It’s not every day that a person gets to see a living species that dates back 150 million years, especially in Clintonville. That’s how far the fossil records of the prehistoric species of the sturgeon fish date back.
I have been to the favored viewing sites along the Wolf River such as the Shawano Dam, Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, and it’s on my list to visit the Sturgeon Trail in New London, but what a surprise to get a text from my son saying the sturgeon are spawning at the Clintonville Dam. I had to think about this. The Pigeon River Dam is about three miles from where its water flows into the Embarrass River, which indeed is a major spawning river and therefore not impossible. I just never remember sturgeon coming up as far as the Pigeon River Dam to spawn in all of my (significant) years.
Sure enough, Saturday, April 18 ushered in a beautiful sunny weekend with water temperatures just right for the sturgeon to surprise residents of Clintonville with a visit to the dam for peak spawning. Their spawning time is so short that I felt very lucky it happened on the weekend when I could go and watch both days.
Sturgeon were visible in groups of almost a dozen at a time and some of them were very large. The shark-looking fins would erupt into a big splash and every once in a while a sturgeon would wriggle almost completely out of the water and onto the rocks before splashing back under water. Further down river there were a number of what I think were suckers suspended along the rocky shoreline and my guess is that they were making an easy meal out of the sturgeon eggs that were released into the water and floating in their direction.
It was exciting to see all the people, young and old, lined up on the river walk and some stepping far out on the rocks along the shore to get close to the water. Some of the kids that were sitting on the concrete embankment closest to the water got a big surprise when they got splashed by the sturgeon. It was amusing to watch their expressions and excitement.
There seemed to be more people on Saturday, but I found Sunday to be just as active for the fish and a better day for photos. I did stop by the dam on Monday after work, but the weather had turned cold and rainy and I really didn’t expect to see any fish. There were just a few fins bobbling above the water up tight to the dam. Apparently, these were a few late spawners.
The opportunity to watch the sturgeon up close is another one of my favorite things about living in the area. The talk around town was that this hasn’t happened in Clintonville for 35-40 years and that these sturgeon are perhaps the offspring of those that spawned here back then. I hope it won’t be that long for the sturgeon come back.