Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall stream-side clinic is scheduled

Our fall streamside clinic is finally scheduled and registration has begun.  If you are interested in participating we recommend you sign up ASAP as angler space is limited.

Date: Saturday, September 27th, 2014
Time: 9:30am to 12:30pm - after our adopt-a-river clean-up
Location: an awesome middle shore river*

How do you register?

What is the Streamside clinic?
We developed this clinic in 2011 as way to teach beginners and intermediate steelhead anglers the fundamentals of fishing our North Shore streams and rivers.  Timing the clinic in the fall was easy.  The pink salmon migration is in full swing,  the weather conditions are fairly stable and the rivers are running lower than the levels during the spring steelhead migration making them much more manageable.  Pinks also utilize some of the same migration and spawning waters as our steelhead and most north shore steelie flies can catch pinks.

What will you learn?
Our all volunteer staff of seasoned anglers will teach you all about pink salmon; how they got here, why they were able to naturalize, and how their habitat/life-cycle is similar to steelhead.

• We teach a little on how geology and limnology impact steelhead and pink salmon.

• We review fishing equipment that is suitable for both steelhead and pinks including: rods, reels, line, knots, flies, and misc extras.

• We give a brief summary on all the trout and salmon that swim our waters.

• We also go into detail on how to read water and the terminology for the different types of water/current within our rivers and streams.

• The above might seem time consuming, but we run through it pretty quick and give each of you a nice written outline jammed with everything we teach... now we fish!

• After some general overview our staff of male and female instructors will split the group in two - guys and gals.  Each group will have some hands on instruction on locating fish, fly selection, and presentation.  Note this is not a casting class, but some assistance can be provided.

What is new for the 2014 clinic?
Steelheading is pretty much the same these days, but the anglers are changing. We are noticing more and more diversity on the water these days so to help the momentum we are encourage parents and children to sign up for the event this year. We are also encouraging husbands to bring their wives, or wives to bring their husbands. Couples are encourage to participate, but this is for individuals too!

What will you need to bring?
First and foremost bring a positive attitude.  You will also need to supply yourself with your own fishing equipment (rod, real, line, flies, waders, rain gear, etc.). We also strongly suggest polarized glassed and a camera. 

What will MS provide?
We will have some water and a snack on hand but feel free to bring your own as well.  We will also be providing a clinic outline packed full of valuable information, a basics to fly fishing guide, and a north shore river map booklet.

Who can attend?
This clinic is open to all who are able to freely maneuver the root covered dirt and rock trails along the banks of the river.  The trails are the easy part, it is the walking on rocks and light wading that requires a good sense of balance.  Note too that we focus on entry level wading - no crazy deep water, most is less that knee high.
We strongly encourage kids to participate in the clinic, but they must register with an adult.

What does the clinic cost?
Our clinic continues on at no cost to participants, but we are encouraging participants to help us keep this great program alive and growing buy donating to Minnesota Steelheader.  You can learn more about donating here or simply click on the link below to place your donation.

Visit our donations page to learn how to support us!



* river location to be determined.  All participants will be updated on river and meeting location.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Creel Project - The Beginning

    To better understand why Minnesota Steelheader went off the deep end so to speak with regards to looking closely at temperature and its influence on the initial upstream migration of steelhead and kamloops, we have to go back to the beginning.

    The true genesis was born out of sheer frustration, and a manic quest for information on fishing the North Shore. At the time, the frustration arose from the conventional wisdom that flow was the be-all, end-all factor in steelhead and kamloops movement: Flow goes up, fish start moving; only significant anecdotal evidence suggested otherwise.

    Over the course of many years of North Shore steelheading, conventional flow-wisdom proved itself over and again, but there were also far too many outings where, at the end of the day, you wanted to snap your rod in half, chuck it far out into Lake Superior and take up anything but steelheading; knitting for example...

