An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Sturgeon Spearing/The Big Chill

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Contributor

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

Hello friends,

This week I made my annual trek over to Lake Winnebago (Stockbridge on the east side) to camp on the ice and try to spear a sturgeon. As always there is plenty to say so here goes.

Friday, February 12th
High 6, Low -15

Deep snow on a frozen body of water and temperatures 113 degrees colder than the blood in my body can be intimidating.

This year’s spearing partners would be Kevin Bornemann from Kaukauna, Dean Bornemann from Stockbridge, Hailey Bornemann from Stockbridge, and Bob Javenkoski from Sherwood.

Dean is the father of Hailey and I met them when they bought a pup two years ago and now have another one ordered. This father daughter team reminds me 100 percent of the relationship that I
have with my daughter, in simple terms, they are very active in the outdoors together.

One example would be that this winter they both purchased new snowmobiles with Hailey getting a Ski Doo MXZ and Dean buying the ultimate machine which is a Ski Doo Expedition.

So, I hit the ice just after one and it is the day before the season opens and there is work to be done as in two holes cut, one for my shack and one for Dean’s. I will be using my Eskimo “Fat Shack” as my home and spear shack.

Our spearing holes which are about the size of a coffin were cut by Scotty Broehm and his very ambitious crew. First, they plow out an area and then with a chainsaw that has like a 40-inch bar they cut holes.

It was very chilly on the ice and my hole flooded what would become the floor of my shack, so we decided it needed to “freeze up” and we adjourned to the other shack for some quality Pabst Blue Ribbons. An hour before dark we put up my shack and a tarp over it and just like that, I think I was about the only person on Lake Winnebago, twice while in my cot I had trucks come in at very close range and very fast and I had visions of me getting smucked.

Saturday, February 13th
High 5, Low -15

I had to clean out my spearing hole this morning as it had a half inch of ice. Then I had to drop an 8 foot piece of steel down 15-feet with the white side up so that if a sturgeon swims by I can see it. This was a horrible experience as I could not get it level as it was not all the way to the bottom.

Kevin Bornemann helped me and once went outside the shack and told me that our neighbors just got a sturgeon.

Soon after the 7:00 a.m. opener we were sitting comfortably and looking into our coffin at a whole bunch of nothing.

Later in the morning Hailey came by with her friend Cassie Buelow. These girls were on snowmobiles and both are extremely active in the outdoor world and work at Scheel’s in Appleton together. It was very cool to listen to young gals talk outdoors and see them have a blast on their snow machines.

After the 1:00 closing for the day we all got together at my shack for a super cool cookout and were now joined by Amber Kornack of Kaukauna who had brought along her famous Jack Daniels brownies which are very good for any form of pain.

We cooked chicken legs, hamburgers, and Kevin made bacon wrapped mule deer steaks and in case you are not aware of this, socialization is a huge part of the spearing tradition.

Just before dark the gang left, and I still had a little energy left so I made the intelligent decision to walk 1.6 miles on the ice to the Harbor Bar in an air temp of minus 6. When I walked in the bar I must have looked kind of nutso, because lots of people started talking about me, actually I had a major ice beard. Because I am really cool, I bellied up the bar and ordered an expensive and tasty glass of beer which I spilled within seconds across the bar. The walk back in an air temp of minus ten with a strong north wind was a challenge where you know if you fail, you will be an ice cube.

As soon as I got to camp my heater went out as the propane line had frozen solid. I rigged up a new one and all was well.

The next morning our neighbors and good friends of the Bornemann’s the father/son team of Chuck and Todd Schneider of Chilton each speared a sturgeon.

In all reality, when I got home my body and brain were toast but holy moly, both still kind of worked.


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