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FAQs: Special Edition - Sturgeon Spearing Season

February 7, 2013

By: Bureau of Law Enforcement

Frequently Asked Questions - February 8, 2013

Welcome to another special edition of a popular Warden Wire feature -- the Frequently Asked Questions. You may recall the several installments of FAQs - the Special Edition during the recent gun-deer season. Warden Wire again is publishing this special edition of Frequently Asked Questions -- this time dealing solely with the sturgeon spearing season. These questions were taken by the DNR Call Center. The Call Center is staffed daily, 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The number is 1-888-936-7463.

Question 1: Can I hook/line fish in the shanty if I close the lid on the spearing hole?

Answer: No, it is illegal to possess hook/line equipment in a shanty with an ice hole larger than 12” across. Fishing gear must be outside the shanty. If the spearing hole has frozen over, a hole 12” or less can be made and a person could fish with hook/line through it.

Question 2: Can an individual use a rod and reel to jig a small sturgeon decoy?

Answer: It is not legal to possess inside a sturgeon spearing shelter any fishing rod & reel, hook & line, or similar devices which could be used to catch a fish, even if there is no hook attached. If you would like to use a decoy, you need to use a system or device that clearly would not be used for catching a fish.

Question 3: Can I use an underwater camera?

Answer: Yes, however, it is not legal to possess or use any artificial lights to illuminate the water. If the camera is equipped with lights they would need to be disabled (turned off, taped over, or non-illuminating).

Question 4: Is “chumming” for sturgeon legal?

Answer: Chumming for sturgeon in itself is not illegal. Chumming for sturgeon can be conducted legally by:

  • Not using any garbage or other solid waste (litter). Any chum material will need to be contained in some manner to ensure proper removal when done spearing. Failure to do so is considering littering.
  • Not use anything that could poison or be deleterious to the fish (deleterious substances).
  • Not using any fish for bait that is not allowed (VHS rules).

Question 5: What can I put on the bottom or use for a decoy?

Answer: Whatever is placed in the water must be removed or retrieved when done fishing. In most cases, items are attached to a string or can be “hooked” for removal. Decoy types are unlimited as long as they don’t involve any artificial lights (glow sticks are illegal) or hooks. Minnows can be used provided they are in a sealed container and regulations related to minnow use and transportation on the Lake Winnebago System would apply (VHS rules).

  • Current rule does not prohibit the use of decoys painted with phosphorescent paint. Such materials, when exposed to natural light simply absorbs the available light and slowly releases it over a period of time, and not considered artificial light.

Question 6: Can I sit and watch for sturgeon after the 12:30 p.m. closure?

Answer: Yes, if there is no spear inside the shanty being occupied.

Question 7: Can I be in a shanty after hours with a dismantled spear (head removed)?

Answer: Once spearing hours close, a person cannot be in a shanty with a spear. This includes those shanties where the hole is temporarily covered. Even if the spear head is removed, it must be placed outside the shanty when occupied.

Question 8: Can my friend sit with me in the shanty and not have a license?

Answer: Yes, the person with the valid license is the only person who can spear a fish. An unlicensed person, or person who has already filled their tag, cannot be inside a shanty alone with a spear.

Question 9: Can I have 2 or more spears in the shanty and only 1 valid tag?

Answer: Yes, see #8.

Question 10: Can I drive past a registration station with an unregistered fish en route to another registration station?

Answer: Yes, provided the fish is openly exposed to view while in or on the vehicle, the tag can’t be handled or manipulated, and the sturgeon is accompanied by the person who speared and tagged it. And you don’t go outside the listed highway boundaries before the sturgeon is registered.

Question 11: Can I use a fish locator, flasher or vexlar?

Answer: Yes, as long as it doesn’t involve the use of artificial lights to illuminate the water.

Question 12: Can I put tip-ups outside the shanty and how close can they be to the shanty?

Answer: Yes. There is no minimum or maximum distance from the shanty as long as you can actively direct your attention to each tip-up from your shanty, and you respond immediately upon an indication of a bite.

Question 13: Is a guide license required to rent out a sturgeon shanty?

Answer: Just renting out a shack or other equipment is no different than leasing your land to someone to hunt, or your boat to someone that wants to use if for fishing. Simply renting the use of equipment is not the same as being “engaged or employed” to “guide, direct or assist” a person in fishing or hunting. However, if a person is getting paid to provide a shanty with the ice hole already cut, place out bait or decoys, cut ice holes, or other activities that assist the angler/spearer locate, attract and harvest game/fish, especially if the person is accompany the sturgeon spears and providing in person direction, then they have crossed the line to being a guide and need to have a guide license.

If a person who is renting out ice shelters does not want to be required to have a guide license, they need to be sure all they do is rent the shelter or associated equipment, and let the person renting it determine where to fish, and do their own set up, etc. If they choose to do these things to make it easier for the person that is paying them to use the shelter/gear, they are then being paid for their assistance, and would require a guide license.

Question 14: What is the minimum age license requirement?

Answer: Currently, only persons 12 (new for 2013 season) years of age and older are eligible to spear sturgeon. No sturgeon spearing license may be issued or purchased after October 31, 2012, except for Wisconsin residents who turn 12 between November 1, 2012, and the last day of the 2013 spearing season, or for Wisconsin residents serving in the Armed Forces who are home on leave during the 2013 spearing season.

Question 15: A customer wants to drill 2 separate holes for pan fishing and sturgeon fishing at the same time. Are there any laws that prohibit this?

Answer: As long as the separate hole is 12 inches or less in diameter or square, and the hole is not inside the shanty that also covers a sturgeon spearing hole (up to 48 square feet), they CAN fish for panfish. They cannot use the hook and line in the sturgeon spearing hole, or use the hook and line in the shanty that is over the sturgeon spearing hole. This means they either fish for panfish outside, or in a separate enclosure that does not have a sturgeon spearing hole.

Here is an excerpt from the Sturgeon Spearing Regulations:

ICE HOLE RESTRICTIONS: No person may cut, use, or maintain an ice hole larger than 12 inches in diameter or square for the taking of fish in any manner through the ice except spearing sturgeon on the Winnebago System during the open season.

FISHING EQUIPMENT OR GEAR:It is unlawful to possess a fishing pole, hook and line angling equipment, or other similar devices that could be used to catch fish in an ice fishing tent, shanty, or other ice fishing enclosure with ice holes larger than 12 inches in diameter or square.

  • Note: No person may apply for an upriver lakes sturgeon spearing license unless they will become 12 years of age before or on the last day of the upcoming sturgeon spearing season.
  • Upriver Sturgeon Spearing Youth License Transfer Application (Form 9400-403Y) must be received 15 days before the start of the season, but no earlier than November 1 of the preceding year.

If you have information regarding natural resource violations, please call: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay reported information to conservation wardens. Anyone who calls the Violation Hotline or provides information can remain anonymous.

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