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Sturgeon Harvest Registration

Station Locations

  • Registration stations will be reinstated at previous locations.
  • Some stations will offer a convenient drive-thru option for registration.

Registration Process

  • The DNR requests that all harvested sturgeon be placed on the tailgate or in an easily accessible location.
  • Follow the signage and cones at each registration station to facilitate a seamless registration process.

Sturgeon Harvest Tags, Licenses, and Permits

Sturgeon Spearing License/Tag

  • Spearers are required to have a paper copy of their sturgeon spearing license/tag with them at all times during spearing.
  • A receipt of purchase, driver’s license, or GoWild card does not fulfill this requirement.

Carcass Tags

  • It is illegal to possess more than one copy of a carcass tag.
  • Carcass tags must be validated immediately upon harvest by removing the validation stub.

Mandatory Registration

  • In-person registration of all harvested fish is mandatory.
  • Fish must be presented at a registration station by 2 p.m. on the same day the fish is harvested.

Sturgeon Spearing Technology Update

Survey Results and Decision

  • Spearers have been using technology like underwater cameras during the spearing season.
  • Following concerns expressed by stakeholders, the DNR considered additional regulations.
  • A survey of licensed spearers showed majority support for using technology such as cameras.
  • Strictly managed quotas ensure overharvest does not occur.
  • Consequently, the DNR decided against implementing further regulations on technology during spearing.

Season Outlook

  • The 2023 sturgeon spearing season will commence on Feb. 11.
  • Hopes are for near-perfect ice conditions and decent water clarity, similar to the previous year.
  • Last year saw good ice conditions, allowing access to most parts of Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes.
  • Water clarity was better than in previous years, with an average depth of about 10 feet.

Upriver Lakes Season

  • The Upriver Lakes season lasted four days last year, with 349 harvested fish, influenced by good ice conditions.

Fisheries Update

  • Catch rates for young of year Gizzard Shad increased during the 2022 Winnebago trawl.
  • Chironomid larvae densities decreased in Lake Winnebago but remained consistent in the Upriver Lakes.
  • Despite lower catch rates, large sturgeon were observed during both spearing and spawning seasons.
  • In 2022, 17 sturgeon over 100 pounds were speared, including a rare occurrence of a large male.

Post-Pandemic Celebration

  • Registration stations have returned to pre-pandemic locations.
  • Spearers are encouraged to visit registration stations to celebrate.
  • Safety and enjoyment are emphasized for the upcoming spearing season.

Sturgeon Spearing Seasons and Hours

Hours of Operation

  • 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Lake Winnebago Season

  • Dates: Feb. 11 through Feb. 26, 2023
  • Continues until any pre-set harvest caps for Lake Winnebago or the Winnebago system-wide harvest caps are reached, as per trigger closure rules.

Upriver Lakes Season (Lake Butte des Morts, Winneconne, and Poygan)

  • Dates: Feb. 11 through Feb. 26, 2023
  • Continues until any pre-set harvest caps for the Upriver Lakes or the Winnebago system-wide harvest caps are reached, following trigger closure rules.

License and Drawing Information

  • A limited drawing spear fishery was introduced on the Upriver Lakes in 2007.
  • Spearers can apply for an Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing license or purchase a preference point by Aug. 1.
  • Applicants are notified by Oct. 1 regarding their authorization to purchase an Upriver Lakes sturgeon spearing license.
  • Group drawing applications of up to four persons are accepted, with the group's preference points determined by the member with the fewest points.
  • Spearers not drawn for an Upriver Lakes license receive a preference point and can purchase a Lake Winnebago license.
  • Successful applicants lose accumulated preference points regardless of whether they purchase their Upriver Lakes license.
  • Spearers may only buy a license for either Lake Winnebago or the Upriver Lakes, not both.
  • License sales for the Lake Winnebago season close on Oct. 31.
  • The Upriver Lakes sturgeon drawing fishery limits participation to 500 tags in 2023 and is included in the overall sturgeon harvest caps.
  • Upriver Lakes tags are transferable to a youth (age 12-17) or a person with a valid Class A, B, C, or D disabled permit.

