he deadline to buy sturgeon spearing licenses for the 2014 Lake Winnebago System seasons is Oct. 31, with the seasons shaping up to provide ample opportunity to land the fish of a lifetime as well as enjoy a tradition that brings together family and friends.

“We have been seeing a record number of big fish in the harvest over the last decade and expect more of the same for the 2014 seasons,” says Ryan Koenigs, Department of Natural Resources Winnebago System sturgeon biologist. “Nine of the top 10 fish on record have been harvested since 2004 and a record high 9.5 percent of the fish harvested last year exceeded 100 pounds.”

For the second year, 12-year-olds can participate in the lake sturgeon spearing season if they buy a license. Also, adults whose names were drawn in the Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing lottery can transfer their 2014 tags to youngsters, allowing youngsters a chance to spear on the lakes, where success rates have historically been higher.

There are separate seasons for Lake Winnebago and for the Upriver Lakes that begin at the same time, with participation in the Upriver Lakes season determined by lottery. The 2014 season open on Saturday, Feb. 8.

Spearers of all ages will find a healthy fishery that boasts a record number of big fish, including the 87.5 inch, 240-pound sturgeon DNR fish crews captured and tagged on April 10, 2012, below the Shawano Dam and not among the fish harvested in the 2013 seasons.

The trend in trophy-size fish has been increasing significantly over the last decade due to the distribution of age classes currently in the population and the impact of harvest regulations implemented over the last 20 years to increase survival of these larger fish, Koenigs says. “The fish are starting to show us their true growth potential, and I expect to continue to see larger fish in our harvest and population assessments.”

The harvest caps are the same as they have been the last two years — 400 juvenile females, 828 adult females and 1,200 males.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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