The annual sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago has come to a close.
The season ran the full 16 days with spearers only taking 654 sturgeon from the big lake. That’s about 30 to 35 percent of the adult female harvest cap, according to DNR sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs (kay-nigs). Another 297 fish were harvested from the Upriver Lakes, where the season only ran four days.
It’s the third year in a row the Lake Winnebago season has gone the full 16 days without hitting the cap. Koenigs says it should not be seen a sign that there are fewer sturgeon in the lake though. Rather, it’s a side effect of limited visibility in the water, which results in fewer opportunities to spear the large fish.
Koenigs says being able to see at least 12 feet below the surface of the water is sort of a minimum threshold on the already deep lake. The average visibility at the opening of this year’s season was under seven feet.
Several factors play a role in water clarity, although weather conditions in the month leading up to the spearing season are a big part of current conditions. Koenigs notes mild January weather, along with a lot of rain instead of snowfall, lead to run-off entering the lake. There was also limited snow cover before the start of the season, which allowed sunlight to filter through and generate algae blooms beneath the surface.
Koenigs notes those participating in the season still saw a great deal of success, with more than 50 sturgeon that weighed over 100 pounds harvested.