OSHKOSH, Wis. – A giant among freshwater fish in the Wisconsin interior, the bottom lake sturgeon is a living fossil – a relic of fish evolution in the Middle Ages. The Winnebago system supports one of the largest lake sturgeon populations in North America and is one of only two places where lake sturgeon can be harvested with a spear.
The state’s annual sturgeon spearfishing season begins February 12 and lasts for 16 days (February 27), or until one of the predetermined harvest caps is reached. The system-wide harvest caps for the 2022 season are 400 juvenile females, 875 adult females and 1,200 males.
Water Clarity Report
During the week of January 24, 2022, the DNR conducted pre-season water clarity readings. Fourteen depth readings over six geographic regions of Lake Winnebago were taken. Reading locations were chosen based on access and safe travel conditions. The average water clarity was 10.71 feet. The strong winds before the freeze-up and the open water patches which remained until January probably played a role in the decrease in average clarity this season.
The water seems to be a little clearer in the northern part of the lake, with fairly even visibility over Lake Winnebago. If stable weather conditions continue into sturgeon spearing season, spearfishers may see an improvement in water clarity, but a longer spearfishing season is still expected.
No water clarity readings were taken on upstream lakes because water clarity has less impact on the number of harvests in upstream lakes. Preliminary reports from anglers and harpoon scouts on upstream lakes indicate favorable water clarity in several areas again this season.
Anyone spearing a sturgeon must accompany their fish to an official sturgeon registration station, and any harvested sturgeon must be registered by 2:00 p.m. on the day it was speared.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, this year’s DNR recording stations will once again be operated on a drive-thru basis only. Lancers must remain in their vehicle throughout the registration process. Spearfishers should place their harvested sturgeon in an easily accessible location to allow staff to collect important biological data such as the size, sex and tagging history of the sturgeon.
MNR reminds harpooners that any fish caught in Lake Winnebago must be registered at one of the Lake Winnebago registration stations. Similarly, any fish caught in Poygan, Butte des Morts or Winneconne lakes must be registered at one of the upstream lake registration stations.
Please refer to the 2022 regulation on the spear sturgeon for more information on the registration process.
No ice cream is safe
Lancers are reminded that no ice is ever 100% safe and they are urged to check with local fishing clubs and conservation groups near the area they plan to spear for information on the ice. local ice conditions. These groups regularly monitor conditions and maintain access points and ice roads. The DNR does not monitor ice conditions. Find safety tips on the Ice Safety webpage.
Additional forecasts for the season, a preview of the 2022 Water Clarity Report and daily in-season harvest updates will be available throughout the season on the Sturgeon Spearfishing webpage of the Winnebago system. Lancers can also subscribe to receive helpful daily sturgeon harvest updates via email.
Your best shot
Sturgeon spearfishing in Wisconsin is a sport steeped in tradition. The DNR would love to see your highlights from the season. Photos of harpoons with their catches, cuts, life in slums, scenic views observed during the season or any other captivating harpooning tradition are encouraged. Please include a brief description for use in future outreach efforts. Send us your photos using this photo submission form.