Sturgeon are spawning, but no one can go watch

Sturgeon spawning on the Wolf River (WBAY file photo)
Sturgeon spawning on the Wolf River (WBAY file photo)(WBAY)
Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 3:10 PM CDT
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The coronavirus has led to kids finishing the school year remotely along with canceled sporting events. And, while nature is taking its course and sturgeon are spawning, watching it this spring is not happening.

The sturgeon are starting to arrive for spawning at Bamboo Bend in Shiocton, but no one is around to watch. In fact, signs warn people the area is closed because of concerns with COVID-19 as red tape blocks the entrance to the park's parking lot.

Even DNR fisheries biologists like Ryan Koenigs are missing the sturgeon run.

According to Koenigs, "We're in a work-from-home capacity, our fisheries staff. Our hatcheries are still open, but our biologists and technicians and the management section are working from home."

Working from home means Koenigs and his crews, which usually touch and tag hundreds of sturgeon during the spring run, won't see a fish in person at all this year.

"We are fortunate that we have a lot of data we've collected during past spring spawning assessments and harvest assessments, and we will rely on that past data to estimate how many fish are out there in the population and set safe harvest caps for the 2021 sturgeon spearing season," says Koenigs.

While the DNR doesn't believe not handling the fish this year -- a first since it started closely monitoring the population in 1975 -- won't greatly impact its study of sturgeon. What hurts the most is not being able to be out here interacting with the public and each other.

Koenigs adds, "As the spring spawn run and handling live fish, hundreds of fish a day some days and hanging out with the crew, interacting, we enjoy interacting with the public at some of these sites as well while we're doing our assessments and educating people and seeing them get excited about sturgeon as well. So, it's different!"

So, instead of participating from shore, sturgeon enthusiasts will simply have to settle watching the action on the Wolf River cameras (