    The final straw was a trip in which I took a number of North Shore neophytes on what became a grim, three-day, wholly unsuccessful quest. We drove endlessly, froze our hands and feet, hiked and waded countless miles, and made equally dangerous descents and ascents of some of the most notorious North Shore canyons. Not once did we ever touch a fish. Fortunately the group was comprised of hard-core steelheaders with plenty of experience outside of Minnesota because to this day, they still refer to that trip as, "The Devil's Track Death-March".

    All of us agreed that conditions were ideal: Flow was up, the water was somewhat off-colored and it was spring; what else could a steelheader ask for? Even a bona fide steelheading shaman rolling his spawn-bag amulet between rod-calloused fingers and throwing the bones would have said the time to fish was now.

    I spent the remainder of the following summer poring over Minnesota DNR technical research, but it was a single line in one paper, and the chance organization of old fishing logs, which pointed us in what we believe now was the right direction.

    As it turned out, a pattern appeared where despite ideal flow, catch rates were consistently low or non-existent. There were also numerous entries where despite what you might describe as anemic, heck pathetic flows really, catch rates were all a steelheader could wish for. When you lined things up, these events all occurred during the initial or early portions of the run. They also seemed to align around certain temperature readings recorded in the logs, and that is where the proverbial light-bulb went on.

    At that point I took a deep dive into the DNR's trap data, and here is what I found:

 
 


    Given a represented sample size of nearly 22,000 fish returning to trap, the temperature evidence seemed pretty clear. Four years on now in the Creel Project with roughly another seven years of other data has yielded even further evidence regarding both temperature and flow factors; all of which we hope will make you a more successful North Shore steelheader. With your continued support and reports, we'll keep posting the information with the goal of giving back, and making us all more knowledgeable, effective and conservation-minded steelhead anglers.

Regards-
NMF and Minnesota Steelheader         

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Upper Shore Creel Project Results

2014 Upper Shore Daily Trends

We use the daily trends as our primary means of:
  • Looking at pre-run conditions
  • Assessing when significant upstream migration is likely or about to occur
  • As a way of illustrating all of the granular interactions between the fish, the flow and the temperature on a daily basis.
    Note the red arrows at various points on each chart, these will be discussed, and each point will be noted by a corresponding text highlight at the start of the paragraph. In other words simply jump from the discussion to the chart, find the corresponding date, look at the humps and bumps in the data

    Annually, once we start seeing signs of ice-pack movement on index streams in February and/or March, we begin tracking the stream temps. As Creel reports start rolling in, we track those trends against the daily temperature and flow values which results in the Daily chart below.

    2014 Upper Shore tracking began in early April with the first creel reports coming on until April 12th; apparently this was a popular date all across the Shore. These were all early fish comprised solely of steelhead.

April 26th and 27th was our first weekend of heavy Upper Shore fishing traffic based on various reports, and catch rates of fish in the streams increased accordingly; and while numbers were low, the reported fish were all steelhead.

On May 4th, daily high stream temperatures hit the low 40°F mark and stayed there although average daily temps remained in the 35°F-37°F range. This appears to have triggered some activity although temperatures did not maintain above the initiation threshold until May 9th. Throughout this period, flows were very high, likely above the limiting flow threshold. Although it is not flagged, you can see a bump in the catch trend on the 12th and 13th as flows on our index stream dropped into the 800cfs range, Again this suggests that the limiting flow threshold for up bound movement there is right around the 800cfs mark

On May 15th and 16th, flows decreased below the 800cfs range and catch rates increased dramatically until the 19th when a precipitation event again spiked flows. Catch trends decreased through the 24th as flows remained high.

By May 25th, flows had again dropped below the 800cfs range and catch increased significantly. These were likely new adult fish taking advantage of the dropping flow to begin their upstream migration and the numbers were quite high. I put question marks there simply because we don’t see this kind of spike with a flattened peak very often and suggests a sustained run of fish for several days.

