Sturgeon Report 2-27-16

Here’s today’s Sturgeon Report presented by Air Tech Heating and Cooling

This is from Ryan Koenigs of the Wisconsin DNR

Today’s fishery has closed, meaning that there is only 1 more day remaining in the 2016 sturgeon spear fishery on Lake Winnebago.  Today’s harvest of 13 fish brings the season total to 388 through the first 15 days.  There were not any 100 pound fish harvested today, but there were two fish larger than 90 pounds registered at Stockbridge Harbor.  Tom Gebhart’s 72.9”, 94.5 pound fish was just a bit heavier than Daniel Beattie’s 71.8”, 93.9 pound fish 
Spearers frequently discuss how dirty water years protect sturgeon and, for the most part, spearers accept lower success rates during years like this.  The maximum 16-day season was implemented in 1997, making this season the 20th season under this regulation.  It may surprise you to read that this is the 8thseason that has gone the full 16 days, with the others being 1997, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, and 2013.  That means that 40% of the seasons have gone the duration.  Further, the 6-hour spearing day was implemented in 2002 and this season marks the 7th season out of 15 (46.7%) to go the full 16 days. 
There are two critical time periods for collecting data from our sturgeon population, the annual spearing season and spring spawning assessments.  Each year thousands of lake sturgeon migrate up the tributaries of the Winnebago System (Wolf, upper Fox, Embarrass and Little Wolf Rivers most notably) to spawn. The sturgeon spawn along rocky shorelines on outside river bends and literally spawn at your feet.  This provides a great opportunity to view sturgeon spawning in the wild, which is an experience not available anywhere else in North America.  However, poaching has historically been a concern given the vulnerability of these majestic fish during spawning bouts.  The Sturgeon Guard program was implemented to curtail the illegal activity and protect these fish during spawning periods.  At first, law enforcement officers would monitor known spawning sites, but it was difficult for the warden staff to cover all of the known spawning areas with a limited work force.  The Sturgeon Guard program then went public and the rest is history.  The general public can now sign up for 12-hour shifts to watch sturgeon spawn and protect the fish from harassment and other illegal activity.  There are hundreds of folks who sign up every year for this opportunity, and this really is an example of a successful collaboration between the community and the DNR that has helped the population significantly increase!  As the spearing season draws near the end, I thought it would be beneficial to highlight a potential next opportunity for folks interested in sturgeon and that opportunity is volunteering through the Sturgeon Guard program.  I have attached a vignette describing the guard program in greater detail.  Interested volunteers can either can either sign up online through the DNR website or can call the DNR hotline to be signed up over the phone.  I hope that you will consider volunteering to be a Sturgeon Guard, it really is a unique experience and the benefits to the sturgeon population are tremendous.  I have also attached a photo of a sight that you may see while working your guard shift.
The spearing season will end at 1:00 PM tomorrow, thank you everyone for making this an enjoyable and safe sturgeon spearing season. Spearers were met with many challenges this year, but they were still able to get out on the ice to renew their traditions and celebrate another season!  Good luck spearing tomorrow for those of you with shacks still on the lake!