Well, another Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season is in the books. Here's how it all panned out and where this season fits into the historical record.
Wisconsin sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago has a long and storied history since the first official season in the winter of 1931-1932. The Upriver Lakes (from Winnebago) began their official season in 1952. Here's how this year of 2017 ended and how the numbers fit into that lineage.
The 2017 spearing season ran from February 11 to February 26 (although it could have closed earlier if quotas had been met). Warming weather in the second half of the season quickly turned ice conditions on Lake Winnebago treacherous, and found many spearers pulling their shanties earlier than expected.
Such was the case for me, as I had a shanty rented for the weekend of February 18-19, but weather conditions convinced my guide, Paul Muche, to cancel taking people out onto the ice. It was disappointing, to be sure, but no fish is worth the potential for tragedy.
Wisconsin sturgeon biologist, Ryan Koenigs, indicated that the slower end of the season harvest did, however, enable them to compute the harvest data earlier. Here's what they came up with:
- 5,074 shanties on opening day was the second highest shanty count on record behind only 2009 (5,958 shanties).
- 9 fish were harvested that were 140 pounds or larger. In comparison there were only 12 fish of this size harvested within the last four seasons combined (3 in 2013; 8 in 2014; 0 in 2015; 1 in 2016).
- 46 fish 100 pounds or larger were harvested on Lake Winnebago; 8 fish 100 pounds or larger were harvested on the Upriver Lakes.
- 8.3% of harvested fish were 100 pounds or larger on Winnebago. This is the 2nd highest value on record dating back to 1955, behind only 2013 (9.5% of harvest).
Below is a photo of a 102.7 pound, 71.6 inch sturgeon speared by Mayson Muche, shown here with his father, Paul:
Koenigs also makes note that this year was also yet another safe season, as far as the potential for loss of life is concerned. No one succumbed to the icy waters, which was a concern as the ice began to degrade.
As for the numbers, age and sex of fish harvested, on Lake Winnebago:
- 260 adult females were harvested of a potential 855 harvest cap.
- 242 males were harvested of a potential 976 harvest cap.
- 50 juvenile females were harvested of a potential 344 harvest cap.
- That makes 552 total sturgeon harvested on Lake Winnebago, ranking this year as the 45th highest out of 77 seasons dating back to 1941.
On the Upriver Lakes:
- 76 adult females were harvested of a potential 95 harvest cap.
- 178 males were harvested of a potential 244 harvest cap.
- 41 juvenile females were harvested of a potential 86 harvest cap.
- That makes 303 total sturgeon harvested on the Upriver Lakes.
According to Koenig's date the largest sturgeon speared on Lake Winnebago was a 154.9 pound, 83.4 inch monster taken by Gerald Petersen of Denmark, Wisconsin.
The featured image shows Peterson with his sturgeon, the biggest fish of the 2017 sturgeon spearing season.
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