WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — It’s officially the first weekend of the sturgeon spearing season.
The highly anticipated tradition brought out hundreds of fishermen across Lake Winnebago and the Upriver lakes on Saturday.
“It’s the thrill. It’s like spearing a shark,” said one man who caught a sturgeon.
The excitement continued to ramp up as people begin snagging their pre-historic fish.
“Exhilarating, oh my gosh. After we got it out of the water I was like oh my god, I just started jumping and screaming and shouting,” said Cheyenne Hopp, Oshkosh.
For Hopp it was the first time Sturgeon Spearing since her father passed away.
She said it’s a tradition the two did yearly, but it took until this weekend to finally catch her first one.
“It’s just sad he couldn’t be there for me but I like to think he sent the sturgeon my way today,” Hopp said “I know he’s looking down on me and know he’s proud of me after today.”
And just a few miles out on Lake Winnebago Gus Peters also got lucky.
“This fish here is 67 inches and I think maybe about 65 pounds. I’m on my way to getting it registered right now,” Peters said.
He was one of the first ones to catch a sturgeon only about an hour into the season opening.
“Picked up the spear and just let her go, caught her center mass. Great shot on it, fish went into the bottom,” Peters said.
However others aren’t so fortunate.
Year after year, some sit patiently in their shanties in hopes to finally get their lucky shot.
But many say it’s not too bad because they’re sitting comfortably.
For some they have everything you need for a long day on the ice.
“Like I can live in here. If the zombie apocalypse ever came this is all I ever need. I’ve got heat, I’ve got my Blackstone, I’ve got a TV in the wall, there’s a web cam that hangs in here so I can watch my TV. I have an underwater camera so I can see my coffee cups and everything else down there. I’ve got a bunk, a loft up top,” said Nate Olson, Oshkosh.
But Olson hasn’t caught anything in recent years.
“For someone that spears, I haven’t seen a fish in five years that seems to be the average. I think 37 years is what I’m waiting for,” Olson said.
His comfortable accommodations and the camaraderie with his friends is what keeps bringing him back.
So as he continues to wait for his lucky turn those who did catch a sturgeon say it's now time to feast.
“Probably going to smoke it, cook it up, eat it, love on it,” Hopp said.
The Wisconsin Department of Resources (DNR) shared Saturday harvest numbers.
The harvest on the upriver lakes totaled 197 fish meanwhile the harvest on lake Winnebago was 234 fish for opening day.
“So far harvest has been pretty good especially on the upper river lakes. A little bit slower on lake Winnebago. A lot of it has to do with general clarity. We do want to remind people that there’s no such thing as safe ice,” said Lt. Chris Shea, Wisconsin DNR.
A reminder that the season runs through next Sunday February 27, unless the season is shortened by reaching one of the harvest quotas.