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: mnsteelheader@gmail.com
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

Monday, January 20, 2014

You Can Learn a Lot From a Trout

    Some of my most informative steelheading days have come while fishing a creek no wider than my 8-weight is long. Sometimes those epiphanies have come on streams not quite half the width of my slightly longer mono-rig.

    It often seems like the more I fish for trout, the more I learn about their larger cousins - steelhead. One of the best things about this is that school is in session right now.

    Winter trout fishing has numerous parallels with steelheading beyond the obvious snow, dead fingers and freezing guides. And yes, cold water can be one heck of a teacher, kind of like the professor who, by making a monkey out of you, teaches you some of your most important lessons...

    Cold-water winter trout act a lot like miniature early-season steelhead. They'll seek out deep, slow pools with darker bottoms that absorb sunlight and warm the water slightly over surrounding areas. Subtle differences in water temps between one pool and the next often mean the difference between consistent action, and a long, cold day; so it pays to have that thermometer along, just as in steelheading.

    Since you are often restricted to artificials only, selecting small, natural-colored and lifelike patterns with plenty of built-in action, and perhaps a little flash, tends to get the job done. Careful line control is important because winter trout, like early steelhead, are no fans of unnatural movement. It becomes a game of controlling drag and keeping that fly in the strike zone. With fly line this means mending to reduce drag. With mono, correct weight and little to no slack to keep the fly moving along at current speed (or as close as you can get it), is just as important with trout as it is with steelhead. I read a great analogy explaining the effects of line drag on bait and flies the other day: Ordinarily you sit down, and that enticing double-bacon and cheese burger just sits there inviting you to pick it up off the plate and eat it. Now say you sit down and suddenly the burger goes mobile and starts heading for the edge of the table all on it's own... That's the same kind of thing that happens in front of a steelhead or trout when you don't have good line control, and drag starts acting on your rig. I'd be suspicious as heck too; well, maybe not for triple-bacon.

    And so part of the trick once you find some potentially willing trout or steelhead, is keeping your whole rig as lifelike as possible. Cold water trout and steelhead are creatures of metabolism. Holding in fast, cold water costs far more energy to get food compared to leisurely finning in a slow cold pool. The problem for the angler is that a trout or steelhead can scrutinize your offering more closely and for a longer time, deciding whether it's food or not, simply because it's drifting along very slowly. Make one mistake and it's all over. I've watched both steelhead and trout follow a fly for several yards before deciding it was bunk.This is one of the reasons why bait: spawn, waxies and even worms, very often out-produce flies in cold water; it looks, feels, smells and ultimately tastes like food which means they'll hang onto it.

    Flies on the other hand, even when your presentation is dead-on, don't pass the taste test. I've similarly watched trout and steelhead mouth flies, then spit them out so quickly there wasn't time to set the hook. But this is where careful observation can make you a better steelheader. Fish that mouth flies often have a tell: keeping track of your fly and watching for mouth flash or a quick roll, then setting the hook frequently results in a hookup, even if your line never moves, stops or indicator doesn't twitch, which in many cases never happens in cold water steelheading - darn that slack. Mouth flash is simply looking for that flash of white as a fish opens it's mouth to suck in a fly. You're literally seeing the inside of the mouth very briefly. When a fish rolls slightly to its side to grab something near the bottom, you'll typically see a brief brighter flash as the more silvery side of the fish is exposed. 

    Yarn on the other hand is one of those wonderful in-betweens. Basically it's an imitation of a single egg or group of eggs (skein), and when wet, takes on a translucent quality. It actually looks very natural in the water, and if scented, smells like food. The edge yarn has over any fly is that steelhead and trout have lots of teeth in their gums and on their tongue. When sucked in, it tends to stick in these teeth just long enough for you to notice the take and set the hook.This is one of the reasons yarn is such a good cold water producer, and should be part of any North Shore steelheader's bag of tricks.

    Going to steelhead school in the winter couldn't be easier, but it does take some effort and can be very rewarding. There are numerous streams open during the SE Minnesota winter season, and the adventurous angler has other options available such as NE Iowa. You can start your explorations anywhere the season is open, but winter Minnesota destinations to keep in mind if you've never done it before would be Lanesboro, Elba and also Dorchester Iowa. Never fly fished before?, no problem... You can fish artificials very effectively with mono, and learning the technique will really help your steelheading once those water temps hit that magic 40 range and you want to expand your steelheading repertoire.

    So get out there and enjoy, there's a whole world of cold water steelheading in miniature to be found, and you may just be surprised at what you can learn - from a trout.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Minnesota Steelheader Annual Spring Meet & Greet

As I sit hear in my office and smile excitedly at a 9°f reading on the old thermometer, I am quickly reminded that this warming trend is still very much winter and far away form steelheading.

Though north shore river fishing is still at least a couple months out, we are starting to get our flies in a row planning our annual spring meet & greet. You may recall that we cancelled last minute last year as the rivers were still locked up and we received over a foot of snow that late April day.

