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Sturgeon could end up on the endangered species list; some are trying to keep them off of it

Sturgeon Spawning
Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-23 07:16:29-04
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering putting sturgeon on the endangered species list. As a sturgeon spearing hub, this would affect the Fox Valley.
  • Representative Ty Bodden is working to keep them off the list. He told us about the cultural and economic effects it could have.
  • Local fishing clubs worry about keeping their doors open if sturgeon spearing wasn’t possible.

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

I’m reporter Olivia Acree. Lake sturgeon could end up on the endangered species list but now one lawmaker is pushing to keep them off it. The Fox Valley is a sturgeon spearing hub and people around here have some opinions on this.

“You don’t see the fish and wildlife service here during sturgeon spearing you never have so how much they even know what goes on is a very good question,” said Lehmann.

Darryl Lehmann is president of Paynes Point fishing club. He says the unknown is what he fears most.

“From what I would understand, that would probably be in the end of sturgeon spearing,” said Lehmann.

But Winnebago lake sturgeon biologist, Margaret Stadig, says it's not that black and white.

“The feds actually have a lot of different options. It isn't just black and white like we list them, or we don't list them,” said Stadig.

Options like listing them, but not including Wisconsin, or even listing them and not including the lake Winnebago system.

For Representative Ty Bodden, either of those options are preferred.

“We invest in our sturgeon population as a state and ultimately, I'd love to see Wisconsin exempt from that,” said Bodden.

This isn’t exactly a new issue. In 2018, an organization petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on whether or not lake sturgeon should be listed.

That’s where DNR biologists like Stadig come in.

“We’ve been working collaboratively with U.S. Fish and wildlife to make sure they understand how healthy Wisconsin populations are,” said Stadig.

So, for years, they’ve been giving information that they hope the federal agency will use when making their decision.

Representative Bodden also wants them to think of the culture and the impact to the state’s economy.

“It’s a deeply rooted tradition for many people that live around Winnebago. If we would lose sturgeon spearing, we would lose over $200 million in economic impact,” said Bodden.

And Lehmann doesn’t want to think about the effects to his fishing club.

“Sturgeon spearing is what drives these clubs if taken away from us you know it’s gonna have a domino effect,” said Lehmann.

The final decision will be due in June of 2024, but before that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will share what they’re leaning toward and ask people what they think. So, Stadig says if you have a strong opinion about this, do your research and be ready to share.