Todd Jaeger, left, and Richard Suckow pull their ice shanty off Lake Winnebago at Wendt's on the Lake in Van Dyne as the 2012 sturgeon spearing season wraps up on Sunday. / Oshkosh Nortwestern photo by Adam Jungwirth
Sturgeon spearing totals for Sunday, season
Totals for Sunday
»Juvenile females: 1 of 316 limit
»Adult females 13 of 711 limit
»Males: 4 of 960 limit
Totals for season
»Juvenile females: 45 of 316 limit
»Adult females: 165 of 711 limit
»Males: 114 of 960 limit
Upriver lakes (season closed Feb. 12)
»Juvenile females: 25 of 79 limit
»Adult females: 86 of 79 limit
»Males: 131 of 240 limit
Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Chris Stangler of Green Bay was relieved he speared a fish just before the annual sturgeon spearing season ended Sunday.
He was also thrilled.
“This is my first sturgeon,” he said of the 45-pound, 58-inch male. “It’s extremely exciting.”
He was one of the lucky ones.
Stangler was one of only 18 people to register a fish Sunday, and many others were shut out during the 16-day season. Ron Bruch, fisheries supervisor of the Department of Natural Resources, said 2012 ranked as one of the 15 to 20 worst sturgeon spearing seasons on record.
For the season, 324 fish were speared in Lake Winnebago — 45 juvenile females, 165 adult females and 114 males — and 242 were speared in the Upriver Lakes.
That total of 566 is a little more than one-third of the more than 1,400 sturgeon that were speared last season.
On the positive side, since harvest caps weren’t met on Lake Winnebago, Bruch said it was a nice long season with just enough of a harvest to keep people happy.
“People are just glad to be able to get out every year and do this,” he said.
Bruch said although the ice on Lake Winnebago held up surprisingly well this season, the warm weather kept many people from even going out on the ice in the first place, especially if they didn’t have a four-wheeler.
“The effort right out of the gate was probably less than half of what it normally is,” he said. “If you don’t have the people looking down the holes, you’re not going to have the fish coming in to the registration stations.”
Still, the thrill of the hunt keeps people coming back every year to spear a fish, according to Bruch.
“It is exciting to be in the shack,” he said. “You sit and you’re staring down that hole and at any second you could see that fish. You have to make up your mind whether you’re going to throw that spear or not, and that’s the excitement.”
Brian Kind of Waupun spent six days out on Lake Winnebago, waiting for just that kind of moment.
Though he didn’t spear a fish this year, he did get to spend time with his father, Karl Kind, of Van Dyne, and father and son got to bond in an ice shanty as they have for the past couple decades, listening to the radio and waiting for sturgeon pass under their hole in the ice.
“I was glad to be able to get out at all, considering the conditions and the weather,” Brian Kind said.
The elder Kind has participated in about 50 sturgeon spearing seasons, and he speared a 70-pound female on Feb. 14, but the son still has the edge with eight total spears over his father’s half-dozen.
It’s a tradition that will continue, as Karl Kind said his grandson will eventually be joining them out on the ice.
Stangler enjoyed each of the six days he spent out on the ice this year with his group, and would have even if he’d ended the season empty-handed as he had the previous five seasons he’d gone spearing.
“It’s always good,” Stangler said. “There’s good camaraderie with or without fish. The fish is just a bonus.”
Charles Greenley: (920) 426-6663 or firstname.lastname@example.org