Excitement builds ahead of Saturday's sturgeon spearing opener

Sturgeon spearfishermen heading onto Lake Winnebago in Fond du Lac County, February 9, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- Excitment is building, as the countdown to the February 10 sturgeon spearing opener ticking down.

About 13,000 license holders are expected to converge on the Lake Winnebago System in hopes of harvesting that prehistoric fish.

On the frozen shoreline of Lake Winnebago, spearers are making last minute preparations for Saturday's opener.

"We like to spend some time, getting the ice shanties ready, and making sure the heaters all work before we get out on the ice, and stuff like that," said Mark Rymer, Van Dyne.

Not far away, a steady stream of trucks pulling shanties makes its way onto the ice. The two days before the season, anglers are allowed to cut holes and set up their shacks. For many, the spearing destination is miles from shore.

"This year, the ice is pretty decent. There's a few cracks and shoves to be aware of, but fishing clubs are doing a great job setting up bridges, making maps," said Kory Roloff, Oakfield.

But the cloudy conditions below the surface have many anglers concerned.

"Northwest of the island, and he could see down six feet. But you go a little bit further and then you can't see at all. Is it going to be a tough year? I think so yeah. I don't think they're going to get their quota this year," said Bob Leichtfuss, Van Dyne.

But some, don't mind the poor water clarity.

"Everything I've heard, is just how dirty the water is, and I go yeah!" said Ann Wendt-Cross, Wendt's on the Lake Manager.

Wendt-Cross says sturgeon spearing is the busiest time of the year at Wendt's on the Lake. From burgers to bloody marys, she says business is booming. She had to hire more staff to keep up.

"We normally would maybe have during the weekday, one bartender. Now we're having two or three," said Wendt-Cross.

Back on the ice, the traffic continues. Opening day isn't far away.

"You never really see the fish during the summer, or any other time. So it's a one in a lifetime sometimes," said McKenna Draves, Van Dyne.


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