Sturgeon sculpture to welcome visitors to Shiocton

Tim Conradt, well known for his carvings of fish and taxidermy work is almost done with his biggest project to date.

He plans to put a huge fiberglass sculpture of a sturgeon at Bamboo Bend. The Bend is recognized as one of the best places in the world to watch the ancient fish go through their spawning ritual each spring, according to Tim’s brother, Dennis, who is president of Shadows on the Wolf.

Tim Conradt said he was inspired by other communities.

“As I visited different towns I noticed there were large sculptures of what makes them famous,” Conradt said. “There’s a giant bluegill in Orr, Minn. and the big muskie in Hayward. I thought Shiocton should have a sturgeon.”

Conradt said they found out it would cost $20,000 to purchase a sculpture so they started to build the 15-foot big sturgeon on their own. Shadows has financially supported the effort, along with donations from area businesses.

“People will remember seeing the big sturgeon in Shiocton,” he added.

Conradt is getting help with the sculpture from graphic artist and former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh sculpture professor Kimberly Richards.

The sculpture started with a copper armature, which forms the “spine” of the sturgeon, Richards explained. Metal laths were then attached to form a rib-cage-like frame. That accomodates a slight bend in the sturgeon so it has a more life-like appearance. Three posts were placed in the core for mounting the sculpture.

Next, Richards said, sheets of foam were glued to the frame, and they were carved into the shape of the fish.

The foam sturgeon will be covered with a polymer, then will become the mold for the fiberglass fish. The fiberglass sturgeons can be reproduced as many times as needed. Fins will be added later.

Tim Conradt plans on having the sturgeon done by the time the sturgeon spawning season arrives in late April.

The tourism brought about by the sturgeon season has a significant impact on Shiocton, according to Dennis Conradt.

“This is just the start,” he said. “Next year we hope to have an underwater viewing area,” Dennis Conradt said. “It will follow the contour of the bank and have rip-rap on the river bottom to encourage the sturgeon.” Visitors will then be able to get a close-up, eye-level view of the fish.

While the new sturgeon sculpture will have a temporary mounting this spring, the plan calls for it to be mounted on top of the underwater viewing area.

Sculptor Kimberly Richards puts the finishing touches on the tail fin of the 15-foot foam form for the sturgeon.