On Valentine’s Day, a Wisconsin ice fisherman named James Gishkowsky speared a massive sturgeon through an ice hole on Lake Winnebago. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), the fish weighed a whopping 177.3 pounds and measured 79.9 inches in length or 6.6 feet. The female sturgeon is the seventh-largest fish ever taken with a spear in the Lake Winnebago system.
In a press release shared with Field & Stream, the WDNR called Gishkowsy’s sturgeon an “F4 fish”, meaning it was full of up to 30 pounds of eggs and would have spawned in the spring. Gishkowsky told Fox 11 that he had to call for help in order to hoist the giant fish from the hole he’d augured through the ice. “It’s a rush when you get something like this,” he said. “It’s once in a lifetime.”
Gishkowsky’s fish was a lake sturgeon—a prehistoric, bottom-dwelling species that first appeared on earth around the time the dinosaurs went extinct. The species is characterized by its heavy, torpedo-shaped body and thick armor arranged in five rows along its flanks and back. In Wisconsin, lake sturgeon inhabit the Mississippi, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior Drainage basins.
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The Lake Michigan basin contains the Lake Winnebago system, which was where Gishkowsky speared his monster sturgeon last week. According to the WDNR, the Lake Winnebago system is home to one of North America’s largest lake sturgeon populations, and it’s one of the few places in the world with a wintertime spearfishing season for sturgeon.
The first modern sturgeon spearing season kicked off back in 1932, and the tradition has remained strong ever since. While there’s no residency requirement for spearfishing for Winnebago lake sturgeon, most of the participating anglers live within 60 miles of the lake.
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