Sturgeon spearing season ends with below average Lake Winnebago harvest
LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- After 16 days of spearing activity the season is officially over.
After more than two weeks of trying, Travis Trader says he's had enough.
"Taking them off the ice, so they don't fall in," said Travis Trader.
Trader and others towed their shanties off Lake Winnebago Monday morning. He says during the season water clarity on the north end was poor at best.
"Yeah, 8-10, depending on the day, but it was not good," said Trader.
Water clarity on Lake Winnebago averaged six and a half feet heading into the season. Experts say spearers need about 12 feet of visibility to really be successful.
"That definitely played a role in the below average harvest this year," said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Sturgeon Biologist.
A little more than five percent of the 12,505 license holders harvested fish on Lake Winnebago. That total of 654 ranks 2018 the 42nd highest out of 78 seasons.
Koenigs says the fish were leaner too. The sturgeon's main food sources were in short supply, and during registration, some fish were found to have empty stomachs.
Spearers did find some fish. More than half of the sturgeon were registered in the southern part of the lake.
"Calumet Harbor in Pipe, and also Wendt's on the Lake in Van Dyne were by far the busiest registration stations throughout the entirity of the season," said Koenigs.
Koenigs says clear, shallow water in the Upriver Lakes of Poygan, Winneconne and Butte des Morts was a recipe for success.
"We had a four-day season with a harvest of 297 fish, so more than 60 percent of the license holders up there were able to get a fish," said Koenigs.
Benjamin Berger led the way on opening day. His 155.6 pounder was the biggest of the season.
Back on the lake, shanties continue to move off the ice. spearers say they are ready for 2019.
"2018 spearing season coming to an end. So we'll see what we can do for ice fishing, and look forward to next year," said Trader.
The DNR says it will spend the next couple weeks going over data, before releasing a season report.
What's next up for the sturgeon?
The annual spawning run begins in April, which is just a couple of months away.