Sturgeon spearing season rapidly approaching

Sturgeon spearing shacks are popping up on Lake Winnebago including Waverly Beach in Menasha.
Sturgeon spearing shacks are popping up on Lake Winnebago including Waverly Beach in Menasha.
Two years ago, sturgeon spearing enthusiasts had to battle bad ice conditions. Last season, water clarity caused issues. This season, things are shaping up just right. The ice is thick in most places. Once you get beneath that ice, the water is pretty clear. The most recent visibility readings visibility as far as 16 feet, that’s double the visibility at this time a year ago.

A new challenge has arisen this year though. The amount of snow covering the ice can cause issues. After coming off the ice Dave Koehler of Menasha explained, “There's a lot of drift especially today when it's windy. We went out to our shacks dropped some things off came back in and our tracks were already gone and we were only there a half an hour so  the winds definitely going to make a difference the next couple days with blowing everyone's tracks shut."

Koehler came off the ice with Dick Swaboda who said, "There's a lot of ice out there so you don't have to worry about that but you still have to know where you're going, a lot of snow."

"If you don't have 4-wheel drive or you get off the road you're going to know it," added Todd Schmidt.

The improved ice conditions mean spearers have more options for where they want to put their shanty. Douglas Schneider, the managing partner at Waverly Beach, has seen shanty’s head onto the ice for years. He has observed people going further out on the ice this year. "They're definitely further out than they were last year they stuck pretty much within a mile of the shore. This year they're all the way out there on the lake," Schneider said.

Todd Schmidt of Neenah was one of those people who are taking his shack further out this year. "You can hit spots that you want to hit that you hope no one else has been hitting over the years," Schmidt said.

According to D-N-R Sturgeon Biologist Ryan Koenigs, the fish that were harvested last season were big ones, almost 10 percent of last years harvested fish from Lake Winnebago were in excess of 100 pounds and Koenigs says more will be on the way this season.

"These big fish are out there in the population,” Koenigs said. “This year with the water clarity that we have and the harvest we're anticipating there's going to be a lot of big fish speared. We know there's record breaking fish out there over 200 pounds and it's only a matter of time until someone gets lucky and harvests one of these fish.”

Dave Koehler said it’s been 10 years since he last speared a fish and he hopes one of those big ones finds its’ way under his shack this year. "It seems like every year they're getting bigger. Let's hope it's in mine," Koehler said.