By June 1st, flow-values were climbing again due to precipitation with the catch trend falling correspondingly. We’re still a little unsure as to why there was the spike in trend on June 3rd given flow values were so high. You have to remember that each region of the Shore is fairly broad geographically, but we are typically using a single index stream within each. While you can use these streams to infer conditions on other streams in the area, it could simply be that this precipitation event was highly localized, and that fishing conditions were much better elsewhere in the Upper Shore region.

    One last note regarding the Upper Shore creel: We know from other reports that fishing remained decent for another 10-14 days after our creel reports stopped coming. We encourage you all to continue reporting catch whenever possible as this helps us to flesh out the entire picture. The tail-end of the Upper Shore runs are a little data-poor in particular, so whatever you care to send is greatly appreciated!
 
 

2014 Mid Shore Weekly Averages

We use the weekly averages to:
  • Illustrate average flow, temperature and creel catch for each week during "The Run"
  • Filter out the "noise" in the daily charts in a way that is more intuitive to see and understand
  • Illustrate fish movement post-ice-out, pre-initiation and post initiation
  • Illustrate the overall current-year run picture for each Region of the Shore: Lower, Middle and Upper
  • Use each year's weekly average to produce a historical run picture for all the years we have data, the "Big Picture"
    Full ice-out occurred in very early April. Following May 11th when the initiation temperature threshold was met, catch trends for both steelhead and Kamloops increase, but as with the Mid Shore, you can see the probable suppression of up bound movement due to the average flows most likely being above the limiting value for the week of May 7th. As flow values drop, we see peak creel occurring the week of May 21st. Both Mid and Upper Shore kamloops numbers remain low. This illustrates the effectiveness of the Minnesota DNR’s kamloop stocking methodology. While there clearly is some straying occurring, limiting stocking of kamloops to Lower Shore locations with the goal of reducing genetic introgression (kamloop-steelhead cross-breeding) appears to be working given the low numbers returning to creelin each of these two regions.

 

Historical Upper Shore Creel Data as of 2014
 
We use historical creel numbers to:
 
  • Paint the "Big Picture" of returns to creel over the long term
    In the simplest terms, the historical data illustrates the earliest and latest dates fish have (reportedly) run for each region of the shore. While it's not a crystal ball by any stretch of the imagination, it does give you a framework for when to expect things to happen from year to year. Given enough time and data, what you also see are some well defined markers for peak returns. All we do here is to smoosh all of the annual data we capture for each region of the shore into a unified historical picture.
 
    As of 2014, we still don't have enough data for this to be illustrated with any clarity. The Upper Shore is probably the one region where we have a somewhat accurate picture – at least for now. The one caveat being that we are still data-poor on the tail end of the runs for this region which is why you see such a significant decrease as things move into June. Lastly, the whole point of the historical chart is to present a one-stop shop for:
 
  • When do things typically start
  • When do things typically peak
  • How long does it typically last
  • When do things typically end
 
 

Historical Upper Shore Run Progression as of 2014
 
We run progression numbers to:
 
  • Illustrate and define what the theoretical run progression is with respect to up bound movement in adult fish

The Historical means show you what to expect in any given year as you look forward. The annual creel and trap validate ideas regarding initiation temps and are the basis for other information. The Daily data shows flow, temps and their affects on fish movement. It also gives you a very good indicator of what is occurring and what is about to happen locally in any given year. The progression is a planning tool for you to use to position yourself to be a more effective North Shore Steelheader. Upper Shore appears to be different than Lower and Middle at first glance, but you can read why we think it looks this way here:
 
 

More Project data on the way. Special thanks to the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Section and Don Schreiner; Good Luck Don!
Regards-
NMF and Minnesota Steelheader 
 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Mid Shore Creel Project Results


2014 Mid Shore Daily Trends

We use the daily trends as our primary means of:
  • Looking at pre-run conditions
  • Assessing when significant upstream migration is likely or about to occur
  • As a way of illustrating all of the granular interactions between the fish, the flow and the temperature on a daily basis.
    Note the red arrows at various points on each chart, these will be discussed, and each point will be noted by a corresponding text highlight at the start of the paragraph. In other words simply jump from the discussion to the chart, find the corresponding date, look at the humps and bumps in the data

    Annually, once we start seeing signs of ice-pack movement on index streams in February and/or March, we begin tracking the stream temps. As Creel reports start rolling in, we track those trends against the daily temperature and flow values which results in the Daily chart below.

