Spear sturgeon are opening with poor ice conditions in the Winnebago system

Spear sturgeon are opening with poor ice conditions in the Winnebago system

WINNECON — Participants in Lake Winnebago’s annual sturgeon fishing season can spend seasons waiting to see a fish under the ice.

But the biggest challenge in 2024 was something completely different, even if foreign.

This year archers were hard-pressed to find ice safe enough to pursue the unique winter activity.

“I think the word is unprecedented,” said Gary Haines, 66, of Fond du Lac, who has fished for sturgeon every year since 1976. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

The winter of 2023-2024 is making headlines and breaking records. But not because it’s winter.

December was the warmest on record in Milwaukee, according to the National Weather Service.

John Sawyer (left) and his son Drew, both of Brandon, hold a 76-inch sturgeon that John spearfished around 8 a.m. Saturday on Lake Winnebago.  Saturday was the opening day of the 2024 javelin season in the Winnebago system.

On Jan. 1, the extent of ice cover in the Great Lakes was 0.4%, down from an average of 9%, the lowest level documented so far in the 50 years tracked, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environment Research Laboratory. . .

On Friday, the Wolf River in New London broke off ice, the oldest date on record.

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