Sturgeon Spearing License Requirements

License Fees

  • Residents: $20.00
  • Nonresidents: $65.00

Eligibility

  • Only individuals aged 12 and above are eligible to spear sturgeon.
  • No sturgeon spearing licenses may be issued or purchased after Oct. 31, 2022, except for:
    • Wisconsin residents turning 12 between Nov. 1, 2022, and the last day of the 2023 spearing season.
    • Wisconsin residents serving in the Armed Forces on leave during the 2023 spearing season.

License Usage

  • The sturgeon spearing license/tag must be carried by the licensee at all times while spearfishing for sturgeon.
  • It is illegal for any person to use or carry the license/tag of another individual.
  • Lake Winnebago licenses are non-transferable, while Upriver Lakes licenses can be transferred to youth (age 12-17) or a person holding a valid Class A, B, C, or D disabled permit.

Tagging Your Sturgeon

Validation Process

  • Upon Harvest: The carcass tag must be immediately validated by removing the validation stub below the dotted line.

Tag Attachment

  • When to Attach: The validated tag must remain with the sturgeon until presented at a DNR-operated registration station.
  • The tag does not need to be attached to the sturgeon unless the license holder leaves the fish.

Tag Protection

  • Responsibility: It is the spearer's responsibility to keep the tag protected and legible.
  • Recommendation: Consider enclosing the tag in a sealed plastic bag to ensure its preservation.

Registration

  • Deadline: Any harvested sturgeon must be presented at an official registration station by 2 p.m. on the same day it was speared.
  • Registration Method: Call-in or online registration is NOT available for registering harvested lake sturgeon.

Individual Responsibility

  • No Group Bagging: Group bagging is not legal; the person who speared the sturgeon must be the one to tag the fish.

Harvest Caps

Total Limits

  • The total harvest of sturgeon is restricted through pre-set harvest caps.
  • Harvest caps for the 2023 Winnebago system spearing season are as follows:
    • Juvenile Females: 350
    • Adult Females: 793
    • Males: 1231

Allocation

  • Portions of the system-wide harvest caps are allocated to the fisheries on Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes, as shown below:

2023 Spearing Season Harvest Caps

Waterbody Juvenile Females Adult Females Males
Lake Winnebago 280 714 985
Upriver Lakes 70 79 246
Winnebago System 350 793 1231

Closure Conditions

  • The DNR will close the sturgeon spearing season under the following conditions:

Lake Winnebago Closure

  • Criteria:
    • At the end of a spearing day with 100% of any Lake Winnebago harvest cap reached or exceeded; or
    • Within 24 hours of a spearing day concluding with 90 to 99% of any Lake Winnebago harvest cap reached.

Upriver Lakes Closure

  • Criteria:
    • At the end of a spearing day with 100% of any Upriver Lakes harvest cap reached or exceeded; or
    • Within 24 hours of a spearing day concluding with 90 to 99% of any Upriver Lakes harvest cap reached.

Winnebago System Closure

  • Criteria:
    • At the end of a spearing day with 100% of any Winnebago system-wide harvest cap reached or exceeded; or
    • Within 24 hours of a spearing day concluding with 90 to 99% of any Winnebago system-wide harvest cap reached.

Registration Stations

Accompanying Your Fish

  • Requirement:
    • A person spearing a sturgeon must accompany the fish to an official sturgeon registration station.
  • Methods:
    • Phone-in or online harvest registration is NOT available for sturgeon registration.

Location Specifics

  • Lake Winnebago Harvest:
    • Must be registered at registration stations on Lake Winnebago.
  • Upriver Lakes Harvest:
    • Must be registered at registration stations on the Upriver Lakes.

