DNR reports cloudy water on Lake Winnebago ahead of sturgeon spearing

Lake Winnebago water clarity conditions near Menasha, February 6, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- Things aren't looking too clear for sturgeon spearers this season.

About a half-mile off the northern shoreline of Lake Winnebago, Anthony Capener struggled Tuesday morning to get a good look at the conditions below the ice. He used an old blanket to shield the sun, while he slowly pulled the rope to lift a white coffee cup up off the 10-foot bottom.

"Wasn't too impressed with six feet. I tell you, it ranks pretty bad this year for clarity," said Anthony Capener, Menasha.

"It's probably the worst clarity we've had in the last 10 years or longer," said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Sturgeon Biologist.

Department of Natural Resources crews tested Lake Winnebago water clarity at about 20 different sites on Monday. At its deepest point, Lake Winnebago measures only about 20 feet. Experts say spearers need to see about 12 feet to be successful.

"On average, we could see down about six and a half feet. In the best areas, it was about eight feet, but we had some areas where it was three to five feet of visibility," said Koenigs.

Koenigs says last month's rain and runoff caused some cloudiness, and a lack of snow cover triggered algae to bloom under the ice.

"We don't have an idea which has a greater impact. They likely play hand in hand," he said.

Water clarity isn't the only issue.

The fish may be a little leaner this season. Experts say the abundance is low for the sturgeon's main food sources, like lake fly larvae, and gizzard shad.

"We're still going to see some fish that are impressive length being speared, and likely fish over 100 pounds, but they're just not going to carry the same weight that they would have last year," said Koenigs.

Back on the ice, Capener says no matter the conditions, he will spear.

"The cloudiness. It just makes your eyes play tricks on you, and it can be a long day. But it's not going to keep me from trying," said Capener.

About 12,500 people bought a license for Lake Winnebago.

There were 500 licenses available for The Upriver Lakes.

Those tags were awarded through a lottery system.

The 16-day sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago begins Saturday.

For a look at ice conditions on the surface of the lake, watch Lauren Kalil's reports from Good Day Wisconsin Tuesday morning.

From cutting in to landing a lunker, share your sturgeon spearing photos and videos with us:

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