Local residents got a surprise visit last weekend when sturgeon made an appearance in the Pigeon River by the dam in Clintonville.
It’s not the first time sturgeon have been sighted near the dam.
“We’ve had reports that they’ve been fish here over the years, but we never had a chance to go in and see if they were there,” said Ron Bruch, a retired DNR sturgeon biologist from Oshkosh, who was helping tag sturgeon in Clintonville.
He added, “A couple of our guys were driving by today on their way to Shawano and they came in here and they saw the fish.”
The DNR was on hand Friday, April 17 at the Clintonville dam, catching and tagging sturgeon.
“It’s a very historic day here on the Pigeon River in Clintonville, it’s the first time ever in the sturgeon program on the Winnebago System, which goes back to the early 1950s that fish have been captured and tagged in the Pigeon River during the spawning run,” Bruch said.
In about two hours the DNR caught around 10 sturgeon. A sonic transmitter was placed in some of the sturgeon. These transmitters send signals for 10 years, Bruch said.
“We have stationary receiving stations, 34 of them on the entire Winnebago System, so we’ll be able to see if these fish come back to the Pigeon or they go other places over the next 10 years,” Bruch said.
Understanding the life history and behavior of the sturgeon allows the DNR to figure out if the Pigeon River has quality habitats for the fish.
“And it gives us an idea of the distribution of the fish in the system,” he said.
Each sturgeon caught is also measured, and the sex of the fish is determined. Each one is also checked to see if it currently has a tag, which is a small chip similar to what owners place in dogs and cats.
“We have had several that have already had tags that we tagged in other parts of the Wolf River,” Bruch said.
From 1999 until last week, these tags have contained 12 digits. Because the DNR ran out of numbers, the tags now contain 15 digits.
This is of significance because one of the sturgeon caught in Clintonville Friday, April 17 contained a 15 digit number. Bruch said records were checked, and it wasn’t a sturgeon tagged in New London.
“The only other ones that we’ve released that had those tags in them for fish that we captures on Monday and Tuesday of this week up by Shawano,” Bruch said. “We hauled them in a truck up to Keshena and we released them on the Menominee Indian Reservation as part of a program to restore spawning up there.”
Bruch said it was unique that a sturgeon released there would travel such a long distance to Clintonville in such a short amount of time.
“They usually go back to where you caught them initially and we caught those fish below Shawano,” he said.
Those curious about the sturgeon were able to view them by the dam in Clintonville during the rest of the weekend.