    2014 Mid Shore tracking began in late March but as with the Lower Shore, our first reports did not come in until April 12th. These were all early fish comprised mostly of steelhead.

On April 19th, the daily high stream temps began flirting with 40°F and generated some steelhead movement. To be sure there were already fish in the streams, but we had reports from the area of several stream mouths where anglers observed fish entering the stream and moving up.

On April 23rd, both daily high and average stream temperatures dropped with a corresponding reduction in catch trend. Absent any studies of flow and adult fish movement on our Mid Shore index stream, we are unsure of the flow values above which limit up bound movement; it appears the decrease in trend is solely due to reductions in water temperatures. We just cannot say for sure.

On May 1st, daily high stream temps again crack the 40°F and generating both steelhead and some Kamloops movement with catch trend increasing accordingly.

On May 6th, the average daily stream temps finally maintain the initiation threshold, and catch rates of up bound fish begin increasing from that point on. A significant precipitation even occurred between the 8th and the 10th with discharge reaching the 1,950cfs range. This likely is above the limiting value for up bound migration because we see a slight reduction in catch rates. However, as is typical with our North Shore spate-streams, up bound migration wasn’t suppressed for long.

On May 11th, flow-values were falling through roughly the 1,200cfs range and catch trends increased. Another precipitation event occurred which probably increased flows above the limiting value. This suggests at least for this stream that the up bound limiting value is roughly in the 1,300cfs range. By the 14th, flows had dropped below 1,300cfs and we saw another spike in catch trend. Again you can see the sharp effects of precipitation on a spate-stream in the chart as flows tend to rocket up and down with precipitation.

On May 19th, we see another precipitation event which presumably triggers a wave of new fish. Flow and catch rates begin to decline from this point on with our last reports coming around the 31st. As with the Lower Shore daily chart, the creel catch is a trend, and not actual numbers of fish caught. In other words the spike on May 9th doesn't equal 40 fish reported, the actual number of fish caught and reported was actually much higher.

 

2014 Mid Shore Weekly Averages

We use the weekly averages to:
  • Illustrate average flow, temperature and creel catch for each week during "The Run"
  • Filter out the "noise" in the daily charts in a way that is more intuitive to see and understand
  • Illustrate fish movement post-ice-out, pre-initiation and post initiation
  • Illustrate the overall current-year run picture for each Region of the Shore: Lower, Middle and Upper
  • Use each year's weekly average to produce a historical run picture for all the years we have data, the "Big Picture"
    Full ice-out occurred in very early April. Following May 7th when the initiation temperature threshold was met, catch trends for both steelhead and Kamloops increase, but here you can see the likely suppression of up bound movement due to the average flows most likely being above the limiting value for the week of May 7th. As flow values drop, we see peak creel occurring the week of May 14th.

    On a side note, both Mid and Upper Shore kamloops numbers remain low. This illustrates the effectiveness of the Minnesota DNR’s kamloop stocking methodology. While there clearly is some straying occurring, limiting stocking of kamloops to Lower Shore locations with the goal of reducing genetic introgression (kamloop-steelhead cross-breeding) appears to be working given the low numbers returning to creel.


