Thousands of sturgeon spearers prepare for opening day

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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) -- The 16-day sturgeon spearing season kicks off on Saturday.

Thousands of hopeful spearers spent Friday out on the ice scouting out the best spots where they hope to have success getting fish.

"I just think it's tradition," said Kyle Musack, a sturgeon spearer. "Tradition is every year in February this is what people up here do."

Musack has traveled to Lake Winnebago from West Bend for the past 30 years hoping to spear sturgeon. He has been successful five times.

"You learn things every year," he said. "You get tips from other guys every year. We like to say we're professionals, but we're not."

Spearers look for spots on Lake Winnebago with the best water clarity. When they find those spots, that is where they cut holes.

"It's nice to know if there's fish around, but it's always kind of hard to do that," said Musack.

Across the frozen lake, David Hoheisel from Marshfield scoped out good places to cut three holes.

"Everybody else has got one, but not me," he said.

It is not the sturgeon that keeps Hoheisel coming back after 15 years.

"I get my boys here, my brothers, and we get to sit in the shanty and talk and catch up," said Hoheisel. "Sometimes, if it's nice out, we do a little cookout or we go enjoy the festivities on shore."

A crew from Payne's Point Hook and Spear Fishing Club makes sure travel on ice stays as safe as possible.

"With the cold weather and temperature changes, cracks are moving, the water is coming up, and now we have drifting," said Jim Nobbe, one of the crew members.

Dozens of trucks waited to cross the bridge being laid over a pressure crack.

"On a year like this where the water is supposedly better on this part of the lake, this bridge will probably see one thousand trucks per day," said Nobbe.

He estimates bridges closer to the Payne Point Landing could see up to 4,000 trucks per day.