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DNR announces changes to sturgeon spearing registration due to pandemic

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 3:00 PM CST
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - More than 12,000 sturgeon spearing licenses were sold for the upcoming season. While that number of spearers isn’t out of the ordinary, how the season unfolds won’t be entirely the same this year.

“The biggest change that’s coming for this year in the sturgeon spearing season is changes in the registration process,” said DNR Fisheries Biologist Ryan Koenigs.

Koenigs says this year registration, unlike years past, will be done drive-through style.

“To be able to manage this fishery, particularly with the sex-specific harvest caps, we need to be able to collect biological data from each individual fish and we need to be able to do that safely, and this is the process that allows us to do both,” said Koenigs.

Spearers will remain in their vehicles when pulling up to the registration station. DNR staff will remove the fish, collect the information they need, tag it, and put it back so the spearer can be on their way.

“It’s going to be a complete, contactless registration process,” said Koenigs. “Spearers are going to be required to stay in their vehicle.”

Registration locations will also change, moving to less populated areas like municipal parking lots and parks. Though most are located near or within a mile of the traditional locations.

Sturgeon spear registration locations 2021
Sturgeon spear registration locations 2021(Wisconsin DNR)

“There’ll be signs out at the road entrance to guide people in. As they get closer to the station itself there will be a series of cones set up that’ll have information to the spearer on how the process is going to work, particularly directing them to have the fish easily accessible for our staff,” said Koenigs.

Though the process is working differently, the daily 2 p.m. deadline to register fish will remain.

“I don’t anticipate that it’s going to take any longer. We’re still going to be collecting the same biological data from each fish,” said Koenigs.

Koenigs acknowledges many normal registration locations are near local businesses but wants to assure that this is a temporary change.

“We, the DNR, we are committed to returning registration stations to local businesses when it’s safe to do so,” said Koenigs. “This change in process this year is not our long-range plan, we’re just taking this measure this year to be able to ensure we can collect the data and we can collect it safely.”

This will also be the first year where spear size and tine arrangement will be restricted. A new regulation limits the maximum spearhead width to 18 inches, and tines can only be arranged in a single plane.

The season will start Feb. 13 and runs a maximum of 16 days or until any predetermined harvest caps are met.

Learn more about the regulations and changes for the 2021 season HERE.

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