 
Historical Mid Shore Creel Data as of 2014

We use historical creel numbers to:
  • Paint the "Big Picture" of returns to creel over the long term
    In the simplest terms, the historical data illustrates the earliest and latest dates fish have (reportedly) run for each region of the shore. While it's not a crystal ball by any stretch of the imagination, it does give you a framework for when to expect things to happen from year to year. Given enough time and data, what you also see are some well defined markers for peak returns. All we do here is to smoosh all of the annual data we capture for each region of the shore into a unified historical picture.

    As of 2014, we still don't have enough data for this to be illustrated with any clarity. The Mid Shore is also a bit of an enigma, there are things going on in the historical numbers which simply leave us scratching our heads which only time and data will clarify. Again, the whole point of the historical chart is to present a one-stop shop for:
  • When do things typically start
  • When do things typically peak
  • How long does it typically last
  • When do things typically end
 

Historical Mid Shore Run Progression as of 2014

We run progression numbers to:
  • Illustrate and define what the theoretical run progression is with respect to up bound movement in adult fish
    The Historical means show you what to expect in any given year as you look forward. The annual creel and trap validate ideas regarding initiation temps and are the basis for other information. The Daily data shows flow, temps and their affects on fish movement. It also gives you a very good indicator of what is occurring and what is about to happen locally in any given year. The progression is a planning tool for you to use to position yourself to be a more effective North Shore Steelheader. Without rehashing too much, and since this is a crazy-long post already, you can read the nuts and bolts here:


Upper Shore Project data to come shortly. Special thanks to the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Section and Don Schreiner; Good Luck Don!
Regards-
NMF and Minnesota Steelheader

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 Lower Shore Creel Project Results

 
    Once again in 2014, Minnesota Steelheader followers stepped up to the plate; without your continued support and reporting, none of this is possible. We here at Minnesota Steelheader say, "Thank You!"
 
2014 Lower Shore Daily Trends
   
    We use the daily trends as our primary means of:
  • Looking at pre-run conditions
  • Assessing when significant upstream migration is likely or about to occur
  • As a way of illustrating all of the granular interactions between the fish, the flow and the temperature on a daily basis.
    Note the red arrows at various points on each chart, these will be discussed, and each point will be noted by a corresponding text highlight at the start of the paragraph. In other words simply jump from the discussion to the chart, find the corresponding date, look at the humps and bumps in the data
 
    Annually, once we start seeing signs of ice-pack movement on index streams in February and/or March, we begin tracking the stream temps. As Creel reports start rolling in, we track those trends against the daily temperature and flow values which results in the Daily chart below.
 
    2014 Lower Shore tracking began in late March, but our first reports did not come in until April 12th. These were all early fish comprised mostly of kamloops with a few steelhead mixed in. Interestingly we now have enough of a sample size to begin disproving or proving some of the ideas regarding initiation temperatures, as well as to begin calculating percentages of fish returning to creel -  both pre and post initiation (See the last chart).
 
    On April 20th, the daily high stream temps finally cracked 40°F, which likely generated some steelhead movement. The reason we say "likely" is that we're still not 100% sure if these were new up bound fish being reported, or simply that catch rates of fish already in-stream increased due to the increased temperature; it's probably a little of both. You have to remember that these fish are creatures of metabolism, and cold water changes where, how, and how often they are feeding on any given day. Sometimes finding pockets of water with even a 1-2 degree increase makes all the difference while fishing early in the run.
 
    By April 22nd, stream flows were sharply climbing through 1300cfs which effectively froze up-bound movement (note the decrease in trend). Studies on this index stream indicate that upstream movement effectively ceases at around the 500cfs mark, and fishing becomes all but impossible due to high flow velocities as well as suspended sediment loads. We're talking yoo-hoo, blown-out, chocolate yeti conditions, and the creel rates reflect this.
 
    On April 28th, catch rates again began to increase as flows began dropping back into that 500cfs range. We had about three days of respite from the brown maelstrom before flows rocketed up again.
 
