With a record number of spearers expected on Lake Winnebago this week, enthusiasts are asking if licensing will one day go to a lottery.
License sales for the season set a new record at 12,423 (11,714 for Lake Winnebago) reflecting the growing interest in recent years by a wider range of people attracted by the success of spearers and the big fish.
Ron Bruch, Winnebago sturgeon biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, says he doesn't see a lottery happening any time soon.
"The harvest cap system with unlimited license sales that we currently have in place for Lake Winnebago works quite well and has more than accomplished our first goal of protecting the sturgeon stock from over-harvest," he said. "We cannot accomplish our second goal of maintaining a viable sturgeon spear fishery with maximum opportunities for spearers without accomplishing the first goal."
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Bruch said the systems already in place for managing the harvest work well as does a process that includes a Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee and other public meetings for sorting out "if we ever need to do something different to address issues that may come up in the future."
"The lottery on the Upriver Lakes has worked quite well, but given the 66 percent success rate on those lakes, we could not run a fishery up there without having a potential problem given the popularity of that fishery," Bruch said. "The success rate on Lake Winnebago is 13 percent, but even with this low per person success rate, most Lake Winnebago spearers feel they are successful if some from their spearing group are able to harvest a fish."