PIPE, Wis. (AP) – The first sturgeon a Wisconsin man speared in nearly two decades was worth the wait: the 148-pound fish is among the largest caught this year and comes as the season is winding down.
Don Feldner caught the 74.6-inch-long fish Sunday on Lake Winnebago. He told The Reporter Media that before the dark shadow floated into view, he hadn’t seen a sturgeon swim by his hole in the ice for 15 years.
“I got out there about 9:30 a.m. and the fish came about 25 minutes to 12 (noon),” Feldner said. “It came up 6-feet high and came past the decoy. I used the spear that my dad built himself back in the ’50s.”
Feldner struck the fish’s midsection five times and then pulled it from the water. His son, Ryan Feldner, helped him tow it from the shanty.
“We just stood there in awe,” Feldner said. “We pulled it out and got it outside the door and realized it was a big one.”
Feldner briefly held the record for largest sturgeon speared this year, but others eclipsed him Monday.
The Department of Natural Resources posted photos Monday morning of two fish over 150 pounds. Those fish, along with Feldner’s, were well over 6 feet long.
Feldner said his father once caught a 106-pound sturgeon and his son has caught a 90-pound fish.
“Back then a 106-pounder was a good-sized fish,” Feldner said. “Now I’ve got them beat by a lot. I think (my dad would) be proud of me.”
Feldner’s dad celebrated his big catch by painting the fish’s profile on his ice shanty. Feldner said he plans to the same with the outline of his sturgeon.
His catch came as spearfishing was winding down on some Fox Valley lakes, where the adult female limit has been reached. Department of Natural Resources biologist Ryan Koenigs told Post-Crescent Media that spearing will likely end on the larger Lake Winnebago in the next few days.
Spearers have taken home 319 sturgeon on upriver lakes, the DNR reported. DNR officials have been expecting a shorter season this year because of the clear water, several feet of ice and a strong sturgeon population.