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

By Kathleen Schmitt Kline, Ronald M. Bruch, Frederick P. Binkowski, with photographs by Bob Rashid

Hardcover: $29.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-431-9

304 pages, 240 color and b/w photos and illus., 8.5 x 10"; E-book now available


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A Midwest Favorite from the Midwest Booksellers Association

Lake sturgeon, an ancient fish native to the Great Lakes region, can grow to be more than six feet long, 200 pounds, and live more than 100 years. This "dinosaur fish" teetered on the brink of extinction since the late 19th century. But in Wisconsin, careful management for over 100 years has allowed one population to thrive. "People of the Sturgeon" is a history of the cultures surrounding lake sturgeon in Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago region, told by a fascinating collection of photos, artifacts, and a few good fish tales. From some of the earliest inhabitants of Wisconsin, the Menominee Indian Tribe, to the spearers who flock to frozen Lake Winnebago for the annual sturgeon spearing season, people have always been drawn to this ancient fish.

While overfishing, dams, and pollution nearly wiped out other populations of lake sturgeon, Winnebago sturgeon have survived and flourished because of the dedicated efforts of state managers, university researchers, and a determined group of spearers known as Sturgeon for Tomorrow. This is the only population of sturgeon in the world to have been nearly extirpated, then resurrected through a community-wide effort of people who are now joined together as "People of the Sturgeon."

NEW AUDIO BOOK: the audio edition of "People of the Sturgeon" is now available!

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department:

Note: This book meets and exceeds the requirements of the Wisconsin American Indian Education Act (Act 31).

Kathleen Schmitt Kline is an outreach coordinator 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 B.A. in biology and English from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and an M.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 lead sturgeon biologist for the Winnebago system since 1990. In his efforts to establish scienfically-based sturgeon management policies with maximum public input, Bruch has worked with numerous local, state, tribal, federal, and international agencies and organizations. He has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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 an M.S. in zoology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Bob Rashid (1949-2008) was a photographer/writer whose 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."

Check out this short documentary on sturgeon based on "People of the Sturgeon."

2009 Council for Wisconsin Writers, Inc.
Winner of the Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award

2009 ForeWord Reviews' Book of the Year Award
Gold Medalist in the Nature Category

2009 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Midwest Book Awards
Winner in the Nature Category

2009 Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards
Recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award for 2009 Publications

2010 Chicago Book Clinic and Media Show
Winner in the General Trade/Non-Fiction/Four Color Internals Category

2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards
Gold Medalist in the Great Lakes Best Regional Non-Fiction Category

2010 National Indie Excellence Awards
Winner in the Nature Category

2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Winner in the Science/Nature/Environment Category
Finalist in the Best Overall Design Category

2010 PubWest Book Design Awards
Gold Medalist in the Sports/Fitness/Recreation Book Category

2010 USA National Best Book Awards
Winner in the Environment: Political/Social Category

Author Interviews
Jim Packard interviewed authors Kathleen Kline and Ron Bruch. This interview originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 at 11:00am on the "Larry Meiller" show.

Larry Meiller's interview with author Ron Bruch originally aired on Wisconsin Public Radio's Ideas Network on Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:54am.

"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. While degraded habitats and overfishing brought many sturgeon populations close to extinction, Lake Winnebago sturgeon have, with the help of public and private efforts, survived and thrived to become the world's largest lake sturgeon population today, able to support a unique recreational spearing fishery as well as a research program that is unlocking many of the secrets of this ancient fish. In this fascinating account, you'll see vivid photos, read great fish stories, and meet lots of unforgettable Wisconsin characters. 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

"Spearers sit patiently in darkhouse shacks perched on the frozen expanse of Lake Winnebago, waiting hours, days — even years — for a giant shadow to glide beneath them. Volunteers patrol the banks of the Wolf River on an April night, listening for the splashing of spawning fish and watching for would-be poachers. Menominee tribesmen dance to mimic the thrashing of these prehistoric giants as they struggle upstream to spawn, then feast in celebration on their smoked flesh as their ancestors have done for millennia. They are all people of the sturgeon, and they are all honored in this book. Few fish are as homely, yet none seems to engender as much affection. 'People of the Sturgeon' tells the stories of those whose lives have been deeply touched by this fish, and the story of the fish itself weaves through the narrative to bind it together. It is a marvelous story and a heart-warming read." Dan Small, Host/producer of "Outdoor Wisconsin" and "Outdoors Radio"

"'People of the Sturgeon' truly is an old love story between humans and this remarkable fish. Moreover, as research and conservation efforts improve the sturgeon's lot, it is a love story which is headed for a rosier future." John Michael Senger, "ForeWord Magazine"

"This fish is important to both Native Americans and the later European immigrants, and by looking at all aspects of the interaction of fish and human society, the authors have presented a lively blend of cultural and natural history." —Nancy Bent, "Booklist"

"The lore surrounding the sturgeon, and a few fish stories as well, is the popular audience bait for 'People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish.' But authors Kathleen Schmitt, Ronald M. Bruch, and Frederick P. Binkowski show that the sturgeon's survival is an example of Wisconsin's long standing, progressive policy toward conservation." David Luhrssen, "Shepherd Express"

"Bruch spearheaded an effort to collect artifacts and record the stories told by spearers, decoy carvers, poachers, retired game wardens and sturgeon biologists, Menominee Tribal elders, and others from throughout the Winnebago-Fox-Wolf River System. The book also culls the photo albums, newspaper clippings and personal recollections of Wisconsin families to show how the huge, homely lake sturgeon found in the Lake Winnebago system captured their hearts, and with their help, returned from the edge of extinction." —"Wisconsin State Journal"