In Wisconsin, we take our sturgeon seriously. One of my favorite ecotours of all is to see this fish, that dates back to the Jurrassic Period, making the annual migration upstream to procreate. It sounds odd that a person would be interested in fish sex, but in this case it is humbling to realize that our activities matter not to these ancient fish. Wisconsin has taken these creatures seriously since well before I came to pass and with a bit of protection from poachers, they will return to the same river banks long after I have departed this world. Each winter, legions of sturgeon hunters take to the ice on Lake Winnebago, where the fish winter and attempt to spear them through the ice. Folklore and family legends keep the hunt exciting even though only about 1/3 of the registered spearers are successful. During the spawn, these giants of the deep become extremely vulnerable and it is hard to find a place along the river that is not monitored by humans on the look out for nefarious characters who would molest or harass the creatures.
Poaching has become big business, especially since the main caviar supply is under such pressure in and around the Caspian Sea. The urge to capitalize on the fishes extreme virility has existed for centuries but as with many things, the efficacy of caviar for loss of sexual stamina is questionable. It seems that the fish eggs are much more about procreation of fish than humans. I have wondered at the process, watching sprays of eggs fertilized by the milky discharge of the males. Being privy to these occurrences is to me as car crashes are to many others. It is physically difficult to look away.
The first time I went to see the spectacle, it was unbelievable to me that so many folks had come out to see the event. For just a week or two, these fish writhe along the shoreline, fighting the current and nuzzling one another. The smaller males frequently outnumber the larger females and each one seems to want to be in the perfect place when she finally releases her eggs. for the patient observer, it can be phenomenal to watch what happens to the eggs in their first twenty minutes or so. Many fall too deeply into the water to see, but within the first twenty minutes or so, the eggs double in size.
This year, the lack of ice and poor visibility during the spearing season led to a reduced harvest and that means there will be more sturgeon spawning than if there had been a normal harvest. The fact that the season is so far ahead of normal may spell trouble for some, because the watchers and researchers may not yet be ready to spring into action. It is against state law to molest the spawning giants except for specific research teams but when the creatures are within arms length and have only one thing on their mind, some people can’t resist trying to touch them. These creatures, as well as the appearance of toads, signal the time of year that gardens get planted. i have to go now, so that I can finish prepping my garden beds to receive their seeds!