Low sturgeon spearing harvest and the overall population

LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- With ice conditions deteriorating on The Lake Winnebago System, another slow day of the 2017 spearing season is in the books.

In fact, no sturgeon were speared again Friday for a second straight day.

"We're expecting very little, if any harvest. Yesterday, on Lake Winnebago, Thursday, and The Upriver Lakes, we didn't have a single fish brought to our registration stations. Since I've been with the department, since 2008, this is my 10th season, we haven't had a zero during that time," said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Sturgeon Biologist.

Koenigs says this is the second year in a row poor water clarity, and weather conditions contributed to a low Lake Winnebago sturgeon harvest.

"It doesn't suggest there's not fish out there. It's just that people aren't getting them, and they're not having access to get out to those fish," he said.

Will the low harvest affect the population as a whole?

"Currently, we're estimating that there are about 19,000 adult females, and about 25,000 adult males," said Koenigs.

Koenigs says harvest caps were implemented in 1999. They are based on five percent of that adult population.

"The harvest caps aren't quotas. We're not trying to have this many fish harvested per year. The caps are meant to restrict harvest to at or below a sustainable level," said Koenigs.

Koenigs says every fish speared is registered. Length, weight, and other data are recorded. Crews gather additional information during the spring spawning run in April.

But Koenigs says more fish now, may not necessarily translate into more fish in the future.

"The amount of natural reproduction that's going to take place is more driven by environmental characteristics during the spawning run than it is by the number of fish that are actually spawning," said Koenigs.

Officially, the season doesn't wrap up on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes, until Sunday.

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