Sturgeon putting on show in Shawano

Mating season arrives despite bad weather
By: 

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Spectators brave Thursday’s rain to watch the annual ritual of sturgeon spawaning at the Shawano dam on the Wolf River.

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Workers net, weigh, tag and return sturgeon to the Wolf River on Thursday. The annual run is expected to last at least another day or two.

Sturgeon spawning season in 2017 is proving that less-than-ideal weather conditions will not dissuade these magnificent fish from doing what comes naturally.

Despite cloudy skies and chilly temperatures, the seasonal mating ritual is under way on the Wolf River at the Shawano dam at Sturgeon Park.

On the second day of spawning season in Shawano, crowds gathered under a drizzling rain Thursday to catch a glimpse of the fantastic prehistoric creatures, some more than 6 feet long.

Mary Ann Peters, of Green Bay, marveled at the spectacle, even though she admitted that the experience is more fun when the weather is more pleasant.

“It doesn’t matter to the fish,” she said.

Thousands of sturgeon swim north up the Wolf River each spring from Lake Winnebago or other distant habitats, racing upstream for the yearly mating ritual. The frenzied splashing exhibition draws crowds of onlookers to the Shawano dam and other favorite spots.

The sturgeon are regarded as the oldest and largest fish in the Great Lakes.

Ryan Koenigs, a biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources, said crews monitoring and tagging the sturgeon had recorded more than 1,000 specimens as of Thursday, including one female in Shawano that measured more than 6 feet long.

Koenigs said spectators can expect spawning to continue through Friday at least. The inclement weather conditions were not disrupting the mating activity much, he said.

“It’s slowing things down a little bit,” he said. “But they’re still spawning pretty heavy.”

Onlookers gathered along the shore of the Wolf River at the Shawano dam Thursday to watch the excitement.

Glenn and Carol Westphal, of the town of Washington, said they thought the poor weather would spoil everything, and they were surprised to see so many sturgeon in the water.

“You can still see some action,” Glenn said.