Excitement builds for Wisconsin sturgeon spearing opener

OSHKOSH, Wis. - Anticipation is building for another season of lake sturgeon fishing on the Winnebago System.
The 2020 spearing season opens on Feb. 8 and will last for a maximum of 16 days or until pre-set harvest caps are reached.
The Winnebago System is home to one of the world's largest self-sustaining populations of lake sturgeon, with an estimated 18,500 adult females, 24,000 adult males and a unique spearing season dating back more than 85 years.
Interest in sturgeon spearing continues to be strong. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sold 12,721 licenses (12,248 for Lake Winnebago and 473 for the Upriver Lakes) for the 2020 season. Licenses were purchased by residents from all 72 Wisconsin counties as well as 34 states. The deadline to apply for sturgeon spearing permits was Aug. 1.
As always, water clarity and ice conditions are the most influential factors contributing to harvest success during the sturgeon spearing season. The 2020 season will likely open with less than ideal conditions as a mild winter has created variable ice conditions throughout Lake Winnebago. Preliminary water clarity checks indicate relatively poor water clarity throughout Lake Winnebago and the Upriver Lakes.
Despite unfavorable conditions, spearers are still excited to take to the ice for the upcoming spearing season, according to Ryan Koenigs, DNR Winnebago system sturgeon biologist.
"Sturgeon spearers are well versed in reading ice conditions and have shown the capability to pursue their passion despite variable ice conditions," Koenigs said. "We routinely hear from spearers that it's the chance to get together with family and friends, to relive old memories and create new ones that keep them coming back year after year. The 2020 spearing season offers another opportunity to renew those traditions."
The success of the fishery and the fish population is a testament to the strong co-management of the sturgeon resource between DNR staff, stakeholder groups and passionate members of the public, Koenigs said.
"These are the good old days within the Winnebago System sturgeon population," he said. "There are more fish in the system now than there have been for decades and more big fish than we have had since the early 1900s. More than 10 percent of the female sturgeon harvested during the 2019 spear fishery were larger than 70 inches."

Season and License Details
* Spearing hours run from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and all sturgeon must be presented at a DNR operated registration station by 2 p.m. of the same day the fish is harvested.
* The system-wide harvest caps for the 2020 season are set at 430 juvenile females, 950 adult females and 1,200 males.
* To spear sturgeon, people must have a paper copy of their sturgeon spearing license and tag on their person. A Go Wild card, driver's license, purchase receipt or a PDF copy of the tag are not valid proof of a spearing license or tag.
* Successful spearers must immediately validate their carcass tag by removing the validation stub. Spearers do not need to attach validated carcass tags to harvested fish before registration as long as the spearer stays with the fish until registration. However, the harvest tag must be attached to the sturgeon if the spearer leaves the fish prior to registration. DNR recommends that spearers bring a clear plastic zip-top bag and tie to protect and secure the paper tag to the fish.
More details about sturgeon spearing throughout the Lake Winnebago system, including the complete 2020 rules, regulations and list of registration station locations, can be found on the DNR website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Hillbilly's ice fishing derby set Feb. 15

Hillbilly's ice fishing derby is scheduled Saturday, Feb. 15, in the La Crosse area.
Entry fee is $10 per angler and must be paid before Feb., 15, according to Paul Urbanek, tournament organizer.
Urbanek said anglers may fish anywhere in La Crosse area waters, but must attend the weigh-in by 3 p.m., at Hillbilly's Bar on French Island.
There is a minimum size limit for four fish categories: northern pike, 28 inches; crappie, 9 inches; sunfish, 8 inches; and perch, 9 inches. The largest fish in each category will be declared the winner, according to Urbanek.
For more information, call 608-779-4002.

La Crosse bass pro kicks off FLW Tour season in Texas

Tom Monsoor (pictured) enters his 17th FLW Tour season in Brookeland, Texas early Thursday morning.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir has been kind to the La Crosse native the only two times he competed there. Last year Monsoor finished 11th and won $12,000, the same amount he collected with a 14th place finish in 2014.
FLW officials canceled the fourth day last year, although Monsoor wouldn't have made the top 10 cut anyway.
"I missed the final day by 1 measly ounce," he said, during a phone interview from his hotel room after Tuesday's practice round.
Weather will definitely be a factor for the 150-angler professional field. It's supposed to be cold, windy and rainy with a high temperature of 34 degrees.
"I'm freezin'," Monsoor said, after Tuesday's day on the massive lake. "The windchill is 26, the wind's blowing and it's just miserable. But that's fishin'."
Practice didn't go quite like Monsoor had hoped either. He caught several 2-pounders and one 3-pounder on Tuesday.
"It's not looking good. Today was the first day I caught a 3-pounder," he said.
Monsoor said he has been using a variety of baits to try to lure larger fish from deep water as well as in shallows, but no luck so far. Naturally, his patented swim jig has been the best so far because it can be used different ways.
"You can crawl it, bounce it, pop it, swim it, as well as vary the speeds. Whatever the fish wants, you can use it with my jig," he said.
Monsoor found four or five spots where he can catch a five-fish limit. His strategy is to catch a limit and then go after a "big one."
Oh, he has one other strategy.
"Try to stay warm," he said laughing. "That's important, too."
Monsoor, who turns 71 on Jan. 28, is nearing the $1 million mark in career earnings, but realizes he must have a big year to reach it. He has won $931,527 in his first 16 years, an average of just over $58,000 a year.
"I do this because I love it and I'm competitive. Besides this is a sport for old guys," he said, laughing again. "It takes lots of dedication. If you want to be good, you have to be dedicated."

