Bill Buksyk

Location of Interview
Collection Name

People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish


People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish a tale of the cultural and scientific history of an iconic Wisconsin fish, the lake sturgeon. Throughout the process of writing the book, the authors interviewed community activists, sturgeon spearing enthusiasts, spear and decoy craftsmen, and scientific researchers associated with the Lake Winnebago sturgeon population. Because of the cultural, social, economic, and scientific knowledge captured in these interviews, the UW-Madison Wisconsin Water Library preserved the audio files as a collection of  oral histories. This collection, People of the Sturgeon, encapsulates perspectives on lake sturgeon as they are reflected in the book.

The People of the Sturgeon collection includes interviews with outdoorsmen, scientists, and craftsmen associated with the Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, lake sturgeon population.

Collection compiled by the UW-Madison Wisconsin Water Library. Audio courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum. Recordings were collected as part of the research for People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish published by Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Madison, WI.

Date of Interview

National Capital Contracting

Supplemental Material
Biographical Sketch

Bill Buksyk was born on August 26, 1930, in Neenah, Wisconsin. He grew up in a family where sturgeon spearing was a common activity, introduced to him by his older brothers. After completing high school, Buksyk joined his brothers in sturgeon spearing, initially serving as an assistant. His early experiences involved traditional, manual methods of ice cutting and fishing. Buksyk's first sturgeon spearing experiences were under the guidance of his brother Elmer. Over the years, he developed his skills and eventually acquired his own fishing shanty. Buksyk adapted to the evolving techniques and equipment in sturgeon spearing, noting significant changes such as improved ice-cutting tools and the introduction of shorter spear shafts. Buksyk spent fifty-eight years sturgeon spearing, often facing challenges like murky water and harsh weather conditions. He adhered to regulations set by the Department of Natural Resources, contributing to the sustainable practice of the sport. Buksyk's dedication to sturgeon spearing extended to teaching his son, Brad, who also became an accomplished spearer. Buksyk's most significant catch was an 86-pound sturgeon.

Scope and Content Note
The interview with Bill Buksyk, conducted by Dick Koerner, provides a detailed account of Buksyk's experiences and perspectives on sturgeon spearing. Buksyk recounts his introduction to the sport through his older brothers and describes the traditional methods of ice cutting and spearing used during his early years. He provides insights into the evolution of sturgeon spearing equipment and techniques, noting the transition from long spear shafts and manual ice cutting to more modern tools. Buksyk discusses the regulations and conservation efforts implemented by the Department of Natural Resources, emphasizing the importance of sustainable fishing practices. He shares personal stories, including his most memorable catches, such as an 86-pound sturgeon, and humorous anecdotes involving his family, particularly his son Brad. Buksyk reflects on the changes in water visibility and fish population over the years, attributing improvements to better management and technology. The interview also touches on the social aspects of sturgeon spearing, highlighting the camaraderie among fishermen and the communal efforts in maintaining fishing shanties and tree lines. Buksyk's narrative includes challenges faced during fishing expeditions, such as adverse weather conditions and ice shifts, providing a comprehensive view of the physical and environmental demands of the sport. Overall, the interview captures the essence of Bill Buksyk's lifelong involvement in sturgeon spearing, offering valuable historical and personal insights into the practice and its significance in Wisconsin's culture.

Please Note: The oral histories in this collection are protected by copyright and have been created for educational, research and personal use as described by the Fair Use Doctrine in the U.S. Copyright law. Please reach out to let us know how these interviews are being used in your research, project, exhibit, etc.  The Voices staff can help provide other useful resources related to your inquiry. 

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Voices Oral History Archives does not verify the accuracy of materials submitted to us. The opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the interviewee only. The interviews here have been made available to the public only after the interviewer has confirmed that they have obtained consent.