Sturgeon spearing winding down on Upriver Lakes

Rick Zwiers with sturgeon harvested on Lake Winneconne, February 18, 2016 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

Time is ticking on the clock for the sturgeon spearing season on the Upriver Lakes.

After six days, spearers harvested enough adult female fish to trigger an end to the season Friday at 1 p.m.

After 40 years of spearing, Rick Zwiers says patience is a key to success.

"Got out there, first half-hour, I passed up a 50 inch-er. And about 11:00, I was kicking myself for doing that. And this one slid right in," said Rick Zwiers, Freedom.

Zwiers speared a 77.7-pound, 65.3-inch sturgeon Thursday.

The Department of Natural Resources says The Upriver Lakes, of Poygan, Winneconne, and Butte des Morts, feature shallow water, and plenty of fish, A 147.9-pounder was harvested on Lake Poygan on Monday.

"That fish is the largest fish that's been not only speared this year, but it's larger than any fish that was harvested last year in 2015," said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Sturgeon Biologist.

There are about 13,000 spear fishermen on Lake Winnebago, that compares to only about 500 on the Upriver Lakes. The DNR awards those permits through a lottery system.

"Usually, the Upriver Lakes season will close earlier than Lake Winnebago. Since the lottery system was implemented in 2007, we've had an average of a five-day season," said Koenigs.

Koenigs says the Upriver Lakes also serve as a staging area for fish heading up river to reproduce.

"The majority of the fish that are going to spawn in 2016 are in the Upriver Lakes right now, so we want to limit that harvest as well. As well as with the higher success rates, we also want to be able to offer more spearing opportunity to the majority of the spearers," he said.

Spearers like Rick Zwiers, whose patience in the sturgeon lottery paid off.

"Took me seven years to get this tag. Was it worth it? Oh yeah. Definitely," said Zwiers.

As for Thursday's numbers, spear fishermen harvested 15 fish on the Upriver Lakes, including four adult females, which triggers the end of the season Friday.

On Lake Winnebago, a total of 36 fish were taken, including two, weighing 100 pounds or more. The season on Lake Winnebago is expected to go the full 16 days.