Wisconsin’s 7-foot sturgeons create a stir | Outdoors with Sam Cook

Jeff Birkett of Poynette caught and released a monster sturgeon while catfishing on Lake Wisconsin in March. (Contributed photo)

You may have heard about the huge sturgeon netted by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources crews while doing survey work on the Wolf River near Shawano.

The 240-pound, 7-foot 3-inch sturgeon that state fisheries crews netted Tuesday apparently isn’t the only big one cruising around the Lake Winnebago system, nor in other Wisconsin waters for that matter.

According to a DNR news release, a Poynette man reported to DNR last month that he and his daughter caught a lake sturgeon in an impoundment on the Wisconsin River while fishing for catfish and walleye on March 13. They measured the beast to the best of their ability and came up with 86 inches, or 7 feet, 2 inches. Then they released the fish.

“I figured it was big cat or carp, but soon figured it must be a sturgeon,” said Jeff Birkett in an e-mail to the Department of Natural Resources. “I have caught a few in the fall but this fish had power unlike anything I have ever felt. It just would not come up off the bottom. I did not think we would ever see it and figured it would find something to break off on.”

But the line didn’t break, and Birkett and his 17-year-old daughter Taylar held on for nearly 90 minutes before bringing the fish to the side of their boat and taking pictures with a cell phone. The hook and line season for sturgeon is closed and accordingly they released the fish.

“I figured I would grab her (fish), pick her out of the water for a few quick photos. I am a pretty strong guy, but it was all I could do to drag her in the boat,” Birkett reported.

“I knew when we saw it was the fish of a lifetime. I told my daughter to savor the moment because it was bigger than anything we would ever see again. I felt privileged to hold such a giant. My only regrets are that Taylar could not be in the pictures and that we didn’t get to put the fish on a scale.”

Another example of Wisconsin’s DNR doing a fabulous job. Thankfully, we won’t need a “sturgeon czar” anytime soon. I don’t think “Dr. Sturgeon” exists.