Wisconsin sturgeon spearing season starts Saturday
The Associated Press
OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) — Sturgeon spearers may have another long season with murky water in Lake Winnebago, where spearing starts Saturday.
The season is scheduled for 16 days but can end early if a cap is reached. Last year’s season went the full time without hitting the limit for the number of the prehistoric fish taken.
“From Stockbridge to Pipe, we found 6 to 9 feet of visibility,” said Ryan Koenigs, a biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “When conditions are like this in terms of water clarity, it usually makes for a long season on Lake Winnebago. What I’ve heard is water clarity has gotten worse on upriver lakes, as well.”
Along with Lake Winnebago, spearing will begin Saturday on Lake Butte des Morts and Lake Poygan.
License sales are down about 4.5 percent this year at just over 12,000, Koenigs said Thursday. There were half as many shanties last year compared to 2011 because of poor ice conditions, and last year’s issues may have deterred people this year, he said.
Don Herman, of Sunk Ice and Dive Service, reported 8 to 9 inches of ice along most of the west shore on Feb. 5, with some open water about a mile out from Oshkosh.
Otter Street Fishing Club President and Jerry’s Bar owner Scott Engel said ice that thick is safe for ATVs and snowmobiles, but not for cars. And it’s certainly not safe for the heavy equipment the club needs to install the bridges it usually puts in place to safely cross ice cracks and shoves.
“I hate to say this, but there’s a couple of spots in our area that haven’t frozen about a mile or two out from the mouth of the river,” Engel said. “If people think they can go anywhere, they can be fatally wrong.”
Spearers upriver, where a lottery limits participation to 500 licenses, are still expected to hit caps that trigger the end of the season on those lakes.
Koenigs said the limited number of spearers, higher concentration of sturgeon and shallow depths should create about a 60 percent chance of success on upriver lakes, compared to Lake Winnebago, where spearers have about a one-in 10 chance of landing a fish.
The DNR staff knows there are quite a few 200-pounders out there. But Koenigs said spearers may have a hard time finding them due to limited visibility.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.