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Fond du Lac, Wisconsin’s legendary ice spear-fishing on Lake Winnebago

Sturgeon lures for sale on Lake Winnebago.jpeg
Julie Henning
Sturgeon lures for sale on Lake Winnebago

Join correspondent, Julie Henning for a Best-of-the-Best Journeys of Discovery Podcast. Ms. Henning reported from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for the opening weekend of the 2014 sturgeon-spearing season.

With a lineage that dates back to the time of the dinosaurs, today’s lake sturgeon can exist quietly along the bottom of a lake for over a decade, growing upwards of 200 pounds and ninety inches long. A food source for Native Americans and early settlers in Wisconsin, spearing sturgeon is a hunting tradition carried on today.

Replacing buffalo hides with propane-heated ice shanties and modern conveniences, the thrill of the hunt is the same.

Celebrating the prehistoric Sturgeon on Lake Winnebago.jpg
Julie Henning
Celebrating the prehistoric Sturgeon on Lake Winnebago

Regulated by the Department of Natural Resources and protected by the non-profit organization Sturgeon for Tomorrow, a two-week sturgeon-spearing season occurs through the frozen surface of a frozen Lake Winnebago in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Ice Hole Cutting on Lake Winnebago.jpg
Julie Henning
Ice Hole Cutting service on Lake Winnebago

Some equate the sturgeon-experience like shooting ducks through a chimney; odds are only thirteen percent you’ll even see the beastly-looking fish. A time of ritual, tradition, and celebration, more than eleven thousand people applied for a sturgeon-spearing license in 2014.

Julie Henning
Chainsaw-and-Cutttng-In on Lake Winnebago

Craig Molitor, president of the Fond du Lac Convention and Visitors Bureau (, gives an outside-in glimpse into the influence of sturgeon spearing in the community.

Stressing the importance of staying safe out on the ice is Sergeant Dobyns, member of the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office Dive and Rescue Team.

Manager of the local bait-and-tackle shop and trading post, Tiffany Venne, is busy filling replacement licenses for opening day. We also hear from Kathleen Kline, co-author of the book, “People of the Sturgeon.”

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Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.