Turning Sturgeon Spearing Passion Into Business - WBAY

Turning Sturgeon Spearing Passion Into Business

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Around Lake Winnebago, some sturgeon spearers have turned their experience and talents into a part-time business. 

It's not the extra money, but their passion for the sport, that keeps them busy. 

"I just love doing it, I mean I don't know if I'll ever quit," says Stockbridge resident Donny Ecker.

For more than 40 years, Ecker has made sturgeon decoys, close to 6,000 he guesses.

They've found homes around the world.

"Australia, South America there was some sent, overseas, North Carolina a couple weeks ago, New York, Minnesota," says Ecker.

With a price tag of around $60, Ecker says he makes less than $3 an hour.

Each decoy takes about 15 hours, and that's just the sawing, carving and sanding.

"Let them sit awhile and then you start painting, I paint them all a dull white first, a beige, and then you put an orange on them or a red and it brightens it right up, man it's like lightening and the fish attract to it great, lot of luck with them, I mean I always say for the last 10 years they're the decoys that work," says Ecker.

When the decoys work, you need a spear.

About a mile away, Harvey Schaefer is in his 40th year making spears.

"Oh start to finish I got 50 hours in one, but everything is done by hand, I do everything by hand, I make all the barbs by hand," says Schaefer.

Schaefer estimates he takes in about 50-cents an hour for his expertise, which is fine by him.

"The thing is it's a hobby and it was passed down to me and I appreciate it," says
Schaefer.

Schaefer also makes what's known as sled saws, which helps spearers cut holes through the ice.

Like Ecker his phone has been busy lately, but come Saturday neither will be home.

Like thousands of others, they'll be in ice shanties with decoys in the water and spears ready to go.

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