    On May 3rd, the average daily stream temps finally hit the initiation threshold, but there was a roughly 3-day lag before catch rates of up bound fish increased significantly due to the high flows. As soon as flows began dropping into the 500cfs range, it was game-on. Past years data demonstrates that ordinarily, the majority of upstream movement of steelhead increases significantly, and almost immediately, upon that threshold being achieved and maintained barring any significant high-flow event. What this also illustrates is that once initiation temperatures are achieved and maintain, steelhead begin upstream migration in earnest. Subsequent to the initiation threshold, flow takes over as a primary influence on the remaining upstream movement. I suppose the working short-hand model at this point, at least until subsequent years of creel data prove the idea to be wrong is:
  • Early run primary influence = Temperature
  • Post initiation primary influence = Flow
    Probably a concept you'll want to keep in mind as you are planning and trying to put yourself into the best position to be a successful steelheader on the North Shore. Well, unless you can fish every day, or at least several times a week, which unfortunately a lot of us can not.
 
    The spike in creel on the 9th actually occurred just after the 1300cfs peak as flows were dropping again. You can see the sharp effects of precipitation on a spate-stream in the chart as flows tend to rocket up and down with precipitation.
 
    The peaks in creel on the 12th and 19th are both subsequent waves of new fish entering the stream on increasing flow due to further precipitation events. Catch rates continued to be good through May 26th, but as soon as flow dropped into the 150cfs range, these rates decreased sharply.
 
    One last item to note about the chart, the creel catch is a trend (I won't bore you with the statistical math involved), not actual numbers of fish caught. In other words the spike on May 9th doesn't equal 25 fish reported, the actual number of fish caught and reported was actually much higher.
 

 
2014 Lower Shore Weekly Averages
 
    We use the weekly averages to:
  • Illustrate average flow, temperature and creel catch for each week during "The Run"
  • Filter out the "noise" in the daily charts in a way that is more intuitive to see and understand
  • Illustrate fish movement post-ice-out, pre-initiation and post initiation
  • Illustrate the overall current-year run picture for each Region of the Shore: Lower, Middle and Upper
  • Use each year's weekly average to produce a historical run picture for all the years we have data, the "Big Picture" 
 
    This is a fairly simple chart to understand which is why we like it. You can quickly see that post-ice-out, flows increase (largely due to snow melt) and that fish are already in the stream. Things don't really get cooking until average stream temperatures achieve and maintain above the initiation temperature threshold the week of April 30th. The bulk of returns illustrated in the creel catch doesn't occur until after the threshold is met, and we had roughly 3-1/2 weeks of reported creel before catch-rates tapered off. That and we had some crazy flow which suppressed overall catch throughout the run, it was tough sledding to a degree.

 
2014 Lower Shore Trap Numbers

    We use the trap numbers to:
  • Compare returns to trap against return to creel
    You need some sort of control data for the Creel and the trap numbers are it. The critical point regarding trap numbers is that the trap operates largely independent of conditions. All discussions regarding trap efficiency during high flow aside, the trap will capture some up bound fish under any condition. Your chances however of catching a fish on the Knife at 2 a.m. in 700cfs are about as good as your chances of surviving a 12,000 foot skydive without a parachute. Not to mention I know some C..O's who would be very interested in your illicit nighttime activities, so I don't recommend either...

    Here too though, we see the same general pattern as we see in the creel, and that helps to validate the creel data. If we saw a wildly different picture, we'd have to go back to the drawing board on our ideas regarding initiation temperatures.

    Things are a bit more cut and dried with the trap data simply because there is a well-defined start and end date for the numbers reported by the Minnesota DNR. There's a little catch to this however because the trap operates for some period of time after the DNR stops publicly reporting numbers via the North Shore Fishing Report. This is why Minnesota Steelheader is so interested in receiving your creel reports no matter what time of the run or the year; it helps to build a much better overall picture.

