Sturgeon spearing starts Feb. 10 in Wisconsin, but will the ice be ready? Here's what to know.

Ice conditions and water clarity are central to the success of the sturgeon spearing season.

Daphne Lemke
Fond du Lac Reporter

FOND DU LAC — Sturgeon spearing season is approaching fast, but mild temperatures and rain have made the ice treacherous for even small vehicles.

Spearers will take to the ice this year starting Feb. 10 and continue for 16 days, or until any of the harvest caps are met.

This year's systemwide caps are 350 juvenile females, 805 adult females and 1,242 males, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' 2024 regulations.

For Lake Winnebago, this comes down to 280 juvenile females, 725 adult females and 994 males.

For the Upriver Lakes — Lake Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poygan — the caps are 70 juvenile females, 80 adult females and 248 males.

Last year, spearers hauled in 1,405 total lake sturgeon, with 1,120 on Lake Winnebago and 285 on the Upriver Lakes.

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Spearers must register any harvested sturgeon by 2 p.m. each day at a DNR-operated registration station. Registration workers will ask spearers to put their take on tailgates or in an easily accessible location so the DNR can collect the data necessary to manage the Winnebago system sturgeon fishery.

A fish harvested from Lake Winnebago must be registered at one of the registration stations on Lake Winnebago:

  • Waverly Beach Resort, N8770 Fire Lane 1, Menasha
  • Stockbridge Harbor Bar, 1919 W. Lake St., Chilton
  • Quinney Quencher, W5626 Quinney Road, Chilton
  • Jim and Linda's Supper Club, W3496 County Road W, Malone
  • Wendt's Marine, N9691 Lakeshore Drive, Van Dyne
  • Jerry's Tavern, 1210 Ceape Ave., Oshkosh
  • Payne's Point Bar & Grill, 1557 Paynes Point Road, Neenah

Any fish harvested from lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne or Poygan must be registered at one of the Upriver Lakes registration stations:

  • Critters Wolf River Sports, 700 W. Main St., Winneconne
  • Boom Bay Bar and Grill, 7884 Cut Off Lane, Larsen
  • Indian Point Tavern, County Trunk H, half a mile east of Tustin

Mild weather is deteriorating ice conditions

The spearing season's success each year depends on water clarity, which DNR biologists haven't yet been able to safely test, and ice conditions, monitored by local fishing clubs.

As of Jan. 30, several fishing clubs around Lake Winnebago have advised against any traffic on the ice at all because of growing deterioration. This includes traffic from even small vehicles like ATVs and UTVs.

Friendship Fishing Club reported black ice showing around 7 inches, and ambient temperatures and standing water have made the ice "soft" with growing areas of open water.

Lower Cliff Fishing Club in Little Chute tried to mark local springs Jan. 29, but reported working cracks, spider cracks, large floating islands and washout holes from the recent rain, and most of the ice was "waterlogged snow ice."

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As of Jan. 26, Pipe Fishing Club reported varying ice thickness between 9 and 13 inches alongside a warning that the ice conditions would change with the weather.

Other area fishing clubs, including Foot of the Lake Fishing Club in Fond du Lac, Quinney Fishing Club and Lake Poygan Sportsmen's Club update ice conditions on their respective Facebook pages as the season grows closer.

Additionally, Don Herman of SUNK? Dive and Ice Service posts ice conditions and concerns in the Oshkosh area.

Herman, the fishing clubs and the DNR stress each winter that the ice is never 100% safe.

Ice shanties scattered across Lake Winnebago on the opening day of sturgeon spearing, Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, in Oshkosh, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Wisconsin's Winnebago system holds one of the world's largest, self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations, and data collected from harvested fish help implement the harvest cap system and set caps for future seasons.

For more about sturgeon spearing and updates on the upcoming season, visit the DNR's website.

Daphne Lemke is the Streetwise reporter for the Fond du Lac Reporter. Contact her at