Fishermen harvested 25 sturgeon from Lake Winnebago on Sunday as the 16-day spearing season came to a close.
The 2011 harvest from Lake Winnebago and the upriver lakes of Butte des Morts, Poygan and Winneconne totaled 1,426 sturgeon, slightly more than the annual average of 1,405. The upriver lakes season ended this past week.
Of the total, 1,093 fish were speared on Lake Winnebago and 333 on the upriver lakes.
Ron Bruch, fisheries supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources, said 2011 marks the fourth time that the season has run the full 16 days since the fishery's harvest cap system was implemented in 1999. The other years were 2002, 2006 and 2007.
Since the start of the six-hour spearing day in 2005, the season has averaged 11 days. The shortest season occurred in 2008, ending after four days.
Bruch said sales of spearing licenses increased sharply this year, rising from 10,860 last year to 12,423.
"Spearers are excited in general about the success of the fishery, and the lure of the increased number of trophies in the harvest also brings some additional people into the fishery," he said.
Bruch said the most remarkable change in recent years has been the greater number of large fish in the harvest.
For 2011, sturgeon weighing 100 pounds or more accounted for 7.5 percent of the harvest on Lake Winnebago and 3.6 percent on the upriver lakes.
"The percentage of these century-mark fish has been steadily increasing over the last 15 years," Bruch said.
Sunday's harvest included three fish exceeding the 100-pound threshold. The largest was a 112-pounder registered by Jeffery Brockman of Neenah.
Bruch said the number of larger fish reflects the success of recent management practices and a bit of fortunate timing.
As the new regulations took effect, the Winnebago sturgeon population was poised to include more older and larger fish with each passing year.
"This phenomenon was due to the fact that by the mid-1990s, we finally were on the backside of a hole in the sturgeon population that had been created by excessive legal and illegal" harvests during the 1930s, '40s and '50s, Bruch said.
He said the percentage 100-pounders in the harvest "appears to be truly reflective of what is actually in the population."