, , ,

Sturgeon Spearers To Hit The Ice Saturday Morning

2019 Sturgeon Season Might Run Entire 16 Days, DNR Biologist Predicts

man clears ice from ice fishing hole
In this Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 photo, Sam Syrotynski of Albany, N.Y., clears ice from a fishing hole on Great Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield, N.Y. Mike Groll/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s sturgeon spearing season begins on Saturday, and while the state Department of Natural Resources and anglers alike say no ice is ever 100 percent safe, this years’ ice appears to be OK.

Scott Engel, president of Oshkosh’s Otter Street Fishing Club on Lake Winnebago, said local ice appears to be “decent.”

Ryan Koenigs, DNR sturgeon biologist in the Winnebago system, said there are cracks on Lake Winnebago and recommends spear-fishers check in with local fishing clubs before heading out. He said the DNR doesn’t monitor ice conditions.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Ice aside, water clarity is also key to catching one of the big fish.

“Typically, this close to the season, we would have already been out one or two times to check water clarity. However, with the wild weather we have had, extremely variable weather, we actually have not been able to check water clarity at all,” Koenigs said.

Instead, anecdotal reports are all Koenigs has to go on, he said. “I have heard from spearers who have been out scouting and those reports are all consistent that water clarity is less than desirable.”

Engel agreed with Koenigs’ assessment.

“Some years when you have got perfect clarity, you can see right to the bottom in 16 feet of water. Fish, a lot of times, are swimming off the bottom so you can have fish swim right through your hole and never know it when the water clarity is bad,” Engel said.

Engel said recent rains and melting snow have clouded the waters.

“If you can’t see the fish, you can’t spear the fish,” he said.

Koenigs said he thinks the season may run its full 16 days, unless the harvest cap of about 2,580 fish is met before then.

In-state licenses for sturgeon fishing cost $20 and out-of-state licenses run $65. This year, 12,411 licenses were sold for Lake Winnebago, plus 479 for upriver lakes Poygan, Winneconne and Butte Des Morts.

Koenigs said the vast majority of licenses are sold to Wisconsin residents and that only about 2 percent or less of catches are registered to out-of-state spear fishers.