It was the women spearers' turn to shine during the opening day of the 2012 sturgeon season, with ladies spearing the largest and second-largest sturgeon of the day on the upriver lakes.
The clear, shallow water of the upriver lakes of Butte des Morts, Poygan and Winneconne provided great spearing for the 498 anglers who were drawn for tags in the annual lottery.
Chris Haedt of Oshkosh took the biggest fish Saturday, a 179.8-pounder that measured 79.6 inches long. It was the fifth largest sturgeon ever speared, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
First-time a charm
Nathan Seelow of Neenah forgot to buy his sturgeon tag this season, but his wife, Carrie, didn't. It was her first time and her first fish. And it was a dandy.
Carrie Seelow jabbed a 154.6-pound, 77.5-inch monster. She and her husband were on Lake Poygan in Clark's Bay when the big one came swimming by.
"I went out on 'Bago with him twice," Carrie said as a small crowd gathered around her fish at Critters Wolf River Sports in Winneconne, the weigh station where Haedt's fish also was registered.
Carrie quickly called her daughters, Annaliyah, 8, and Lainey, 3, who were staying with grandma. "Mom got a fish and it's way bigger than you," she told Annaliyah. "It's bigger than Mommy, but not Daddy."
Rose Kallas, of Berlin, kept the "women rule" theme alive by sticking a 64.3-pound, 64.3-inch fish. Kallas, who had never speared before, took her fish on Lake Poygan about 10 a.m. with the help of friend Vernie Krause of Berlin.
When Krystie Kettlewell isn't powerlifting for the Omro High School weightlifting team, she's enjoying the spearing season with her dad, Bob Kettlewell of Omro. Krystie, 15, got to practice her weightlifting talents Saturday after spearing a 59-pound, 59-inch sturgeon.
They were spearing on Lake Butte des Morts about 9:30 a.m. when the fish appeared on the bottom. Krystie speared it in the tail with one tine holding it, and then used a second spear to secure it. The battle took about 10 minutes.
It took a "turtle" to bring luck for two successful spearers. Arlyn "Turtle" Koplitz of Eagle River (formerly of Oshkosh) is the mentor and old spearing pro for his son, Sam Koplitz, of Burlington, and friend John Pollack, of Greenville. Koplitz and Pollack drew upriver tags and put their shack on Lake Butte des Morts off Sand Pit Road.
The spot proved golden, with Pollack spearing a 102.4-pound, 67.6-inch adult female at 7:30 a.m., and Sam Koplitz jabbing a 90.8-pound, 70-inch female at 9:30 a.m.
"He fought hard," Sam said of his fish. "It was hard to get out of the hole because it was thrashing so hard."
It was Pollack's third fish and Sam's fifth.
The trio would return to Lake Winnebago today to help Turtle get a sturgeon, since he wasn't lucky enough to get drawn for an upriver tag. He's taken 15 or 20 sturgeon over the years, and the other two both agreed he'd brought them luck. They said the biggest fish of the day had been taken in the shanty next to them.
Five friends took five sturgeon Saturday morning on Lake Butte des Morts' Norwegian Bay. For Denise Zwick, of Brightstown, it was her first fish in 10 years of spearing: a 24.2-pounder. Husband Dan Zwick jabbed a 39.1-pounder, but he's best known for his walleye fishing prowess. He and partner Tony Kobriger of Chilton won the Masters Walleye Circuit championship last October in Prairie du Chien, bringing home $25,000.
Others in the group with fish were Bruce Uitenbroek, of Greenleaf, with a 25-pounder; Dan Beattie, of Rosendale, with a 60.5-pounder and Carey Cottrell, of Greenville, with a 64.6-pounder.
"Fishing is in their blood," Denise said. Her husband added: "The camaraderie is great."
Jeff Kallas of Winneconne has a surprise for his wife, Bonnie, when she returns from Hawaii: a 139.2-pound, 73.9-inch sturgeon. He was spearing on Lake Poygan about 10:30 a.m. Saturday when he got the fish. It was his fourth sturgeon.
Bonnie Kallas drew an upriver tag, as did her husband, but Bonnie and a friend also booked a trip to Hawaii and she could not give her tag to anyone else, Jeff said.