Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coasters and Spring Steelhead

    A number of people have asked me, "Why do you guys include coasters in your creel project?" In the beginning, and we are talking pre-Creel Project, super data-junkie days, I was collecting everything and anything I could get my hands on; if it was data, I had to have it. By the way, never ask me about my photoperiod matrix unless you want to see paint get confused and then bored right off the walls....

    At any rate, it was "Just 'Cause". I love coasters and brookies in general, and they were how I was introduced to trout fishing in the first place, so I have a bit of a soft spot.

    Funny thing was that after we captured a number of years-worth of spring steelhead data, something jumped out at us. We didn't have enough of a coaster sample size prior to spring 2014 to even really speculate, but I think we're there now and you may find the results interesting.

    What you are looking at are the last 5 years of coaster data we've collected. Note that the week dates fall between the months of March and June.
    Doesn't look like much, but there are those odd spikes in the catch which got us wondering. The coasters aren't spawning at that time of year, so just what is it that they are doing? We also compared the long-term creel rainbow averages (steelhead+kamloops) against coaster creel and what you get is this:
    Our current SWAG - That's Scientific Wild-Ass Guess for you non-technical folks - is that the coasters are opportunistically feeding on free-floating steelhead eggs during the runs. We see the same sort of behavior during the pink runs in the fall, well before the coasters are spawning.

     Couple oddities about the chart:
Two possibilities come to mind regarding that first peak in late March...
1. It's simply a result of a couple very early runs we experienced during the creel project.
2. The coasters are following that first flush of kamloops which tend to enter the streams earlier than the steelhead.

    The other item is that the third peak doesn't quite fit the mid-shore model with respect to mid-shore steelhead peaks. Until 2014, it was a dead-on match however, we had a lot of "late" steelhead coming on the lower shore in 2014 which skewed the numbers to a degree, but only by a couple of days so it's still in the ballpark.

    MS will continue to watch this with interest because it's simply another way to illustrate what is happening (indirectly) with the steelhead during the course of a run. It's also good data in its own right; I mean c'mon, who doesn't love this beautiful native char???


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Updated Trap Data

    We finally found a little time to do some analysis, but there's much more to be done and much more to come, so bear with us...

    Short of getting some late additions to the Creel Project, the numbers are pretty much in and there are some very interesting items to note. 2014 is shaping up to be one of the more unusual runs I can remember. Everyone is scratching their heads over the weather, the late ice, the sustained high flows, and the apparent mystery of the disappearing year classes of adults, both Steelhead and Kamloops all across the Big Lake; it is just plain strange.

    I guess I don't want to do too much speculation on the mystery of the missing year-classes because I'm thinking that we just won't know if they are truly missing until we see some reports on trap efficiency. With the sustained high flows, it's entirely possible that quite a few fish simply bypassed the traps, so we'll just have to wait and see what can be gleaned from the capture of down-bound adults. I'm also waiting to see what the 2014 Creel Project numbers have to say when compared to previous year's numbers, hopefully we'll have that for you soon. There's a mountain of data to sift through and a mole-hill's quantity of time to do it in for now. Uninterrupted free time seems to be as elusive as steelhead in August on the Shore.

    What we do have for you right now are the preliminary trap numbers. I say preliminary only because the DNR has stopped reporting on the Spring Creel page and are now focusing on the Summer Creel reporting. Numbers always get adjusted, it is what it is. Even MS had to go back through it all as there were quite a few adjustments to be made to flow on our Lower Shore index stream.

    That being said, here's what we are finding so interesting: When you look at the last three weeks of reported trap numbers, you don't see the typical tapering off of the numbers. There were respectable numbers of fish returning to trap every time there was a hiccup in flows. It's not as apparent in the chart here simply because, as has been previously discussed, the daily's are where you see those granular interactions between temperature, flow and fish. A weekly such as depicted below gives you that overall picture, but trust us, it was unusual.

    So what does it mean? Your guess is as good as ours at this point, but I for one would like to do a little exploring on certain North Shore tribs as it would not surprise me to still find some fish, even at this point in the game. Catchable numbers??? Unknown, but a day on the river beats a day thinking about it.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Preliminary Trap Results

    Just some preliminary trap information. One of the things I discovered early on in my quest to better understand North Shore fishing was that simply plotting trends just wasn't well, understandable....