What is the meet and greet you ask?  It is a causal gathering at the end of your fishing day at a comfortable establishment where you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy a tasty beverage among fellow anglers. It is open to all like-minded anglers regardless of your fishing experience, background, or organization affiliation.  It is a wonderful opportunity for all to meet each other, and a great venue to ask questions, gain useful angling insight, share stories and not so secret tips and tricks. Among some handouts and such we are also going to be judging the one day fishing contest with a prize going to the largest Steelhead.  Details to follow, just don't forget your camera!

Currently we are brainstorming locations and dates for this years gathering. We will be making our location decision by 1/20/14 and publishing shortly after.   Please take the 3 poles at the top right sidebar, we want to know where our followers would prefer to meet and when.

The 3rd pole is an idea to also host a meet and greet south of the Shore.  Thanks in advance for your participation.

We look forward to meeting you all!


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Is There a "Typical" Run Picture?

    This question is one of the big ones we're trying to answer with the Creel Project. It's big because if we can get a general idea of what a typical run looks like, we can theoretically utilize current data to establish a baseline and visualize what's likely to happen over the course of a given regions run. It becomes both a planning tool as well as a general question answering tool.

    This is of course, an oversimplification. Conditions vary greatly from stream to stream with respect to stream size, length to barrier, rate of warming, rate of returns, flows, angling pressure etc. Still, gathering and validating that general picture certainly helps clarify our understanding of just what does tend to happen from year to year over the course of the returns.

    Probably one of the best data sources to use with respect to that typical run picture is the Minnestota DNR's French and Knife River trap data. The traps intercept up bound fish and the data is captured in real-time. The numbers themselves from year to year aren't of primary importance to the Creel Project run picture; but the start, peak and overall length create a visual signature we can use to compare year to year results. The following is a pretty good example, hopefully it will clarify what we're talking about:
    For now, ignore the red Population line. More about that in a minute. What we've done here is to filter out the actual numbers captured, what we're interested in getting at is the shape of the blue line over time. You're looking at the actual combined French and Knife trap results from 2012. This includes both Kamloops as well as Steelhead.
    Very generally we see a start point the week of March 19th, in reality this is a zero point as no fish were actually captured. The run initiation temperatures were reached between March 24th and March 26th. Rainbows began upstream migration in their greatest numbers, and returns peaked the week of March 26th. Subsequent to that point, returns to trap tapered off with the last fish captured the week of May 7th. May 14th was the end with no fish captured that week and is again a zero point.
    So is this what a "typical" run literally looks like? Consider the evidence: We have numerous years of trap data to compare against, both in terms of unique trap (French vs. Knife) as well as combined trap. What the data tells us so far is that returns to trap tend to peak within the first 7-10 days of the Lower Shore index stations reaching initiation temp thresholds. While the temp numbers previously were an aggregate average based upon several index stations, we now have temp data available specific to the Knife River. We will use that data in 2014 to compare against Knife River trap data to get a more accurate picture. The problem with the older data was that the index streams were all smaller than the Knife, and tended to warm far more quickly. Because of that we did not know for sure when initiation temps were reached on the Knife, but it was pretty close...
    So far, the vast majority of the trap data looks very similar to what's depicted above. So similar in fact that we are confident, at least for now, that this probably is the typical run picture: A sharp peak immediately post-initiation threshold followed by approximately 4-6 weeks of subsequent returns albeit at much lower levels. The current assumption is that this picture applies across all regions of the Shore. But of course, we didn't stop there. We also wanted to use the Creel Project to see what the angling side of the picture looks like, and whether or not it validated the so-called typical run picture. Here's what we've found so far-

    Using all four years of project data, and comparing Lower to Lower, Mid to Mid, and Upper to Upper Shore data, the creel data shows a very similar picture of the progression: A sharp increase in returns immediately post-initiation temps, a peak of approximately 7-10 days, and returns tapering off but continuing for an additional 4-6 weeks. The difference between this signature and the trap signature lies in the fact that it's not a single point-source like the trap(s) is/are. Fish are also sampled from all portions of the streams.
    The other point to consider is the effect of in-stream populations of fish on the run progression/signature. We think the creel project signature is a little fatter because fish tend to remain in the stream for some period of time; we just don't know precisely what that time period is. We know from the scientific literature that down bound adults have been re-captured up to 60 days after initial up bound capture on the Knife. This probably is on the extreme end of length of stay in the stream as most North Shore streams are smaller and warm more quickly overall. The fish enter, do their business, and then leave more quickly; but they still likely stay for a number of days.
    One thing we did (and this was art/guessing on our part), was to use various in-stream population models to see what the effects of various length of stays (1 week, 2 weeks etc.) did to the trap signature. If you look at the 2012 trap numbers above, we ran various population models to try and compare against what we were seeing in the Lower, Middle and Upper Shore signatures. What we found was that a 1 week population model (80% adult fish remaining in-stream for at least 7 days) gave us the closest signature to the creel signatures from a run-picture/progression standpoint. We still don't quite know if this is significant, but it does suggest that adult fish remain in the streams for around 5-7 days while doing their thing. Or we could be completely wrong, more data needed.
    All of this information is useful. Minnesota Steelheader tracks in-stream conditions on an annual basis for each region of the shore. We typically post what those conditions are generally for each region without posting specific streams. If you see that initiation temps have been met and know roughly how long they've been above that point, you can use the charts to do a little planning regardless of where you want to fish on the North Shore. If you can get out and fish every day, probably not as important. If you have to plan and travel, this information becomes a great tool; but YOU still have to make the decision about which region to fish, which stream, which presentation, which bait or fly.
    So that's what we have for now, we're not married to the data or the conclusions. As more information comes in we'll continue to update, consider, analyze and modify.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Building the Historical Context

    The last thing we do as part of building the Creel Project framework, is to nest all of the regional data into what you might think of as a historical picture for the runs along the entire North Shore.

