By Kathleen Schmitt Kline, Ron Bruch, & Fred Binkowski
Photographs by Bob Rashid
Lake sturgeon—ancient fish native to the Great Lakes region that can grow to be more than six feet long—have teetered on the brink of extinction since the late nineteenth century. But in Wisconsin, careful management for over 100 years has allowed one population to thrive. People of the Sturgeon is a history of the cultures surrounding lake sturgeon in Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago region, told by a fascinating collection of photos, artifacts, and a few good fish tales.
From some of the earliest inhabitants of Wisconsin, the Menominee Indian Tribe, to the spearers who flock to frozen Lake Winnebago for the annual sturgeon spearing season, people have always been drawn to this ancient fish. While overfishing, dams and pollution nearly wiped out other populations of lake sturgeon, Winnebago sturgeon have survived and flourished because of the dedicated efforts of state managers, university researchers, and a determined group of spearers known as Sturgeon for Tomorrow. This is the only population of sturgeon in the world to have been nearly extirpated, then resurrected through a community-wide effort of people who are now joined together as People of the Sturgeon.