Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Officials debate sturgeon protection

Correspondent

Madison The 2005 Lake Winnebago sturgeon spearing season opens
Feb. 12 at 6:30 a.m. and there’s a new rule that allows the DNR to
close the season at the end of the opening day if spearers reach
any one of three harvest caps.

Last year, spearers exceeded harvest caps because the rules
didn’t allow the DNR to close the season until after the second
day. However, a new emergency rule passed by the Natural Resources
Board in December will allow the DNR to close the season, if
necessary, at the end of the first day.

“How fast spearers reach harvest triggers in 2005 will depend
largely on ice conditions and water clarity factors that dictate
whether it’s easy for spearers to get their shacks set up on the
ice and see the fish,” said Ron Bruch, DNR senior sturgeon
biologist in Oshkosh. “Both conditions have been excellent prior to
the 2005 season.”

This year there will be a spearing season on the “upriver lakes”
of Butte des Morts, Poygan, and Winneconne that comes around just
once every five years. That special season is limited to one
day.

Bruch told the Natural Resources Board at its Jan. 26 meeting
that there have been changes in the Lake Winnebago system, and in
the fishery.

The Lake Winnebago system is home to the largest lake sturgeon
population in the world, and it’s also home to the unique sport of
sturgeon spearing.

Prior to 1903 there were no regulations on the fishery, but that
year an 8-pound size limit was put on sturgeon. By 1915, there was
concern about overharvest of sturgeon and the season was closed
through 1931.

In 1932, the modern spearing fishery began.

Beginning in 1932, the four major issues with the fishery have
centered on assessing the sturgeon stock and harvest; protecting
habitat; maintaining the harvest at 5 percent or less of the
population; and working with the public.

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