Shorewide Snapshot 
    What you see here is a sort of visual representation of the data nesting. The green line is the actual 2013 Upper Shore Creel Project data. This was combined with the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Upper Shore Creel Project data to create the blue line. The blue line represents all of the historical data for the Upper Shore Region. This is in turn combined with the Lower and Middle Shore historical data to create the red line for a unified historical snapshot of the entire North Shore.
    Over time, a picture should develop for each region as well as the entire Shore. This should allow us to begin answering questions people ask about fishing North Shore Steelhead. It should also allow you to look at all of the posted data to draw conclusions about what you want to do and when.
    Of course, this is an over simplification of what's represented. Although it's not a scientific creel, we do vett the creel data against as much of the specific Minnesota scientific literature as we can find. It's important to us to provide you the best information possible, which is why we also compare what we collect in the context of the flow and temperature data from mutliple sources, including that of our Great Lakes neighbors. We also look very closely at the trap data. This helps us to better incorporate what is currently known about all of those flow and temperature interactions with the fish to gain a better understanding of runs in a given year.
Latest Shorewide Historical Picture
    So we're back to where this all started just a short while back. Red line illustrates the cumulative creel numbers. The blue line is there to give you a feel for the average creel sample size being collected in a given year. We're hoping this continues to increase as participation grows. Couple things about the chart: Earliest in-stream data (fish caught and reported) collected week of March 12th. This was the result of an anecdotal "early" run. Latest in-stream data collected the week of June 25th. Here we're not so sure whether this is the result of an anecdotal "late" run, or if we simply have fish in the tribs that late on average; again, only time and data will tell.  
    O.k. I know, some of you are asking, "What does all this gobble-de-gook mean for the average steelheader?" We're getting there; bear with us. We had to lay the foundation because we want you to be confident we aren't just blowing smoke out our... well, you know, hind ends so to speak.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Even more 2013 Creel Project Analysis

    As we continue to build the foundation for future data, one of the things we are doing along with gathering all of the specific annual data, is to start creating longer-term historical data for each region of the North Shore: Lower Middle and Upper. Annual data helps us see the direct interactions between flow, temperature and fish movement. Placed into a regional historical context, we begin to see the larger patterns in start, peak and end of run. We also begin to get a peek at the length of the run for given regions.

    Now, you have understand a few things about this larger picture; fluctuations in year to year weather have all kinds of effects on the run. Early warmups kick it off sooner, late warmups kick things off later, rapid warmups tend to compress the length of the run, while more gradual warming seems to expand or lengthen the run. So far this is the general picture developing in the data.

    We'll talk about what the relationships are later between the annual, regional historical and overall historical picture, but for now here is the regional historical picture:

Lower Shore
    Lower Shore probably gives us our best picture simply because more people fish there compared to other regions, so we just have more data to work with. Keep in mind with all of the charts here that you are looking at four years worth of aggregate numbers. Represented in those numbers are what could be described as an "early", "normal" and "late" run (my terms). That is to say we have years represented where the run kicked off very early, late and so forth from an anectdotal perspective. Because of that you can't draw conclusions about the overall length of the run on the Lower Shore from the chart. The annual data helps us with that, but where these charts are useful is they do (given enough data), begin to illustrate the typical peak of the run. You can also plug them into a sort of Shore-Wide aggregate to get a high-level view of the run picture. More on that to come.
Mid Shore 

    Mid Shore is a bit of a character. Here you see the heavy influence of an early and late run. As we gather more data, the chart theoretically should normalize somewhat with regards to the totals where we don't see the wild fluctuations, but only time and data will tell. Who knows, we might find some surprizes, and that's what the Creel Project is all about. I'm not willing to try and interpret much from this one, even running a 9pt. moving average trend to try and filter out some of the data noise just leaves me scratching my head. My apologies, I really geeked out there for a second... So far all I'm willing to say is that Mid Shore appears to closely mirror Lower Shore with respect to peak creel, maybe.

