A 79.6- inch, 179.9-pound female sturgeon taken by Chris Haedt of Oshkosh. The fish is the 5th largest fish on record since the fishery began in 1932. / DNR Photo
WINNECONNE — After 13 years of sturgeon spearing with only one sturgeon caught about five years ago, Berlin's Chris Haedt says she was lucky Saturday to land a monster on Lake Poygan that measured nearly 80 inches and 180 pounds.
Shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday, Haedt, 46, said she had just settled into the ice shack with her father-in-law, Don Haedt, of rural Ripon, when a smaller sturgeon swam by in about 6 feet of water — a possible good omen.
"We waited and 20 minutes later my father-in-law said, 'Here comes one,'" she recalled Sunday.
Haedt fumbled a bit removing the spear from a hook on the ceiling over the hole in the ice but fortunately the female sturgeon was not fast moving.
"I don't know if she stopped and waited for me or what but she was still there when I got done goofing around with that (hook) so I felt pretty lucky," she said.
"I was holding onto the rope and it started to swim circles until my father-in-law was able to gaff it and pull it out onto the ice," Haedt said.
They took the sturgeon to a registration station in Winneconne where it was measured by the state Department of Natural Resources at 79.6 inches and 179.8 pounds.
The DNR said the fish is the fifth largest on record since the fishery began in 1932. It's also the largest of the 2012 season, which completed its second day Sunday.
"It looked like a freight train coming," said Don Haedt. "It was right in the middle of the hole. It couldn't have come in any better. It was probably about 2½ to 3 feet down. She had four out of five barbs in it so she was dead on.
"I knew it was big but I had no idea it was that big," he said.
Don Haedt said the sturgeon was thrashing around in the hole and had the inside of the shack pretty wet.
"I grabbed the gaff and its tail came up and I gaffed it in the tail and pulled it right out the door," he said. "I'm still overwhelmed."
He credited his daughter-in-law for keeping her cool.
"About (6:40 a.m. Saturday) a 40-incher come up into the hole," he said. "I give her a lot of credit. She said, 'That's too small. I'm going to let that go.'"
Haedt said, "It was roughly 7 when this big one came. It's as much fun to see it happen like that as it is doing it yourself.
"She was cool as a cucumber until after she speared it and then she got excited."
While she clearly has family bragging rights, Haedt was quick to also share credit with her father-in-law as well as husband, Duane Haedt, who was spearing in another shack upriver. "He built the shack. He scouted it out, cut the hole and all I had to do is show up," she said.
"It's all about being in the right place at the right time," she said.
"You're sitting there for hours just hoping and praying and waiting," she said. "When you're fortunate enough to have any sturgeon swim through your hole, no matter what size, it's a little payoff for all the time you sitting there staring at nothing."