The sturgeon are not spawning yet, but are definitely on the move to their final pre-spawn staging areas in anticipation of the big show which could start sometime next week once the weather warms after the cool period coming in over the weekend.
The clues to watch for that are pretty good indicators that sturgeon are spawning are (in order of dependability): numerous large very high flocks of Canada geese flying north, aspen leaves as big as a beaver's ear, pussy willows in full bloom, and spring peepers in full chorus at night. We are already seeing some sturgeon porpoising near spawning sites which is also a pretty good sign that spawning is imminent, although regardless of the various clues, the fish depend primarily on water temperature and will spawn when the core river temps where they are staging hit between 52 and 56 degrees F. We were at about 51 degrees in the New London area and 45 degrees in the Shawano area this morning. Our walleye electrofishing crews working just downstream from Shawano saw more sturgeon than walleye today - so it won't be long now.
Once the run starts the best viewing areas are along the Sturgeon Trail on Cty X west of New London, at Bamboo Bend off Hwy 54 just west of Shiocton, and below the Shawano paper mill dam in Shawano. The Shawano site is the best spawning site on the river. Generally sturgeon spawn at about 20 or more sites out of the 60 total known sites on the rivers each year. This year the high water may limit the number of sites the fish can use, although all of the developed adults will spawn somewhere, and will undoubtedly put good shows on for the public at the three large public viewing sites.
We expect around 3500 females and 20000 males to participate in this year's spawning run. Females don't spawn for the first time until they are 21-34 years old and then only spawn once every 3-5 years, while males spawn for the first time when they are 14-29 years old and spawn every year or every other year.
Visit the DNR's website for sturgeon spawning viewing locations.
More news from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.