Upper Shore
    Here again we see an early run influence, despite that we're starting to see a solid peak around the first of May, some three weeks after the Lower Shore. That said, we have a solid month of prime steelheading based upon the data we've captured so far. What's not so clear about the Upper Shore is how long does it last? The steep drop in numbers after May 28th probably isn't due to the lack of fish, it's more likely that it's simply a lack of anglers out fishing the tribs at that time. 2013 wasn't a year I would consider out of the ordinary, and the folks we did get reports from were catching fish well into the third week of  June. We also have plenty of reports from prior to the official start of the creel project reporting fish into July in some cases.
    So far we're looking at approximately 3 months of steelheading in the tribs. At least one month of that looks to be prime steelheading with fish being at peak or slightly post-peak depending on where you are. Add on fish (Kamloops and Steelhead) staged in the lake on the front end, and you're looking at a season that's easily 4 month long and allows for every technique you care to try to be employed.
More to come-


Sunday, December 15, 2013

More 2013 MS Creel Project Analysis

    Very late, but trickling in as promised...

    Minnesota Steelheader would first like to thank YOU! Without your voluntary participation in the Creel Project, we would not be able to put together information that benefits us all. MS followers rose spectacularly to the challenge in 2013, and it is beginning to pay significant dividends with respect to the who, what, why, where, when and how of North Shore steelhead fishing.

    I think once all of the 2013 results are in, we'll put together a sort of executive summary that places all of the data into a historical, current and future context. That way all of you data-junkies can pick it apart, make suggestions, tell us we're full of beans, whatever. That kind of thing is important because it helps us make the content that much better, and more understandable for everyone.

    So without further typical rambling on my part:

2013 Lower Shore Results

     One of the problems we had in 2013 from an analysis standpoint was that the floods from 2012 knocked out the Knife trap along with all of the various monitoring stations, so we have no temperature and limited French trap data to consider in the context of the creel data. Based upon the rest of the Middle and Upper Shore information, we know there once again was a strong correlation between the daily average and high stream temps, and when adult steelhead began their upstream migrations en-masse. So while we can't demonstrate that point in the Lower Shore chart, there are some interesting things here.
    Run initiation temps likely hit the week of April 30th. We probably would have seen more significant catch but for the flows. This is a great illustration of the relationship between flows and fish movement. What we know from the DNR scientific literature is that there is a point with respect to flow velocities and volume at which upstream movement ceases for all intents and purposes. On the Knife for example, this threshold is right around the 500CFS (cubic feet per second) mark as noted in the literature. Fish that already are in the stream will hunker down in whatever cover they can find, and anglers have to adjust tactics accordingly. Looking at the week of April 30th note that peak flows on the Knife, which is the index station we use for charting Lower Shore creel, averaged around 1150cfs.
    By the week of May 7th, average flows were dropping to near the 500cfs threshold, and creel increased accordingly for likely two reasons: More people out putting in more time as conditions improved, and more new fish moving into as well as up through the various tributaries. Keep in mind that you can use stations like the Knife to infer what conditions are like on surrounding tributaries, and therefor make decisions on go/no go; so keep that 500cfs mark in mind when thinking about the Lower Shore.We're not saying fishing is futile when flows are above 500cfs, but you will definitely have to change tactics.
  2013 Mid Shore Creel Results
       We had good early participation in the Creel Project on the Mid Shore. This is important because it is critical to us to capture more data on what you might call the front end and back end of the run. Typically the DNR creel, which is a scientific creel, is structured in a much different way. There are also budget constraints which limit the time frame in which the Creel Census folks are out and working; and those gaps are the ones we are trying to fill in the data. Two interesting things to note here: The first is the strong correlation between the temperature initiation threshold and returns to creel. Note the sharp increase in catch once the threshold is reached (week of May 7th).
    The second item is the creel and flow relationship. Here again we see that during the initial portion of the run, higher flows during the week of April 30th to May 6th barely produced a blip in catch (Kamloops being a different story, see Upper Shore notes); however once we reached the threshold, the subsequent bump in flow the week of May 28th, steelhead catch rates also increased. Now I know, it's not that clear because we lost data transmission from the station around May 21st, but we have just enough to illustrate the point.
    What I currently believe, and this has been validated over and over again in the both the creel and trap data, is that stream temperatures appear to have the greatest influence over fish movement during the initial portions of the run. It goes a long way towards explaining why some years you have rock-star flows early on, but nobody seems to be catching fish. Once those initiation temperatures are hit, and stream temps remain above that threshold, flow appears to take over as the primary influence on upstream fish movement.
2013 Upper Shore Creel Results
    Once again, strong apparent correlation between the run initiation temp threshold and creel. Note the higher Kamloops catch very early on. The DNR scientific literature notes slightly lower run and spawning temps in Kamloops and I believe we are seeing that here as well as in the Mid Shore numbers above. Higher flows during the week of May 21st (post initiation temp) appears to have triggered quite a bit of subsequent upstream movement. I suspect that the peak flows along the Upper Shore around the 21st were flirting with that flow threshold where upstream movement ceases, which might explain the delay between this flow bump and the peak of the creel; only more time and data will tell.
    Other interesting items of note from 2013 are that runs appeared to have kicked off more or less simultaneously shore-wide, but this isn't always the case. Historically what we see is a somewhat orderly progression from south to north. In fact we see this and can track it from southern Lake Michigan, up through the South Shore of Lake Superior, along the North Shore and on up into Canada.  Much of this is due to the difference in latitude and the rate at which each geographical region warms in the spring (Climate). The historical data shows us this because it filters out the local year to year fluctuations in the rate of warming. Those local fluctuations (Weather) are the primary reasons you can't predict "The Run" from year to year; but you can use the historical data along with charting local stream conditions, e.g. temps, to get a feel for when things might get going. This is where annual Creel Project data pays dividends.
    At any rate, more to come. I'll keep plugging in the numbers and doing some analysis, we need to glean what we can from the 2013 trap data, incorporate it, then plug it into the historical data.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preliminary 2013 MS Creel Results