    It's not that it doesn't provide good information, in fact trends are where you see those granular details and interactions between temperature, flow and fish movement. However it's not quite as intuitive as the weekly analysis format I finally put together; so here's the combined Knife/French trap numbers in that format:

    Overall there are a couple things to note: Once again you can see that things really don't get rolling until after the upstream temperature intitiation thresholds are met. Flow averages this spring were crazy-high throughout the run, and most definately had an effect on fish movement throughout. But again, the weekly format filters out the granular so that you can see the big picture better.
    And speaking of the big picture - I don't get as concerned with the actual totals of fish numbers with respect to the charts from year to year. The whole point is to better understand those temperature, flow and fish interactions as a whole as opposed to the overall numbers returning to creel and trap; but we have had a very odd year. 
    Rather than do a bunch of speculation here, a recent Duluth News Tribune artical covers the topic pretty well: Rainbow run riddle: Where are the trout?
Last item: there are still fish available and fishing to be had, so don't hang it up yet!
More to come-

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Upper Shore Creel Updates

    Couple quick notes: Still ok numbers of fish being caught on the Lower Shore. Mid Shore numbers are very good still; all information based on combined DNR/Minnesota Steelheader creel. Many thanks and keep 'em coming, we are getting great data this year.

Last daily of the year for Upper Shore. Temps didn't bounce around as much as I thought they might, but flows are another story. Don't let the low posted creel trend numbers fool you, but for the crazy flows, fishing would be getting very good. Look for decent numbers for at least the next ten days, and fishing to continue right into June.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fishing Report 5-20-14

MN Steelheader - fishing report
Over the weekend along the Lower Shore, rivers were holding stable flows with morning water
temperatures in the mid-40s and afternoon water temperatures in the low 50s. Angling pressure was
moderate and anglers reported slow to fair fishing. Interviewed anglers caught 20 Kamloops, 16
steelhead, 1 coho salmon and 10 suckers.

Along the Middle Shore conditions were good, as river levels continued to slowly fall and were flowing at normal to slightly high levels. Water temperatures were 40-43 degrees in the mornings and 49-52 degrees in the afternoons. Fishing pressure was fairly light and interviewed anglers also reported rather slow fishing, landing 10 steelhead and 1 sucker.

Along the Upper Shore, water conditions continued to improve. The larger rivers were still running high, but the moderate to smaller rivers were in excellent condition for angling. Morning water temperatures were
40-43 degrees and rose to 46-49 degrees in the afternoons. Angling pressure was light, and interviewed
anglers reported slow fishing, landing 5 steelhead and 5 brook trout.

Trap totals through 5/19 are 224 steelhead and 15 Kamloops at the Knife River, and 195 Kamloops and 15 steelhead at the French River.

Our angling advice is not to let the low DNR creel reporting fool you into thinking there are no fish around. With few anglers on the water, the sampling of anglers is light.

Please note: the above creel information is that of the MN DNR and not the results of the Minnesota Steelheader creel project (MSCP).  We do not post weekly tally numbers from our MSCP.  The data all you volunteers provide us with is added to our thingamabob computer program and will be spit out into a cumulative learning and teaching tool - a pretty darn good one at that!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Help our DNR Creel census clerks

Kamloop or Steelhead?

Did you know three DNR creel census clerks conduct angler interviews from April through late-May along the North Shore?  Here is a list of rivers along Lake Superiors North Shore they survey:

Lower Shore: Lester, McQuade Harbor/Talmadge River, French, Sucker, and Knife
Middle Shore: Stewart, Silver, Gooseberry, Split Rock, Beaver, and Baptism
Upper Shore: Cross, Temperance, Poplar, Cascade, Devil Track, Kadunce, and Brule

If one of these clerks approaches you for an interview, don't panic, he is just out gather fish catching information.  Please be courteous to these clerks and take a moment out of your day to assist, even if you have not caught any fish - yet. Your cooperation is very helpful and is greatly appreciated.

The above photo is a north shore catch.  Sometimes initial appearances might be confusing, and a bit of a challenge for some to identify the difference between a kamloop's rainbow trout and a steelhead.  There is a dead give away in this photo that id's this hen.  Can you see it - Kamloop or Steelhead?


