The 2011 sturgeon spearing season made it to the finish line Sunday afternoon as the fourth season to make the full 16-day run since the harvest cap season was implemented back in 1999. The average season typically lasts 11 days until the fish harvest exceeds the cap.
This year's total harvest of 1,426 fish was close to the average annual harvest (1,405) established under the cap. Of that total, 1,093 were harvested from Lake Winnebago, according to DNR officials.
On closing day, fishermen harvested 25 sturgeon from Lake Winnebago. Three of the fish tipped the scales at over 100 pounds, said Ron Bruch, Winnebago Sturgeon Biologist for the Department of Natural Resources.
The largest fish pulled from the lake's icy waters on Sunday weighed in at 112 pounds and was registered by Jeffrey Brockman of Neenah at Payne's Point station. Two local men, Jerry Meinburg of Van Dyne and Thomas Malson of Fond du Lac, also brought in the day's largest fish at 103 and 102 pounds respectively.
Bruch said the sale of spearing license was up at 12,423 compared to 10,860 last year. Fisherman flocked to the lakes in record numbers with 4,321 shanties dotting Lake Winnebago on opening day. Warm weather and snow melt and deteriorating travel conditions forced many spearers to pull their shanties off the ice, dropping the number of structures out on the ice by nearly 60 percent the second Saturday of the season.'
"The biggest change we have seen over the last 10 years is the percentage of large fish in the harvest," Bruch said. "This year the percentage of fish 100 lbs. or larger in the harvest was 7.5 percent on Lake Winnebago and 3.6 percent on the Upriver Lakes."
Bruch said the percentage of the century mark fish has been steadily increasing over the last 15 years due to the shorter seasons increasing the survival odds of the older females.