The caviar is for research
I need to research how it tastes.
I'll be honest with you, Scam Fam, the monotony is starting to get to me. A version of this happens to me every February. Even in this particularly grim winter, I have it pretty good as far as problems go. I'm alive, I'm healthy, so are most of the people close to me. My disruptions are basically luxuries, even if that never stops me from complaining about them. But still. The smallness of my world right now feels like it's eating away at my edges. I experience every day kind of like it's been rubbed with a cheap eraser: There, but blurry. The same, but worse.
That's part of how I found myself searching for images of “lake sturgeon spearing.” I've been doing A LOT of image searches lately. “Irish landscape” “Mallorca” “Tanzania beach” “kangaroo in the wild.” I'm basically actively seeking out screensavers and mournfully staring at them. Believe it or not, it's pretty unsatisfying. All the same, I beg of you, if you live somewhere with a landscape that is not currently “sometimes fresh, mostly dirty snow on a city street/park,” please please please reply to this email with a photo of it. I'll take any escape I can get.
Back to “lake sturgeon spearing.” It was a shockingly good Google. I did not realize that I would see a bunch of white midwesterners posing for prom photos with prehistoric fish, and I also did not realize how much I wanted to see that. Here, look:
I was trying to educate myself about lake sturgeon because Lake Winnebago is currently playing host not just to spearing season — sturgeon are endangered, and harvesting is only permitted for 16 days in February — but also to spearing scam season!
Ryan Koenigs, Wisconsin’s top sturgeon biologist (jealous, much?), has been accused of a yearslong scheme in which he kept himself and his coworkers at the Department of Natural Resources in a steady flow of caviar. “Basically we distributed among ourselves and had a good old time with it,” a s̶n̶i̶t̶c̶h̶ ̶ DNR fisheries supervisor told a warden investigating the fishy (I worked hard to make that happen and I apologize for that) situation, according to a criminal complaint obtained by a local news station. Other local stations have been calling Koenigs the “Sturgeon General.” Amazing work from everyone involved.
In Wisconsin, you can keep the eggs from the sturgeon you spear, but it’s illegal to sell, trade, or barter what you don’t take for yourself. It’s not illegal to give away the eggs you’re not planning on keeping because briney fish eggs do not appeal to everyone and sometimes you choose to freeze your butt off in a hut on a frozen lake more for the thrills and chills than the blini. I mean, look at that screenshot above and tell me that getting a few dozen likes on an Insta post is any less delicious than a $50 spoonful of caviar. If caviar’s not your thing, peasant, you can conveniently give your unwanted roe to a sturgeon biologist and respected member of your community who is collecting it at registration stations for ~research~. It’s as altruistic as donating your body to science and you don’t even have to die.
If that biologist works with the gentleman who held the biologist job before he did to process the donated research roe into caviar and then he gives jars of said caviar out to friends and family and coworkers and local bar owners? If he pays for the processing services by trading the former biologist thousands of dollars worth of caviar? Folks, the killjoy state of Wisconsin calls that a misdemeanor.
Which a bunch of people say Koenigs and Arthur Techlow, the guy who used to have the biologist job before moving on to the processing end of things, were well aware of during the years in which they were funneling fish eggs back and forth to one another. One might assume that as they are or were wildlife officials employed by the same agency that’s supposed to enforce these laws, they might have taken care to cover their tracks.
They did, sort of. Techlow told the wardens that they were careful with language, using phrases like, “Here’s your eggs back, of course it’s a gift, but I kept some” or “You’re giving me a gift, and I’m going to process these, but I’m a generous person and I’m probably going to give you a gift of processed eggs.” But apparently there was something on Koenigs’ government-issued phone that caused him to restore it to factory settings after investigators initially questioned him about why he was handing out caviar like bubblegum. That’s a violation of DNR policy and earned Koenigs an obstruction charge :(
One thing no one seems to have gotten out of this whole scheme is cash. The complaint details the market value of all these four- and eight-ounce jars of caviar, but includes no suggestion that anyone exchanged actual money for them. Even the bars that allegedly received caviar as payment for processing or as standalone gifts seem to have served the caviar as a free cocktail snack to customers.
As a person who has spent an inordinate part of the last year fantasizing about sitting on a stool at a bar in a crowded indoor restaurant without the fear of causing a bunch of loved ones and strangers to suffer simply by breathing, caviar as a complimentary cocktail snack paired with this menu just sounds really nice to me. Seems like Fond du Lac might have bigger fish to fry (once again, I did that on purpose; once again I am sorry).
Scam like you’re Midwest Nice,
My Week in Consumption
My favorite neighborhood pizza place, Sal’s (the one on Court and Degraw) reopened after being closed for several months and I for one am over the moon about it.
A few years ago, I raved about Albert Samaha’s Never Ran, Never Will about youth football in Brooklyn. We Are: The Brooklyn Saints, which he executive produced and for which my bestie and fav slumber party companion Julia Liu did cinematography, covers some of the same ground and is absolutely stunning.
I read The Hare by Melanie Finn after Molly Young recommended it in her Read Like the Wind newsletter. Heart-racing stuff!!!!
In other books news, another best friend (yes, I have a lot, I’m very popular), my soulmate Queen Kayleen’s But You’re Still So Young comes out very soon. It’s a masterpiece.
Truly, there is very little as boring as listening to me talk about composting, but I’m still gonna tell you that I bought a compost bin and I love it.
I don’t know how to apply makeup, so I don’t wear it, but I look at my face a lot more than I’m used to now that I spend my days on Zoom, and I am not the biggest fan of what I see on camera. I went to a makeup store and said, “Can you give me something that makes me look less like a corpse but is beginner-friendly enough for a person with the dexterity of a toddler who’s afraid of looking like a clown?” and they said, “Try this.” I did; I like it.