Ice cutting ahead of sturgeon spearing season confirms water clarity concerns

Ice block wrestled under Lake Winnebago surface, February 8, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

QUINNEY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Sturgeon spearers are getting ready for Saturday's opener by cutting holes in the ice to claim their spot.

But finding a place on Lake Winnebago with good water clarity below, may be a challenge, and many anglers aren't happy with what they see.

With the pull of a rope, the sounds of the sturgeon season filled the Lake Winnebago air. Adam Ecker spent little time, carving through about 20 inches of ice about a mile off the Quinney shoreline Thursday morning.

"Everybody's got to take their turn cutting holes. And you got to sink the kegs, bank the shacks, push them over the holes. Everybody's got to take participation in it," said Adam Ecker, Stockbridge.

The Ecker family and friends spear the area every year. After cutting the maximum 48-square-foot hole, the crew uses wooden poles to wrestle the large block of ice, under the surface of the frozen lake.

Over the last month, spear fishermen have watched clarity conditions on Lake Winnebago drop from an average of nine feet to about six and a half feet.

"Clarity is bad. It's been the worst we had in probably 5-6 years. The best we could see was nine feet. That was on Monday. And yeah, it's going bad, worse every day actually," said Mark Ecker, Quinney Fishing Club.

With the sturgeon-sized holes cut, the shacks were moved into place.

"That's five feet down. That's a pink decoy," said Matt Ecker, Quinney.

In 20 feet of water, Matt Ecker lowered a decoy to show what many anglers are up against.

"The bottom one is gone already. You can see, the pink one, but you'll never see a fish past six feet. It's going to be a long season. But it is what it is, it's Mother Nature, and you aren't going to control it," he said.

Meanwhile the cutting continues.

"I haven't been out there yet to look at the clarity, so I don't know. Either way, I will be out there. Don't matter if I can see two feet or to the bottom," said Adam Ecker.

The season starts Saturday at 7 a.m. It is scheduled to run 16 days, unless the safe-harvest cap is reached before then.

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