at Wendt's, south of Oshkosh. The finned dinosaur tipped the scales at 171 pounds. "And then we found out it was the big fish people have been talking about that was tagged seven years ago," Eiden recalled. "That's when the magnitude of everything started to sink in."
The fish beat the previous length leader by more than an inch, an 84.2-inch monster weighing 212.2 pounds speared in 2010. The estimated age of Eiden's sturgeon is around 130 years, meaning that it was born sometime in the 1880s!
The history of this fish
But what makes this particular fish extra special is that it has a recorded history. DNR Winnebago Sturgeon Biologist Ryan Koenigs wrote a whole piece on the agency's history with this fish. It was first captured by the DNR in April of 2004.
During that encounter the sturgeon was fitted with a sonic transmitter. The transmitter enabled the DNR to track the fish's movement through the Winnebago system.
Then, in April 2012 it was captured again, documented with the image below. Before releasing it, DNR field staff measured and tagged the fish. The fish stretched the tape at 87.5 inches and weighed an estimated 240 pounds.
Koenigs attributes the disparity in length to likely human error during its initial live capture. He credits the weight difference to the fish's spawning weight and the health of the gizzard shad forage base form year to year.
The fish made a lot of waves during those captures. Every year sturgeon spearers hoped to be the lucky angler to harvest the monster. In fact, Koenigs reports that this fish inspired the large wood sturgeon sculpture that adorns the Shawano Dam Park.
Koenigs also points out that this isn't the only big sturgeon swimming in Wisconsin waters. "DNR staff frequently reference this fish as an example of the caliber of fish residing in the Winnebago System," he said. "Although this fish is no longer in the population, what she represented still persists. This fish was an example of the big fish that call the Winnebago System home, but I assure you she was not alone."
"In fact," Koenigs continued, "there have been fish longer than 83" harvested during each of the past three spearing seasons (83.4" fish in 2017, 84.5" fish in 2018, 85.5" fish in 2019). It's only a matter of time until another sturgeon is captured from this population and captivates the attention and dreams of thousands of spearers and sturgeon enthusiasts!"
As for Jon Eiden, he was just happy to be able to share the incredible experience with his father.
"I have a long list of incredible adventures with him, memories that will last a lifetime -- and more often than not it ends with me getting to take the shot," he said. "He's a really incredible dad and something for me to aspire to as a young father."
Here's a video of folks taking photos with the fish the day it was caught.
The Upriver Lakes Sturgeon Spearing Season may have close Monday, but we expect Winnebago Spearing to last through February 24th. On opening morning, John Eiden speared this 171lb, 85.5” sturgeon. Here’s a time lapse video of people checking it out at Wendt’s on Lake Winnebago that day.How has the season been for you?
Posted by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Congratulations to both of the Eidens on their record catch.
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