Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Winnebago spearers are having a tough season

Staff Reports

Oshkosh, Wis. — Forecasts for cold, snowy weather late last week
convinced most sturgeon spearers to remove their shanties from Lake
Winnebago by Feb. 15, according to DNR officials.

Forecasts called for 6 to 12 inches of snow and high winds,
followed by bitterly cold temperatures. With ice travel already a
precarious venture, added snow weight could make ice travel even
more treacherous.

“Spearers are waiting to see what that storm brings and will
head back out on the lake this weekend,” said a DNR spokesman.
“Spearers are hoping that forecasted cold weather will tighten up
some of the cracks and landings, but heavy snows and wind may cause
different problems for spearers, such as difficult travel
conditions, flooding, ice shoves, or expansion of open water

The potential weather complications are expected to further slow
an already meager sturgeon harvest. As of Wednesday, Feb. 15,
sturgeon spearers had registered a total of 82 fish. That number
included 39 adult females, 13 juvenile females, and 30 males.

On Feb. 15, spearers brought in just seven more fish – three
males and four adult females.

Cloudy water and limited travel due to ice cracks and open water
on Lake Winnebago continued to deter spearers early last week.

At this point, it appears spearers are going to be able to enjoy
a full 16-day season. The last 16-day season was logged in 2002
when ice averaged 14 inches and water clarity was similar to this
year’s, 7 to 12 feet. In 2002, spearers registered 847 sturgeon
during the 16 days.

Registration stations at Fishtale, Quinney Quencher, and Pete’s
Brothertown Fisherman’s Inn were closed last week and will remain
closed until further notice.

An aerial shanty count taken on the second day of the season
found 3,434 shacks on the lake, with the highest concentration of
1,306 in the southeast corner of the lake where some of the
clearest water was found. That count is well below the recent
average shanty count of 4,567 shanties on opening weekend,
according to Ron Bruch, DNR sturgeon biologist.

“Many spearers have said that they haven’t begun fishing yet and
are waiting for the fish to begin moving better, and for the water
to clear and ice conditions to improve,” Bruch said.

The DNR is asking that successful spearers drop off sturgeon
heads at registration stations after they clean their fish. The
heads are being used for a aging study of lake sturgeon.

Daily and season totals can be found on the DNR web site at:

Opening day results

Spearers ran into cloudy water on opening day, Feb. 11, and
speared only 39 fish, including 17 adult females, 17 males, and
five juvenile females.

“This is the lowest opening day harvest since 1994 when 33 fish
were registered the first day of what turned into an 18-day season
that year,” Bruch said.

Water clarity ran 4 to 7 feet in most areas of the lake,
although a small number of spearers were able to find relatively
clear water in depths of 10 to 12 feet.

The largest fish registered on opening day was a 102-pound,
70-inch fish speared by Tim Eldred, of Menasha

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