I’ve encountered small prehistoric fish. Last year, fishing on the White River at Gaston’s White River Resort, I hooked the ugliest fish I’d ever seen on a hunk of frozen shrimp. Somehow, what I later found out was called a sculpin, snuck past a rainbow, darted off the bottom, and ate this little saltwater morsel. 

Sculpin caught at Gaston's White River Resort in Lakeview, AR
This tiny prehistoric fish, a sculpin, was caught at Gaston’s White River Resort in Lakeview, Arkansas.

Fast-forward almost a year later, and stalking another prehistoric fish is on my agenda. This time, it won’t be the random happenstance of a bizarre fish taking my bait, rather, I’m the predator and my quarry is the hallowed Lake Winnebago sturgeon. I’m very fortunate to be invited on the Women of Winnebago media event sponsored by the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau and Plano Molding and Frabill. This is my first sturgeon spearing adventure.

Sturgeon are important to the Fond du Lac area. Citizens protect the sturgeon, ensuring future fish populations. Each spring, hundreds of volunteers guard sturgeon at their spawning sites on the Wolf River and protect the fish from poaching. These volunteers are members of Sturgeon for Tomorrow. Dedicated to the propagation of lake sturgeon, their work helps prevent the illegal harvest of spawning sturgeon.

Then, once a year, an eighty-year-old tradition is celebrated on the Lake Winnebago system and many anglers like me hope to lift a prehistoric monster out of the water. Some may consider this tradition barbaric, but it is an intensely managed species with a population that has grown significantly in conjunction with a controlled spearing season. There is a harvest cap that varies from year to year. 

In total 566 sturgeon were harvested in 2012 with 36 over 100 pounds, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Spearing can only take place between 6:30 am and 12:30 pm. Sturgeon must be checked in no later than 1:30 pm on the day it was harvested. Strict regulations like this insure that a natural resource as magnificent as the lake sturgeon can proliferate, repopulate and offer an amazing outdoor experience for generations to come.

Sturgeon Stampede Festival

I’m not a morning person but I’m excited to wake up early and be on the hunt for aquatic beasts. I don’t know if I’ll be brining one home—just seeing a sturgeon swim through the ice will be an experience of a lifetime. For more information about Fond du Lac, the Sturgeon Stampede and the Women on Winnebago event, visit the WOW website at http://wow.wwocz.net/.

For information about Sturgeon for Tomorrow visit http://www.sturgeonfortomorrow.net/. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will be providing Twitter feeds with updates throughout the opening sturgeon spearing weekend. To sign up to follow the WI DNR through Twitter go to https://twitter.com/WDNR.

For up-to-date fishing reports for Lake Winnebago, visit fishhound.com‘s Lake Winnebago page at http://www.fishhound.com/fishing-reports/lake-winnebago-wi.

Images courtesy Dena Woerner

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