People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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

  • Collection DOI:
    Principal Investigator:
    Kathleen Schmitt Kline, Frederick P. Binkowski, Ronald M. Bruch
  • 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.

Interviewee Description Interviewer Date of Interview Location of Interview Affiliation Collection
Howard Wruck

Dominic C. Carmona interviews Howard Wruck about his own and his family's history with sturgeon spearing. Howard discusses cooking methods for sturgeon and spearing stories.

Dominic Carmona Oshkosh, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Daniel Wollersheim

Daniel Wollersheim is interviewed about building ice saws and spears. Daniel tells stories about his days sturgeon spearing and explains the cleaning and cooking process for sturgeon. Interviewer identity unknown.

Unknown Unknown University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Tom Wirth

Ronald M. Bruch interviews Tom Wirth about sturgeon population management, spawning, and other research and management projects. Recording ends abruptly right after 27 minutes.

Ronald M. Bruch Unknown University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Cynthia Wendt

Cynthia Wendt is interviewed by Dick Ristow about her personal involvement in sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago. She tells about the challenges and enjoyment of sturgeon spearing, sharing her most memorable experiences. She talks about the people she has come to know through spearing and those that she met during the years that she owned Wendt’s On the Lake.

Dick Ristow Fond du Lac, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Estelle Wagner

Estelle Wagner is interviewed by Kathleen Schmitt Kline about her history in the Lake Winnebago area of Wisconsin, including sturgeon spearing and its connection with her immigrant family. They listen to and discuss historical recordings she has about sturgeon culture from her father. Identities of other speakers on recording are unknown.

Kathleen Schmitt Kline Unknown University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Gerald Van Straten

Kathleen Schmitt Kline and Ronald M. Bruch interview Gerald Van Straten about cooking sturgeon, spear fishing, and poachers using snag lines. Gerald also discusses family stories of fishing, particularly from his grandfather.

Ronald M. Bruch , Kathleen Schmitt Kline Unknown University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Clement M. Van Gompel

Clem Van Gompel describes growing up in Lake Winnebago area, working for Kimberly-Clark during World War II, and experiences fishing sturgeon. He made his own decoys with resources from his work. Clem discusses methods of attracting sturgeon and illuminating the lake bottom to see fish better, as well as benefits of Sturgeon for Tomorrow in maintaining sturgeon population and increasing it in other lakes and rivers.

Eugene Herubin Menasha, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Ron Vanderzanden

Ron Vanderzanden is interviewed by Dick Koerner about increased regulations and fines in modern day spearing, including the half day season, and the impact it has on poaching. Ron also tells tales of his past experiences sturgeon spearing.

Dick Koerner Menasha, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Art Sonnenberg

Dick Ristow interviews Art Sonnenberg on experiences as a sturgeon fisher and decoy maker. Born in 1916, Sonnenberg tells of using horse and sleigh for fishing. He tells poaching stories, talks of his involvement with Sturgeon for Tomorrow, and of his craft as a decoy maker.

Dick Ristow Van Dyne, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish
Al Schumacher

Bill Casper interviews Al Schumacher of the Stockbridge area on sturgeon fishing and related experiences in Schumacher’s life. At the time of the interview, Schumacher was 88 or 89 years old, and had lived in the same farmhouse since about the age of ten.  Stories surround the use of horses for moving fishing equipment, surviving the Depression, Schumacher’s family history, local decoy makers, and local landmarks such as the Fishtail Inn and the Calumet County Park.

Bill Casper Hilbert, WI University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, Oshkosh Public Museum People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish