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Largest Sturgeon Ever Tagged Caps Record Day on Wolf River

Photo: Image by Department of Natural Resources

Largest Sturgeon Ever Tagged Caps Record Day on Wolf River

By Mike Conroy. CREATED Apr 11, 2012

By Paul A. Smith of the Journal Sentinel

Tuesday will go down as a red-letter day in the history of the Wisconsin lake sturgeon management program.

Not only did Department of Natural Resources fisheries personnel tag a single-day record 565 sturgeon, but they also tagged the largest fish in the history of the program.

The 87.5 inch female sturgeon weighed approximately 240 pounds. According to DNR sturgeon biologist Ron Bruch, the fish had already released about 30 pounds of eggs.

Perhaps most impressive of all: The fish was an estimated 125 years old.

The photo below shows the big female as it was being tagged by a DNR fisheries crew at the Shawano dam. The fish was then released to complete its spawning cycle.

The DNR tags and releases sturgeon each year as part of a population study. The Lake Winnebago system has one of the largest populations of lake sturgeon in the world.

Eggs and milt are also taken from some spawning fish to help sturgeon restoration programs in other parts of Wisconsin and other states.

License fees from the annual sturgeon spearing season help fund the successful sturgeon management program. Thanks to strong support from local fishing and conservation groups, harvest caps allow for the annual sturgeon harvest but also protect the population. In recent years, data indicate the system's sturgeon population is increasing and more fish are reaching maturity.

The record female sturgeon tagged Tuesday has lived through interesting times. Bruch put together a timeline to add perspective to the life of such a fish.

1887 - Sturgeon is hatched. Grover Cleveland is U.S. president and Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show opens in London.

1914 - The fish is 27 years old and makes first spawning run. Later that year events in Europe spark the beginning of World War I.

1915 - Wisconsin enacts a statewide closure on sturgeon harvest to protect the population.

1932 - The fish is 45 years old. The state holds the first modern spearing season on Lake Winnebago. Amelia Earhart becomes first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

1945 - In its 58th year, the fish makes its eighth spawning run. World War II ends.

1969 - The fish is 82 years old and has lived through 38 spearing seasons on Lake Winnebago and 10 seasons on the Upriver Lakes. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.

1990 - Milwaukee native Dan Folz retires as sturgeon biologist and is replaced by Ron Bruch. The Soviet Union breaks up.

2012 - The fish is 125 years old and while making its 25th spawning run is captured by DNR crews at the Shawano dam. Ryan Koenigs is named successor to Ron Bruch as sturgeon biologist.

The DNR photo below shows the largest lake sturgeon ever captured during spawning assessments on the Wolf River, Winnebago System, Wisconsin, 1950-2012, 10 April 2012 at the Shawano Paper Mill Dam spawning site.

Included in the photo are DNR sturgeon biologist Ryan Koenigs (red hood/blue hat center) and senior fisheries biologist Kendall Kamke (yellow hat center back). The fish was dipped by Ryan Zernzach, fisheries technician (sun glasses, dark rain jacket, center left front)

Fish Information: Total Length: 87.5 inches; Weight (estimated): 240 pounds; Sex: Female (partially spawned out; ~ 40% of eggs already released); Estimated Age: 125 years old.