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'The lake is scary this year,' Sturgeon spearing season looks different in a year of thin ice

Sturgeon spearing season looks different in a year of thin ice
Posted at 9:39 PM, Feb 09, 2024

FOND DU LAC COUNTY (NBC 26) — The Friday before sturgeon spearing season looked a little different this year, with a mostly bare lake evidence of fewer spearers wanting to brave the thin ice.

  • Warm temperatures created thinner ice in the week leading up to sturgeon spearing season.
  • Video shows how sturgeon spearers and organizers of Fond du Lac's "Sturgeon Spectacular" are reacting

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

“It’s the worst [ice] I've ever seen. . . and over 30 years I’ve been doing it,” said spearer Scott Blanck.

Blanck is among the few die-hard spearers braving the ice on Friday to set up for this weekend’s spearing.

“We were the only two shacks off of where we are right now,” Blanck said. “There’s nobody out there.”

By 12 p.m. he was already on his second outfit of the day, thanks to a crack in the ice.

"When I got close to it, I instantly went down,” Blanck said.

He was able to get back out, and said he planned on returning to the ice that same day.

Some are more cautious. A group from Michigan told me they’re done on the lake, after one of them put his leg through the ice.

Still other fishers and spearers are making adjustments, traveling lighter to avoid adding too much stress to the ice.

“We just got a couple of our lighter shacks going out today,” said Tyler Zick, who went out fishing with some friends on Friday.

For those calling it a day, Wendt's on the Lake is serving fish you don't have to catch.

Owner Anne Wendt-Cross said in her decades on the lake, this is the warmest season she’s seen, and it can be harder for local businesses.

“The lake is scary this year,” Wendt-Cross said.

But the celebration on ice is just one part of the big weekend.

Fond du Lac’s “Sturgeon Spectacular” festival —an homage to the sport— won't change much.

“The festival goes on regardless,” organizer Craig Molitor said. “The party stays on.”This year, all the events will take place downtown instead of the usual curling atLakeside Park, and snow sculpting contests started later, when it's cooler.

Finding a way to celebrate, on and off the ice, is something some will never give up.

“This is what I look for the whole year is spearing,” Blanck said. “That’s my life. That’s my superbowl. It’s what I live for.”

Blanck said it doesn’t even matter if he catches any fish.

“Comradery, comradery, comradery: that’s what it’s all about,” Blanck said.

Through thick or thin ice, the season begins Saturday and lasts 15 days or until sturgeon quotas are met.