Harvest caps increased for 2016
The deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses for the 2016 Lake Winnebago System and Upriver Lakes seasons is October 31, with the upcoming seasons promising new opportunities to land 100-plus pound fish and celebrate a tradition with family and friends that dates to the 1930s, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The 2015 seasons marked the sixth highest harvest total on record with 2,158 fish taken including 1,870 from Lake Winnebago and 288 from the Upriver Lakes (Lake Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan.)
Chad Cherney harvested the largest sturgeon, an 81.3 inch female weighing 137.5 pounds, said Ryan Koenigs, Lake Winnebago sturgeon biologist for the Wisconsin DNR.
There are separate seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes that occur simultaneously, with participation in the Upriver Lakes season determined by lottery. The 2016 season opens on Saturday, February 13.
Again this year, 12-year-olds can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season if they buy a license. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their tags to youngsters, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.
Koenigs said that thanks to careful management, the fishery continues to produce many fish in excess of 100 pounds, although the 2015 season saw a slight reduction in weights among the largest fish due to reduced abundance of gizzard shad and lake fly larvae. Still, the potential for trophy-sized fish remains high in 2016 due to the distribution of age classes currently in the population as fish reach their growth potential.
For 2016, the harvest caps have been raised to 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females and 1,220 males.
How, Where to Get Spearing Licenses
Licenses are again $20 for residents and $65 for nonresidents and can be purchased at any license sales location; over the Internet by going to the DNR Online Licensing Center; or by calling toll-free 1-877-WI LICENSE (1-877-945-4236).
The minimum spearing age is 12 years, and youth who turn 12 between Nov. 1, 2015, and the last day of the 2016 spearing season can still buy a spearinglicense after October 31. Military personnel home on leave can also purchase a license after October 31.
There are unlimited license sales on Lake Winnebago, while the Upriver Lakes fishery is managed by a lottery and limited to 500 permitted spearers. Once a person is authorized to buy an Upriver Lakes license for a season, they are not able to buy a license for Lake Winnebago.
For more information on harvest trends and management of the Lake Winnebago sturgeon fishery, click here.
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