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Sturgeon spawning underway on Fox River in De Pere

UW-Green Bay crew handling this 81 inch sturgeon on the Fox River in De Pere, May 7, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

DE PERE (WLUK) -- Sturgeon spawning and scientists handling the fish are activities not exclusive to places like the Wolf River.

A UW-Green Bay research team handled fish Monday on the Fox River in De Pere.

On the shoreline of a rugged island just downstream from the De Pere Dam, graduate student Stefan Tucker is in his element.

"This is kind of our version of the sturgeon rodeo. It's a blast," said Stefan Tucker, UW-Green Bay Graduate Student.

Tucker and a UW-Green Bay crew are capturing sturgeon during the annual spawning run on the Fox River in De Pere.

"I think a lot of people are familiar that spawning takes place here, but I think what we're trying to learn is exactly how many fish are spawning here," said Patrick Forsythe, UW-Green Bay Associate Biology Professor.

But netting hundred-plus pound fish in the choppy waters can be a challenge. The sturgeon are measured, and tagged. The information is recorded right on the shoreline.

"We're seeing both males and females. Some really large females, somewhere on the order of 150 pounds or so. And males that are also relatively large. Larger than I've seen," said Forsythe.

"This gives us an idea of how old these fish are. It really paints a picture of the population structure of the Fox River," said Tucker.

Tucker is researching sturgeon as part of his graduate project. He hopes the work will help him land a job as a wildlife biologist.

"It's such a competitive field. And so really gaining skills and knowledge is important. And so hopefully this opportunity right here is giving me all those experiences," said Tucker.

After a few minutes in the net, the sturgeon are released back into the river. On Monday the team handled 25 fish, including an 81-inch monster.

"Sturgeon, they're the dinosaurs of the Great Lakes. They've been here since the time of the dinosaurs. They're the biggest fish in the Great Lakes," said Tucker.

The research team expects the sturgeon run to continue in the area for another 5-10 days. They plan to be back on the river, to track the success rate as the young sturgeon head downstream to the waters of Green Bay.

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