Fishing Report 5-16-14

Along the Lower Shore, water levels dropped as the week progressed and conditions for angling have
improved. Water temperatures were low 40s early in the mornings and generally 46-48 degrees in the
afternoons. Fishing pressure remained low this week but anglers reported improved fishing compared
to recent weeks. The DNR Creel staff Interviewed anglers who caught 9 steelhead and 5 Kamloops.

Along the middle shore, water conditions also improved considerably compared to early in the week. Water levels have receded to very manageable levels, and water temperatures reached 46-48 degrees in the afternoons. Angling pressure was very light and interviewed anglers reported slow fishing despite good conditions, and caught 1 steelhead and 1 northern pike.

Along the Upper Shore, water levels were very high early in the week and have come down some, but not to the extent that they have along the rest of the shore. Water temperatures were 41-44 degrees. Angling pressure was extremely light and no fish were reported. Trap totals through 5/15 are 204 steelhead and 14 Kamloops at the Knife River, and 136 Kamloops and 9 steelhead at the French River. R.

A good place to be this weekend for steelhead success might not be on your couch, but rather one of 60ish north shore streams or rivers.

Tight Lines!

Some information and the creel numbers have been provided by the MN DNR

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mid and Upper Shore Creel Trend Updates

Latest creel project trends...

Mid Shore - Last one for this year, we're there but it's going to be tough until the water starts coming down again. Pretty much the only thing holding back catch rates are the high flows, look for catch to improve as flows begin to drop again. As an aside and in reference to the recent high flow concept post, no idea what the limiting rate is on this particular stream, but we're probably at or above it.

Upper Shore - We're mostly there... I know, I charted that we are there, but there's so much snowmelt being flushed into the system right now that I think temps are going to teeter back and forth for a couple days to maybe a week yet. Usually when that happens we get steelhead moving in fits and spurts as temps bounce up and down. I'll probably continue to post until things stabilize.


2014 Combined Trap Trend

Just some quickie analysis of the Trap trends for 2014...

    No surprizes here with respect to inititation temps and trap numbers, but I want to throw a new concept at you.

    If you read the technical literature closely, you'll find a concept which helps you understand when to change tactics and where to fish under certain conditions. Stream temperatures give you a window on when adult steelhead begin that first big upstream migration, but what happens once those conditions are met and maintained? Well, this is where flow takes over.

    Once steelhead begin entering the rivers, they have one goal in mind - reproduction- and they are on a mission. Few things influence their drive to move upstream like flow. Steelhead are biologically programmed if you will to move on high flows. Over time, higher flows have allowed steelhead to reach those areas of the stream which are most conducive to spawning and rearing, and those areas are typically located in the uppermost portions of a given watershed. They typically have the right combination of spawning gravel, cover, habitat, forage and oxygen levels which promote successful spawning, and allow young fish to survive to the time at which they return to the lake. But those upper reaches are also typically shallow which is where running on higher flows pays off, the adults can reach these areas when they otherwise would not on lower flow.  

    Those steelhead strong enough to make it successfully pass on their genetic makup, so it becomes a sort of positive feedback loop. But again flow is key. Things are a little different on the North Shore due to the short run nature of the streams, so we are just talking about the overall concept of that pre-programming in steelhead generally.

    New Concept: Can the flow get too high, and if so, what happens when it does?

    On the Knife, thanks to the folks at DNR Fisheries, we know that the flow value which limits the ability of steelhead to continue their push upstream is right in that 500-600 CFS range. We're seeing that right now in the trap and creel numbers:

    The trend has essentially flat-lined as the flows increased significantly after the recent heavy rain. Remember, the flow values on the chart are divided by 10, so you have to multiply by that to get the actual value.
    So how does this affect you as a steelheader? Well, you have to change tactics because the fish are simply hunkering down and riding out the high flows. Looking for areas which are sheltered somewhat from the chocolate maelstrom pay off big time in these conditions, so too does going big and bright, or big and dark. If you can go big, bright/dark and smelly, so much the better....
    One of my favorite tactics in these conditions is to find big back-eddys. It looks absolutely stupid, but it works. Basically you cast on the inner edge of the downstream eddy seam, but what you are really trying to do is to get your presentation caught up in the eddy so that it comes back to you. It's like fishing in a washing machine because your presentation just keeps going around and around; but where you usually get bit is during the "upstream" cycle as it were. That's because the fish are usually laying in the gentler eddy out of the storm, but because the water is cycling upstream and around, the fish are actually facing backwards, usually right at your feet (so don't just go blundering right into the water).
    You can do this with flies or yarn, but it's tough because it's difficult to control what's going on at the terminal end. Using a float with a jig and your favorite big smelly presentation suspended just off the bottom is perfect. Just let the washing machine do the work...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2014 Trap Reports - 05.21.2014 UPDATED