    With respect to the chart, here again we see returns to trap climbing sharply once the initiation thresholds are met, and peaking post-initiation. This is probably the truest picture of up bound migration patterns in the adult fish. Creel data gives you a picture of fish from anywhere and any time they are in the stream, whether they are at rest or on the move. The trap data is all about fish movement past a given geographical point and illustrates how and when they move, in other words, the run progression.

    Run progression, and if there is such a thing as a "typical" progression, is one of the questions we want to answer with the creel project. The trap numbers have given us a window on this, and now with enough creel data, we can begin to illustrate that (see last chart). 


 
Historical Lower Shore Creel Data as of 2014

We use historical creel numbers to:
  • Paint the "Big Picture" of returns to creel over the long term
    In the simplest terms, the historical data illustrates the earliest and latest dates fish have (reportedly) run for each region of the shore. While it's not a crystal ball by any stretch of the imagination, it does give you a view of when to expect things to happen. Given enough time and data, what you also see are some well defined markers for peak returns. All we do here is to smoosh all of the annual data we capture for each region of the shore into a unified historical picture.

    As of 2014, we still don't have enough data for this to be illustrated with any clarity. We also have a number of years in the data in which things kicked off very early and very late, which is why you see a bit of a hodge-podge here. There are other lines of evidence you can use (and we do), such as any number of DNR Fisheries Investigational and Technical reports to get at that kind of thing, and we are starting to see correlations to that information in the charts. The whole point though is to present that one stop shop for:
  • When do things typically start
  • When do things typically peak
  • How long does it typically last
  • When do things typically end
    Only time and data will tell, but we are building the foundation and your contributions to the Creel Project are a critical part of the process. 


Historical Lower Shore Run Progression as of 2014

We run progression numbers to:
  • Illustrate and define what the theoretical run progression is with respect to up bound movement in adult fish
    The Historical means show you what to expect in any given year as you look forward. The annual creel and trap validate ideas regarding initiation temps and are the basis for other information. The Daily data shows flow, temps and their affects on fish movement. It also gives you a very good indicator of what is occurring and what is about to happen locally in any given year. The progression is a planning tool for you to use to position yourself  to be a more effective North Shore Steelheader. Without rehashing too much, and since this is a crazy-long post already, you can read the nuts and bolts here:
Run Progression


    Mid-Shore Project data to come shortly, whew!, that was a long sucker... Special thanks to the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Section and Don Schreiner; Good Luck Don!
Regards-
NMF and Minnesota Steelheader

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Wake up sleepy!!!

    August - Right smack in the "Dog Days of Summer". You know, the Romans widely believed the Dog Days to be "an evil time where the the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."
    I don't know from hysterics and phrensies, but August just seems like the time when fishing is so off the radar, that actually contemplating a trip is like saying, "Why yes, I would love to bushwhack through a nettle-patch in 90+ degree heat until I'm so sweaty that the leaves simply stick to my body. It sounds Delightful!"
 
    Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit because August is an important transition time for a steelheader. Even though you might not realize it, the days are getting shorter, stream temps are beginning to edge downward, and most importantly, fish are quietly beginning to run.
 
    Now, you'll have to search a little more and work a little harder, but August begins to pay dividends for your nettle-riddled sweat equity. For one thing, August presents great opportunities to scout rivers in preparation for steelheading. The water is lower and clearer at this time of year, which allows you to find those nuances in river features that pay off when water is higher and dirtier. Better still, putting in this work during August may very well pay off in fish, specifically lake-run Browns.
 
    Minnesota's lake-run browns are not as common as they are in other States, but they do exist and can be found if you know where to look. The picture above is a pretty typical lake run that had been in the stream for a while; and yes they do change color, both from spawning changes as well as due to water color and bottom composition. Minnesota's fish average about 18", and while "X" markings are more prevalent in these fish, they can be all "X's", all "Spots" or a combination of both. They also tend towards the long and sleek profile with comparitively large heads and tails.
 
