Sturgeon spawning season underway

A sturgeon prepares to spawn in the Wolf River at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, April 24, 2014. (WLUK/Laura Smith)
A sturgeon prepares to spawn in the Wolf River at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, April 24, 2014. (WLUK/Laura Smith)

An annual spring ritual has finally arrived. The sturgeon spawning season is just beginning.

Department of Natural Resources officials say they are starting to see some activity on the Wolf and upper Fox Rivers.

However, Thursday's colder, wet weather - it was a slow day in New London and Shiocton.

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The rain didn't stop some people from searching for sturgeon spawning on the Wolf River in New London.

"We love nature we just absolutely love nature," said Melissa Ashley of Kaukauna. "We do nature photography and just enjoy it. Wisconsin has so much, so much, and it's just a lot of fun."

The water temperature is still four or five degrees cooler than is ideal for spawning. As of noon Thursday, spawning had not happened.

"The fish just started coming into the rocks on some of the lower sites on the Wolf River yesterday, and there are some females that are starting to ovulate and lay eggs," said DNR sturgeon biologist, Ryan Koenigs.

With that, DNR crews spent part of the morning collecting information on the sturgeon.

"Those data allow us to look at the size structure of the adult population so how big the fish are. But also the tagging data allow us to estimate how many fish are in the population, and those population estimates are used to set the harvest cap for the spear fishery that takes place in February," said Koenigs.

Koenigs says the time is near for the big run.

"We are seeing some males cruising up and down the shoreline meaning that usually within the next 24-48 hours those fish will start spawning."

Historically, peak spawning on the Wolf is between April 15th and May 1st. Koenigs says this year it will be at the later end of that range.

"It's a prediction we don't know for sure and the fish really hold the cards at this stage of the game," said Koenigs.

So why would you want to come out and watch sturgeon spawning? Koenigs explained it's something you can't see anywhere else in the nation, let alone outside Northeast Wisconsin.

"They literally come into the shoreline and you can get up close and personal with some very cool, prehistoric fish," said Koenigs.

Hot spots for watching the action include: the Sturgeon Trail in New London, Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, and below the Shawano Dam.

Several people stopped by Bamboo Bend Thursday afternoon where a few sturgeon swam lazily near the shore.

"When they become real active, they're fun to watch because there's just so many of them. It's interesting to watch them along the shoreline as they splash on the rocks and spawn," said Robert Schroeder of Oshkosh.

Once fish do start spawning at each site, they'll only be there "heavily" for one to two days.