The North American Lake Sturgeon an ancient bottom-feeding fish, thought to have first appeared over 150 million years ago. The largest specimens can reach over 6 feet in length, can top the scales at over 200 pounds and can live as long as 100 years. Sturgeon is a gourmet fish, prized for it’s caviar and isinglass.
Wisconsin’s Winnebago waterway systems are home to the largest concentration of sturgeon in the world. This makes these areas one of the best places on the planet to angle for these ancient freshwater monsters. Because sturgeon are a ‘watch’ species, fishing is carefully monitored by the Department of Natural Resources. Hook and line angling requires extremely ample gear to handle the large fish. 50 lb. test line is necessary to haul in a fish the of this size. Along rivers, anglers will often fish with night crawlers as bait, weighting the line with a heavy sinker and dropping their hook into a hole to wait for a strike. Once hooked, the battle begins, and it may be a lengthly one. Fishing with hook and line is allowed on only a few waters in the state, and tags are required for the specific areas along waterways one will be fishing. The season runs from the first Saturday in September until September 30 on the following waters: Chippewa River, Flambeau River, Butternut Lake, Jump River, Yellow Lake, Little Yellow Lake, Danbury Flowage, Yellow River, Wisconsin River and any water along the Wisconsin-Michigan border.
Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lake’s spear fishing season beings the second Saturday in February and lasts 16 days, unless tag limits are met earlier, forcing an emergency closure. Ice anglers who have procured tags begin by cutting a 4 by 2 foot hole in the ice with a chainsaw or auger. After the hole has been cut, an ice shanty is hauled over the hole to provide warm and protection from the wind, as well as shade over the hole in the ice. It is necessary to have a good view into the hole to see the fish. Most anglers use a decoy, approximately 3 feet in length, which is suspended just above the lake bottom with a rope, to attract sturgeon. Once a fish is spotted, the angler drops a waiting spear, tethered to a rope. If the aim is good, the angler works the sturgeon until it tires and then hauls it up and out of the shanty, so it cannot slip back into the water. The fish is then tagged and registered with a Department of Natural Resources agent for weight and measurement. By using these conservation techniques, Wisconsin provides an opportunity for state anglers to catch these prehistoric fish without jeopardizing their long-term sustainability.