    Ok, I'm cheating a little bit here with just a teaser, but it's been an extraordinary year for many of the MS staff with ups, downs and everything in-between. Bottom line is we're all volunteers with responsibilities outside of MS and it has been BUSY!

    I still have some more heavy lifting to do, but what you are looking at are the preliminary results of both the cumulative creel as well as the means or average returns to creel. All of the granular detail for 2013 is still being prepared, but there is still enough interesting stuff here to talk about.

    Some of the questions we're trying to answer with the creel project are pretty basic at first glance. They are also the first questions we get asked by folks new to the North Shore steelhead fishery: When do they run, how long do they run etc.? Those are also consequently the same questions vets ask when they venture to new water in WI, MI, OH, PA, NY and the West Coast, so it's not a bad review because oftentimes, you find some surprizing tidbits that challenge what you thought you knew...

    At any rate, numbers of fish on the left, week start date on the bottom. Each date division covers a 7-day period, so the start begins with March 12th and ends on March 18th irrespective of the year the data falls into.

    The overall picture beginning to form is that our steelhead "season" runs nearly 4 months! You have to remember that a very early or very late thaw in an exceptional year will skew the numbers towards the beginning of March or into July respectively, so you have to view either end of the chart with that in mind. We also don't have a lot of good data on the very early and very late stage of the run, but the MS creel is certainly going a long way to flesh that picture out, and we thank YOU for that!

    What you can see is that by the end of March, catch rates are typically picking up, mainly comprised of Kamloops with some steelhead mixed in. Most of the first peak is dominated by Kamloops in fact, which fits the trap data with regards to the lower run-initiation temps and slightly lower spawning temperature threshold illustrated in the DNR data.

    Mid-April is go-time as the vets are aware. This peak is driven primarily by Lower Shore returns comprised of both kamloops and steelhead although there is a Mid Shore component hidden in there.

    What's really starting to catch my eye, particularly due to the great participation in the creel by MS followers, is that last peak. Comprised of predominantly Mid and Upper Shore fish, I was astounded at the fact that this peak is 75% of the "Go-Time" peak. It's dominated by steelhead, and while there are kamloops mixed in there to be sure, compare these returns to the mid-April peak where angler numbers are at their highest. Now think about mid-May when most people are out chasing walleye or gobblers and stream trout, and things begin to get very interesting.... THAT, as they say is some really good bang for the buck.

    There's more to come, we've only begun to scratch the surface; and we don't always spell out everything that we are seeing or perhaps know after looking at the data. But the journey to discovery is half the fun, so stay tuned, look carefully and consider. Hopefully you'll mine a gem from the data that will ultimately conclude with you battling a silver freight-train, amidst cedar and balsam-scented rapids, far from here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

A great volunteer opportunity!

Coaster brook trout research work - volunteers needed!

You have an opportunity in the coming weeks to assist with coaster brook trout research work on our North Shore streams.  Beginning the week of October 7 and continuing through early November, the Gitche Gumee Chapter of TU will assist the MNDNR as it conducts population surveys on major North Shore tributaries.  They have reached out to us to help round up interested volunteers.  You do not need to be a member of TU to volunteer! 
This opportunity builds upon the genetic research and population survey work which the Gitche Gumee Chapter did with the MNDNR in 1997 and 1998.  The population survey involves electrofishing North Shore streams below barrier falls when brook trout are likely to be in rivers for spawning.   
This is a truly unique opportunity to advance the knowledge and restoration of coaster brook trout.  The “work” involves participating on an electrofishing crew on weekdays this fall.  The DNR will provide training.  Volunteers need a pair of leak free neoprene waders, lunch and water.  Most survey work will occur from Silver Bay to the Canadian border.  
If you are interested please contact us at MNsteelheader@gmail.com and we will forward you all the contact info you need to sign up. 

Photo courtesy of: C. Haensel

Monday, September 16, 2013

New window decal

For those who are not familiar with Minnesota's North Shore steelhead rivers, they all flow under the renown Hwy 61, though on occasion a couple have been known to flow over the highway.

Check out a new window decal design we came up with.  What do you think?  we will be test driving these with our volunteers at this Saturday's Adopt-A-River clean up along the banks of the Sucker river, the parking lot and, of course, along HWY 61.

For more info on our clean up project please visit our facebook events page, give us a like while you are at it too!


Saturday, September 07, 2013

Salmon clinic update

Well, that was pretty quick!

The guys group of the clinic is full, though feel free to register and we will list you as an alternate should someone cancel.

