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Through the Lens

Really. Big. Fish.

Sat, February 16, 2019

It’s February Heartland friends,so you know what that means! I’m all about the lake sturgeon in Winnebago and all the sturgeon related fun in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Spearers heading out on Lake Winnebago to cut in and set up their shanties

Each February Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and Lake Winnebago are transformed into all things sturgeon. Lake Winnebago, affectionately known to locals as “Bago” is with the exception of a small and very short season (this year’s MI spearing season lasted 80 minutes before meeting the harvest cap) in Michigan is the only place in the world that the long-standing tradition of sturgeon spearing takes place. Wisconsin DNR provides a wealth of information not just about sturgeon spearing, but lake sturgeon conservation and management.

WIDNR at the Wendt’s registration station waiting patiently on the first sturgeon of the 2019 season to arrive

The Sturgeon Spectacular takes place opening weekend of sturgeon spearing season and grows each year to include more activities, more fun, and more celebrations of really big fish. While certainly the focus is on the sturgeon, and spearing – the Sturgeon Spectacular offers many activities for those who choose not to spear, but still want to experience the traditions, culture, and fun that can be had in Fond du Lac.

Snow Sculpting Competition

The 2019 Sturgeon Spectacular even featured WISSA – the 2019 World Ice and Snow Sailing Championships featuring competitors from 11 countries.

WISSA competitors on the ice

The entire Fond du Lac community gets behind the Sturgeon Spectacular activities that center around winter and really big fish. It’s easy to find something that appeals to everyone – Ice sculpting, snow sculpting championships, motorcycle and snow machine races on the frozen lake, special concerts and exhibits at the library, children’s museum, and Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts. Lakeside Park also supports events such as the ceremonial burning of the good luck sturgeon effigy and bonfire,  “Spearing and Beering” which highlights local brewers. We can’t forget the “Running of the Sturgeon” nighttime parade. There are dog sled demonstrations and rides, a fat tire bike race, and a fun run, walk and dog jog.  One almost needs a list, a day planner, and plan to see all of the Sturgeon Spectacular events. Luckily there is also a shuttle that runs daily from one event area to another.

An accordion and polka playing sturgeon in the “Running of the Sturgeon Parade”

Ceremonial burning of the sturgeon “good luck” effigy

The downtown district and merchants also offer a plethora of sturgeon related specials – special cookies, coffee drinks, meal specials and other special sturgeon related discounts. Everywhere you look, it’s all about the sturgeon and really big fish. Store windows sport decorative sturgeon art, bars and restaurants signage features good luck and wishes messages to spearers. Menus feature sturgeon themed specials -some even serving sturgeon!

Sturgeon Snickerdoodles! from Annie’s Fountain City Cafe

A popcorn sturgeon?! Of course says Faris Gourmet Popcorn Company

Just one of the many beautiful ice sculptures displayed throughout Fond du Lac

For those who aren’t spearing, but still long for a look at really big fish, the tradition is to gather at Wendt’s on the Lake near the sturgeon registration station to ooh and ahh over the massive fish being brought in off the ice and listen to the stories being told by the spearers.  This is an experience you will never forget!

Really Big Fish on the table at Wendt’s WIDNR registration station

Whether you visit to spear, beer, play in the snow, or just enjoy winter in Wisconsin plan today for a great winter getaway this time next year! The Fond du Lac CVB will be more than happy to assist you in planning your visit.

Forget that wienermobile - Fond du Lac has a sturgeonmobile!