Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sturgeon Spearing

For anyone familiar with Lake Winnebago and it's connecting rivers in Wisconsin, this weekend is a big deal.  I had no idea what a family tradition it was or how important it is to many people in the area.  This weekend begins the start of Sturgeon spearing season.  Sturgeons are carefully managed and can only be speared during this short season.  Because of the strict regulations there are now more Lake Sturgeon in the Winnebago System than anywhere else in the world.  They are Wisconsin’s largest and longest living fish species.   They are a prehistoric species, with fossil records dating back 150 million years. 

The Menominee people relied on the sturgeon for food and medicine.  Their spiritual and cultural connection to the sturgeon was so great that a special dance is performed for the sturgeon called the "fish dance." The Menominee Indian culture still has a sturgeon ceremony and feast in the spring.  

Before opening day, cars and trucks pulling ice shanties drive out on the ice to choose the perfect spot.  They choose a spot that has good water clarity and a predetermined depth depending on the weather.  Then they cut a large hole in the ice.  This year the ice is a little unstable and I wouldn't want to drive my car out on it.  Then early on opening day morning, they sit and watch for a fish to swim by and they spear them.  Some of the record breaking fish weigh over 200 hundred pounds.  I can't imagine it myself, but generation after generation of families have this as a tradition.  Over 12,000 spearing licenses were sold for the 2013 season.  The season lasts for a 16 days or until a specified number of sturgeon are speared.

Sometimes the sturgeon travel down the rivers that connect the Winnebago riverways to spawn.  This usually happens in early spring after the ice has melted.  We see them in the Fox River in Princeton where we live.  My daughter has seen them in the Fox River near their pier and took these photos.  It is illegal to remove them from the water or catch them at any other time of year. 

For some more information from the Wisconsin DNR

No comments:

Post a Comment