Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Is Wisconsin ready for winter northern pike spearing season?

By Cody Krueger

Having grown up in central Wisconsin, ice fishing is a huge part of how I spend my winters, as is sturgeon spearing on the Winnebago system. I’ve enjoyed the sturgeon season over the years.

It wasn’t until 2020 that I discovered northern pike spearing is a legal activity in Michigan. I had been asked to help a guy find a spot to spear sturgeon in exchange for a trip to the Upper Peninsula to try my hand at pike spearing. Not only was I interested, but a few of my fellow sturgeon spearers were game to try it, as well. The trip was a hit. We had a blast, and even harvested a few pike. Since then we have made it an annual trip.

When asked what pike spearing is like, I compare it to bowhunting. Both sports involve sitting patiently while waiting for a shot to present itself. Like bowhunting, you have the option to pass fish. If so, then you simply enjoy the show of various fish species interacting with each other.

This past April, I submitted a citizen’s resolution during the spring fish and game hearings asking to seek support for a northern pike spearing season in Wisconsin. This resolution passed in seven of the 11 counties in which it was presented. The resolution was then submitted to the Conservation Congress Warm Water Committee, where it again passed. This year, the question will appear on the April 10 fish and game hearings as a Conservation Congress advisory question and be up for a statewide vote.

Conservation Congress committee members brought up a few great questions, so I spent time talking with Michigan DNR Fish Biologist Christian Lesage and Minnesota DNR Fish Research Scientist Bethany Bethke. Both states allow winter pike spearing.

• Hole size restrictions. Wisconsin has a 48-square-foot maximum on sturgeon spearing holes. Neither Michigan nor Minnesota have hole-size restrictions on pike spearing.

• Hole Marking. Wisconsin requires spearers to mark their sturgeon holes. Neither Michigan nor Minnesota require the marking of pike spearing holes, but it’s highly recommended and considered proper etiquette to do so.

• Accidental muskellunge harvest.

Both biologists admit it happens, but they are not worried about overharvest. I spoke with Michigan spearers on this topic, who say muskies often come to the lure differently than do pike.

• Is pike overharvest and issue?

The Michigan or Minnesota biologists are not concerned with overharvest.

Bethke gave me permission to quote her saying, “Pike harvested by spear are likely less than 10% of the overall pike harvest.”

• Where is pike spearing practiced?

Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska allow pike spearing in the winter. It is also legal on Chequamegon Bay.

Pike spearing has a strong following among many Midwestern groups. Those who have done it seem to be willing to help newcomers. The Michigan Darkhouse Angling Association, Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association, and the Wisconsin Darkhouse Angling Association are willing to help newcomers to the sport. The groups hold events each winter open to the public.

The equipment is largely handmade with great pride and collected by those who use it, and includes beautifully machined spears of different sizes to hand-carved, tank-tested decoys that are available in almost any pattern you could imagine. I’ve found that spear and decoy makers are almost always willing to help create any idea you could dream up.

Opening a pike spearing season in Wisconsin would provide another great way for families to get out and enjoy our natural resources. As many of us know, time spent with family and friends in a deer stand, a duck blind, a boat, and an ice shack can be the very best of times, so why not a dark house? Rules and regulations would have to be put into place before a season could be created, but the ball is rolling in the right direction. I’m hoping you join me April 10 by voting in support of a Wisconsin northern pike spearing season.

Cody Krueger, of Shawano, is a licensed charter captain and member of many local groups supporting outdoor recreation in Wisconsin.


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