The gals group still has angler availability for women and any youth they wish to have join them.

If you know you will be on the shore the weekend of the 21st please stop by the Sucker River for our annual river clean up.  It usually does not take more than an hour or so with a good group of volunteers.  This is a great way to give back.  Here is a little secret too, you can tap into our staff  for current fishing reports, tips, and regions to focus on for fishing success.

We are also looking at an after (angling) hours meet and greet to catch up on the days catches, share stories, and help direct Sunday anglers to fish.


Friday, September 06, 2013

Fall Streamside Clinic is set!

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 to 16 (8 guys and 8 gals).

Date: Saturday, September 21st
Time: 10:30am to 1:30pm
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 2013 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 decided to try a his & hers event this year. We are encouraging husbands to bring their wives, wives to bring their husbands, significant others and our youth. 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?
There is still no fee for our clinic, you can help keep it that way - donations are greatly appreciated!
Visit our donations page to learn how to support us!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cloquet artist wins 2014 trout and salmon stamp contest - MN DNR News Release

(Released August 12, 2013)
Cloquet artist Stuart Nelson’s painting of a rainbow trout leaping to consume a mayfly has been chosen for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) 2014 Trout Stamp.
The painting was selected from 13 submissions for the annual contest.

Nelson won the 1999 trout stamp contest with a painting of a brook trout but hadn’t submitted an entry since, instead choosing to paint other subjects. Asked why he chose to enter this year after the hiatus, Nelson said fans of his previous work wanted to see him paint another trout, and he decided to oblige.

Four entries advanced to the final stage of judging during the contest. Other finalists were Stephen Hamrik of Lakeville, second place; Nicholas Markell of Hugo, third place; and Timothy Turenne of Richfield, fourth place.

The five member panel of judges this year were Amy Beyer, DNR creative services graphic designer; Ron Anderson, Outdoor News graphic designer; Bruce Vondracek, University of Minnesota professor; Mark Johnson, Twin Cities Trout Unlimited Chapter president; and Davin Brandt, director of Minnesota Steelheader.

Trout stamp validations are printed on fishing licenses. This is the only verification needed to prove purchase of the trout stamp for angling purposes. Purchasers may request the actual pictorial stamp for an additional 75 cents.

The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner. The winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work.

The following species are eligible for the 2015 stamp: brook, brown, splake and lake trout, coho, pink, Chinook and Atlantic salmon. Rainbow trout designs are not eligible for the 2015 stamp.
Minnesota DNR Home Page

Friday, August 09, 2013

Why Do We Do It?