Operational Details

  • Operational Status:
    • Stations are operated daily throughout the season by DNR fisheries staff.
  • Biological Information:
    • Registration process collects data on size, sex, and tagging history of the fish.
  • Metal Registration Tag:
    • Attached to signify proper registration.
    • Must be retained until the carcass is consumed.

Procedures

  • Arrival Time:
    • Arrive as soon as possible after spearing to avoid the end-of-day rush.
    • Must be in line by 2 p.m. on the day of spearing.
  • Early Closures:
    • Some stations may close early based on spearing activity.
    • Early closures will be posted at stations and on the DNR website.

Harvest Photos

  • Submission Request:
    • Spearers are encouraged to submit photos capturing the spearing tradition.
  • Content:
    • Photos can include spearers with their harvest, shanty life, scenic views, etc.
  • Description:
    • Include a brief description of each image.
  • Usage Consent:
    • By submitting photos, the DNR is granted a non-exclusive license for future outreach efforts.

REGISTRATION STATION LOCATIONS

Locations with drive-thru options are marked in red.

Wisconsin Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearing Regulations

Regulations

Limits

  • Bag Limit: One (1) lake sturgeon per licensee.
  • Minimum Length: 36 inches.

Possession and Use of a Spear

  • Control of Spear:
    • Spears or similar devices allowed only during established sturgeon spearing seasons, with a valid license and unfilled carcass tag.
  • Method of Taking:
    • Sturgeon can only be taken by spearing with a hand-thrown spear from inside a fishing shelter.
  • Prohibition:
    • Illegal to spear a sturgeon and release it back into the water.

Fishing Equipment or Gear

  • Restrictions:
    • Unlawful to possess fishing equipment in ice fishing shelters with holes larger than 12 inches.
    • Spearhead width limited to 18 inches or less, with tines arranged in a single straight line.

Ice Shanties and Shelters

  • Door Requirements:
    • Doors must be operable from the outside.
  • Identification:
    • Shanties/shelters must display owner's name and address or DNR customer ID number.
  • Removal:
    • Must be removed from inland waters south of Hwy 64 by the first Sunday following March 1.

Lights, Underwater Cameras, Depth Locators

  • Prohibition:
    • Use of artificial lights prohibited during sturgeon spearing season.
    • Underwater cameras allowed but lights must be disabled.

Ice Hole Restrictions

  • Size Limit:
    • Ice holes larger than 12 inches restricted for sturgeon spearing.
  • Total Area:
    • Total area of sturgeon spearing hole(s) cannot exceed 48 square feet.

Ice Hole Marking

  • Requirements:
    • Ice holes must be marked with wooden strips extending at least three feet above the ice.
    • Lathe markers should be frozen into the ice for better visibility.

Litter

  • Disposal Requirement:
    • Illegal to leave materials on the ice that cannot be retrieved.
    • Sturgeon spearers responsible for removing any material used in spearing holes.

Transportation

  • Restrictions:
    • Unregistered sturgeon must be openly exposed during transport in a motor vehicle.
  • Boundary Limits:
    • Unregistered sturgeon from Lake Winnebago or Upriver Lakes cannot be transported outside designated highway boundaries.

Spearing of Rough Fish

  • Prohibition:
    • Spearing of species other than sturgeon prohibited during sturgeon spearing season.
    • Exception for licensed sturgeon spearers incidentally taking carp.

Sturgeon Eggs and Meat

  • Trading Prohibition:
    • It is illegal to sell, purchase, barter, or trade sturgeon eggs, roe, caviar, or meat at any time.
    • Bartering, exchanging goods or services without using money, is also prohibited.

Guiding

  • Guidance Restrictions:
    • No person may engage in guiding, directing, or assisting others in sturgeon spearing/fishing for any compensation or reward without a guide license issued by the DNR.
    • Compensation includes monetary payment, gratuity, physical items, or other services rendered.
    • Examples of guiding include providing pre-cut shanties, decoys, equipment rental, or aiding in fish location.
    • Questions regarding guiding regulations can be directed to local Conservation Wardens.
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