LAKE WINNEBAGO, Wis. (WBAY) -- A big day for fishermen and women in Northeast Wisconsin, as sturgeon spearing season kicked off Saturday morning at 7:00.
“I think it’s what we do here in Wisconsin, and Lake Winnebago,” says Paul Kampo, a sturgeon spearer. “This is kind of the time of year that you do stuff like that.”
Anglers comparing Saturday’s opener to a Packers season tailgate – a quintessential Wisconsin tradition -- you’ll only see out on Lake Winnebago.
The DNR says 83 sturgeon were harvested during Saturday's opener.
Seven of those fish were 100 pounds or more.
Benjamin Berger speared the biggest sturgeon of the day, weighing 155.6 pounds and measuring 75.6 inches. Berger registered the fish at Critter's and the DNR says it's the heaviest fish harvested from the Winnebago System since the 2014 spearing season.
The Kampos and friends decided to create an icy shanty on a whim debuting it for the first time this season.
“I’m not really sure [how it started,]” laughs sturgeon spearer Chris Rice. “It started at a bar.”
The shanty is decked out with a fireplace, stocked cupboards, two ice holes, and of course sturgeon spears.
“Here's our sturgeon spear,” Rice demonstrates. “Basically you just go... The fish comes by, you throw it down.”
For this group, no sturgeon were to be speared – a pattern we’re seeing across the lake.
“We weren’t anticipating a lot of fish coming in,” says Scott Koehnke, a Water Management Specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. “Talking to spearers out on the water, they're seeing anywhere from seven to 10 feet, and if you're in deeper water than that, it's hard to spear a fish you can't see.”
The murky water clarity can’t stop the fun for the hundreds of spearers who took to the lake on Saturday; the Kampos even mixing drinks and grilling out on the lake.
Sturgeon spearing season runs until Sunday February 25th, or until the DNR meets its quota for the harvest.