DATE: 05/19/2014Knife River Flow: 150CFSIndex River Temp: 49.64°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured201
Total Captured22415
DATE: 05/19/2014Knife River Flow: 150CFSIndex River Temp: 49.64°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured659  
Total Captured15195  
DATE: 05/16/2014Knife River Flow: 270CFSIndex River Temp: 46.4°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured111
Total Captured20414
DATE: 05/16/2014Knife River Flow: 270CFSIndex River Temp: 46.4°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured213  
Total Captured9136  
DATE: 05/12/2014Knife River Flow: 730CFSIndex River Temp: 46.76°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured615
Total Captured19313
DATE: 05/12/2014Knife River Flow: 730CFSIndex River Temp: 46.76°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured114  
Total Captured7123  
DATE: 05/09/2014Knife River Flow: 1370CFSIndex River Temp: 42.08°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured505
Total Captured1328
DATE: 05/09/2014Knife River Flow: 1370CFSIndex River Temp: 42.08°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured573  
Total Captured6109  
DATE: 05/05/2014Knife River Flow: 753CFSIndex River Temp: 42.3°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured823  
Total Captured823  
DATE: 05/05/2014Knife River Flow: 753CFSIndex River Temp: 42.3°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured136  
Total Captured136 
DATE: 05/02/2014Knife River Flow: 1020CFSIndex River Temp: 38.1°F
Traps Open SteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured00 
Total Captured00 

Creel Trend Update

    The creel data which came in from the last couple days has confirmed what we were seeing in the temperature data, that the Lower North Shore had, for the most part, reached the upstream steelhead migration initiation threshold and was about to pop. They did and it has...

    The interesting thing is that we thought there might be some small delay due to the fact that our index stream for temperatures this year is quite a bit smaller and warms more quickly when compared to most of the other Lower Shore Tribs. To be honest, my bet was on Thursday - Friday given our index stream hit roughly last Saturday and flows were so high yet. BUT, lots of sun can work wonders this time of year so it looks like the other Lower Shore Tribs are right there already. Not only does the creel trend confirm this, but the Knife and French Trap reports do as well.

    So what does this mean for you? Well, our Creel Project data tells us that going forward from the initiation threshold, we are now in a magic 14-day window (give or take a few days based on how quickly stream temps hit the low 50's), of some of the best steelheading of the season on the Lower Shore. The Creel Project isn't simply about the data, it allows Minnesota Steelheader to give YOU the best information and tools possible to plan your steelhead outings all across the Shore. BUT, we can't do this without your support, so PLEASE keep the creel reports coming in; they help us all to become more knowledgeable steelheaders.
    This will be the last live update for the Lower Shore with respect to creel trends, we know we are there and now it's up to you. We will however continue to post Trap numbers along with fishing reports as we receive them.
    Thanks again to the stellar crew (Don Schreiner et. al.) at the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Office, without their technical information and reports, none of this would be possible.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

05.04.2014 Update

Lots of things beginning to happen on the North Shore!

    The DNR's Mid and Upper Shore Creel surveys began this weekend and the French and Knife River traps are open, so look for reports to begin rolling in. For those of you who have submitted MS Creel Reports, we thank YOU! Keep 'em coming.

    As for now, I suppose we should start with the Lower Shore and work our way northward:
The Lower Shore is right on the brink. Keep in mind that our index stream for temperature is smaller than most of the tribs, consequently it warms faster and can be several days ahead of the others; but if this clear weather, warmth and most importantly -sunshine- holds, we think steelheading should be getting hot this week. Look for creel counts to increase significantly as soon as flows drop a bit, it's still crazy high as of 0900 on May 4th, 2014, but the last of the snow looks to be finally flushing out the system.