If you were to ask a non-steelheader to look at what a steelheader does, and then have them repeat what they are seeing, it would make for some interesting commentary-
    “So there’s this woman or this man. They’re all decked out in long boots and a bulky vest jammed so full of stuff that the 50 or so pockets are absolutely bulging. I’m guessing it’s really heavy too because every so often, they put their hands on their low back, straighten up and stretch." 
    "They’re wearing a knit cap over a baseball cap, a neck warmer, a heavy jacket and fingerless gloves because they’re standing in the middle of a roaring stream that’s full of frozen foam and ice chunks.  It’s pretty cold out to be standing in the water like that, there’s a sleet/snow mix coming down out of a leaden sky, and it’s making icicles on the net hanging off their back. They also keep blowing into their hands, and every so often, they hold the pole with one while they put the other into a pocket. What I can’t figure out is why they keep picking at the fishing pole. Even stranger, sometimes they put part of it into their mouth and it looks like they’re sucking on it.”
“That can’t be fun can it? It’s freezing cold but they keep casting and casting. I’ve been here for an hour and I still haven’t seen them catch one fish. They just endlessly cast upstream, move the pole, cast upstream, move the pole… Sometimes when someone else comes and stands next to them, they do the exact same thing at the exact same time like a mirror. Every so often they move up or down the stream a little, or give the pole a sharp jerk, but usually nothing happens. Well, if you don’t count the swearing that is. Even that doesn’t make sense because they usually jerk the rod, swear, and then break their line by pulling straight back on the pole. I’d swear after I broke my line, and I wouldn’t break it on purpose. These people are nuts, I’m outta here…”
Don’t get me wrong, I love catching fish; but when you think about it, the amount of time we spend not catching vastly outnumbers the amount of time we spend with something on the end of our line. We get up early, stay up late, and operate on little to no sleep. We stand in freezing water for most of the day - or for days on end. We put up with rain, snow, sleet, burning sun (rarely), freezing winds, frozen dead hands, chapped lips, leaky waders, wet feet, wet clothes and sore backs. We’ll gripe about gas prices all week, but think nothing of driving several hundred miles in a day in pursuit of steelhead. Sometimes we’ll even backtrack 50 miles, then hike for 30 minutes just to retrieve a favorite net or tackle box from that last hole or run. So what is it, why do we do it?
It seems like everyone goes through an evolution. When I was younger, it was all about that next fish on the line. I lived for the strike and the fight to the exclusion of all else; but as I get older, it’s the whole of the experience I thoroughly enjoy more and more. This kind of thing is really hard to explain since the whole of the experience often involves standing in a freezing river for hours at a time in the middle of driving rain or snow. Sometimes only our fellow steelheaders -and other outdoors men and women- understand; usually with a nod and a quiet smile at their own private memories as we tell our stories. Stories like:
I spent one extraordinary pre-dawn morning watching not so much a meteor shower as a meteor hurricane. It started as a brilliant night with no moon. Stars too numerous to count filled the sky from horizon to horizon with the concentrated band of the Milky Way bright overhead. As I stared upwards waiting for legal fishing time, migrating tundra swans whickered, hurrying north unseen and high overhead. I always laugh when I hear tundra swans, they sound to me like the flying monkeys from the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie. Out of the corner of my eye, a bright light appeared. It didn’t streak like most meteors, it floated across the sky before disappearing below the horizon. Soon more followed: Singles, doubles, triples and bursts flared across the sky for the better part of an hour as I stood dumbfounded, mouth open, fly-rod dangling forgotten in my hand.
Once I watched a female mink fishing in the lake pool of the Temperance. I thought perhaps she had fallen in and had been washed downstream until she scaled the vertical rock wall. There from a perch about seven feet above the water, she would carefully watch for fish to swim below it's ledge. As soon as they were in range, she’d leap headfirst like a bullet, more often than not coming up with a wriggling fish in her mouth.
And then there was the piebald beaver I mistook for a skunk. I’m not ashamed to say I ran; you would too if a piebald beaver snuck up from behind, and you thought a skunk had the drop on you. The beaver didn’t run, it just continued to trundle along below the footbridge on the Poplar. Or the saw-whet owl, not much bigger than a fluffy tennis-ball, that tried to land on my shoulder one morning, but ended up in the spruce bough just level with my head. I’m not sure who was more surprised as we stared at each other quite literally beak to nose.
Now this wasn’t steelheading, but it was trout fishing so it counts as far as I’m concerned. I was standing in the middle of a stream in southeastern Minnesota one hot summer afternoon. I had one of those bungee cord net keepers at the time, and was forever getting sticks and branches tangled up in the netting because it hung so low. When you’d get in the water, the drag from the current would tug on the stick-addled net so that the whole mess would yo-yo on my back. I felt the tug, tug, tug that afternoon, so I reached around behind me for the umpteenth time to shake a stick out of the net; only this time it wasn’t a stick, it was three feet worth of buzzing, highly-affronted timber rattler. I’ve only seen two others in 30+ years of fishing down there, one live, one dead on a road, and never one literally at arm’s length all tangled up in my net. I’m guessing it was swimming across the stream and decided to use my legs as a convenient current break when it got tangled up in the mesh.  15 feet to shore is a mighty long distance in that situation, but I managed to hurl my rod onto the bank javelin style as I charged for shore, willing my left arm to grow longer and quick. After getting to shore, I was able to rip the D ring from the seam on my vest and lay the net down. The rattler calmly freed itself as I (not so calmly) watched from the relative safety of a tree, the top, about a quarter mile away.
Just one more- I have a friend who’s a compulsive narcoleptic when he gets in a car to go fishing. We were northbound, somewhere about Tofte around 3 in the morning. I was alone with my thoughts because my co-pilot was studiously watching the back of his eyelids. In the dim glow just at the edge of my headlights range, I saw a big, black, something move below the bank on the lake side of the road. My first thought was bear, but that’s about all I had time to think since I may just have been speeding, maybe, a little. The next thing I know, a bull moose takes one giant bull-moose stride out into the middle of the road. It was one of those time-bending, “Ooooooooooooh Shoooooooooooooooooooooooooot” moments that seem to last forever, only I wasn’t really thinking, “Oh Shoot”. You can add your own favorite expletive for effect.

Now moose vs. car doesn’t usually turn out well for the car and I watched, in slow motion, as the beard of the moose literally blew up and sideways in the wind from my passenger-side mirror. ½ mile later after I had stopped zig-zagging from one lane to the other and my heart rate was back down to a reasonable thrum from its previous jack-hammer rhythm, my partner snorted once, opened his eyes and did the, “Hnuh, hmm, wuzzup?”. Go back to sleep man, I’ll explain later….

So why do we do it? Is it for the brief moment of glory with a steelhead on the end of the line? Or is it the sunrises, sunsets, full moons, bright stars, roar of the stream, scents of the cedar and balsam fir, conversations with friends during long rides in the dark, sitting around the campfire recounting stories, the chance encounter with a lone wolf on a dark road, or the smile on a kid’s face as they tie on for the first time. Perhaps it’s because any one of a million special experiences and memories live on within each of us long after the moment has faded, only to be born again and again each time we slip into a stream. Maybe that's why we return.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It’s the Off Season – Now What?

