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Karl Scheidegger (608) Ron Bruch (920) 424-3059

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OSHKOSH – Sturgeon spearers have until Aug. 1 to apply for a 2012 Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery tag. Participation in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing season on Lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan, is controlled through a lottery. Those people selected in the lottery will be notified by Oct. 1 that they are authorized to buy a license to participate in the Upriver season and must buy that tag by Oct. 31, 2011.

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Applications can be made through the Online Licensing Center on the Department of Natural Resources website, at all license sales agents, and at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays),

Group lottery applications of up to four people are also accepted, but can only be submitted through the DNR Online Licensing Center.

Spearers who applied for but were not authorized to purchase an Upriver Lakes license receive a preference point toward the following lottery, and they can still purchase a license to participate in the Lake Winnebago spearing season that runs at the same time.

DNR biologists are considering increasing the number of licenses authorized in 2012 and will be meeting to discuss a potential increase on Aug. 4 with the Winnebago Citizens Sturgeon Advisory Committee, according to Ron Bruch, DNR fisheries supervisor in Oshkosh. Any increase that may occur in the number of licenses authorized in the Upriver Lakes fishery will not change the harvest cap allocation there or on Lake Winnebago, according to Ron Bruch, senior sturgeon biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The Upriver Lakes sturgeon spear fishery receives a small portion of the overall Winnebago System lake sturgeon harvest cap – 20 percent of the juvenile female cap, 10 percent of the adult female cap, and 20 percent of the male cap. Due to sexually distinct physiology and migration patterns, nearly two out of three fish from the Upriver Lakes harvest are males, whereas two out of three fish harvested from Lake Winnebago during the February spearing season are females.

2011 license sales for the season set a new record at 12,423 (including the 490 sold for the Upriver Lakes fishery

A record number of fish weighing more than 100 pounds, a full 16-day season, and difficult travel conditions were the stories during the 2011 Winnebago System sturgeon spearing season that wrapped up Feb. 27.

Spearers harvested 1,426 fish, close to the average of 1,405 since the harvest cap started in 1999, but the fish were bigger than they've been since the 1950s, with 94 fish, or 6.6 percent of the harvest, exceeding 100 pounds. That compares to 1 percent a generation earlier.

The overall success rate was 9 percent for Lake Winnebago, below the average of 13 percent for that water body. Success rate on the Upriver Lakes was better, as it usually is, at 66 percent.

The growing popularity of the two seasons – there’s been a 20 percent increase in spearing licenses in recent years --and recent research work showing that lake sturgeon mature more slowly than originally thought underscore the importance of using a lottery to manage the harvest on the Upriver Lakes, Bruch says.

The Upriver Lakes have had exceptionally high success rates: 2 of every 3 spearers get their fish compared to Lake Winnebago, where only 1 of 8 get their fish; Bruch says.

In 2009, 4,031 people applied for the Upriver Lakes lottery, and the DNR sold 10,239 licenses for spearing on both Winnebago and Upriver lakes. The 2009 Upriver season ran five days, and the Winnebago system season was open three additional days.]

More news from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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