A record number of spearers are expected Saturday, Feb. 11, for opening day of the Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season.
They will find more trophy-sized fish, higher harvest caps for adult female sturgeon and the potential for a longer season, state fish biologists said.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in the adult lake sturgeon stock in the last decade, so we’ve been able to raise the harvest caps again for 2012, which should translate into more spearing opportunities and possibly a longer season,” said Ron Bruch, a state Department of Natural Resources fisheries supervisor based in Oshkosh. “That’s good news for spearers and for the local economy, which sees an economic impact of more than $3.5 million for the average 10-day season.”
The DNR estimated there were 16,560 females and 30,260 males in the adult spawning stock in 2011. The harvest caps for adult females have increased to 745 on Lake Winnebago and 83 on the upriver lakes (Poygan, Winneconne and Butte des Morts) for 2012, up from 711 and 79, respectively.
A record 12,680 people bought licenses by the Oct. 31 deadline to spear during the upcoming season, up from the previous record of 12,423 set last year and up nearly 50 percent since 2007.
Bruch credited the growing participation in part to excitement over the significant increase in trophy-sized lake sturgeon in the system.
Trophy-sized fish are those 100 pounds or larger and last year, spearers harvested 94 of them. That’s about 7.5 percent of the 1,426 fish harvested, up from less than 1 percent in most years.
DNR fisheries crews regularly see fish in excess of 200 pounds during spawning surveys on the Wolf River. The record fish of 212 pounds was harvested from Lake Winnebago in 2010.
The upriver lakes season will run from Feb. 11 through Feb. 26, until the preset harvest cap is reached or the preset harvest cap for the entire Winnebago System is reached, whichever comes first.