    As the saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", and it’s just as true for a Minnesota Steelheader. Now’s a good time to start going through your gear since you’re probably not using it frequently. Summer is busy Family time with activities and vacations, which pushes fishing to the back burner. Being an old-school Minnesotan through and through, I get groggy and disoriented any time the temperature or humidity is above 75 – I can barely function and move at turtle-speed; so a task where I can stay stationary in the heat is just my speed. The trout streams are bug-infested tropical jungles overgrown with nettles at this time of year. If you’ve ever been hot and sweaty, then blundered through a nettle patch in a tee-shirt, it’s a whole new class of misery and I avoid it like the plague. Could I have some cheese with my whine please?

    But there’s a good reason to get active and start doing some prep and prevention. Again, you can head off a number of issues before they come back to haunt you the next time you tie into some silver freight-train. Best of all, a number of migratory species in different locations are gearing up for Fall returns, some of them quietly returning already; and there’s probably no better motivation to prepare than that.

    The question then becomes "Where do I start?" If you’re like me, there’s probably some big pile of gear still in your trunk or corner of your garage. Systematically going through it all seems like a big job, but it’s not that bad. ‘Course a little barley pop or snakebite remedy helps to speeds things along, especially if you get together with a fishing pal or two.

The easiest place to start

Your Vest

-Take EVERYTHING out and turn the pockets inside out. It’s amazing how much loose junk and terminal tackle you’ll find which needs to be put back in it’s proper home. Turning out the pockets helps to find hooks and flies, which may have become lodged in the seams and loose fabric. Inspect for tears or rubs. Pockets in particular take a lot of abuse from the amount and weight of the junk we cram into them, especially since they get wet a lot. It’s a bummer having your favorite box of yarn, flies or tackle drop out the bottom as you walk a trail or as you fish. By the time you realize it’s gone, it’s often too late.

-Once it’s empty and inspected, wash it thoroughly. Leaking scent, spawn juice and line dressings all break down material quicker than a clean vest. After it’s clean, check the zippers and lubricate. There are lots of zipper products out there, but good old paraffin works great.

Tackle and Miscellaneous Gear

-Now that you have a big pile after removing it all from your vest, get it organized. Return loose junk to where it belongs. Go through each box and re-sort it. Replace anything you’re low on, then check the box body, hinges and clasps for damage. Check things like swivel-sleeves on floats and replace if necessary; and check hook compartments for moisture. There’s nothing worse than opening up a box of hooks and finding a big rusty mess.

-Check all your tools: Hemostats, yarn scissors, thermometers, nippers, nets and their clips, retractors and lines all need attention. Replace any frayed attachment lines. Polish off any rust or dirt from your tools with some steel wool and put a drop of oil or some WD40 on moving parts like hinges and swivels. Check your retractors and the like for bent pins and straighten them out. Bent pins have a funny habit of popping off your vest when you tug a little too hard on whatever tool it’s supposed to be holding.

Waders and Boots

-Wash down waders and boots with a hose and carefully scrub off any dirt or dried mud, especially from breathable waders. Check the fabric, boots/footies, seams, belts and suspenders for damage. Carefully look over the seam welds, knees and seat areas, especially on breathables.

-If you use wading boots, inspect the stitching, laces, grommets, clips and soles for damage or de-lamination in the case of felt soles. Pull the inner soles out if not attached and flush with a hose to clean out any gravel or sand. All kinds of repairs to waders and boots can be accomplished with Shoo Goo or similar products.


-Inspect the reel mounts, guides, and windings for damage or wear. Touch up any spots where the finish is chipped or thin, especially if thread windings are starting to come through at the guides. Pay particular attention to the top 1/3rd of the rod. With the prevalence of chuck and duck, it’s easy to bounce shot off the rod. Look for chips or signs of crushing on the blank. Touch up chips in the finish. Unfortunately if you have some graphite crushing, breakage is inevitable. Just make sure you have a backup rod the next time you use the one with the ding.


-Take all the line off and take apart what you can. Remove any grease or lubrication from parts first, and then scrub everything. Old toothbrushes, paper towels and Q-Tips make great reel cleaning tools. Inspect parts for wear. Check bail springs and replace if necessary. When you reassemble moving parts, remember that too much lubrication is a bad thing. Go by the manufacturer’s recommendation; if you don’t have that, use tiny amounts of grease or lube. Lubrication of any kind attracts dirt like crazy so you want to find that happy medium between enough and too much.


-Replace any old mono with new. If you use fat line, inspect for nicks, abrasion and cuts. Carefully place the entire length into an old ice cream pail filled with hot water. If you want to use a cleaner/de-greaser, use a quality surfactant like Dawn dishwashing liquid. You will however have to do a second thorough rinse in clean water. Take a clean cloth (old wash cloths work great), get it damp, then start pulling the line out of the pail while running it through the cloth and applying some pressure. If you cut open a garbage-bag and place it on the ground, it makes a nice clean spot to drop your line onto. Repeat this process until you no longer see dirt on the wash cloth. North Shore streams have very fine suspended sediments that eventually coat the line and you’ll be surprised at how much dirt comes off during cleaning. Once it’s clean, let it dry, then apply a line cleaner/dressing. If you’ve never done this process before, you’ll be amazed at how much better your line performs.

So take some time now to go through your gear. Head off those problems now and you’ll have thoroughly enjoyable steelheading later.