    These fish also seem to follow the return schedule of Wisconsin's South Shore fish in that they can begin entering the streams as early as the first week in July, and typically peak around the third week of August from year to year. High flow events trigger lots of movement, so paying attention to rainfall is a good bet.
 
    These fish will readily take almost any kind of fly, but remember that these adult fish are predators, so bigger "meat" patterns and even spinners, Rapala's and the venerable garden hackle are all good bets. So too is fishing low-light periods, particularly if water-levels have dropped after a good rain. Deep, slow-water structures and woody debris adjacent to or near spawning gravel are good locations to target using a "Run-n-Gun" approach. If you get one, slow down and thoroughly work the area because there are likely to be more nearby. And while you need to make careful approaches as these fish are skittish, they are not afraid to hammer a well presented fly, lure or bait.
 
    So wake up sleepy, and don't neglect the "Dog Days"; your wine might just go sour, but the Roman's didn't have an Igloo or a Coleman to put their beer in, and you might just catch some of these elusive fish.
Regards-
NMF 
    

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Creel Project Information

    Most of the heavy-duty analysis has been completed with respect to the 2014 Spring run data collected, and a tremendous Thank You to all who submitted information again this year. Without your help, none of this is possible. Just a quick note, there's just so much information to present that we are trying to figure out the best way to do so without it becoming overwhelming. There's simply too much to show all in one or a couple blog posts; so while we figure that out, here's some interesting information which came out of the analysis.

    MS talks quite a bit about initiation temps and how that appears to affect initial upstream movement of adult steelhead on the North Shore. There are many ways to illustrate it, but we thought we would take it one step further. Previously we have focused on illustrating the daily creel numbers against temperatures and flow, and while this does a good job of showing you the granular interactions and how they appear to influence movement during pre and post-initiation threshold, we continue to try and find ways to actually validate the hypothesis. With the completion of the 2014 Spring creel, we now have enough historical data to begin doing that.

    What you are looking at are each of the three regions of the Shore. We calculated the percentages of fish creeled prior to what is believed to be the initial upstream migration temperature initiation threshold vs. the post-initiation threshold. And while the results are not surprising (to MS at any rate), they certainly are interesting and of great value to the North Shore steelheader.

    The week numbers, both negative and positive, are standardized for all years. Negative weeks represent all rainbows (steelhead + kamloops) captured prior to the hypothesized initiation threshold temperatures being attained. The "Zero" week is the point at which initiation threshold was reached, and subsequent weeks represent all rainbows captured post-initiation threshold. We also plotted the standardized "Magic 40" point. That is to say the point at which stream temperatures attained and maintained at or above 40 degrees F. The numbers are represented as percentages of the total return to creel as noted based upon pre and post-initiation, and the total sample size is noted for each region in the header.

Lower Shore Creel:  

 
Mid Shore:

 
 
Upper Shore:


    Interestingly what we are seeing is a fairly consistent 10-12% of fish being creel-sampled prior to the hypothesized temperature initiation threshold being attained, and the remainder peaking shortly after the threshold is attained, typically right around "Magic 40".

    The oddball appears to be the Upper Shore. The current thought is that this isn't so much an anomaly with respect to the Upper Shore vs. the Lower and Mid Shore regions as much is it represents how people tend to fish steelhead during the spring runs. Not nearly as many people focus on the Upper Shore early in the run, but as the Lower and Mid Shore runs progress and begin to taper off, more and more anglers begin to focus efforts on the Upper Shore, which simply leads to more reporting.

    Again, all we are doing here is figuring out more ways to validate the current hypothesis, but it also provides you with ways to apply the knowledge and become a more successful North Shore steelheader.

    One last note: Minnesota Steelheader will take you creel reports any time you care to send them, Spring or Fall. We think it would be really interesting to begin to flesh out the entire year, so please keep sending the information via the creel page.
Regards-
NMF

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???
Regards-
NMF