The sturgeon spawn is Princeton’s most ancient tradition. Lake Sturgeon have been coming to the banks of the Fox River for thousands of years. In spring, when water temperatures begin to climb, these giant “dinosaur fish” follow an ancient and mysterious impulse to travel upstream from Lake Winnebago and Green Bay. They seem to remember their favorite places, and only spawn in a few select locations along the Fox River.

Upon reaching these rocky, shallow spots, the gentle monsters come to the surface to lay and fertilize eggs. They are easily seen up close behind businesses on the south side of West Water Street in Princeton.

Incredibly, the four-to-six-foot-long sturgeon sometimes rear or jump out of the water, creating quite a show. Even when they are just cruising the riverbanks, their unique shark-like fins and armored bodies are amazing to watch. Lake Sturgeon are a protected species, so watching is all we can do—for the public, catching or even touching sturgeon while they spawn is illegal.

On certain days, representatives from the WI DNR and scientists from around the country do catch, measure, tag, and release lake sturgeon here in Princeton. The wrestling match between these 100-250 pound fish and their human protectors is incredible to watch.

When to See the Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon are evasive. They spawn when they feel the water is just right. Some springs, when water flow is high and water temperatures rise slowly, spawning begins when the water temperature reaches 53°F. In other years, when water levels are low and water temperature rise quickly, spawning does not begin until water temperatures reach 58-59°F.  Spawning usually lasts for about a week. Sometimes, spawning may start, but stop for a time if the weather turns cold, then start again. We can only say that the sturgeon will likely spawn sometime between mid-April and late May. We hope that the sturgeon will spawn during our Sturgeon Celebration, but there’s no guarantee. We will post on the Chamber’s Facebook page when the spawning starts, so make sure to “like” our page!

Where to See the Sturgeon

Public viewing locations include Megow Park on West Water Street and the ends of Washington Street and Pearl Street, off of West Water Street. Businesses on the south side of West Water Street own the property along the river, but often allow people to walk in their “back yards” to see the sturgeon. Please be respectful of private property!

Riverside businesses with backyard spawning locations include:
Horseradish Kitchen + Market
Pasttimes Books & Antiques
Daiseye (fair trade clothing & gifts)
Molly’s Buckhorn Bar & Grill
Botanica Spa
Renard’s European Bakery
Knickerbocker Landing Saloon & Eatery
Wisconsin Special Properties
National Exchange Bank

You may also see sturgeon near:
The Ice Bowl (ice cream, food, tiki bar, tubing)
Megow Park
Heistand Park (on Jefferson St, off of Mechanic St)

More About Lake Sturgeon

These amazing “dinosaur fish” start as eggs about 3mm wide, and grow to be up to 6 feet long, and weighing up to 250 pounds. They are called dinosaur fish because they haven’t changed since the time of the dinosaurs. Lake Sturgeon have thick skin and bony plates called “scutes” instead of scales. They  live very long lives- up to 150 years!  They cruise the bottoms of lakes and rivers, feeling their way through the mud with tentacles around their mouths called “barbels.” Sturgeon eat by extending their tube-like mouths and sucking up insects, small fish, fish eggs, mussels, snails, crayfish, and tasty treats. When they reach maturity (15-20 years old for males, 24-26 years old for females) they begin to lay and fertilize eggs. Each female will only lay eggs every 4-6 years. A female can lay 700,000 eggs in her life, but only about 1 in 50,000 survive. Sturgeon eggs stick to rocks until they hatch, in about 5-8 days. Baby sturgeon, called “fry,” grow quickly. In two weeks they can grow to be an inch long.

Princeton’s Sturgeon Celebration

Saturday, April 13th, 2024

Each year, we host our annual Sturgeon Celebration in mid April, and we hope you will join us to see the sturgeon and stay for food, drinks, shopping, and entertainment.

All Day, Library
Purchase T-shirts, tumblers, wine glasses, keychains, and more featuring Princeton-area themes, including our famous fish! All proceeds benefit the Princeton Historical Society.

All Day (or until gone), Library and Participating Businesses
Pick up a string backpack full of goodies celebrating the outdoors, and Princeton’s favorite recreation spots! Each kit contains maps, coupons, stickers, wildlife ID cards, a compass, and even butterfly weed seeds. Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.


All Day, Library
Check out these amazing displays! Mark Kanitz is a sturgeon spearman as well as a member and supporter of “Sturgeon for Tomorrow.” Touch real tanned sturgeon skin, admire his handmade lures and art, and ask him about his battles with river monsters.

All Day, Library
Starting March 18th, anyone can pick up small papier-mâché fish at the library and decorate them. (Please, only 1 fish per family.) Ugly fish need to be turned in to the library by Monday, April 8th for judging. The creator(s) of the ugliest fish will receive $25 in Chamber Bucks, which can be spent at any business that is a member of the Chamber of Commerce. What’s “ugly?” YOU decide!  Flashing Christmas lights and sequins? Multicolor neon paint?  Celebrity faces instead of scales? Tissue paper fur? It’s all fair game- but please keep entries PG/family-friendly. On April 13th, all fish entered in the contest will be on display for your entertainment! This contest is a real hoot– last year we even made it on TV! Sponsored by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce and Whimsy Mountain.

All Day, Library
Join us for free refreshments and crafts! All ages are welcome to join us in decorating life-sized sturgeon cutouts with a variety of materials. We will have coloring pages and clay sturgeon making for children.

1-2PM, City parking lot across from the library
What’s more fun than watching the sturgeon spawn? Winning CASH! We will be dumping hundreds of “sturgeon eggs” (Ping Pong balls) from a height of 30 feet. Your job is to scramble after them! Each person can chase and choose one lucky ball to turn in for a prize. The winning balls have a number or colored dot on it, and these correspond to awesome prizes. There will be carnival prizes plus Chamber Bucks checks! This event is open to all ages. Please do not use nets or other devices to scoop up balls, and be careful not to knock over kids. You get to turn in ONE ping pong ball, and no exchanges may be made after the buzzer sounds. Sponsored by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce.

2-3PM, Library
Longtime educator Joan Voigt will give a talk focused on spawning and the sturgeon life cycle. She is bringing fun fish science props, a large tri-fold display on sturgeon with photos, an egg stages of development display, and preserved young sturgeon samples. She will be doing a great PowerPoint presentation with video. Read more about her and her work at