    Mid Shore is getting very close. Pretty typical for the Mid Shore to hit just about the same time or slightly later than the Lower Shore, look for fishing to really pick up by the end of the week or over the weekend; flows are all over the place but could stand to drop just a tad.

    Upper Shore has a little ways to go, but it really depends on the weather at this point. Keep your fingers crossed for some sun; flows need to drop some here as well, not likely until we get rid of the remaining snowpack.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pre-Run Temperature Monitoring

    A number of people have asked me, "Why all the fuss about stream temperatures early in the run?" Well, putting all of the technical literature aside regarding initial upstream migration temp thresholds, the following historical raw return numbers vs. stream temperatures illustrate part of the the point pretty well. What you are looking at in other words are the numbers of steelhead which returned to trap at a particular temperature range: ~5-8 degree spread. And I apologize, I don't recall specifically how many years of return data are represented here, but it's over 3000 fish sampled, so I would call that a pretty good data-set. For those of you who have been following along for a while now, "Magic 40" and all that...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

2014 Creel Analysis

    Well, I've been scrambling to try and find at least ONE data source for temps on the Lower Shore. THE problem has been the havoc wreaked by the 2012 floods on the in-stream data packages. It's important to have these sources because it helps us show you some of those relationships between temperature, flows and our steelhead fishery.

    What's really interesting is watching how the stream temperatures change the daily fishing dynamic in that stage right before things really kick off. We know from the DNR technical literature and historical trap data that there is a temperature threshold which seems to initiate upstream migration of adult steelhead. In kamloops, that threshold is just slightly lower.

    What we're trying to illustrate here is the catch trend against the stream temperatures. We won't be as concerned with flows until after that initiation temp threshold is met and maintains. Once we get past that point, it's all about the flow. Certainly temps play a big part at that stage with respect to where in the stream you'll find fish, but we are not there yet.

    Here's the picture of recent conditions: Yellow line is Knife River daily flow divided by 10 for the purposes of finer illustration. Red line is daily high temps in our index stream. Blue line is daily average temps. Black line is the temperature initiation threshold for that first big migration push in adult steelhead. Purple line is the creel/catch trend as reported by the DNR and Minnesota Steelheader's creel project.

    Couple items to note: It's tough to illustrate it given the raw flow numbers (even when divided by 10), but you see the temps climbing as flow drops after ice-out. Air temps at that time were high which caused a lot of cold runoff to dump into the streams from snowmelt; this in turn caused temps to tank. As flow is dropping again, stream temps are trying to creep back up there, but we need some clear sky and sun to move things along again. Preferably not too warm or we'll get another massive dump from melting snow and temps will tank; not to mention we'll all be battling the chocolate yeti...

    Creel trends are essentially flat-line. There are fish around, but it's tough sledding unless you have the time to put in and fish every day. What we are looking for now is for the daily average stream temps (blue line) to get above the initiation threshold. If daily stream temp highs (red line) exceed and maintain above 40 degrees as well, so much the better.

    We've never claimed to be able to predict when the run will start in any given year, but so far, watching the temp trends on an annual basis early in what you might call the pre-run stage, would be about as close as it gets. We'll post more about this as more data comes in.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Annual Creel Project has started

If you are new to Minnesota Steelheader, or simply missed it last year, we need your help!

The Minnesota Steelheader Creel Project is a non-scientific poll of catch information similar to what is provided in the Official MNDNR creel reports.

Your part is very simple- When you fish in 2014, simply record the following information: 

Species & Number Caught: Kamloops, Steelhead or Brook Trout

The Region Where You Caught the Fish: Lower, Mid or Upper Shore. It is critical that you get the location correct. MS is not interested in the specific streams, simply the region, so please use this format:
Lower Shore Region - All Tributaries from Mission Creek to Knife River

Mid Shore Region - All Tributaries from Stewart River to Baptism River

Upper Shore Region - All Tributaries from Little Marais River to Pigeon River including those on the Reservation.

The Date the Fish Were Caught: Well, the date....

That's it! Species, Region and Date, how simple is that? There is one other important ground rule. 

Please make sure that you only report steelhead, kamloops and brook trout numbers once. If you fished with a group, put your heads together and pick one person to report the TOTAL numbers, OR, only report fish you PERSONALLY caught. This helps prevent duplication in catch data. 

