Spearing & Ice Fishing Pictures

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The following is a picture and report from Doug Davis">

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The following is a picture and report from Doug Davis">

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The following is a picture and report from Doug Davis, Williams Bay, Wisconsin, about the 2000  sturgeon spearing season in Wisconsin.

 

Pictured is (left to right) Matt Merckx, age 16, with his 41 inch sturgeon and Greg Merckx age 41, with his 39 inch sturgeon.  Standing in front of a Arno Lau / Greg Merktx built darkhouse.  In their hands are the spears that Greg makes.  A proud moment for father and son, each with their first sturgeon.  Almost as important as your first deer here in Wisconsin.

 

I took a drive up to Lake Winnebago for a day trip to look things over and meet with carver Greg Merckx 41, of Appleton, WI.  I wasn't able to spear this year, couldn't find a shack to rent.  With the new harvest guidelines in place the season is being ended early after reaching these numbers.  This years season ended after 2 days with a harvest of approx. 2500 sturgeon.  Most of those fish (75%) were speared in the upper lakes ( Poygan, Winneconne, and Buttes Morte) which are only open to spearing once every 5 years.  As I traveled up the east shore of the big lake I passed through the small towns that are jumping off points for the spearers.  Stockbridge, Wisconsin is the Sturgeon Center of the World.  Many of the old time greats came from Stockbridge, carvers and spearers alike.  As you pass through these small towns if you stop at the local Quick Mart or tavern you will see decoys for sale, made by whoever the local carver is.  Selling fish at a tavern is the way most of the decoys are sold.  That's where most of the sturgeon talk is done, kind of the unofficial headquarters.  This is how Greg Merckx moves his sturgeon attractors.  He finishes up his decoys just prior to the season and makes a complete circle, dropping his fish off at the drinking establishments around the lake.  The fish are sold to the tavern owner and he in turn marks them up a bit to cover his investment.  Greg's production averages about 250 sturgeon coaxers each year.   I met Greg at his home in Appleton yesterday and we spent 10 hours talking fish, spearing, and the old spearers.  Greg is a skilled craftsman, whether working with wood, iron, sheet metal, or leather.  He not only carves decoys but also builds / sells spearing shantys, builds spears, gaffs, you name it.  If it's connected with spearing he can make it.  Greg is a highly motivated fellow and is a perfectionist in his work.  His darkhouses are all built with lap joints--no butt joints, so they're stronger and can stand up to the rough ride on the Lake Winnebago roads.  The siding is tin and there's not a wrinkle in it.  Greg was good friends with sturgeon spearing legend Arno Lau.  In fact Greg has 2 of Arno's old spearing shacks.  One has dry rotted to the point of being unusable but the other that was started by Arno and finished by Greg is still in use.  Greg's son Matt 16, used this darkhouse this season and speared his first sturgeon on Saturday.  Greg also speared his first sturgeon on sunday, ending a 13 year wait.  I spoke with him on the phone Friday night before the season opened and told him this was his year.  Because of his friendship with Arno Lau, Greg has some Arno Lau decoys and still uses one...sort of a tradition.  He also knows "Jake" Schroven, another of the greats from Stockbridge, WI.  Jake is a carver and spearer, but has passed the 80 year mark in age so he isn't as active in the sport as he once was.  For many of the old time spearers the change in regulations and the shortened season has taken away a treasured time.  When the season ran it's usual 18 days there was alot of social interaction out on the ice.  It was a community on the ice and many met each day in their shacks to drink coffee and keep watch for the sturgeon.  It was a break in the dark days of winter and it helped pass the time.  Now it's a  "hell bent for leather" event, lasting only a couple days, no time for the social aspect.   Dropping 15,000+ people onto the ice for 2 days is quite an event, but it can't take the place of the season the old timers used to know.  There's still a great tradition around the big lake involving the sturgeon and if the chance ever presents itself, you should try to attend.   I had a great time with Greg, I learned alot and plan a return trip soon.

 

Doug Davis, February, 2000

 The following information is supplied for those that wish to contact Doug Davis:

Webpage    www.elknet.net/dgs

e-mail        dgs@elknet.net

 

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