Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
For more information about “People of the Sturgeon,” visit the book’s webpage.
Available at your local bookstore or buy now online here.
“Part natural history, part oral history, and part environmental history, “People of the Sturgeon” gives readers something that is hard to come by these days: an environmental tale with a happy ending. … This is a book every sportsman and student of the environment needs to own.” -Robert F. Kennedy Jr., professor of environmental law, Pace Law School
Watch a video with Bill Casper of Sturgeon For Tomorrow
CELEBRATING THE STORY AND THE CONSERVATION OF THE DINOSAUR FISH
“People of the Sturgeon” tells the poignant story of an ancient fish. Wanton harvest and habitat loss took a heavy toll on these prehistoric creatures until they teetered on the brink of extinction. But, in Wisconsin, lake sturgeon have flourished because of the dedicated work of Department of Natural Resources staff, university researchers and a determined group of spearers known as Sturgeon For Tomorrow. Thanks to these efforts, spearers can still flock by the thousands to frozen Lake Winnebago each winter to take part in a ritual rooted in the traditions of the Menominee and other Wisconsin Indians. A century of sturgeon management on Lake Winnebago has produced the world’s largest and healthiest lake sturgeon population.
The ban on sturgeon harvest coincided with Prohibition, so poaching and bootlegging often went hand in hand. Here, three fisherman celebrate their catch of sturgeon, catfish, and sheepshead. The photo was likely taken near Tustin on the northwest corner of Lake Poygan.
Through a fascinating collection of images, stories and interviews, “People of the Sturgeon” chronicles the history of this remarkable fish and the cultural traditions it has spawned. The authors introduce a colorful cast of characters with a good fish tale to tell. Color photos by the late Bob Rashid and images from the Wisconsin Historical Society evoke both the magical and the mundane. Weaving together myriad voices and examining the sturgeon’s profound cultural impact, the authors reveal how a diverse group of people are now joined together as “people of the sturgeon.”
A boy dressed in knickers clears the ice in preparation for fishing next to his family’s ice shanty in 1898
About the Authors and Photographer
Kathleen Schmitt Kline is a science writer at the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, which supports research, education, and outreach dedicated to the stewardship and sustainable use of the nation’s Great Lakes and ocean resources. She has a bachelor’s degree in biology and English from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a master’s in life sciences communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Ronald M. Bruch is Natural Resources Region Team Supervisor for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, based in Oshkosh. He has been the lead sturgeon biologist for the Winnebago system since 1990. In his efforts to establish scientifically based sturgeon management policies with maximum public input, Bruch has worked with numerous local, state, tribal, federal, and international agencies and organizations. Ronald is featured in the IMAX documentary film “Mysteries of the Great Lakes,” now playing in selected theaters in North America. He has a doctorate in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Authors Kathleen Kline and Ron Bruch on WPR
Frederick P. Binkowski is a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Great Lakes WATER Institute and the aquaculture advisory services specialist with the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute. He has been raising and researching lake sturgeon since 1979. Binkowski’s research has focused on early life-stage development, nutrition and behavior - he is one of the first scientists to monitor sturgeon movements using radio and sonic telemetry. He has a master’s in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Bob Rashid (1949-2008) was a photographer/writer whose previous books include “Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads,” “Backroads of Wisconsin” and “Gone Fishing.” His first book, “Wisconsin’s Rustic Roads,” inspired Wisconsin Public Television’s documentary of the same title, and he worked as location photographer for three other television documentaries. An avid traveler, Rashid visited 19 countries and covered assignments in Europe, Asia and Central America. His work was published in “Time,” “Newsweek,” “The New York Times,” “Travel/Holiday,” and “Northwest Airlines’ World Traveler.”
Spearing Season on Lake Winnebago in 2010