Example - If you and your partner caught a total of two steelhead on April 24th, please do not both report back that you caught two steelhead, otherwise it will look like four steelhead were caught that day and it will skew the numbers.

Click Here to
 enter your data.  You can also send your information to:
The data collected in our Creel Project ultimately provides us all with an increasingly better picture of steelhead fishing on the North Shore. MS publishes the information for you to think about and use whether you are brand new to the sport, or a veteran of 40 seasons. It's good stuff.

Last item is that we could really use more data on the Upper Shore, particularly late-season; so if you head up that way and have some success, please keep us in mind. You'll be helping everyone out if you do.


Monday, April 21, 2014

2014 Meet & Greet

Just what is the Meet & Greet anyway?

The Meet & Greet is an annual casual "come when you're done fishing" gathering of like-minded Minnesota steelhead anglers, organized by Minnesota Steelheader (MS), a non-profit organization dedicated to informing, educating, and entertaining veterans and new-comers alike to our North Shore fishery.

This off the water gathering is a casual way to meet fellow anglers, exchange fishing stories, share tips, techniques and photos, etc. It also provides an opportunity to ask questions and learn a few new tricks all
the while relaxing in the warmth of a comfortable establishment.

The gathering is open to women, men, 1st time steelhead anglers and seasoned veterans - we welcome all. This is a great way to get to know your fellow anglers, improve our angling community camaraderie, and meet some members behind Minnesota Steelheader.

We hope to see you this spring!

Blackwood's - Two Harbors
~ Meeting in the bar ~
 612 Seventh Ave • Two Harbors, MN • 218.834.3846
Date: Saturday, April 26th, 2014
Time: 7:00pm - last angler standing

Fishing Report 4-18-14

Spring is here, we think.  We will start posting fishing reports here with as much regularity as possible.

Rivers along the North Shore are flowing, but deep snow in the river valleys and shelf ice along the
margins of the rivers makes access to many rivers very difficult and dangerous. Water temperatures
remain very cold, only in the low 30s. Warmer air temperatures are forecasted for early this week,
which should help melt the remaining ice. Shore angling for Kamloops remains difficult due to the ice in
Lake Superior getting pushed around the lake by the winds, often eliminating any open water for fishing.

Info provided by the MN DNR

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Things are Moving!

Our apologies, we've been very busy elsewhere and have neglected our steelhead duties, so it's time to get back on track.
    Where to start???..... All kinds movement going on up and down the North Shore. The Knife had a pretty classic ice-dam signature which shows all the indications that the ice pack is finally breaking up. It's always a bit of a crap-shoot with the flows when you see this kind of signature, but our best estimate given the data we have is that the Knife is now running around 275CFS under all that ice.
    Mid-Shore streams are moving as well. The Baptism must have a fair amount of open water in and around the upper reaches. Water temps in the lower river were climbing into the mid-33F range which usually indicates open water somewhere. We only see this starting during the initial stages of ice-out when the stream-bed is exposed and the sun is heating the bottom. The bottom absorbs solar radiation and re-radiates it into the water helping the water temps to climb. 
Upper-Shore streams are showing the same thing. We have first-hand reports of open water, and the temp readings have also been climbing into the mid-33F range during the day.
    The only thing slowing things down at this point is illustrated in the graphic above. The magenta line shows stream temps climbing and peaking on a daily basis following the solar cycle. Basically you get the most heating between late morning and mid-afternoon. Not only does this warm the streambed, and consequently the water from re-radiation, it also accelerates snow-melt in the river valleys. The problem until we get rid of the majority of the snow is that the meltwater entering the streams is still very cold. You can see the effects of this in the graphic, The increase in flow (the blue line) from increased snowmelt is pumping cold water into the river which is bringing the temps (magenta line) down.
What we're waiting for now is for the avreage daily stream temps to hit that roughly 38 degree F mark with daily high temps in the 40+ range. We know from the literature that this, at least with respect to the North Shore Steelhead fishery, is the trigger for that first initial upstream migration push of adult steelhead.
    Of course, none of that is to say you should wait. If you can find open water, whether it's in the stream or out off the mouths and you have the opportunity, it looks like it's time to dust off the rods and hit the water.
    Oh, and I almost forgot: That river on our neighbors over to the east has fish in it and is running at around 270CFS at the moment. Lots of nice fish being caught.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Doctor, you did it, we have a pulse!

