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New rules in place when sturgeon season opens; part of St. Croix River exempt

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Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources say there will be rule changes for the upcoming sturgeon hook and line season which opens Sept. 6.

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Officials say the rules changes are aimed at protecting the future of the state's sturgeon fisheries.

The season has been shortened and ends Sept. 30, and the minimum length for harvesting sturgeon has been increased to 60 inches.

There is a one-fish limit per season on those waters where there is an open season. There is catch and release only fishing on a stretch of the Menominee River downstream from the Hattie Street dam to Green Bay.

The St. Croix River below St. Croix Falls, which borders Wisconsin and Minnesota, will not be affected by the permanent rule this season. Opening day there is also Sept. 6 and the season will close Oct. 15. There is a 50-inch minimum length harvest limit and a one-per-season bag.

The state Natural Resources Board adopted the changes earlier this year to reduce the sturgeon harvest on several popular fisheries and provide additional protection to spawning females, according to Karl Scheidegger, who leads the DNR sturgeon management team.

"Increasing angler pressure and harvest trends prompted the rule change to protect the fisheries," Scheidegger says.

"We had the same season structure and harvest rules in place in 2007 under emergency rules, and they worked well. They allowed all interested anglers to participate in the season while protecting the reproductive females," he added.

Lake sturgeon are slow-growing, late maturing fish, with females spawning for the first time when they are 20 to 25 years old and then only every three to five years thereafter.

Because females are larger than males, they are often targeted by anglers and their overharvest can cause population declines that may take years to recover.

"These changes will allow Wisconsin to continue to offer a unique angling season into the future. We hope anglers will continue to participate and continue to support our sturgeon management efforts," Scheidegger says.

If anglers do plan to harvest a sturgeon this season, they must purchase a harvest tag before they fish. The sturgeon harvest tag was implemented for the first time in the 2006 hook and line season.

All revenues from the harvest tag sales go directly to projects dedicated to the improvement of sturgeon populations and habitats and therefore, better fishing opportunities. No tag is needed if anglers are catch and release fishing only.

The harvest tag is available throughout the season and costs $20 for residents and $50 for nonresidents.

It can be purchased: over through the Online Licensing Center; by calling toll-free 877.945.4236; at license sales locations; or DNR service centers during their regular business hours.

Anglers who harvest a legal-size fish must immediately attach the harvest tag to the fish and take it to a registration station by 6 p.m. the next day for registration.

All anglers must have a Wisconsin general inland fishing license unless they are under 16 years old, or were born before Jan. 1, 1927.

Military personnel who are Wisconsin residents and in active service but on furlough or leave are eligible to received a free annual fishing license. They still need to purchase the $20 lake sturgeon harvest tag if they plan to keep a lake sturgeon.

Waters open to hook-and-line sturgeon fishing can be found in the 2008 Guide to Wisconsin Hook and Line Fishing Regulations.

For information, visit the lake sturgeon page of the DNR Web site: www.dnr.state.wi.us.

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