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Sturgeon spearers pushing forward with season despite challenges

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 19:09:52-05

FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — The temperatures are up and the catch numbers are down, but sturgeon spearers are still pushing forward with the 2024 season.

  • Wendt's on the Lake is a mainstay for the sturgeon spearing community—even in warmer temperatures
  • The future of sturgeon spearing is unknown due to the fish being potentially reclassified as an "endangered species"

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story, with additional details for the web)

Viewers may remember a few weeks ago when I ventured down to Fond du Lac County for the kickoff of sturgeon spearing season. Well, in the midst of above-average temperatures and a lower-than-usual spearer turnout, I decided to go back to Wendt’s on the Lake to see how things are going well into the season.

When I asked Wendt’s co-owner Ann Wendt-Cross about this season, she gave me an unexpected answer.

“It’s actually been better than we expected," she said. "I think people are just bored... and as for the sturgeon spearers, we actually have a pretty good number out there.”

Many Wisconsin natives know the sturgeon numbers have been down, but that hasn’t stopped people from going out and literally taking a stab at the ice. Even seasoned veterans like West Shore Fishing Club board member Steve Klein, who has 40 years of spearing experience to his name, were hesitant to take to the ice.

“Today was the first day I went out on the ice," says Klein. "It firmed up a little bit conditions were not good ice firmed up a little bit. I felt comfortable to go out today, so I took a snowmobile out and I got lucky.”

But there’s another thing that could threaten sturgeon spearing far more than warmer temperatures. Back in 2021, a federal court ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make a determination by 2024 whether "imperiled populations of lake sturgeon will be protected under the Endangered Species Act." There have been back and forth discussions since then...

So after this season ends, it seems the only thing spearers can do is wait and see if there will be a next season.