OK- I realize it doesn't look like much, but the North Shore finally has a heartbeat after a looooong winter.

It has been a little frustrating watching conditions: Lots of fits and starts due to the crazy weather patterns, snow, ice dams and the like; but we're starting to see definite signs that things are moving.

It's likely going to be a long road yet, so we'll just have to keep an eye on things, but at least the first signs are there. What it's going to take now is a good week to ten days of stable weather with lots of sun to get things really moving.

And you don't necessarily need all of that time to be above freezing (although that certainly helps). What really helps during the early stages is something we have a lot of: Pine and fir trees. Yes, you read that right... I know, there are a lot of you out there that think we're nuts already with all the seemingly oddball stuff we post, but it's true. Well, not that we're nuts - mostly... but we do post some seemingly strange stuff that doesn't seem to connect to steelheading at all.

The reason we mention the pine and fir tree connection is that where you have heavy concentrations of this type of ground cover along the streams, they help absorb and re-radiate lots of solar horsepower simply because they are much darker than the snow-covered ground. This actually promotes melting, even when air temps are still below freezing. Melt water getting into the streams on a daily basis is what causes that heartbeat-like signature you are seeing in the graphic, and lots of melt water is what helps open up streams with heavy ice-cover through the simple process of erosion.

As more snow melts around the dark tree cover, it also exposes the darker underlying ground which absorbs sunlight instead of reflecting it like snow. This accelerates warming which accelerates melting which accelerates the process that opens up the streams. Get enough open water and the stream beds absorb solar radiation which causes stream temps to rise; ultimately triggering the steelhead to begin their upstream migration.

So yes, expressed as a simple mathematical equation: (Solar Radiation + Pine Tree) x Time = Steelhead.

Monday, March 03, 2014

HWY 61 Steelhead window decals

Our "steelhead 61" stickers are hot off the press and ready for your windows.

 Click here to purchase.

These are sized at 3.5" x 3.5" and have an easy split-back liner for quick application.  One thing to note, try to apply on a warmed surface if you want to increase the adhesive life.  40°f is an ideal minimum application temperature.  This time of year it can be tough to find 40°f, but  nothing a hair dryer or heat gun can't take care of.

A bit on the decal, it is an original © copyrighted design created for us and donated by our friends at Big Idea.  Thanks guys!  All the profits from the sale of these window decals, and everything at our online shop as well, go right back into supporting our mission.

For those not aware, Minnesota Steelheader is a registered non-profit MN organization.  We do not have the "501c charitable classification" that many larger non-profit organizations have and at this point don't care to have the classification.   What this means is that we are required by the state of MN to collect a sales tax from all of our sales and file a report and payment to the State.

Why not seek 501c status you ask?  Simple, steep administrative costs.  I won't bore you with tax codes, but a 501c classified non-profit has a much, much heavier tax and administrative burden than a standard non-profit.  This often results in a portion of collected dollars going towards administration, accounting, payroll, and tax preparation costs.  For us, we have Zero administrative costs and zero tax preparation costs. The accounting that we do have is nominal and provided by one of our volunteer board members.  The dollars you donate, or use to purchase items, go right back into funding MS.  None of the dollars collect are used for salaries, tax accountants, or Lawyers (yet), we are all volunteers.

So what does the money collected go towards?

Though much of what you see is donated, including all the web design to date (9 years worth), our adopt-a-river signs, Rodrules sold on our website (thanks Ninemile Fishing co.), clinic handouts, maps, all millage and gas from volunteers, etc.  What we do have to pay for are annual website domain hosting, printed marketing items, publication costs, food and drinks for our streamside clinics and river clean ups to name a few.

We plan to use future resources to help fund habitat restoration projects, education tools both on and off the water, and fisheries research to name a few.  To do this means we need help from anglers like you.

So, when you are pondering about whether to support Minnesota Steelheader by purchasing some cool window decals or by making a generous donation, know that all your dollars are being used for what you see, hear, and read about.  We are anglers like you with a passion to help our fishery grow.

If you would like to learn more about what we have done and what we are doing, check out the links, or shoot us an email.  We also encourage you to join us for our annual spring Meet & Greet, a casual gather of like-minded anglers.

Click here to make to purchase a decal or 3, or to make a Donation to Minnesota Steelheader

    ~ DB