With A Harvest Cap Unmet, Another Sturgeon Season Is In The Books

2019 Season, Which Ended Sunday, Lasted Entire 16-Day Run

Sturgeon spearing
In this Feb. 14, 2015 photo, wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour whip around ice shanties set up for sturgeon spearing on Lake Poygan in Wisconsin. Carrie Antlfinger/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes is over. The season ran the entire 16 days, as the harvest cap went unmet.

Ice conditions held up for the spearers but water clarity was a problem on Lake Winnebago, especially on the lake’s southern side, said Ryan Koenigs, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Winnebago system sturgeon biologist.

He said spearers killed 786 fish on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes of Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan combined.

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The harvest cap for 2019 on Lake Winnebago was 344 juvenile females, 855 adult females and 960 males. The harvest cap for the Upriver Lakes was 86 juvenile females, 95 adult females and 240 males.

Koenigs said the season has run its full length for several years.

“This was the fourth straight full 16-day season on Lake Winnebago,” he said. “The harvest this year was a little bit lower than what it had been the last couple years, but we were anticipating a longer, slower season on Lake Winnebago because there was extremely variable water clarity throughout the lake.”

Koenigs said the biggest fish caught weighed 171 pounds. The DNR has monitored the female fish for several years, and Koenigs said she was a sort of “white whale” for anglers.

“This was a fish that a lot of spearers knew was out there and it was an example of the caliber of fish that are in the Winnebago system right now,” Koenigs said. “And that fish was harvested on opening day at 85 and a half inches long.”

Koenigs estimates the sturgeon was between 100 and 130 years old.

The Upriver Lakes season ended last Monday after harvest caps were met for those lakes. It is harder to get a license to spear on the Upriver Lakes. Licenses are dealt through a lottery system and caps are usually met quickly, thus ending the season earlier than that on Lake Winnebago.