LAKE WINNEBAGO, Wis. (WFRV) – As sturgeon spearing season approaches, unseasonably warm weather threatens to change how people experience this northeast Wisconsin tradition.

Thousands of people will descend on Lake Winnebago when sturgeon spearing season begins on Saturday. Jason Schenker from Oconomowoc is one of those people.

He said he’s been going sturgeon spearing for 15 years and this year he’s going spearing with three people who are doing it for the first time.

“It’s an experience at least try it once, it might not be for everyone but it’s definitely something you can say you did once in your lifetime,” said Schenker.

Schenker and others braved snowy conditions on Thursday afternoon to take their shanties out on the lake and dig holes. After finishing up with those duties, many of them ended up at Wendt’s On The Lake restaurant.

Restaurant employees said that sturgeon spearing season is their busiest time of the year and that they see about 90 percent more traffic in the restaurant than on a normal weekend.

The restaurant serves as a location for people to register their sturgeon with the DNR so it gets extra customers that way as well.

“I don’t think it (the warmer weather) will affect people coming out to the restaurant because people still want to get out this time of year,” said Ann Wendt Cross who is the owner.

With the warm weather thinning the ice, several local fishing clubs posted on their Facebook pages recommending people use ATVs, UTVs, and snowmobiles instead of cars or trucks when going out on the ice.

These local fishing clubs are always monitoring ice conditions and can be a great resource for the latest information on the constantly changing ice conditions on Lake Winnebago.

Fishing club officials say there are between 12 and 16 inches of ice on Lake Winnebago right now and there are several parts of the lake that aren’t safe to go on at all.

“The biggest thing is that you need to know where you’re going, knowing where the reefs are staying away from stuff like that and any currents and typical bad spots that happen on this lake every year,” said Darryl Lehman who is the club president for Paynes Point Hook and Spearfishing club. “This isn’t the year where you have lots of ice and can get away with driving just about anywhere you need to understand what you’re doing on the lake.”

Lehman said that the snow is helping keep the sun off the ice right now.

Lehman said that he thinks there will be fewer people actually out on the lake spearing this season because there are some people who are nervous about the ice conditions.

Fishing clubs have also put out Christmas trees on the lake and if you see a tree that is on its side that means the ice is dangerous. In brighter news, experts say that water clarity is good this year for people who still plan to spear.

No ice is ever 100 percent safe.

The sturgeon spearing season lasts 16 days or until harvesting caps are reached.