In search of a prehistoric monster

Hook, line and sturgeon
Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 2:40 PM CDT
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WAUSAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - The opportunity to harvest Wisconsin’s famed sturgeon is dominated by the spearing season each February on the Lake Winnebago system.

But another chance for anglers to tangle with the prehistoric fish opens tomorrow on select waterways around the state.

If persistence is a virtue, then fishermen arriving at the Bear Point boat landing on the Menominee River outside Wausaukee are the poster child.

“Never gotten a keeper yet, 2 and a half inches shy, that’s the closest I got,” says Dylan Johanning from New Holstein.

“35 years we’ve been doing it, I’ve had land up here for 25 years and in 25 years we caught one legal sturgeon,” adds Lee Ecker from Fond du Lac with a chuckle.

Over the next three weeks, fishermen can use a rod and reel on a 25 mile section of the Menominee River to try and land a sturgeon.

“Find a deep part of the river and just soak a night crawler, it’s real easy,” says DNR Fisheries Supervisor Mike Donofrio.

A sturgeon must be 60 inches -- 5 feet long -- to keep.

“The next closest area where you could hook and line would be the Wausau area, so in Northeast Wisconsin this is it,” says Donofrio.

Donofrio says the handful of waterways open to hook and line sturgeon fishing is based on what bodies of water can sustain a harvest.

Statewide during September, an average of 30 to 50 sturgeon are tagged and registered.

“99-percent of the harvest occurs with the spearing season yeah, hook and line is a very small portion of that harvest,” says Donofrio.

And yet the lure of open water fishing for a prehistoric monster is a fall tradition that has these anglers hooked.

“With spearing you just, you’re looking down a hole all day and it’s just not much fun to me, you hook a 60-inch sturgeon on a rod and reel, you’re fighting it,” says Johanning.

“We have a crew of probably 10-15 come up every year for opening weekend, they bring their campers and tents and crock pots and Nesco roasters full of stuff and it’s just eat, drink and fish for four days straight,” says Ecker with a smile.

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