Sturgeon Report – 2-14-15

Here’s today’s Sturgeon Report from Ryan Koenigs of Wisconsin DNR

Dear Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Enthusiasts:
Well the weather forecast was pretty accurate for the opening day of the 2015 sturgeon spearing season.  As forecasted, we had very cold conditions and strong winds which led to very poor visibility for travel on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes.  Ed Culhane from the DNR was out on Lake Winnebago this morning and captured a couple of photos of the blustery conditions (Photo: Blustery conditions_opening day 2015). 
Despite the poor visibility on the lake, spearers were still able to find bountiful harvests on opening day of the season (attachment “Harvest_2-14-2015”).  The stations with the largest volume of fish registered were Stockbridge, Payne’s Point, Wendt’s, Quinney, and Calumet Harbor.  The north shore stations of Waverly Beach and Harrison Town Hall combined to register 37 fish.  A total of 13 fish 100 pounds or larger were harvested from Lake Winnebago today as well with the largest being 127.3 pound, 76.4” female speared by Gregory Harma and registered at Payne’s Point (photo).     
The Upriver Lakes fishery included the harvest of 126 sturgeon today, of which 3 were 100 pounds or larger.  Our Indian Point station registered the most fish today (59), of which none were 100 pounds.  After the opening day harvest, we are 41 adult females away from the 90% trigger on the Upriver Lakes and I predict the season will continue for at least another few days given that 38 adult females were harvested today.  The largest sturgeon harvested on the Upriver Lakes today was a 103.8 pounds, 68.5” fish speared by Mark Tegelman from Winneconne. 
While I was out visiting registration stations today, a clear trend was observed at every registration station.  Overall, the fish were in poorer condition (leaner) than observed during recent seasons.  We anticipated that this would be the case given the lack of gizzard shad in the system over the past year.  Gizzard shad have become a staple food source for lake sturgeon over the past couple of decades as sturgeon are opportunistically feeding on dead or dying gizzard during the winter months.  Gizzard shad are not native to the area and experience large die offs during the extended period of cold water during Wisconsin’s winter.   Gizzard shad provide a very fatty food source for sturgeon and are very prolific when spawning conditions are favorable.  Thus fish can really increase their condition (plumpness) when shad are abundant.  I hope to provide more background information about this later in the season in the form of a vignette describing recent data study work conducted by our staff, so stay tuned!
I would like to thank all of the spearers who brought their fish in for registration early.  This made our registration process a lot easier and reduced the rush of registration at season’s closure.  Good luck to all of you spearers out there on Day 2!