Sturgeon spearing season opens on Lake Winnebago System

    Spear used during sturgeon spearing season on Lake Winnebago, February 9, 2019 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

    LAKE WINNEBAGO (WLUK) -- Day one of the 2019 sturgeon spearing season is in the books.

    Thousands of trucks took to the Lake Winnebago ice early Saturday morning in search of that prehistoric fish.

    A bumpy ride about two miles off the eastern shoreline, ended up at Adam Broehm's spearing shack.

    "It was beautiful out here this morning. Come out here bright and early, get everything set up," said Adam Broehm, Newton.

    Inside the shanty, a lucky basketball decoy indicates clarity of the water below.

    "It's about 9-12 feet we can see off the Stockbridge Harbor. It's pretty decent. We have a lot of people that are coming over here, because the north shore, they only have 6-8 in some spots, but no matter where you go, it's the luck of the draw," said Broehm.

    Not far away at Adam's father's shanty, Scott Broehm likes what he sees.

    "I have about 12 here, which is actually better than last year anyway. Last year wasn't very good at all. Four feet, five feet for the most part," said Scott Broehm, Stockbridge.

    The Department of Natural Resources says 4,625 shacks dotted the Lake Winnebago ice Saturday morning. Mike Meade's season didn't last long. He brought the first fish to the Stockbridge Registration Station at 8:30 a.m.

    "We got out there bright and early, and set up, my wife and I. It was her year to throw. I was waiting for it, and unfortunately came in my side, and went right out the other. So, she told me to throw it. I threw. We got a fish," said Mike Meade, Lodi.

    Sami Casper of Chilton speared a 44-inch sturgeon, her very first.

    "It came in nice and slow, around 8:00. and I didn't even hesitate. Just threw it. What was it like after that? Adrenaline rush. I was shaking for a while there," she said.

    Fish were also being taken on the Upriver Lakes of Poygan, Winneconne and Butte des Morts. Pete Lortscher speared a 58-pounder, and registered it at Critters Wolf River Sports, in Winneconne.

    "The thing came from underneath us. We thought about not spearing it, and I said, what the heck, we'll finish the day off. Took him. Pretty nice fish," said Pete Lortscher, Neenah.

    Spearers took 130 fish from the Upriver Lakes, while 97 sturgeon were registered on Lake Winnebago.

    "That's pretty similar to what we had on opening day last year," said Ryan Koenigs, DNR Sturgeon Biologist.

    Koenigs says he's not surprised by the slow start. He says it all comes down to one main thing.

    "Water clarity is the biggest predictor of spearing harvest on Lake Winnebago. The clearer the water, the bigger harvest we're going to have, particularly opening day," said Koenigs.

    Koenigs says the Upriver Lakes season may last 5-7 days. On Lake Winnebago, he expects the campaign to go the full 16 days. Scott Broehm says he will be here.

    "I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful a big one comes through this year. I'm on a five year dry run, so we got to get lucky one of these years," he said.

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