La Crosse's Monsoor makes early exit from FLW Tour opener

BROOKELAND, Texas - "I didn't make the top five, but I made the bottom five," chuckled La Crosse veteran bass fishing professional Tom Monsoor, after his second day in the FLW Tour season opener on Friday.
Monsoor failed to weigh in a fish on Friday. He caught one, but tossed it back, conceding to his extremely poor finish on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas.
" I caught one fish and didn't even weigh it," he said from his hotel room Friday night. "It was about a pound, a 13-inch spotted bass."
Monsoor, in his 17th year on the FLW Tour, said strong winds prevailed again on Friday.
"It was so windy again. It was worse today than yesterday. Boats were going by and all you could hear was boom-boom-boom," said Monsoor, who switched tactics from deep water on Thursday to shallow depth on Friday.
"I shouldn't have gone to the other end of the lake. It was a poor decision," he said. "When I started on my way back, I was close to a boat landing and I had Karen (Savik, his girl friend), pick me up. I didn't even go to the weigh-in."
John Cox, a pro from DeBary, Fla., caught another five bass limit pushing his two-day weight to 40 pounds, 3 ounces. Monsoor's first-day weight was 6-12.
Only the top 30 from the 150-angler pro field advanced to Saturday's semifinals with the top 10 qualifying for Sunday's final.

Minnesotans fish free with kids Jan. 18-20

Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is Saturday, Jan. 18, through Monday, Jan. 20.
During the weekend, Minnesota residents age 16 or older can fish or dark-house spear without an angling or spearing license if they take a child younger than 16 fishing or spearing.
“Ice fishing is a fun way to get outdoors during Minnesota winters,” said Jeff Ledermann, education and skills team supervisor with the Department of Natural Resources. “Ice conditions are highly variable this year. If you want to start, try asking someone familiar with ice fishing and ice conditions to take you out or check out an organized activity.”
Events happening during the weekend include:
* Lake Bemidji State Park, 1-3 p.m., kids 8-15 can come out for an afternoon of ice fishing on Lake Bemidji.
* Halfmoon Landing near Kellogg, 1-3 p.m., equipment and bait provided and space is limited.
Fishing events during the rest of the season can be found on the DNR’s state parks and trails events calendar and the Becoming an Outdoors Woman program, which also has events for families.
Ice conditions vary greatly this season and can be deceiving. There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. Always check local ice conditions before heading out to a lake or river.
Visit mndnr.gov/icesafety for ice safety guidelines and the DNR’s learn to ice fish page for more information about ice fishing.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

La Crosse bass pro in 115th place after Day 1

BROOKELAND, Texas - Day 1 didn't go like La Crosse professional bass fisherman Tom Monsoor preferred, but he remains optimistic going into Day 2 of the FLW Tour season opener in Brookeland, Texas.
Monsoor, in his 17th season on the prestigious tour and approaching the $1 million mark in career earnings, is in 115th place entering Friday's second round.
"I'm going to the opposite end of the lake this time," he said, about switching tactics on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. "This time last year I was 120th after the first day and made the top 30."
Sam Rayburn Reservoir has been kind to the La Crosse native both times he competed there. Monsoor finished 11th and won $12,000 last year, the same amount he collected with a 14th place finish in 2014.
John Cox, a pro from DeBary, Fla., sacked up five bass totaling 21 pounds, 7 ounces for the first-day lead in the Pro Circuit season. Monsoor managed four fish weighing 6-12.
Temperatures were in the mid 30s with windchills in the high 20s, according to Monsoor. He said temperatures may have climbed into the 40s, maybe 50s in the afternoon.
"I had a bad day. All my fish were gone," he said, referring to the 4-7 spots he found bass during practice. "There were none there."
Monsoor said the Texas weather was miserable, including one of his  roughest rides ever coupled with giant waves.
"I wouldn't have done it if I didn't have to," he said from his hotel room Thursday night. "Guys were busting stuff on their boats. Luckily, I didn't bust nothing."
Tomorrow is another day.

Letter to 2020 Wisconsin sturgeon spearers

Dear Winnebago System Sturgeon Spearer,

The 2020 sturgeon spearing season on the Winnebago System is less than a month away and we are finally starting to see some colder weather in the extended forecast.
I’d like to inform everyone that the regulation pamphlet for the 2020 season is now accessible on the DNR website through the following link:
I’d especially like to draw your interest to a few items that have caused significant enforcement concerns in recent seasons.
* SPEARERS MUST POSSESS A PAPER COPY OF THEIR STURGEON SPEARING CARCASS TAG AT ALL TIMES WHILE SPEARING, a receipt of purchase, driver’s license, or Go Wild card do not meet this requirement.
* It is ILLEGAL to possess more than one copy of a carcass tag.
* Carcass tags MUST BE validated immediately upon harvest by removing the validation stub.
* There is mandatory in-person registration of all harvested fish. Fish must be presented at a DNR operated registration station (Page 6 of the regulation pamphlet) by 2 p.m. of the same day the fish is harvested.
So please take a few minutes to review the regulation pamphlet prior to the start of the 2020 spearing season.  
Good luck during the upcoming season and bring on some cold weather for making ice!

Ryan KoenigsSenior Fisheries Biologist/Winnebago System Sturgeon Biologist
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Phone: 920-303-5450; Fax: 920-424-4404; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.