Greenville, Wis. — Quadruplet brothers from Greenville, Jack, Riley, Sam, and Evan O’Connell, all age 21, went four-for-four on sturgeon spearing this year on Lake Poygan. One sturgeon is among the heaviest ever seen from Lake Poygan.
The quadruplets were born on Christmas Day 2001. Sam and Riley are students at UW-Stout majoring in engineering/mechanical design. Evan and Jack work full-time in construction and industry in the Fox Valley.
Their father, Dennis, is an avid outdoorsman. He has been spearing sturgeon since he was a kid. When the brothers were little, they spent a lot of time on Lake Winnebago with their dad during sturgeon spearing season.
“I’ve had a couple along with me when I speared a fish,” Dennis said.
Eventually, all four brothers bought spearing licenses and became full participants in the sport on Lake Winnebago.
“I was around 13 when I started spearing,” Sam said. “I remember watching my dad and uncles and sitting in a shack with them.”
Evan is the “lucky” one, according to Dennis and Sam. He has speared several sturgeon over the years. Sam speared his first sturgeon last year. Riley speared one a couple years ago, but until this season, Jack had not speared one.
Eight years ago, the quadruplets started applying as a group for an upriver lakes sturgeon tag. They were inspired by the high success rate for spearing on Lake Poygan. Late last year, they got the news that they were drawn for tags.
Dennis spent a lot of time before sturgeon season this year looking for a place to set up.
“I had spent four or five weekends out there ahead of time scouting for them,” Dennis said. “We use cameras, and we will sit in a shack and look down auger holes. Poygan is a lot of fun. You see lots of other fish – northerns, muskies, and gar fish.”
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Dennis said he had three shacks of his own, so he was one short for the group.
“My dad volunteered his shack,” Dennis said. “He sat with Jack.”
Sam said his dad was busy on opening day going from shack to shack giving encouragement and hoping to be in one of the shacks when a sturgeon was speared.
Jack was the first brother to connect. He speared a 24-pound, 46.3-inch sturgeon around 9 a.m. opening day.
Evan saw fish swim through early in the morning as he waited for the season to open at 7 a.m. After opening, a sub-legal sturgeon swam up to the top of his hole.
Several times over the next couple of hours, small sturgeon swam through. Jack wasn’t sure if it was the same one going past multiple times or separate sturgeon.
Around 10 a.m., a 46.9-pound, 53.5-incher swam through, and Evan speared it. Riley speared his 15-pound, 40-incher a little later, leaving Sam as the only brother who did not throw his spear on opening day.
Sam had moved to Evan’s shack late morning on Saturday, and that is where he went Sunday morning. Evan and Riley sat with him. It was Sam’s last day to spear before going back to school, so he was anxious as the hours ticked by.
Around 10 a.m., a sturgeon came into the hole from under Sam’s feet. He knew it was big when he threw the spear, but Sam didn’t know at the time it was enormous. The sturgeon took off on a run. Sam struggled with the big fish for 10 minutes before bringing it into the hole.
“Holy crap, this is huge,” Sam yelled. “Riley gaffed it in the middle of the fish. I grabbed its head and Evan grabbed its tail. It took all three of us to drag it out of the hole.”
The sturgeon measured 76.1 inches and weighed 162.6 pounds. It is reported to be the fifth heaviest sturgeon ever speared from Poygan. According to a Department of Natural Resources chart, the sturgeon was around 80 years old.
Word of the big sturgeon spread quickly among their friends. A group of spearers that were set up nearby came over. One person had a picture of a huge sturgeon from the day before the season opened. There is no way to be certain, but odds are it was the same sturgeon Sam had speared.
The quadruplets’ older brother, Nicholas, couldn’t join them, but he sent congratulations when he heard of their success.
Dennis missed Sam’s success because he was on Winnebago sitting in his sturgeon shack. A week later he speared a sturgeon there.
Sam’s sturgeon had around 50 pounds of roe that the family processed into 40 pounds of caviar. They shared the caviar with family and friends who spear with them.