There are few things that ice fishermen like more than thick ice, but sometimes it can be too thick even for them. Wisconsin’s small but avid group of sturgeon spearers may find this year’s offering a bit on the difficult side.
“Oh yeah, it’s going to be a tough year to cut the holes,” fishermen John Norse told Fox 11.
While sturgeon spearers share the same ice with other anglers, their methods of cutting through the frosty barrier are different. Most use sled saws to cut a rectangular hole in the ice, but these homemade contraptions can only reach so deep. With forecasts predicting more than 30 inches of ice, many will have to rely on other methods before they can see water.
Wisconsin has one of the world’s largest populations of sturgeon, and also a large number of fishermen and conservationists that keep a careful eye on their numbers. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the state contains an estimated 15,847 adult female sturgeon and 31,748 adult males. While spearing these prehistoric fish may not be as popular as fishing for other species, 10,000 people still come out onto the ice every February. The state currently holds the world records for both the largest angler-taken sturgeon and the largest sturgeon found.
To safeguard the species, which is often endangered or threatened in other states, wildlife officials enforce strict regulations during fishing season. In fact, the state even has a volunteer “Sturgeon guard” to protect the fish during spawning season from poachers.