Fishermen on ice as sturgeon spear season opens

Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:56pm EST
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By Brendan O'Brien

WINNECONNE, Wis (Reuters) - Dan Loftus, on a mission to spear a sturgeon from the ice-choked waters of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, dropped a rubber chicken into the frigid emerald abyss and waited.

The 48-year-old chiropractor from Germantown sat on a lawn chair in the dark and leaned over, staring into the murky water through a hole carved into 10-inch-thick ice as his two buddies gregariously told stories and drank beer behind him.

"It's the most boring thing ever. It's really boring, just watching a hole," Loftus said of his quest. "But it's relaxing."

The trio, huddled in their shanty, were some of the thousands of fishermen to take part in the opening day on Saturday of Wisconsin's brief sturgeon spear season for a hunt that is part outdoor sport and part tradition.

When and if a sturgeon swam into their hole, one of the men was to drop a five-tined spear onto the prehistoric-looking fish. Once the sturgeon is speared, fishermen pull the fish - which could weigh 200 pounds - out of the hole in the ice.

In addition to a 50-pound, 10-foot spear and rubber chicken decoy that attracts the sturgeon, the group was equipped with beer, plates of bacon and eggs for sustenance, and a fair amount of patience.

Carrie Seelow, 30, a first-timer who speared a 155-pound sturgeon that was laid in the back of her pick-up truck, described the adrenaline-fueled moment she speared the fish as one of "pure excitement".

"Don't miss. Don't miss," she said of what was running through her mind as the fish swam below her and her husband Nathan. "My heart's racing. I'm shaking and he's yelling at me and we got it. We got it."   Continued...

<p>A sturgeon is weighed, measured and registered at the official Wisconsin DNR weigh station at Stockbrige, on the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago in Pipe, Wisconsin February 11, 2012. REUTERS/Sara Stathas</p>